While the frontcourt is the strength of this year’s draft, the depth at the power forward position is jaw-dropping. While it would be easy to pick names out of a hat, the two 4 men we’ll be looking at are at the top of most draft boards: Thomas Robinson and Anthony Davis.
Thomas Robinson (#3 DraftExpress, #4 NBADraft.net)
Raise your hand if you thought Thomas Robinson would be a top 5 in the stacked 2012 NBA draft during Kansas’ last season. If you did, I applaud you, because I follow NCAA basketball and all I saw was a bench player with limited offensive skills who spelled the Morris twins effectively due to his physical prowess. With the twins in the NBA, the 6’10 Junior has turned himself into one of the most efficient players in the college game. His chiseled frame mixed with good foot speed and quickness makes him a nightmare for opposing defenses. Robinson owns a great motor, plays within himself, and relishes contact on both ends. The fact that Robinson is so highly touted despite the major weaknesses in his game tells you a lot about this 20 year old. Speaking of those weaknesses, there’s a lot of them. While quite the overpowering physical specimen, Robinson is very raw on both ends of the floor. He relies on his physical tools to compensate for his lack of offensive and defensive ability. He has had a lot of success with this strategy in the college game, but it won’t be nearly as effective in the NBA. While he has shown improvement with his overall game, he needs to refine his post moves and face up offense to become a well-rounded player. Robinson is a raw player, but if he manages to put it all together at the next level, watch out.
Best Case: More physically/offensively gifted Anderson Varejao
Worst Case: Rich man’s Jason Thompson
Anthony Davis (#1 DraftExpress, #1 NBADraft.net)
What do you get when a young high school wing player shoots up to 6’10 with a 7’4 wingspan and refuses to pluck his unibrow? You get a consensus number one pick in the 2012 NBA draft, who happens to also have a unibrow. Of the player profiles to this point, the race between Anthony Davis and Thomas Robinson isn’t even close. That’s not a knock on Robinson, it’s just that Davis is unlike any player to come through the NBA draft — ever. The combination of unbelievable length and guard-like quickness should strike fear in the hearts of anyone without the winning ping pong ball. The biggest knock on Davis is his lack of physical maturity, and while that’s somewhat a concern, I see it a little differently. Davis is a bit like a newborn giraffe who needs some time to figure this whole walking thing out. Sure he’s uncoordinated, but he’s improving both his basketball skills as well as getting acclimated to his body every game. Already the premier shot blocker in the college game, Davis has also extended his shooting range to the three point line. Playing for Calipari is the perfect situation for Davis, as his coach doesn’t put any limits on what he can do. It’s exciting to think what Davis will look like in a few years. Hopefully that look won’t still include the unibrow.
Best Case: More athletically gifted Elvin Hayes
Worst Case: Chris Bosh on crack
Rounding out our look at the upcoming draft, we turn our attention to the center prospects. Before things get too heated, it is true that one of the players we’re looking at is widely projected to be a power forward in the NBA, but DraftExpress has him as a center, so I’m cheating. Without further ado, I give you Andre Drummond and Jared Sullinger.
Andre Drummond (#4 DraftExpress, #2 NBADraft.net)
As a 6’11 UConn freshman, Drummond has yet to truly establish himself as a dominant big man in the college game. Like many of those in his draft class, however, Drummond is not being talked about as a potential top 2 pick because of what he is, but rather what he is expected to become. Already physically overpowering, many think that Drummond could end up with a physique not unlike that of Dwight Howard. At just 18 years old, and with the potential for another growth spurt, Drummond could become one of the most physically imposing big men in the NBA. But once you stop talking about his physicality, you realize just how much of a project player Drummond really is. The only real NBA-ready qualities Drummond possesses are his shot-blocking ability and rebounding skills, which again can be attributed mostly to his physical tools rather than skill and timing. He is incredibly raw offensively, and will need a lot of work to become a consistent contributor on both ends of the floor. There are also questions about whether he has the maturity and work ethic needed to reach his full potential. Drummond’s ceiling is one of the highest in the draft, he just has a long way to go before he reaches it.
Best Case: Amar’re Stoudemire meets Andrew Bynum
Worst Case: Derrick Favors
Jared Sullinger (#5 DraftExpress, #10 NBADraft.net)
These two players could not be more different, and could provide a good example of what is valued more in the draft — a known commodity or the potential for something better. A 20-year-old sophomore who was widely expected to be a top 3 pick in last year’s draft, Sullinger instead chose to return for another year to polish his game and avoid a lockout. Despite continuing his rise as one of college basketball’s premier big men, Sullinger’s game has been picked apart and he’s seen his draft stock fall as a result. With almost none of the desired physical tools as our other profiled center prospect, he suffers from a lack of explosive athleticism, foot speed and lateral quickness needed to keep up with quicker big men. Physical shortcomings aside, it is hard to ignore the polish Sullinger has in his offensive game. He boasts advanced post moves, good footwork, and great court vision as well as an underrated passing game. He uses his bulk to carve out position in the low block to both score high percentage buckets as well as efficiently rebound the basketball. His mid-range jump shot is improving, although it is something he will have to establish as a plus tool if he hopes to become one of the better offensive players at his position at the next level. While his physical limitations will never allow him to become an above average defender, his high basketball IQ and the overall craftiness to his game will serve him well in the NBA.
Best Case: Al Jefferson
Worst Case: DeJuan Blair with sound knees