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2020 NBA

2020 NBA Draft Positional Rankings: Power Forward

This week for positional rankings in the 2020 NBA draft class it is the top 15 big forwards that will be spotlighted. The position is probably the one that has changed the most over the last 10 years.

Power forwards are now not just encouraged, but expected to be three point shooters. This class may not be as deep at power forward as point guard or center, where there seems to be almost endless talent, but there will certainly be some stars, so without further adieu, here is the ranking of the best fours in the 2020 draft class.

  1. Obi Toppin- Dayton

No surprise here. In his sophomore season, Obi Toppin went from a mostly unknown commodity outside of the A10 Conference to the National Player of the Year. He averaged 20 points and 7.5 rebounds and led Dayton to a surprising Top 10 ranking for much of the season. His stock may have climbed even further if we got to see what he could do in the NCAA Tournament, but he gave us plenty to see in the regular season.

He is everything you could want out of a modern day big. He is 6-foot-9, long, and can jump out of the gym. He can spot up from three, punish mismatches in the post, and is an elite above the rim finisher. Most of the question marks surrounding his game are on the defensive end of the floor, where his lack of agility and solid technique could limit him. But if paired with a shot blocking center, these shortcomings could be masked, and given his immense offensive potential, it won’t make him slip far at all.

Draft Projection: top five 

2. Precious Achiuwa- Memphis 

A prospect with tremendous upside, Precious Achiuwa’s draft stock took a hit in his lone season at Memphis, as the Tigers underperformed following the departure of James Wiseman from the program. Achiuwa quietly put together a very nice season though; averaging 15.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per game on 49% shooting.

He is still learning how to play the game at a high level, but his physical tools give him seemingly unlimited potential. He is 6-foot-9 with a 7-foot-2 wingspan, quick, and has an NBA ready body. This allows him to defend multiple positions and force mismatches on offense. If his shooting and decision making can improve, he could develop into a two-way star. 

Draft Projection: mid first round

3. Jalen Smith- Maryland

A player that could have been a first round pick in the 2019 Draft, Jalen Smith returned for his sophomore season at Maryland and showed out. He made the All-Conference First Team and helped push the Terrapins to the 12th spot in the country at the end of the season. His extra year at school helped him develop his game immensely. He has always been a tall, athletic shot blocker, and able to play the four and five, but this year he made huge strides in developing his offensive game.

He extended his range out to the three point line and improved his ability to score in the post. There are still question marks about his ability to defend on the perimeter, which is a vital skill for a big given how switch-heavy the league is. Nevertheless, he is one of the more NBA ready players at the position.

Draft Projection: mid to late first round

4. Jordan Nwora- Louisville

Not too long ago, Jordan Nwora would probably be considered more of a small forward. But in the pace and space league that exists today, the 6-foot-8 sharpshooter is more suited to play the four. With a quick trigger and range that extends far beyond the NBA three point line, Nwora can be an asset for a team right away.

He also has shown the ability to punish closeouts, and is quicker than an average power forward. His defense definitely needs to improve, and his disappearances in big games last year could be cause for concern, but stretch fours are a hot commodity, and this kid can shoot.

Draft Projection: late first to early second round

5. Aleksej Pokusevski- Serbia

It would not be a stretch to say that Aleksej Pokusevski is the most unique prospect in this entire draft. Standing at 7 feet, but only about 200 pounds, describing him as lanky is an understatement. But the skillset he possesses given this awkward looking frame is something to behold.

He is a versatile scorer that is actually much more comfortable facing up defenders and attacking off the dribble than posting up. He is capable of being a floor spacer with his shooting and has shown glimpses of real playmaking ability. On the defensive end of the floor, he can move his feet pretty well and use his length to block shots. But his incredibly skinny frame will pose quite a few issues.

He may not be an effective rebounder at the NBA level, and will be exploited if forced to guard a true big man. His efficiency shooting the ball has also been an issue throughout his entire career, which is not something scouts want to see from a floor spacing power forward. He will no doubt be a long term project, but definitely worth a chance in the league given his upside.

Draft Projection: late first to early second round

6. Reggie Perry- Mississippi State

A player that flew under the radar for a lot of people, Reggie Perry put together quite the season for Mississippi State. He averaged 17.4 points and 10.4 rebounds per game on 50% shooting, which are elite numbers for a sophomore. He can play both the four and five, as he’s capable of punishing defenders down low with his 6-foot-9, 250 pound frame. His body and high motor make him one of the best rebounders in the draft.

He also expanded his range out to the three point line last year, making him a complete offensive player. There are question marks on the defensive end though. He is not a great shot blocker, and without great quickness he can struggle to guard on the perimeter. He needs to put in a lot of work there if he wants to reach his full potential, but the intensity he plays the game with can help cover these holes

Draft Projection: late first to early second round

7. Paul Reed- DePaul

For a player likely to go in the second round, Paul Reed is a very well rounded forward who could end up being quite the steal. In his junior season at DePaul, he averaged 15.1 points, 10.7 rebounds, 2.6 blocks and 1.6 steals per game, shooting 51.6% from the field. He was the Blue Demons best player on both ends of the floor, and showed everything you want to see out of a modern day four.

He can block shots, run the floor, finish at the rim, can make a three if left open, and even showed a nice off the dribble game. All the physical skills are there; it is the intangibles that give scouts pause. DePaul struggled as a team last year finishing last in the Big East, which undoubtedly hurt Reed’s stock.

He also didn’t exhibit the best decision making at all times by being prone to defensive lapses and turnovers. This, along with the fact that he is already 21 years old, is why he may likely slip in the draft, despite the clear first round talent.

Draft Projection: early second round

8. Tyler Bey- Colorado

He may not be selected until the second round, but Tyler Bey is one of the best defensive bigs in the draft. He is only 6-foot-7, but his 7-foot wingspan and quick feet make him a terror for offensive players. He won Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year while anchoring Colorado’s defense.

He is not a liability on the other end of the floor either. His 41.9% from three in his junior season, albeit on limited attempts, gives him serious stretch four potential. His ceiling may not be the highest, considering he spent three years in college and doesn’t have much of an individual scoring game, but as a complementary piece, he could be very effective.

Draft Projection: early to mid second round

9. Killian Tillie- Gonzaga

One of the more high profile second round picks in this draft, Killian Tillie has played alongside some of the best bigs in the country during his four years at Gonzaga. This has certainly limited his production and lowered his draft stock, but that doesn’t mean NBA teams aren’t aware of what this 6-foot-10 stretch big can do.

He only averaged 13.6 points per game last year, but his efficiency proves that he was capable of a lot more. He shot 53.5% from the field and 40% from three. His lack of shots, and low number of rebounds (5.0 per game) had a lot to do with the fact that he shared a frontcourt with Filip Petrusev, one of the best centers in the country.

To go along with being a great shooter, he displayed elite passing for a big and was a better defender than his physical tools would suggest. His ceiling may be limited given his age, but teams are always looking for high IQ fours that can space the floor.

Draft Projection: mid second round

10. Naji Marshall- Xavier

Many of the players above on this list have been guys that can stretch the floor with their ability to hit three point shots. This is no accident. With the direction that the league is going, it has become much harder to make it in the league without some semblance of an outside jumper. This is a big part of why we see Naji Marshall at this point on the list.

In his three years at Xavier, he showed the ability to finish at the rim, defend inside and out at a high level, be a secondary playmaker for the offense, and rebound his position well. But his shooting range has never been a strength, as he made only  28.6% of his attempted threes last year.

As a combo forward, this is not something that scouts overlook. So although he has a chance to impact the game on both ends of the floor, he will certainly have an uphill battle to get real minutes in the league.

Draft Projection: mid second round

11. Mamadi Diakite- Virginia

As teams get further into the second round, they look for players who may not have the highest ceiling, but have a chance to be effective role players. These players are most often older players with a more full body of work. Mamadi Diakite perfectly fits this mold, and has a chance to help a team right away.

His value on offense at the next level is unlikely to be more than that of a pick and pop shooter and an offensive rebounder, but on the other end of the floor, he may be one of the most NBA ready big men in this class.

Not only can he use his long wingspan and great instincts to block shots, but he can stay with guards on the perimeter surprisingly well. He is unlikely to be a superstar, but his game has a lot of parallels to Serge Ibaka, and if he can provide that kind of value, he would certainly be a steal.

Draft Projection: mid second round

12. Kahlil Whitney- Kentucky

The 12th ranked player in the class of 2019 coming out of high school, Kahlil Whitney was expected to do big things in his freshman year. But through a combination of inconsistent play and being part of what was one of the most loaded teams in the country, featuring Tyrese Maxey, Immanuel Quickley, Ashton Hagans, and Nick Richards, Whitney greatly underperformed.

In the 18 games he played, he only saw 12.8 minutes per game and averaged just 3.3 points per contest. Given his lack of production, it might be in his best interest to return to school to give a better display of his talent to NBA scouts. But he has decided to test the waters of the draft this year, although he still has the opportunity to withdraw beforehand.

If he decides to stay in, he does have some value to give to teams. He is a freakish athlete on both ends of the floor, which gives him high upside, and is a pretty good finisher around the rim. He is obviously not ready to contribute from day one, but does have great potential.

Draft Projection: mid to late second round

13. Paul Eboua- Cameroon

A part of the latest wave of African-born NBA players, Paul Eboua spent last year playing for Consultinvest Pesaro of Italy’s Lega Serie A. He didn’t get much playing time here, but he showed flashes of real NBA potential. He is 6-foot-8 but with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, and a dynamic athlete. He has the potential to play both forward positions at the NBA level, which is a valuable trait.

His skills on the offensive end are limited now, but his physical tools give him potential on that end of the floor. Where he has really shined is on the defensive end of the floor, where he has shown to be a more than capable shot blocker and able to guard multiple positions on the interior and perimeter. He is another prospect that may take some time to develop but is worth a draft and stash or a G-league project.

Draft Projection: late second round

14. Malik Fitts- St. Mary’s

Malik Fitts will probably be selected after a lot of players that he is more NBA ready than. He has a strong body, can rebound, is a good inside finisher, and shot 40.8% from three. He is this far down on the list because his weaknesses are attributes that are very hard to improve significantly.

He doesn’t have a great feel for passing the ball, isn’t very quick, and can be a rather inefficient offensive player. So despite the fact that he averaged 16.5 points and 7.1 rebounds, leading St. Mary’s to one of their most successful regular seasons, he is not high on any draft boards.

Late second round/undrafted

15. Derrick Alston Jr- Boise State

Playing basketball at Boise State usually doesn’t get you a whole lot of national attention, and this was definitely the case for Derrick Alston. But the talented combo forward put up 17.3 points and 5.2 rebounds.

He is a good off the dribble scorer and a solid playmaker for the position. His biggest question mark is the talent that he played against. He may not end up getting picked on draft night, but he should be an interesting player to watch if there is a summer league this year. 

Draft Projection: undrafted

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