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2020 NBA

2020 NBA Draft Positional Rankings: Small Forward

As the NBA draft gets closer, it is time to continue with position rankings for the 2020 class. Small forward has become one of the most important positions in a league where versatility is key.

Wings are expected to guard multiple positions, facilitate offense, and get their team a bucket when it is necessary. So here are the top 15 at the position heading into the October draft. Also check out the point guard and shooting guard rankings for the class.

  1. Isaac Okoro- Auburn

There are few one and done prospects that come out of college as polished on the defensive end of the floor as Isaac Okoro last year. The 6-foot-6 freshman showed that he has all the tools to be a lockdown perimeter defender in the league. He has a 6-foot-9 wingspan, elite lateral quickness, and intensity on that end of the floor that is not paralleled by many.

Although, for a player projected to be a top 10 pick in the draft, he has a relatively limited offensive game. He only averaged 12.9 points per game last year, and showed a limited scoring arsenal. However, given his above average athleticism and high motor, he could very well turn into quite the two-way player. When he was on the floor last year, Auburn operated at a completely different level on both ends of the floor.

Draft Projection: top 10

2. Deni Avdija- Israel

No longer is the NBA in an era where every team’s primary playmaker is a traditional point guard. Deni Avdija is part of the latest wave of big playmakers. At 6’9, he is a skilled point forward who is more than comfortable initiating the offense.

Playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv for the last two years, he has not gotten the opportunity for big minutes on the club’s senior team, which is normal for a player his age. But in his time playing for the junior team, he was dominant and showed an all-around offensive game that has scouts hoping that they have already found the next Luka Doncic.

There are questions about his ability to create his own offense at the next level, but he is undoubtedly viewed as the best international prospect in this draft.

Draft Projection: top 10

3. Jaden McDaniels- Washington

With an incredibly lanky 6’10, 200 pound frame and a silky smooth offensive game, the Brandon Ingram and Kevin Durant comparisons have followed Jaden McDaniels since high school. He came into college as the number seven ranked player in his class according to ESPN, but did not have the dominant freshman season many were expecting from him.

He averaged 13 points per game and shot a pedestrian 40% from the field for a talented Washington team that greatly underachieved last year. Nevertheless, scouts are still very much enticed by his potential as a scorer, and he shouldn’t have to wait too long for his name to be called on draft night.

Draft Projection: late lottery

4. Saddiq Bey- Villanova

It is unclear at this point in the summer whether Saddiq Bey will return to school for one more year or enter the draft, but if he does decide to go pro, he could be off the board as soon as the lottery.

In his sophomore season at Villanova, he was the team’s leader on both ends of the floor, as the Wildcats finished the season atop the Big East and as one of the best teams in the country.

Bey is a lethal shooter, especially from three, can score off the dribble, and with a 6-foot-11 wingspan, he can defend multiple positions. He is not incredibly athletic, which may limit his ceiling, but he is a prospect that should be able to contribute from day one.

Draft Projection: mid first round

5. Patrick Williams- Florida State

If you just look at the raw numbers, you may be shocked that Patrick Williams is projected to be a first round pick. He came off the bench for Florida State in his lone season with the team; averaging just 9.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.0 assists. But anybody who saw him play knows his value far surpasses those numbers.

In his limited time on the court, he proved to be one of the best all around defenders in the country. With a 6-foot-11 wingspan, fantastic instincts, and next level athleticism, he was a big reason why the Seminoles had such a dominant defense last year. Whenever Williams was on the court he always guarded the opponents best perimeter player, whether that was a point guard or a small forward.

His offense has a long way to go, but he definitely has a strong foundation on that end of the floor. He can operate very well in the open court with his quickness, strength, and leaping ability. He also has good mechanics on his shot and can knock down an open three. He is a low risk, high reward pick for any team picking in the second half of the first round.

Draft Projection: mid to late first round

6. Aaron Nesmith- Vanderbilt

Aaron Nesmith is unlike any prospect on this list so far. He is not a guy that is going to wow you with his speed or vertical jump. He is not a tall, long defensive stud. But what he can do is shoot the basketball better than any player in this draft.

He only played 14 games last year before his season was ended by a foot injury, but in that limited sample size, he was locked and loaded. He averaged 23 points per game and made 60 of his 115 three point attempts at a ridiculous 52.2% clip.

He also uses the threat of the long ball very well to set up the rest of his smooth scoring game. His ceiling may not be incredibly high, but he should yield plenty of interest from playoff teams looking for role players that can help a team right away.

Draft Projection: mid to late first round

7. Robert Woodard II- Mississippi State

For teams looking for a modern three-and-D wing, there is no player that fits that role more perfectly than Robert Woodard II. He is 6’7, but with a 7-foot-1 wingspan, and is capable of guarding multiple positions. He shot 42.9% from three as well, although that percentage was only on 2.3 attempts per game.

His above average vertical leap also gives him offensive potential inside of the three point line. He is not a player that is very comfortable operating with the ball in his hands for long stretches, but he is another guy that could be a very solid role player sooner rather than later.

Draft Projection: late first to early second round

8. Corey Kispert- Gonzaga

Another player who may very well go back to school given the returning talent to the program, Corey Kispert is certainly ready to enter the NBA Draft this year if he chooses to do so. The 21-year-old is a pure scorer who can hurt you from anywhere on the floor.

He isn’t going to blow by or jump over anyone, but he is lethal coming off of screens and a very patient offensive player. He shot 47.4% from the field and 43.8% from three last year.

Given his age and lack of elite physical tools, he is not viewed as a potential star, but if he is available for any team in the second round, they would be foolish to not give a look to a player that has as complete an offensive game as he does.

Draft Projection: early second round

9. Chris Smith- UCLA

As one of the more versatile forwards in this draft class, Chris Smith has the range and athleticism to play the three, and the size and rebounding ability to play the four. He can post up wings but has no trouble taking bigs off the dribble.

His ability to hit the three will make him an enticing option as an athletic stretch four at the next level. He does however have to fill out his frame to play extended minutes against NBA bigs, at 6’9 215 pounds, but for players willing to put in the work, that can be a seemingly natural progression. If he plays his cards right, he should find himself getting some meaningful minutes for a team next season.

Draft Projection: mid second round

10. Trendon Watford- LSU

As the 19th ranked prospect in his high school class according to ESPN, the hype was real for Trendon Watford coming into his freshman year. With impressive guard skills to go along with a 6’9 235 pound frame, he appeared as though he could be a dominant force at the NBA level.

LSU did have a successful year by finishing third in the SEC, but Watford took a backseat to guard Skylar Mays for much of the year. Watford looked disengaged on offense at times by only taking 10.4 shots per game. He did prove himself to be a very good rebounder though, as he averaged 7.2 boards per game.

He may end up playing more power forward at the next level due to his rebounding ability and lack of three point shot, but his combination of size and handling ability may make him an absolute mismatch on the perimeter. Either way, despite his disappointing freshman season, he does have potential to be a second round steal. 

Draft Projection: mid second round

11. Lamar Stevens- Penn State

Penn State is rarely in the conversation when it comes to high level Big Ten basketball. That all changed last year, as the team was near the top of one of the best conferences in the country for much of last year. There was no bigger reason for this resurgence than the play of Lamar Stevens.

The four year senior averaged 17.6 points and 6.9 rebounds per game earning himself a first team all conference nod. He is a great two way player who takes advantage of his size and athleticism on both ends of the floor.

His outside shot leaves much to be desired, but he has no problem scoring from anywhere inside the arc and can guard one through four on the other end. Another player who’s viewed as having limited potential due to his age though, he will most likely have to fight his way onto a 15-man roster.

Draft Projection: mid to late second round

12. Kenyon Martin Jr.- IMG Academy

Like many top prospects in the last few years, Kenyon Martin Jr. has decided to skip college. However, he does not plan to play overseas or in the G-League for a year. Because he played a year of high school basketball at IMG Academy after he graduated, he is eligible and has declared for the 2020 Draft.

Given his lack of experience playing high level basketball, his stock is not incredibly high, but the 19-year-old definitely has talent. His athleticism is the most noticeable part of his game, as he is very quick with the ball in his hands and is more than capable of playing above the rim.

He has also shown great tenacity and engagement on the defensive end of the floor. He is no doubt a long term project, but his upside is too great for a team not to give him a look towards the end of the draft.

Draft Projection: mid to late second round

13. Isaiah Livers- Michigan

At the later stages of the second round, sometimes all teams are looking for is a prospect that can do one thing very well. For Isaiah Livers, that has always been his ability to shoot. In his three years at Michigan, he never shot below 35% from beyond the arc.

Last year he also made 44 of his 46 free throw attempts; that’s 95%. Unlike other players, his three year sample size means that his deadeye shooting is proven to not just be a one year fluke. And in the modern NBA, it seems like a team can never have too many marksmen, so Livers is unlikely to go undrafted.

Draft Projection: late second round

14. Kristian Doolittle- Oklahoma 

When the season came to an end prematurely this year, Oklahoma found themselves tied for third in what was a very strong Big-12 conference. It wasn’t a team that had gotten much national attention, but they had quietly put together a very good year for the program. And at the center of it all was senior Kristian Doolittle.

The senior averaged 15.8 points and 8.9 rebounds per game on 47.8% shooting. He doesn’t have a clear elite skill, but has shown in his four years that he is a very well rounded wing. He can hit threes if left open, but he can also attack closeouts.

He is an above average rebounder for the position, and is not a liability on defense. An unusual type of player for a late second round pick, but he should get a shot to prove himself in the summer league or training camp.

Draft Projection: late second round/undrafted

15. Lamine Diane- CSU Northridge

It is not very often that Cal State at Northridge turns out an NBA prospect, but Lamine Diane was so dominant in the Big West conference that scouts couldn’t ignore him. He stuffed the stat sheet by averaging 25.6 points and 10.2 rebounds per game, and he won Big West Player of the Year in both his freshman and sophomore years.

Diane is a great rebounder for his size, and is a polished scorer inside the arc. He is a very hard player to value given the level of competition that he has gone up against for the last two years, but if there is a mid-major player that is ready for the NBA, it is Diane.

Draft Projection: late second round/undrafted


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