NBA Draft Week – Small Forwards

Title: NBA Draft Week – Small Forwards
Date: June 24, 2008
Original Source: The On Deck Circle
Synopsis: For a full week I focused exclusively on the NBA Draft, one of my favorite nights of the sporting calendar. This piece looked at the small forward class, headlined by Danilo Gallinari.

This is Part 3 in a 7-part NBA Draft Preview Series here at The On Deck Circle. While I apologize to our readers who aren’t NBA fans, Thursday is the NBA Draft, one of my favorite nights of the year, and as such our coverage will focus primarily on the draft this week (supplemented, of course, by a bunch of non-basketball stuff, too). The series will take a look at the draft, position by position, attempting to amalgamate information from ESPN and Draft Express and condense it into digestible profiles for the top players of the Class of 2008. Yesterday, I started with Point Guards , today features Shooting Guards and Small Forwards, tomorrow will examine Power Forwards and Centers, and Thursday will look at potential Toronto Raptor draft picks. The week-long coverage will commence with a live-blog of Draft Night, starting in the afternoon with news updates. Up next, the Small Forwards.


 More after the jump!
Danilo Gallinari , Italy
Measurements: 6’9”, 209lbs., Age 19
Draft Express Rank: 1
ESPN Rank: 1
Projection: 5-10
Synopsis: Gallinari is the rich man’s Andrea Bargnani. While not a center and not quite as big, Gallinari is polished beyond Il Mago’s current level and has addressed most of the concerns usually apparent with European imports. That is, he has a high basketball IQ, has great maturity and experience for a player his age, and already has an NBA-ready offensive game. The main knock against him is that he may lack the athleticism to play strong defense against other small forwards, and he rebounds poorly for a player his size, but he more than accounts for these concerns with his frame, intensity, and versatility. Try not to get too excited about Gallinari, because European imports are generally risky, but feel free to express cautious optimism if your team drafts him – he is the surest thing a European draftee has ever been.
Interesting Fact:He plays for Armani Jeans, Milano of the Italian Legaue, no joke. He was also awarded the EuroLeague Rising Star Trophy this past season.

Brandon Rush , Kansas
Measurements: 6’7”, 211lbs., Age 22
Draft Express Rank: 3
ESPN Rank: 3 (on the SG rankings)
Projection: 12-20
Synopsis:Nobody questions that Rush has NBA level talent, but over the past three years he has jumped around mock draft boards more than anyone save for Tiago Splitter. Rush is another NBA-ready swingman with an NBA-ready body – he possess good size and strength for his age and position, and he’ll have the ability to play both wing positions. Additionally, he may be the best 3-point shooter in the draft, though he struggles to create his own shot. There are questions about his mental make-up as a go-to guy, but he should be a contributor regardless. With his athleticism, range, and basketball IQ, Draft Express’ Caron Butler comparison is very fitting.
Interesting Fact:He broke his elbow as a child and can’t straighten his right arm because of it.

Joe Alexander, West Virginia
Measurements: 6’8”, 230lbs., Age 21
Draft Express Rank: 2
ESPN Rank: 2
Projection: 5-10
Synopsis: It seems almost a lock, according to most mocks out there, that Alexander will be a Buck via the 8th pick overall. Alexander has a toughness and presence that the Bucks want out of a potential top-flight player, and they feel Alexander’s length, athleticism, shot-blocking, and “maniacal” work ethic make him that package. Don’t get me wrong, Alexander is a freak and exactly what you want in a player mentally, but there are some big concerns. For one, Alexander is very unorthodox and doesn’t have a clear offensive game, which could make him hard to utilize in the offense. Additionally, he is still pretty raw (he’s only been balling for five years) and will need time to develop. Then again, that means he probably has higher upside than most. Despite scouts being high on Alexander, I have trouble envisioning him as a franchise player or #2 option (or a lottery pick), but he could develop into a decent role player.
Interesting Fact:He was born in Taiwan and also lived in Beijing and Hong Kong, though he makes his home in Maryland.

Donte Greene, Syracuse
Measurements: 6’10”, 200lbs., Age 20
Draft Express Rank: 5
ESPN Rank: 3
Projection: 12-25
Synopsis:It’s tough to see a specimen as impressive as Green going as low as 25, but he’s also probably not a lottery pick anymore. He has great size and a very high skill level, but he lacks a true position and is short on lateral quickness and length, creating concerns about his defensive potential. Still, he has a good jump shot with NBA range and a great back-to-the-basket game, and with added strength he could be a great rebounder at the big league level. Definitely worth a risk for a late lottery team with time to wait for him.
Interesting Fact:Surpassed the legendary Gerry McNamara for the Syracuse freshman 3-point shooting record with 90.

Nicolas Batum , France
Measurements: 6’8”, 214lbs., Age 19
Draft Express Rank: 4
ESPN Rank: 4
Projection: 20-35
Synopsis:Things have taken a serious turn for the worse for Batum over the past week, after a workout in Toronto revealed a potential heart problem. While his agents say it’s fine and not hereditary, it is a huge red flag that, coupled with the fact that it limited Batum’s workouts, has Batum slipping out of the first round on some mocks. If taken, Batum is an intriguing prospect because of his athleticism, length, intelligence, and offensive polish. He may be a little soft and appears to lack confidence and aggression, but he’s still young and has pretty sizable upside. He could be a steal if he slips to the second round but there are just too many risks for him to sniff the lottery.
Interesting Fact:Last year he dropped 23 points at the Nike Hoop Summit in just 28 minutes.

Bill Walker, Kansas State
Measurements: 6’6”, 225lbs., Age 20
Draft Express Rank: 6
ESPN Rank: 6
Projection: 25-35
Synopsis: Okay, it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that he’ll be gone by the end of the first round. He is a mortal lock to be taken by the Pistons at #29 if available, and the fact that he is a ‘Pistons type’ of player tells you the whole story. He’s a great athlete with a basketball IQ through the roof, and he is a highly systematic player. He is also apparently an eager learner and hard worker, meaning he could add even more skill and polish to his NBA-ready package. The main concern with Walker is that he’s had three ACL injuries since 2003, costing him a potential lottery slot, but rest assured that when healthy he’ll be a meaningful contributor.
Interesting Fact:Was a teammate of O.J. Mayo at North College Hill High School. He was also enrolled at K-State as a part-time student so he could play in the last half of the 2006 season after leaving high school in his extra year.

Once again, I won’t exit the first round in this discussion. The overarching theme here is that the first round is loaded with talent, but it really drops off heading into the second round. USC’s Davon Jefferson, Xavier’s Josh Duncan, Virginia Tech’s Deron Washington, and Oregon’s Malik Hairston are names you may recognize when called in the second round, if they’re called at all.

Check out yesterday’s piece on Point Guards, today’s piece on Shooting Guards, and check back tomorrow for Power Forwards and Centers, and Thursday for Potential Raptor Picks and a Live-Blog of the Draft.


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