Our position-by-position series look at the top NBA prospects coming back to college continues with the power forward position, which is annually one of the deepest in every draft. Since the physical demands for a SF (a 6’8+ wing who can shoot 3’s) and C (a 6’11+ athlete with the size and length to protect the rim) are so demanding, most forwards end up under the broad tent of PF’s, a position which encompasses 7’0 shooters like Dirk Nowitzki and 6’7 bruisers like Kenneth Faried.
In contrast to small forward and center, where very few players can fit the prototype of size, athleticism and skill, there are usually too many power forward to go around. The competition to get drafted and secure a spot in a starting line-up is as intense as any position in the league, which gives NBA teams a lot of leeway in terms of what they are looking for. There is usually a trade-off between shooting and defense, so the holy grail is a guy like LaMarcus Aldridge, a 6’11+ shooter who can protect the rim.
Top 5 Power Forwards
Jarrell Martin, LSU - A 5-star freshman who was not in a position to put up big stats last year - he was playing out of position as a small forward next to two guys who are also NBA prospects (Jordan Mickey, Johnny O’Bryant III). In terms of talent, though, not much separates him from guys like Jabari Parker and Julius Randle. Martin is 6’9 240 and he can handle the ball, shoot the 3 and play above the rim. If he was taking 14-15 shots a game like Jabari, he would have nice stats too.
Bobby Portis, Arkansas - Portis started coming on strong towards the tail end of his freshman season. He’s a lottery pick talent who should only need one more year of school. Arkansas beat Kentucky twice and Portis didn’t look outmatched by Randle or any of their other lottery picks. He’s really big (6’10 240), he moves well for a guy his size, he’s a good outside shooter and he’s pretty comfortable with the ball in his hands. As the main option on an improving Arkansas team, Portis could be the SEC POY.
Jordan Mickey, LSU - LSU is stacked. They will be a better team next season even without Johnny O’Bryant, a second-round pick in this year’s draft. Mickey is 6’8 220 and he averaged three blocks a game as a freshman in the SEC. The main thing for him this off-season is putting on some weight - at 235, 240, he would be a Top 15 pick. He’s very athletic, he’s pretty skilled and he plays bigger than his size. With Mickey at the 5 and Martin at the 4, watch for LSU to be one of the surprise teams in the country next season.
Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin - I have Kaminsky as a PF and not a C because I don’t think he has the strength (at 235 pounds) or the athleticism to protect the rim or wrestle with some of the Goliaths at the next level. He’s a very skilled 7’0 who can shoot, put the ball on the floor and post up smaller players, but I think he’s better in an Andrea Bargnani role playing off a C. You saw that against Kentucky in the Final Four - he really couldn’t handle the size of Julius Randle or Dakari Johnson in the post.
Chris Walker, Florida - This is a bit of a placeholder for Walker, since I didn’t get a real good feel for his game as a freshman. He was ineligible for the first half of the season and by the time he was able to play, Florida was pretty set in their big man rotation and he only got a few minutes coming off the bench. At 6’11 220 with elite athleticism, he’s clearly got the physical tools for the next level, but he didn’t show a whole lot when it came to skills and feel for the game in his limited time last season.
Other names to watch:
Brandon Ashley (Arizona), Robert Carter Jr. (Georgia Tech), Montrezl Harrell (Louisville), Brice Johnson (UNC), Shaq Goodwin (Memphis), Marcus Lee (Kentucky)