In a similar vein to last week's analysis on the shooting guard prospects for the upcoming 2012 NBA Draft, this week we'll be taking a look at the crop of small forwards looking to come out in next year's draft. And let me tell you, this draft is looking to be pretty stacked at the top with small forwards. We have Harrison Barnes, the consensus number one pick in the draft going into the college season last year, who decided to stay another year in school; we have Quincy Miller looking to join another top-flight prospect in Perry Jones III at Baylor this upcoming year; and we have Michael Gilchrist joining what looks to be a stacked team at Kentucky.
All three prospects are ranked in the top 10 overall for their draft class, and all should be viable options for the Cavaliers when picking in next year's draft. Assuming that the Cavs have only one pick in the first round however, and depending on the performance of new acquisition Omri Casspi, the Cavs may end up deciding that shooting guard is a more pressing issue on the roster. Keep in mind that there are no certainties at this point, and even though you may hear that Harrison Barnes is a lock for us if we get the first or second pick in the draft, last year at this time we were all assuming Harrison Barnes was going to go number one overall regardless of who was picking. Turns out he didn't even enter the draft, and who's to say he won't decide to do the same this year? Or that any of these prospects won't do the same.
With that said, let's work under the assumption that all three will come out and hold to approximately the same status that they currently have in their draft class. So let's begin with the current consensus number one small forward prospect Harrison Barnes:
Info: Height - 6' 8" Weight - 210 lbs. School - UNC (So.) Age - 19
Harrison Barnes appears to have made a full recovery from his lackluster start to his college career. Labeled by some as the number one overall prospect in the upcoming draft, even over highly-touted power forward prospect Anthony Davis, Barnes has been able to shut up critics with his impressive play towards the end of last season and his desire to work hard and attempt to win an NCAA Championship at UNC. Barnes also seems to have carved out an image of himself as a clutch player in college basketball. The "clutch" image can oftentimes cause people to overlook many of a player's other deficiencies, which Barnes certainly has. One can't discount his poor start to last season, when his jumper wasn't falling and he just wasn't getting involved on offense. Despite his problems at the beginning of the season, he still played excellent defense, and really turned things around when point guard Kendall Marshall was made the starter.
Barnes isn't an elite athlete, but he makes up for it with an good jumper, footwork, and overall offensive savvy. He has a high basketball IQ, and from all accounts is an awesome teammate. He tends to be most effective with the ball in his hands, as he shoots a much higher percentage off-the-dribble than with his feet set. He doesn't have a great first step and can't blow by opponents or dazzle them with mystical dribbling prowess. In order to be an effective offensive player in the NBA he will need to work o
n diversifying his game and learning how to get in the paint and draw fouls. By no means is Barnes' position as the number one small forward prospect safe, especially with these next two guys breathing down his neck.
Info: Height - 6' 9" Weight - 200 lbs. School - Baylor (Fr.) Age - 18
Quincy Miller is a bit of an enigma at this point. On December 10 of last year he tore his ACL in a high school game and thus had to sit out nearly his entire senior year of high school basketball. This has caused his stock to drop a bit, considering that at one point he was projected to be ranked number one in his college recruiting class coming out of high school, and it's easy to see why. Miller has excellent length and athleticism, and at first glance will probably remind you of another lanky small forward, Kevin Durant. That is where the comparisons between them end however, as Miller is a much better ball-handler than Durant and not nearly as good of a shooter, although he isn't a slouch in that category whatsoever. Miller has pretty unorthodox shooting mechanics, but has soft touch and is a good learner. Miller attacks the rim well and has a high basketball IQ.
From all accounts Miller is an awesome teammate and an awesome person. He has gone on record as saying that his injury is one of the best things to happen to him, allowing him to sit out and watch other players develop and to develop his capacity for the mental aspect of the game. The fact that he's able to come to grips with the reality of his situation and keep a positive attitude is a very encouraging sign for this prospect. It remains to be seen what kind of effect his injury will have on his athleticism, but hopefully he will fully recover and challenge Harrison Barnes for the top small forward spot in the upcoming draft, along with our third prospect.
Info: Height - 6' 7" Weight - 205 lbs. School - Kentucky (Fr.) Age - 17
Currently the lowest ranked of these three prospects, but still in the top 10 of most boards, is Michael Gilchrist. If ever there was a player deemed to be the apparent heir to Scottie Pippen, Gilchrist would be it. One of the most gifted defensive players to come along in a very long time, Gilchrist is an animal on the defensive end. He applies pressure to the ball as soon as its inbounded, and maintains this pressure constantly. He has sound mechanics and is very disciplined, yet he is also extremely intense and physical. His off-the-ball defense is just as good, as he knows exactly where he's supposed to be, and has great anticipation in the passing lanes. One could almost say he's too good at defense, at least for ordinary human beings.
His offensive game is nothing to scoff at either, as he's a very good ball-handler and a willing passer. He fills his roll on his team and does his job. He has iffy mechanics on his jumper, but does show the capacity to hit shots, and at the age of 17, has plenty of time to correct any mechanical errors. Gilchrist is an awesome teammate and is constantly talking and cheering both on the court and the bench. A good attitude and excellent defense are two bankable attributes, so it's a near certainty that he will be a success in the NBA.
Another prospect that I won't go into too much detail about is Shabazz Muhammad, who is looking to be one of the most exciting players to come about in years. While we're not quite sure whether or not he is going to be a shooting guard or a small forward, he is an explosive, elite athlete, as well as a polished offensive player, something that doesn't come around too often. Look for him in the 2013 draft if the Cavs don't draft one of these three prospects next year.
At this point it's all speculation, but I would say that all three of these prospects have a very high chance of being drafted by the Cavs next year, as we will most likely be picking somewhere in the top 10. So watch these three closely and have fun trying to picture them in wine and gold running alongside Kyrie Irving, because that's what I'll be doing.