The Small Forward position has probably been the strongest of any position for years in the NBA. Point guard might be the deepest, but small forward definitely has the top high-end talent. With players such as Lebron James, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard headlining the position it is hard to argue another position is stronger.
Small forwards have become a do it all position in the NBA. A lot of them have the skills of guards, but size to gaud most bigs. Some have the ability to run a team’s offense and can be argued to be their team’s point guard. It is just such a versatile position and maybe these prospects can redefine the position even more.
#5 Brandon Boston, University of Kentucky
Boston will likely play the shooting guard at the next level, but it was hard to leave his name off that list,
and without a good fifth small forward option, he will be discussed here. Boston was widely considered a top-five pick when coming out of high school. He was heralded for his smooth offensive game. Everything about him just seems so effortless and fluent. That is until he stepped foot on Kentucky’s campus.
Boston was highly regarded due to his offensive game and jump shot. He then shot 35.5% from the field and 30.0% from thre
e. These are terrible numbers for someone who does not have the physicality to be able to confidently attack the rim. Boston is listed at 6’7″, but only 185 lbs. He is super skinny and will have to put weight on to survive at the next level.
Teams drafting in the late first-round or even early second-round are bound to take a chance on him because of the potential he showed coming out of high school.
#4 Ziaire Williams, Stanford University
Williams has an eerily similar situation to Boston, but a little better. He and Boston actually played at the same high school, Sierra Canyon School, and were both five-star recruits. Boston actually had even more hype than Williams, but both majorly disappointed in their freshman seasons. Williams came into
Stanford with a lot of excitement around him. Williams was praised for his smooth jump shot and playmaking skills for a 6’8″ forward. His freshman season at Stanford did not necessarily go as planned though. He shot horribly, 37.4% from the field and 29.1% from three, for a player that came into college with his jump shot being one of his biggest strengths. He also averaged more turnovers than assists. These stats directly go against the strengths scouts were excited for coming into his freshman season.
While he had a very disappointing season, scouts still see the potential for him to be a good player in the NBA. Scouts still believe his jump shot can get back on track. They believe this because his form is still exceptional and he shot a pretty good 79.6% from the free-throw line, which a lot of people use as an indicator for future shooting development. With Williams, you are betting on his potential. He could end up being one of the better players in this class. On the other hand, he could be a bust and likely play at the end of a team’s rotation.
#3 Corey Kispert, University of Gonzaga
Kispert is the best specialist in the class. He does one thing better than anyone else in his year’s field of talent. He can shoot the ball. There is no other way to put it. Kispert is the best shooter in this year’s class and it is not particularly close. In his junior and senior seasons, he shot 43.8% and 44.0 % from three, respectively. These are absurd numbers and will no doubt translate to a way more open and spaced NBA. We all know he can shoot, but how well he does the other things will be the determining factor into how good of an NBA player he could really be.
Kispert is not a typical spot-up shooter though. While this is by far his strongest skill, he is capable of other things. He is 6’7″ and 220 lbs. He has a much stronger build than most people who fill the role he will be asked to play in the NBA. Kispert is also underrated when it comes to his cutting and straight-line drive ability. No one is going to say he is a great defender due to his limited athleticism, but his strength allows him to hold his own. He is very similar to Brooklyn Nets’ Joe Harris. They both make their money because of their shooting but are actually very underrated in the other aspects of their games.
#2 Franz Wagner, University of Michigan
Franz, the younger brother of Moritz, who currently plays for the Boston Celtics, is projected to go a lot higher in the draft than his older brother. Teams love Wagner for his swiss army knife potential. Wagner has no real weakness in his game, he is so well-rounded. He would fit on pretty much any team due to his ability to play so many different roles. He has been highly praised for his defense. Wagner can fit the
mold of a 3-and-D player, but even that seems very limiting. He showed that he can play make for others, and to a lesser extent, himself at times.
Wagner will likely never be a star, but he is going to have a very long career in the NBA due to his ability to do whatever a team needs him to do. This comparison is not the most popular, but he is reminiscent of Nicolas Batum. People forget just how great Batum was with the Blazers. He was able to do a little bit of everything. He could handle the ball, create for others a little bit, shoot the three, and guard an opposing team’s best player. This is who Wagner has the potential to be.
#1 Jonathan Kuminga, G League Ignite
Kuminga is an athlete. He is filled with high-flying highlights, but that is not all he is. He uses his exceptional athleticism to play defense at an already high level for someone that is only eighteen years old. Kuminga has an NBA-ready body that will be able to compete at the next level right away. He showed that he could score against professionals in the G League, averaging 15.8 points per game.
While he did put up points in the box score, the issue is that he did it fairly inefficiently. He shot 38.7% from the field and 24.6% from three. He does not project as a great shooter, but these numbers are still concerning. Also, he does not project to be a playmaker in any way.
Despite these weaknesses, Kuminga showed that he can score and make shots for himself against solid competition. He does not project as a superstar, but he does have a chance to be a well above average starter and maybe an all-star. In almost any mock draft you will find him at fifth overall. He is a tier below the top four, but also a tier above everyone else after that. If this is the case, whatever team misses out on that elite top four will not be too disappointed when Kuminga falls into their lap.