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04-30-2003, 10:44 AM
2003 NBA Draft: Top 15 small forwards
By Chad Ford
NBA Insider

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The small forward position is the junk drawer of the NBA.

If you're over 6-foot-6 and scouts don't have a clue where you'll play in the pros, they throw you into the small forward drawer, along with all of the other odds and ends, and call it good.

Swingman. Three man. Point forward. Small forward. Does it matter? There is no one definition for the three spot these days.

Some guys can shoot the rock. Others run the offense from the point because they've got a great handle. Some are rangy defenders called upon to stop the team's top offensive player. Others are power forwards masquerading as threes because teams are too embarrassed to admit that they have a 6-7 four. Others are two guards in three clothing who've refused to leave the shooting to the two.

Nowadays, most of them speak with an accent. International players have made the biggest inroads at center and small forward. Center because NBA folks will take big guys wherever they can grow them. Small forward because international big men have the ball-handling skills and shooting touch to play anywhere on the floor.

They are the Swiss Army knives of the NBA.

Look at the last five drafts and the majority of international players taken in the first round are centers or small forwards. Dirk Nowitzki, Andrei Kirilenko, Hidayet Turkoglu, Vladimir Radmanovic, Nikoloz Tskitishivili and Bostjan Nachbar are just the latest in a string of small forwards to get drafted in the first round.

This year is no exception. Of Insider's 15 top small forwards, five are international players, including four in the top 10. It's a good thing too as this is one of the weakest collegiate small forward drafts ever.

After Carmelo Anthony, the next three top college small forwards are two guys who've played power forward their whole careers, and a kid from Wake Forest who was projected as a borderline second-round pick until a senior season surge.

Here's a look at the Top 15 small forwards expected to declare for the 2003 NBA Draft. Thursday we'll tackle the Top 15 power forwards.

Also see: Top 15 SG | Top 15 PG | Top 15 International

Note: The list includes all players seriously considering entering the 2003 draft. An asterisk (*) by a player's name indicates he is an underclassman who has officially declared.

1. Carmelo Anthony, Syracuse*
The line: 6-8, 220, Freshman
The skinny: The complete package. Every time scouts begin talking about him, the names of Tracy McGrady, Paul Pierce, Shawn Marion, Antoine Walker and even Grant Hill are evoked. That's not bad company. He's a fluid scorer. Anthony can score off the dribble or stick the mid-range jumper. He's very creative when he slashes to the basket. He's a good ball handler and an above-average passer, leading some scouts to believe that he'll eventually be a point forward in the pros. He's a superb rebounder for someone his size thanks to long arms and a willingness to get in the paint. He's the consensus No. 3 pick in this year's draft if he declares. His improvement this year, combined with his work ethic and professional off-the-court behavior, has teams sold. Anthony has all of the trappings of an NBA star.

2. Maciej Lampe, Real Madrid (Poland)*
The line: 7-0, 240, 18 years old
The skinny: Considered one of the top-three young players in Europe right now. Lampe's combination of size, shooting touch, ball-handling skills and an advanced inside-outside games have drawn comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki. Teams aren't really sure what position he'll play in the pros. He'll likely start out at small forward and eventually project into a power forward once he gets stronger. He's needs to become a better rebounder, defender and get stronger, but he could end up as the sleeper in the draft. Right now he's probably looking at the late lottery.

3. Boris Diaw, Pau Ortiz (France)*
The line: 6-9, 215, 21 years old
The skinny: A big-time prospect who's been overshadowed by the emergence of Mickael Pietrus. They play on the same team, and scouts are divided on who the better prospect is. Diaw is more skilled and a better defender, Pietrus is the better athlete and scorer. After only seeing garbage minutes earlier in the year, Diaw is now playing big-time minutes. Scouts have noticed. Some teams are going as far as to compare him to a young Scottie Pippen. Others, noting his lack of aggressiveness offensively, say he's closer to Tariq Abdul-Wahad. There's a big gap between those two. He's a late lottery, mid-first-rounder right now.

4. Hakim Warrick, Syracuse
The line: 6-9, 205, Sophomore
The skinny: This slender forward has been compared to Darius Miles. That's both a good thing and a bad thing. Like Miles, Warrick is a great athlete who delivers unbelievable hops and rim-rattling dunks. He's an accomplished rebounder who uses his leaping ability and long arms to sky over his opponents. He hit the weight room hard last summer and improved his bench press by 80 pounds. He also added 20 pounds to his big frame and developed a sweet 10- to 12-foot jumper. Teams worry about his outside jumper and his strength -- the same two knocks Miles hasn't been able to shake. He played power forward in college, but he'd have to make the jump to small forward in the pros because of his lack of strength. His coach and his mother claim he's returning for his junior season. We'll believe it when we see it. Right now he's a mid-first-rounder if he declares.

5. David West, Xavier
The line: 6-8, 232, Senior
The skinny: West has been one of the pre-eminent low-post players in the country the last two seasons, but it's been the emergence of his perimeter game that has caught scouts' eyes this season. West had developed a nice mid-range jumper and has even shown some three-point range this season. That's great because he's picked up the dreaded tweener label among scouts. He doesn't have the size (scouts feel he's closer to 6-7) athleticism or lateral quickness to be a great defender or shot blocker in the paint. Can he convince teams he can make the transition to small forward? His emerging jumper gives him hope. If he measures bigger than expected in Chicago (it's happened in the past) his stock will be on the rise. If he doesn't, look for him to go in the mid-to-late first round.

6. Zarko Cabarkapa, Yugoslavia
The line: 6-11, 220, 22 years old
The skinny: He's another versatile athlete who plays three positions in Europe. He's an excellent outside shooter. He just needs to get stronger. Teams are also concerned that he's a little one dimensional. When I saw him in December, he looked uncomfortable putting the ball on the floor and taking it to the hole. However, several scouts have told me he's improved in this area. He's represented by super agent Bill Duffy, which won't hurt his stock come draft day. He's probably going somewhere in the late first round.

7. Victor Khryapa, Russia*
The line: 6-9, 225, 21 years old
The skinny: Gets a lot of comparisons to Andrei Kirilenko. Both players are long and mutli-dimensional. Khryapa impressed NBA scouts when he subbed for an injured Kirilenko for Team Russia during the World Championships. He's a good shooter with NBA range. However, he's not quite the athlete that Kirilenko is, nor is he quite as polished as his European counterparts. He also has to get stronger to compete at the next level. With all that said, most teams still consider him a great prospect. He'll likely be a late first-rounder.

8. Josh Howard, Wake Forest
The line: 6-7, 205, Senior
The skinny: While Howard doesn't do anything extraordinary, he seems to do everything well. Scouts love his maturity and patience on the court. He has a solid mid-range jumper, is great on the offensive glass, has solid handles and always seems to play in control. He's an above-average defender. He doesn't have deep range on his jumper, but his 3-ball is improving. He's a good athlete, but not an explosive one. Doesn't really play above the rim. At the start of the year, scouts had him penciled in as a borderline second-round pick. Now, several teams say they wouldn't be surprised if he slips into the late first round. While Howard doesn't project to be a star in the league, he has the potential to be a solid rotation player. You know what you're getting with him.

9. Darius Rice, Miami
The line: 6-10, 215, Junior
The skinny: Rice may be the best 6-10 shooter in the country. His uncle is Jerry, not Glen, but you'd never know it from his skinny frame. Rice weights just 215 pounds. "He's a great shooter," one league executive said. "But he has a real strength problem. It doesn't look like he's gained any weight at Miami. He has no post game and seems to just settle on the perimeter. I think he needs to hit the weight room. If he could put some meat on his bones, he'd go high." Rice was determined to put his name in the draft this year, assuming he'd go in the mid first round. The feedback he and his coach have gotten around the league hasn't been good. It looks like Rice is now leaning toward returning for his senior season at Miami.

10. Charlie Villanueva, New Jersey
The line: 6-10, 215, HS Senior
The skinny: Villanueva is a rangy small forward and has the full complement of skills. He has Lamar Odom-like versatility. He can score inside or from the perimeter. He's an excellent ball handler, a solid passer and an above-average athlete. So what's the knock? Heart. Villanueva has a rep for lollygagging at times. He doesn't play with the type of intensity that scouts demand. His work ethic is somewhat questionable. He doesn't play defense or block shots. Teams like the talent, but believe he's years away from making an impact in the league. A couple of good years in college and he's a lottery pick. Right now he's a bubble first-rounder.

11. Carlos Delfino, Fortitudo Bologna (Argentina)
The line: 6-7, 200, 21 years old
The skinny: Delfino, a slick swingman who's often compared to a bigger, stronger version of Emanuel Ginobili, suffered a big setback last month when he injured ligaments in his ankle. However, sources in Italy claim that the injury wasn't as serious as it first appeared. Insider will be in Bologna next week to meet with Delfino. He's already practicing and the word from his team is that he might play in the team's playoff game on Tuesday. Delfino was widely considered a possible first-round prospect this year before the injury. Still no word whether he'll actually be in the draft.

12. Tommy Smith, Arizona State
The line: 6-10, 205, Senior
The skinny: Smith drew rave reviews with three solid performances at the PIT. For the tournament, Smith averaged 17 ppg, six rpg, three spg and 2.3 bpg on 54 percent shooting. While scouts are a little concerned with his frail looking body, they're in love with his versatility, athleticism and a newfound confidence in his shooting. Smith, who will have to make the transition to small forward in the pros, appears to be one of those players whose game is more suited for the NBA. If he can add some meat to his frame and continue to prove that he can consistently hit his jumper, Smith has a good shot at getting drafted early in the second round.

13. Luke Walton, Arizona
The line: 6-8, 245, Senior
The skinny: Walton had a terrible year. His lack of a consistent jumper along with a senior season riddled with injuries will likely keep him out of the first round. Still, his game is respected among NBA scouts. Several scouts have called Walton the best passer in college basketball period. He's deceptively athletic. A very cerebral player like his father. He's got a good shot at making a team somewhere.

14. Ugonna Onyekwe, Penn
The line: 6-8, 230, Senior
The skinny: Onyekwe is another PIT star. Onyekwe's superior athleticism, long wing span, offensive rebounding and frantic full-throttle play wowed scouts. He proved to scouts that he has the quickness to get by his defender and create his own shot. His rebounding is also well above average for a small forward. He still needs to prove, however, that he can hit his outside jumper with regularity. A strong showing in Chicago would help his stock, but it's unlikely he can play himself into the first round.

15. James Jones, Miami
The line: 6-8, 220, Senior
The skinny: Jones has great size for a small forward and his shooting touch at the PIT should get him a second look in Chicago. Jones shot 58 percent from behind the arc during the tournament.. "He's a much better shooter than I think people give him credit for," one scout told Insider. "At Miami, he played a lot more in the paint. Obviously in the pros he's a small forward. I think he can really help himself if he keeps shooting like that. The NBA needs plenty of shooters."

Others to watch: Kyle Korver, Creighton; Jason Kapono, UCLA; Marcus Vieira, Brazil; LaVell Blanchard, Michigan; Kasib Powell, Texas Tech; Blagota Sekulic, Yugoslavia

Malachi Mav
04-30-2003, 06:13 PM
The one thing that I know is that Carmello will BOARD in the NBA, and teams will LUV that!

He also has the necessary skill of being able to get his own shot - wherever he wants, WHENever he wants. That, too, will be a great asset in the pros.

If he elevates his perimeter shooting, he could be an All-Star in a few years.

I AM rather dubious about that "point-forward" comment. He has a good handle - FOR A FORWARD. That's like saying the 7 footer who shoots 62% from the free throw line is a good foul shooter - FOR A BIG MAN.

Anyway, do you think he might slip into the 2nd spot, or even 1st?

MM