The power forward position is blossoming in today’s high-paced, three-point shooting, pick-and-roll orientated NBA. Versatility is a premium at this position more than ever, with teams looking to go smaller and smaller with their lineups in the most crucial parts of the game. The ability to be a threat from every level of the court while having the ability to make plays is crucial as a small-ball four these days. This draft has that versatility in several of the top power forward prospects, with the possibility of ten power forwards under consideration in the first round.
5. Montrezl Harrell 6-8 255 Louisville Junior
The rim-rattling junior from Louisville is at his best attacking the glass for rebounds and putbacks. Harrell is an athletic specimen with an NBA frame, at 6-8 with a chiseled, 255-pound frame. Harrell puts the “power” in power forward, and is the most old-school power forward prospect on this list. Harrell doesn’t have much range on his jump shot, although he improved throughout his career at Louisville. Harrell will need to keep up his improvement in order to maximize his NBA potential.
Despite being slightly undersized, Harrell makes up for it with adequate length at the position, with a 7-4 wingspan and 8-11 standing reach. It’s easy to see a lot of Kenneth Faried in Harrell’s game – an athletic specimen who attacks the boards. But Harrell has a semblance of a perimeter game, giving him a bit more intrigue. Harrell should be picked between 18-25 in the upcoming draft.
4. Kevon Looney 6-9 222 UCLA Freshman
Looney looks like your new, prototypical playmaking four man in the modern NBA. With long arms, a devastating jump shot (41.5 percent from three) and solid rebounding ability (9.2 per game as a freshman), Looney is a solid option somewhere in the middle of the first round.
Looney needs to continue to add weight, as he has a skinny frame at only 222 pounds. He also isn’t as quick laterally, which will mostly restrict him to the power forward position in the NBA. He wasn’t much of a threat blocking shots, despite a 7-3.5 wingspan (0.9 per game), but extra strength might help him in that area.
I had Looney heading home to Milwaukee at number 17 in my first mock draft, and the versatile forward will most likely land between 15 and 22 on draft night.
3. Bobby Portis 6-11 245 Arkansas Sophomore
Portis measured out better than expected at 6-11 and 245 pounds, and it figures to help his draft stock as well. Portis becomes intriguing as a mobile center with shot-blocking (50+ blocks in both seasons) who can space the floor a bit, considering he was a solid 37.6 percent on two-point jumpers and 46.7 percent from three in only he sophomore season at Arkansas.
Portis becomes a mismatch at the four as well, where he can take advantage of his physical gifts, a 7-2 wingspan with 9-0 standing reach and an endless motor. He’s active on both ends of the court, which helps his lack of verticality. Portis is smart while reading the floor on offense, and still has potential for growth in the post.
Portis’ improved ability to hit an open shot from the perimeter really helped his stock rise during his sophomore campaign. His potential for growth paired with his frontcourt versatility gives him intrigue as a mid-round pick, probably ranging from 14-20.
2. Trey Lyles 6-10 240 Kentucky Freshman
Lyles was so good, that coach John Calipari couldn’t keep him off the floor – he started games at small forward during last season. However, his lack of athleticism was more than apparent, so he was moved back to his natural position at the power forward. Lyles thrived at the four, thanks to his size and skill. At 6-10 with solid length, Lyles has an old school post game with ideal physical tools for the position.
Lyles is a bit of an unknown due to the amount of talent he played with while destroying opposing teams’ second units. Lyles lacks athleticism, which hurts him a bit on defense, and it would be beneficial for him to add some strength to help him down low against elite athletes. How will Lyles adjust to guarding smaller, quicker power forwards in the NBA? Defense is easily his biggest question mark.
Overall, Lyles looks to be a solid first-round pick, between 10-16. Lyles’ supreme offensive skill outweighs his defensive shortcomings, and with time and good coaching, he should become a serviceable player on that end. Lyles should be a solid starter in the league, who reminds me a bit of Carlos Boozer.
1. Kristaps Porzingis 7-1 220 International
As an athletic European shot-blocker with great mobility and shooting ability, Porzingis is easily the most intriguing power forward in this draft. People might be scared of Porzingis thanks to another jump shooting European power forward named Andrea Bargnani, but Porzingis has the length and enough toughness to hang with NBA athletes.
The main issue with Porzingis is his lack of strength. He will struggle with stronger forwards in the NBA, and will need a powerful presence in the frontcourt to help mask some of these deficiencies. He showed quick enough feet defending pick-and-rolls, but how he adjusts to the small ball style of play in the NBA will be interesting.
Porzingis has the highest potential out of anybody on this list with his size, skill and mobility. His frame is slight, so adding strength will be a question. Questions also remain about his ability to come overseas, so teams have to take that into consideration when making a pick. Regardless, Porzingis should be a top 10 pick in this draft.
Honorable mention: Jarell Martin (PF, LSU), Chris McCullough (PF, Syracuse), Christian Wood (PF, UNLV), Jordan Mickey (PF, LSU), Rakeem Christmas (PF/C, Syracuse)