In this third installment of the 2023 NBA Draft according to YODA (short for Ye Olde Draft Analyzer), I turn to the forwards.
To my way of thinking, there are four meaningful NBA positions:
- Guards — traditional point guards and shooting guards who don’t have the size to play traditional small forward (think Bradley Beal, Monte Morris, Jordan Goodwin)
- Wings — traditional SGs and SFs who don’t have the skills/aptitude of a PG but aren’t big enough to tussle with the big boys (think Corey Kispert, Will Barton)
- Forwards — traditional PFs or SFs but aren’t full-time centers (think Kyle Kuzma, Deni Avdija, Rui Hachimura)
- Centers — the big guys who patrol the paint and protect the rim but generally not quick enough to defend the perimeter or keep up with wings and guards (think Daniel Gafford, Kristaps Porzingis)
For the uninitiated, YODA is my self-made stat-driven system using publicly available information. It operates under the theory that a prospect’s on-court production is a reasonable way to assess how he applies his skills, size, athleticism and basketball IQ to competitive games. The system accounts for level of competition, age, athletic tools, defensive prowess, injury history, and intangibles like off-court trouble, relevant exceptional achievements, etc.
History shows that in most cases, excellent players in non-NBA players tend to be the most successful at the NBA level. There are exceptions, but there aren’t many examples of players who went from a collegiate scrub to an even useful NBA player. It’s probably happened, but I can’t think of a single example off the top of my head.
Quick aside: someone mentioned Garrett Temple as a possible example. And while it’s true that he wasn’t much of an offensive threat — he peaked at 8.6 points and 4.3 assists per game — he averaged more than 30 minutes per game in all four seasons at LSU, he played 4,432 career minutes in college, and he was SEC All-Defense twice.
The 2023 class of forwards is strong at the top followed by a group with potential later in the first round or into the second. Here’s what YODA sees:
- Brandon Miller, Alabama, age 20 — Excellent shooter with solid size and athletic tools. He hit 38.4% from three on 9.1 attempts per 40 minutes and shot 85.9% from the free throw line. He did a nice job rebounding (10.1 per 40 with 2.5 coming on the offensive end). Potential concerns: more turnovers than assists and just 48.3% on twos.
- Taylor Hendricks, University of Central Florida, age 19 — Good shooter with outstanding size and athleticism — 39.4% on threes and 53.5% on twos. He led forwards in YODA with 2.0 blocks per 40. Potential concerns: no playmaking (just 1.6 assists per 40) and rebounding numbers a little lower than desired based on his size and athletic tools.
- Cam Whitmore, Villanova, age 18 — Impressive freshman season from an outstanding athlete who doesn’t turn 19 until July — 57.8% on twos, 34.3% on threes and 70.3% from the free throw line. He was a disruptive defender — 2.1 steals per 40 minutes, which is at the top among this year’s forwards. Potential concerns: Not outstanding on the boards, just 1.1 assist per 40, and more than two turnovers for every assist.
- Jarace Walker, Houston, age 20 — Adequate size and a good leaper. Some playmaking (2.6 assists per 40) with good steals and blocks — number one in steals + blocks among this year’s forwards. Potential concerns: Iffy shooting (34.7% on threes and 66.3% from the free throw line).
- Noah Clowney, Alabama, age 18 — Like Whitmore, Clowney doesn’t turn 19 until July. If he grows a little, I could see Clowney playing some center in the NBA. In the NCAA, 12.5 rebounds per for (including 3.3 on the offensive glass) and 66.9% on twos. Potential concerns: Just 28.3% on threes, 64.9% on free throws, more turnovers than assists and unimpressive tallies of blocks and steals.
- Kris Murray, Iowa, age 22 — YODA doesn’t think quite as much of Murray as it did of his twin brother, Keegan. This Murray shot well inside the arc — 58.3% on twos — but an iffy 33.5% on threes. Solid rebounding, a little playmaking, almost no turnovers for a high usage player, and he even played some defense at times. He could be a genuine value in the late first or early second round.
- Kobe Brown, Missouri, age 23 — An oddball who’s more thick than tall and more than a little ground-bound. But holy crap can he shoot it — 59.8% on twos, 45.5% on threes (not a typo), and 79.2% on free throws. That’s a 62.5% efg in more than 1,000 minutes against SEC competition. He also produced 8.6 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.0 steals per 40 minutes with a solid ast/tov ratio. Why doesn’t he rate higher? He’s already 23 years old. (Still worth a late first or early second round pick, I think.)
Other forwards who interest me in the second round or as undrafted free agents:
- Toumani Camara, Dayton
- Ed Croswell, Providence
- Olivier-Maxence Prosper, Marquette
- G.G. Jackson II, South Carolina
Next up: centers.