NBA Scouting Reports: Filling in the Blanks- Power Forwards (Part 1)

NBA Scouting Reports: Filling in the Blanks- Power Forwards (Part 1)
Aug 25, 2009, 11:41 am
With these scouting reports, we take a look at players moving into their fourth year in the NBA as well as some others that gained experience elsewhere before coming to the NBA. As we found when we identified which players from the 2005 draft were still in the NBA, the trajectory of a players career is often unpredictable, which is why we opted to wait until these players were transitioning out of their rookie contracts to gauge their progress.

Paul Millsap

Overview Steadily improving young big man who had a breakout season in 08-09, establishing himself as a legit cornerstone of the Utah Jazz. Extremely undersized for a power forward at just 6-6 without shoes, but has a nice 7-1 wingspan and a strong frame which helps compensate. Incredibly tough, aggressive player who finds a way to be productive. A crowd favorite thanks to the tenacity with which he plays. A complementary offensive player who understands his role extremely well and is very efficient. Made a name for himself first and foremost thanks to his rebounding skills, leading the NCAA in that category for three straight seasons. Not all that heralded coming out of high school, but still could have played for a high-major school should he have chose to. Decided to stay close to home at Louisiana Tech, thanks in large part to a family connection on the coaching staff. Left school a year early, but somehow slipped to the middle of the second round due to concerns about his size and potential weight issues. Immediately looked like a huge steal for the Jazz, leading them to lock him up on a three year rookie contract. Dedicated himself to maximizing his conditioning-level and improved his athleticism considerably. Had a breakout season on the last year of his deal, but was unable to secure a market-value contract due to his restricted free agent status. Signed an incredibly affordable deal with the Portland Trailblazers, which was matched without hesitation by the Jazz. Will be asked to transition into a bigger role once Carlos Boozer is traded or leaves in free agency next summer.

Offense: A role-player who doesn’t need plays called for him, and still manages to be extremely productive. Gets most of his offense by moving off the ball, crashing the offensive glass, and running the floor in transition. Shoots a very high percentage from the field, as he appears to understand his role extremely well and plays to his strengths in a major way. Sets terrific screens and then aggressively dives to the rim, often being rewarded for his efforts by his unselfish teammates, particularly Deron Williams, who he has great chemistry with. Has excellent hands and finishes extremely well around the basket due to his smarts, terrific touch, body control, and ability to use both hands effectively. Runs the floor harder than anyone, often beating opponents down the court through sheer effort. Gets to the free throw line at a very good rate, and converts nearly 70% of his attempts once there. Not a masterful ball-handler, but a rapidly improving one. Shows flashes of potential with the ball from time to time, leading you to believe that he could become a very effective option to isolation facing the basket. Has a very quick first step and likes to spin and pivot sharply on his way to the rim. Will post on the block occasionally, but not isn't quite as effective in this area. Doesn’t possess a tremendous skill-level at this point, and tends to get blocked more than you might hope at the rim. Not a high-flyer, gets by more-so with his smarts and aggressiveness. Beginning to expand the range of his jump-shot. Can make a 17-foot jumper every now and again, but still needs to continue to work on this part of his game. Rushes his shot, doesn’t always set his feet, and appears to just fling the ball at the basket. Unselfish player who has improved his feel for how to operate in a half-court offense under Jerry Sloan’s tutelage. Posts a positive assist to turnover ratio, and has gradually made strides in this area year by year. Tremendous offensive rebounder.

Defense: Very aggressive defender who puts a lot of effort in and takes pride in his play. Defends both the 4 and the 5 spots in Utah, which can lead to some mismatches. Not afraid to stick his nose in and take a charge. Has good lateral quickness and is effective stepping out and hedging screens. Could still stand to improve his perimeter defense. Will get caught flat-footed at times against quicker face-up power forwards. Struggles at times when being posted up by bigger power forwards or traditional centers, doesn’t always have the size or the girth to push them off the block and contest their shots. Not going to give in without a fight though. Seems to lose his focus from time to time and get lost within his team’s defensive scheme. Will come up with the occasional steal and block, but isn’t a real stat-stuffer in either category. Very good defensive rebounder, though. Traditionally very foul prone because of how hard he competes, but has learned to cut down on the amount of fouls he commits recently. Has room to continue to improve on this end of the floor.

Craig Smith

Overview: An undersized bruiser who has proven to be a capable role-player already. Stands only 6-5 1/2 without shoes with a solid 6-9 1/2 wingspan. Not terribly fast or agile, but will surprise with his speed once he gets a head of steam. Compensates with outstanding physical strength. Came into the NBA carrying around quite a lot of additional weight, but has packed on muscle to the point that his physique is very impressive. Throws his weight around in the paint on both ends. Very productive, efficient offensive player on a per-minute basis. Was every bit the bruiser he is now during his high school and college days. Was one of the best players in the Big East as soon as he stepped on the floor for Boston College. Built on a dominant freshman season with three comparably impressive campaigns that saw his numbers waver around roughly the same marks across the board. Wasn’t drafted in the first round due to his size and the perception that he may have peaked early and reached his potential. Also suffered a hand injury during the pre-draft process that hampered him from changing his fate in private workouts. Stepped into an ideal situation with the rebuilding Timberwolves and played significant minutes immediately. Transformed his body to compensate for his size and handle the rigors of interior play on the NBA level. A steal considering where he was drafted and how much he has contributed early on. Not a high potential player, but a solid third big man.

Offense: More diverse offensively than one would expect a bruiser of his size, and extremely efficient. Doesn’t get an especially large amount of his offense from any one particular area. Capable of scoring off of cuts, spot-ups, isolations, pick and rolls, post-ups, and offensive rebounds alike. Especially effective around the rim, but not incapable from the perimeter either. Capable of scoring off of a number of moves in the post. Likes to face-up on the left block. Gives a hard jab when he swings through to the right and aggressively tries to beat his man to the middle of the floor. Likes to lean in a bit on his drives, especially against good shot blockers, to push them out of position. A bit more diverse on the right side, showing the ability to beat his man to the basket with drop steps, some deceptive counter moves, and the ability to finish plays with both hands. Prefers to go up with his right, showing excellent touch from the short range, often getting the roll on some ambitious shots in close. Uses his low center of gravity to punish his defender and give himself adequate space to get his shot off. Extremely comfortable scoring when he’s defended, though some players are able to keep him far enough away from the rim that he can’t get a good shot up. Very capable finisher despite his average athleticism, due to his strength and touch. Not a very good offensive rebounder, lack of leaping ability and length hurts his productivity in that regard. Physical aggressiveness helps him get to the line at a great rate. Surprisingly good ball handler for his size. Shows enough quickness to get an adequate angle to the rim to effectively use his strength to bowl his defender out of the way. Not a great shooter when he opts to get open shots from the outside, showing a flat release that yields average results. Not a total liability though. Could stand to improve his free throw percentages, as well as his decision-making as a passer. Efficient in many situations, making him attractive off the bench in most systems.

Defense: Capable defender who does some things well, but lacks the sheer physical profile to be as solid as his defensive ability would allow. Shows solid fundamentals defending the ball down low, and will surprise players on the perimeter with his lateral quickness. Gets in a good stance and does his best to stay in front, but is a bit too heavy capably defend some of the more perimeter oriented bigs in the NBA today. A little too aggressive when he closes out smaller players, often struggling in mismatches. Struggles against forwards that have the ball handling ability to change directions after a hard initial move. Has no trouble holding position down low, though his lack of size hurts his ability to get in the passing lanes and contest shots. Physique makes him more suitable to defend centers, but his height negates that. Poor rebounder, well below average from a productivity standpoint for his position. A bit foul prone, showing a tendency to reach when his man makes a quick crossover when he’s backpedaling. Gets points for effort, but doesn’t have the tools to be a good defensive asset.

Shelden Williams

Overview:Undersized for either post spot, but blessed with a 7-4.25 wingspan and excellent physical strength, especially in his upper body. Proves to be pretty mobile, but isn’t terribly explosive or terribly smooth. Has had all kinds of problems staying on the court during his NBA career, but has proven to be a capable rebounder. Improved statistically during each of his seasons at Duke, primarily by cutting down on his fouls, but was the same bruising forward back in his days at Midwest City HS (OK). Two time ACC and NCAA Defensive Player of the Year. First Team All-American as a senior. Despite being considered more of a finished product and having a lower ceiling than other prospects, he was tabbed by the Hawks as the fifth overall pick in 2006. No one needed hindsight at the time to realize that Atlanta reached badly for him, which likely ultimately cost Billy Knight his job. Has appeared on four rosters in three seasons, limiting the continuity around him and making it harder for him to translate his game to the NBA. A cautionary tale of how productivity on the highest levels of college hoops don’t always translate to the NBA. Hasn’t been terribly lucky in terms of the situations he’s been placed in either. Clearly will not be able to live up to his draft position, and needs to use his audition with the Celtics to solidify himself as a legit NBA player. Faces an uphill battle with a dearth of bigmen ahead of his on the depth chart and only a one-year deal. Married to WNBA superstar Candace Williams.

Offense: Not an ideal scoring threat due to a lack of efficiency. No longer gets even a quarter of the shots he did while playing at Duke. Has had a hard time transitioning his game to a significantly smaller role. Still bring some tools to the table. Offensive rebounding ability earns him some easy shots at the rim, as does his off-ball movement and low-post scoring ability. Has not finished at the rim with very good consistency, having a hard time dealing with more athletic defenders. Often winds up adjusting his short range shots, leading to misses. Shows some solid moves in the post, which isn’t surprising considering what he did at Duke. Not able to bully his way into ideal position to score, making it hard for him to score, even when he’s gotten himself open with a series of shot-fakes and drop steps. Draws contact at a good rate, earning himself some trips to the line. Not a bad catch and shoot option, showing nice rhythm and consistent form on his midrange jumper. Doesn’t get too many chances to take shots from the outside. Has a flat release and doesn’t elevate much, which is an issue for him at times. Often a liability when he puts the ball on the floor, not showing the quickness to beat his man to the rim and often dribbling into traffic. Has had a rough go of transitioning his power based offensive game to the NBA where more athletic shot blockers are able to stay in the play well enough to put him out of his comfort zone. Aggressive mentality helps him at times, but his lack of post efficiency is a major concern, as his conversion rate detracts from what he offers in other areas.

Defense: Strong defender with good length whose tendency to aggressively defend short range shots and dribble drives make him extremely foul prone. Extremely good at holding position in the post due to his willingness to bang bodies on every play. Won’t get tossed around by the average big man. Will get a little too aggressive fighting for space on the block. Will get beaten to the rim on occasion, and will have his share of issues with the more explosive athletes at his position. Shows nice defensive awareness when defending the perimeter, knowing his limitations in terms of lateral quickness, using his length to contest shots and give himself a cushion, and showing a good stance. Willing to get on the floor and fight for the ball. Quite a shot blocker for his height, showing good timing, but lacks the size and spring to consistently reject shots. Boxes out well and aggressively pursues rebounds. Shows solid hands when looking to come up with steals or when cleaning the glass.

Oleksiy Pecherov

Overview: Big Ukrainian post player who can double as a center, but has an offensive game more suitable for a power forward. Decent athlete with good size and some bulk. Not as skinny as he was early in his career. More of a finesse player who uses his mobility and shooting to score from the outside and his size around the basket. Billed as a draft prospect during his time with BC Kyiv and Paris-Levallois Basket. Spent a year in the Ukraine before joining the Wizards after they tabbed him in the middle of the first round in 2006. More of an end of the bench type at this point who hasn’t been efficient in the limited opportunities he’s received. May be on his way back to Europe sooner rather than later.

Offense: Power forward who is capable of doing some damage from the inside and out. Gets about one-third of his touches as a spot up shooter, with other significant parts of his offense coming from a mix of post-ups, offensive rebounds, cuts to the rim, and pick and rolls. Shows NBA range on his jumper, though his form is a bit erratic, stemming from a lack of elevation and odd mechanics. Still a threat to hit the three, albeit on poor percentages thus far in his career. Looks pretty comfortable hitting shots on the move from the midrange, but really struggles when he’s forced off balance. Uses his jumper in the post as well, showing a decent turnaround jumper over his right shoulder. Extremely predictable down low, getting almost all of his touches on the left block, and either wanting to use his turnaround jumper of go to a running hook over his left. Doesn’t make many aggressive moves to the rim. Definitely more of a finesse player, though he attempts to back his man down low. Lack of strength hurts his impact on the interior. Not a good finisher at the rim, though he’ll occasionally surprise with his leaping ability with a putback jam. Could stand to be more aggressive to better utilize his solid free throw shooting ability. Capable rebounder who uses his length relatively well. Not much of a passer, nor a terribly aggressive player off the bounce. Needs to improve in one area of the game to be more efficient. An inside-outside threat who doesn’t do either with ideal consistency. An extremely poor passer who doesn’t appear to have a very good feel for the game.

Defense: Not a good defender at all due to his lack of athleticism, strength and physical toughness. Will get pushed around on occasion, though he’s much more prone to fighting for position than he once was. Shows nice fundamentals on the block staying in front of his man pretty well and not being too aggressive. Doesn’t have the lateral quickness to defend the perimeter all that well, but does his best to stay in position. Lack of quickness and leaping ability limit his ability to use his length as a shot blocker. Does a nice job boxing out when shots go up, making him a decent rebounder, and shows a similar level of hustle when hedging the pick and roll. Doesn’t close out well or show explosiveness when contesting shots, but keeps his feet moving and tries to work within the team concept if nothing else.

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