Thursday, November 3, 2011

2011-2012 Season Preview: Top 25 Power Forwards

All week, we'll be breaking down the top players at each position in the college games. A few caveats. First, we're talking about how good these guys are as college players, not how well they project as a pro. Second, while it may be too much power for me, I am making the executive decision on what "position" a player is (and it may not necessarily be what he is listed as on a roster). Third, I love me a good argument, so if you think someone is too low or too high or the wrong position, leave a comment and let me hear about it.

Positional Rankings: PG, SG, SF, PF, C

To browse through the rest of our Season Previews, click here.

1. Terrence Jones, So., Kentucky: Terrence Jones probably should be a first-team all-american this season. But he also should have been a first-team all-american last year based on the way he played for the first two months of the year. He's a big, physical 6'9" left-hander with three-point range and the ability to score in the post or off the dribble against a slower defender. And, for what its worth, he's in even better shape heading into this season. The issue with Jones is consistency. He tailed off at the end of last season due to losing confidence in his ability and Calipari losing confidence in him. Being a ball-hog is what did him in last year. With the amount of talent UK has on their roster, will Jones be able to accept the fact he is the most dangerous weapon on a team full of weapons?

2. Perry Jones, So., Baylor: Jones may actually be the best NBA prospect in all of college basketball. The kid's physical tools are out of this world; he's essentially a seven-foot small forward. He had a bit of an up-and-down freshman year due partly to a lack of assertiveness and partly due to the poor shot-selection and decision-making of the players in his back court. With LaceDarius Dunn out of the picture, Jones figures to shoulder a much heftier load on the offensive end of the floor. Will he be able to handle it? More importantly, how will being suspended for the first five games of the season affect his role on the team?

3. Thomas Robinson, Jr., Kansas: Every writer and every blog in the country is predicting a huge year out of Robinson in 2011-2012, and we certainly agree with that assessment. He's big, he;s physical, he's a terrific athlete and he has a terrific motor. While its unlikely that he'll be able to keep up the same rate of production playing 32+ mpg this year that he did in 15 mpg last season, Robinson still should have a shot at averaging 17 and 10 this season.

4. Anthony Davis, Fr., Kentucky: Davis has everything that you look for in a power forward prospect. He's tall with a ridiculous wingspan. He can finish around the rim and knock down a perimeter jumper. He blocks shots and rebounds the ball. There are two issues with Davis. The first is his strength -- how will he handle the physicality of the SEC? He's not an overly muscular player. The second is whether or not he will realize just how talented he is. Two years ago, he was a run-of-the-mill, 6'3" two-guard. If he finds that assertiveness and that killer instinct, he will be a nightmare to try and defend.

5. John Henson, Jr., North Carolina: Henson is no where near the offensive threat that most of the other players on this list are. His offensive repertoire consists almost entirely of catching the ball and dunking it. Thanks to his height, length and athleticism, he's quite good at that, but dunking the ball alone don't get you ranked as the fifth best power forward in the country. Henson is probably the best defender on this list, notching 3.2 bpg last year. He's also one of the best rebounders, as he averaged 10.1 boards as a sophomore. As he continues to add strength -- he's up to 220 lb from the 183 he was as a freshman -- he'll continue to climb up draft boards.

6. Alex Oriakhi, Jr., UConn: The best way to describe Oriakhi is as a hoss. He's an absolute beast on the block. Offensively, he's still developing, although he did showcase a solid jump-hook towards the end of last season. Where he does his best work is on the offensive glass and as a shot-blocker around the rim. He's terrific at getting position on missed shots and is one of the best players in the country when it comes to tipping out offensive rebounds. He also is deceptively long and athletic, challenging as many shots as he blocks.

7. Draymond Green, Sr., Michigan State: Green is one of the most unique players at this position in the country. He's a crafty defender that makes a lot of plays on that end of the floor. He's also a terrific positional rebounder. On the offensive end of the floor is where he makes his name, however. He's quite versatile, capable of knocking down threes, putting the ball on the deck and getting to the back, and scoring in the post. The most interesting aspect of his game is how good of a playmaker he is. Green averaged 4.1 apg last year, and this year he'll likely end up being the guy that Tom Izzo funnels his offense through.

8. Elias Harris, Jr., Gonzaga: Harris had a tremendously disappointing sophomore season. After playing like a potential lottery pick as a freshman, Harris saw his numbers dip across the board in his second season in Spokane. It wasn't all his fault, however. Between an offseason shoulder injury that limited his summer conditioning and an in-season achilles injury that took away his explosiveness, Harris lost the tools that made him as effective as he was as a freshman. With a summer's worth of development and working out, expect Harris to return to the form of his first season.

9. Doug McDermott, So., Creighton: McDermott was one of the biggest surprises in the country as a freshman. Coming off of a season where he averaged 14.9 ppg and 7.2 rpg for a Bluejay team that made the finals of the CBI, McDermott has shown up on a number of preseason all-american teams. He made the USA's U19 team and averaged 11.3 ppg and 6.8 rpg on the team's trip to Latvia this summer. With Creighton bringing back the majority of their roster from a season ago, the Bluejays are the favorite to win the Missouri Valley and a borderline top 25 team.

10. Arsalan Kazemi, Jr., Rice: Kazemi finished last season averaging 15.2 ppg and 11.1 rpg, numbers that probably would have been higher had he played on a team with more offensive weapons; conference opponents knew the scout and focused on taking away his touches. The native Iranian (first-ever at the D-I level) is one of the most active players in the country on the glass -- I pity the opposing big man tasked with trying to box him out.

11. Mike Scott, Sr., Virginia: Scott was averaging 15.2 ppg and 10.0 rpg last season when he went down with foot and ankle injuries that ended up keeping him out for the year. The good news is that he was granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA. He's a huge reason that the Cavaliers are being projected as a sleeper in the ACC this season.

12. LeBryan Nash, Fr., Oklahoma State: Nash may end up being the most exciting player in the Big 12 to watch this year. At 6'7" and 230 lb, he's a phenomenal athlete that will assuredly have a handful of dunks that make it to POSTERIZED. He's a combo-forward, but given his still-developing perimeter skills and the style that Oklahoma State is going to play this season, he'll be a power forward this year.

13. Robbie Hummel, Sr., Purdue: Hummel will be an interesting player to keep an eye on. Obviously, its unclear just how good he is going to be coming off of back-to-back acl injuries. He's essentially missed 18 consecutive months of basketball. That's not an easy thing to come back from. What's more interesting, to me at least, will be seeing if he is capable of being a star and a go-to player. With JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore on the floor with him, Hummel excelled played the role of the sidekick.

14. Tony Mitchell, Jr., Alabama: Mitchell projects as more of a wing player at the next level than he does a power forward, but -- like Nash -- given his immense physical tools and his size and strength, he'll play a lot at the four spot this season for the Crimson Tide. He's a terrific defender and a very good rebounder that excels in transition. As his jumper and perimeter skills continue to develop, he'll be one of the tougher matchups in the SEC this year.

15. Renardo Sidney, Jr., Mississippi State: What is there to say about Renardo Sidney that hasn't already been said? He's an immense talent that can't get out of his own way. If he's truly turned a corner and has gotten himself into shape and the mindset of being a member of a team, this ranking will look silly come March. If not, it will still look silly, just for a different reason.

16. Reeves Nelson, Jr., UCLA
17. Kevin Jones, Sr., West Virginia
18. DeShaun Thomas, So., Ohio State
19. Ryan Kelly, Jr., Duke
20. Christian Watford, Jr., Indiana
21. Michael Glover, Sr., Iona
22. Ryan Pearson, Sr., George Mason
23. CJ Leslie, So., NC State
24. Royce White, So., Iowa State
25. Melsahn Besabe, So., Iowa

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