Aside from a couple of elite guards, the best players in the NBA are all big-bodied, versatile forwards. LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, and Giannis Antetokounmpo are all small forwards by nature, although all can play different positions as well. Small forwards can also come in the variety of wings who can switch onto smaller ball handlers on defense. 3-point shooting is a vital skill for small forwards in the NBA, as are rebounding, defense, and athleticism.
|Player Name||College/International Team||Overall Ranking||NBA Comp|
|Deni Advija||Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel)||#4||Danny Granger|
|Devin Vassell||Florida State University||#7||Robert Covington|
|Isaac Okoro||Auburn University||#11||Trevor Ariza|
|Patrick Williams||Florida State University||#13||Marcus Morris|
|Aaron Nesmith||Vanderbilt University||#15||Buddy Hield|
|Saddiq Bey||Villanova University||#24||Tobias Harris|
|Robert Woodard II||Mississippi State||#30||Jae Crowder|
|Tyler Bey||University of Colorado||#39||Otto Porter Jr.|
|Jaden McDaniels||University of Washington||#41||Harrison Barnes|
|Jordan Nwora||Louisville University||#56||Doug McDermott|
Early Lottery Picks
#1 - Deni Advija: The former Maccabi Tel Aviv player might be the best Israeli basketball product of all time. Advija has massive NBA upside due to his unbelievable feel for the game and the ability to be a positive presence on the floor no matter what role he fills. He's likely going to be a lethal 3-point shooter in the NBA and he will serve an important secondary ball-handler role for his pro team. Advija is still just 19 years old and has one of the highest ceilings in this year's class.
#2 - Devin Vassell: I broke down some of Vassell's game in the shooting guard rankings, but I want to highlight some of his physical attributes here. Vassell is 6'7" and has a wingspan of 6'10" that allows him to tower over smaller ball-handlers. He's going to be a player with true positional versatility in the NBA and his relentless defense is going to stand out right away. With his lethal 3-point shooting and overall explosiveness, Vassell is a great prospect.
#3 - Isaac Okoro: If a team in the lottery is looking for an immediate defensive boost this year, Okoro is likely the player they will target. Switchable, athletic perimeter defenders are arguably the most valuable thing in the modern NBA and Okoro absolutely fills that role. His offensive game is still a work in progress but there are legitimate reasons for optimism with his development as a 3-point shooter. If he can become a more dynamic offensive player to match his physically overwhelming defense, he has massive upside.
Late Lottery Picks
#4 - Precious Achiuwa: Some scouts are going to fall in love with Precious Achiuwa as a multi-positional, athletic specimen who leaves his heart on the floor each time he plays. However, some scouts are going to see a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none tweener who's offense may not ever be good enough for him to play major minutes. With a 7'2" wingspan and the athleticism to guard on the perimeter, Achiuwa has the chance to become a one-of-a-kind defensive demon in the NBA. The offense needs some work, though.
#5 - Patrick Williams: When you watch Patrick Williams, he isn't going to wow you with his flashiness or athleticism. However, he contributes in just about every way on the floor. He's a very good 3-point shooter and a capable isolation scorer as well as a solid passer. He's also a steady rebounder and a solid defensive presence. Williams likely isn't going to capture your imagination as a high-upside potential cornerstone, but his foundation is as solid as it comes.
#6 - Aaron Nesmith: Vanderbilt's Aaron Nesmith was also touched on in my shooting guard rankings, but he is also very capable of playing the small forward position. In fact, with his combination of size and strength but underwhelming athleticism, he may be better suited as a forward in the NBA. Nesmith might be the best pure shooter in this draft class and he's a solid defensive presence.
Late First-Round Picks
#7 - Saddiq Bey: There are going to be a few players who I have ranked lower than where they get drafted and Bey is a likely candidate. The former Villanova forward played three seasons of college ball and may not be the most desirable age at 21 years old. However, he's the type of hard worker and leader by example who coaches pine for general managers to draft. Bey's improvements after the departures of Phil Booth and Eric Paschall (now in the NBA) were incredibly impressive and he's a player who's going to continue to refine his game through hard work. At 6'8", he's a prototypical modern forward with untapped upside.
#8 - Desmond Bane: I also wrote about Bane in my shooting guard rankings, but I'll touch on him again here. At 6'6", he might be able to play some small forward, but his 6'4" wingspan is underwhelming. Small-ball teams will be excited about his potential to provide shooting from a frontcourt position and his rebounding numbers from last season (6.4 boards per game) were impressive. That wingspan is a killer though and he's not the best pure athlete in the first place. He's likely more of a role player in the NBA regardless, but his shooting is intriguing enough to make him a first-round pick.
#9 - Robert Woodard II: The Mississippi State forward is flying under the radar after a massive improvement from his freshman to sophomore season. Woodard is a 6'7" forward with a 7'1" wingspan that suggests he could pick up some minutes as a small-ball five in the NBA. Woodard's 3-point shooting was impressive last year at 42.9% and he's a strong rebounder. His decision-making and shot selection need some work and he's a bit raw defensively, but he has the size of a big man with the ball-handling and shooting upside of a guard.
Second Round Fliers
#10 - Tyler Bey: The former Colorado forward is another unique positionless prospect as he is listed as a guard on ESPN but led his team in rebounds with 9.0 per game. He stands 6'7" with a solid 215-pound frame and an impressive 7'1" wingspan. Bey will provide high-energy, two-way impact at a number of positions in the NBA and will be fawned over with his flexibility and versatility. I would not be surprised if an NBA team falls in love with Bey's strong foundation and opts to take him earlier than expected.
#11 - Jaden McDaniels: The combination of size (6'11" height, 6'11.5" wingspan), athleticism, and fluidity that McDaniels plays with is incredibly enticing, but his game is still very raw. His pull-up shooting ability is something that should translate into him becoming a high-level scorer in the NBA, but his complete lack of passing makes him far too predictable for opposing defenders. McDaniels has the athleticism and size to suggest a future of multi-positional defensive versatility, but he has a low motor and generally makes bad decisions. There's a lot to love and a lot to hate for McDaniels, and he has a huge range of outcomes for the draft.
#12 - Jordan Nwora: Louisville's three-year forward is coming off an impressive junior season in which he bagged 18.0 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. Nwora was a top candidate for the Naismith Men's College Player of the Year this past season and his natural ability is undeniable. He's a proven scorer who can play downhill or around the perimeter, and he can help his team win by doing all of the little things well. However, his lack of explosiveness as a ball-handler and mediocre court vision limits his offensive impact. His lack of athleticism hurts his defensive ability, but he does have solid size for the position. He can become a solid role player in the NBA.