This may be the deepest position in the draft, in talent and sheer numbers (DraftExpress has 30 players vying for small forward positions in this year's draft). The list sports well known stars Wesley Johnson, Al-Farouq Aminu, and Gordon Hayward. I'd be inclined to pick Hayward higher than most experts have him because of his great upside (looking at this season, Hayward seemed to get better while Aminu only looked worse). But I'm not a general manager, so I'll have to sit idly by and document my predictions for the ultimate I-told-you-so cover letter I can send to the Pistons, Warriors, or whoever makes this mistake a couple of years down the road when Hayward is a great second option and Aminu is the expiring contract you trade in hopes of landing LeBron James with the new cap space. Mark my words...
Wesley Johnson (Junior, Syracuse): As he started his career at Iowa State, I could probably count him as a Big 12 player: but Johnson isn't being drafted thanks to any work he did as a Cyclone, so I won't. Wesley Johnson lived up to everyone's highest expectations last season, even if Syracuse didn't make the Final Four. The optimistic Orange faithful and irritable Iowa State fans might have been expecting his performance, but I know I was shocked. He was the Big East player of the year, and midseason looked like a great candidate for national player of the year too. As a junior, Johnson is well-tested and ready to contribute right away. Lottery teams don't become lottery teams because they have a wealth of talent at the small forward position (in smaller lineups, Johnson could see some time at the 4, but he would need to bulk up first), so I expect Johnson to start a lot of next season. While he probably won't be the first option, he makes a great second or third scoring option: he can play the perimeter and is a great finisher around the rim.
Damion James (Senior, Texas): While James isn't a lottery pick, I think he's a lock for the first round. James had a great career as a Longhorn, and this season he averaged 18 points and 10 rebounds a game. James' work ethic and energy should translate especially well on the glass and the defensive end. He has the potential to be a great role-player in the NBA. He has trouble creating for himself (i.e. off the dribble), and didn't take many threes. James' biggest area to work on is his foul shooting: for a player who got to the line frequently, he shot a middling 67% from the line (a signature of the 2009-2010 Longhorns). With some work, he could really add to his offensive production even making 75%. While his ceiling is relatively low, he should still be a valuable contributor at the next level.
Tomorrow: Power Forwards
Note: Thanks to the writers of DraftExpress for publishing all of the Pre-Draft Measurements.
Submitted by Matt Patton, Special to Big 12 Hoops