HOF Writer Frank Burlison Looks at Forwards

Scout National Basketball Columnist
Posted Jun 22, 2006


Does anyone still doubt Adam Morrison's ability to score against excellent "athletes" and top-flight competition? If so, they should check out what he did against some of the best teams in college basketball last season. They'll be just as impressed as NBA talent evaluators are.

Adam Morrison may not be the first player selected when the NBA conducts its draft on June 28 with the usual pomp and circumstance – and oodles of hangers-on in the “green room”.

But the Gonzaga University forward and consensus national Player of the Year runner-up did more than enough on the college level to warrant strong consideration as the No. 1 choice, either by Toronto or by whoever might acquire the right to first pick from the Raptors.

For those who question the accomplishments Morrison racked up during his three years in Spokane on the basis that it came against “inferior competition”, or those who wonder about his “athletic ability”, consider this morsel:

The Bulldogs played Michigan State, Connecticut, Washington, Memphis and UCLA this past season.

UCLA lost in the national championship game, Memphis and Connecticut lost in regional finals. Washington went to the Sweet 16 and Michigan State lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to an eventual Final Four club (George Mason).

There will almost assuredly be 15 or 16 players drafted from those programs next week, with as many as 12 of those being tabbed in the first round.

How did Morrison produce in those games? He averaged 32.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists, while shooting .522 from the field.

The guy might not run a 4.3 40 or have a 40-inch vertical but he sure can score, can’t he?

Morrison is one of three “forward-types” who could find themselves among the top five selections, the others being Rudy Gay of Connecticut and 7-footer Andrea Bargnani, an Italian who seems to have become the most written and talked about prospect in the draft.

Here is a closer look at the top 15 forwards (be it of the “wing” or “high-post” variety), as well as some other second-round candidates:

(*Heights, without shoes, and weights as measured during the Pre-Draft Camp in Orlando)

Adam Morrison (*6-6 ½, 198; Gonzaga)
Projected position: Wing (perimeter forward)
What NBA talent evaluators like: He’s not necessarily the best jump shooter in the draft but he’s definitely the best “scorer” available, period. No one works harder to get open off the ball and his ability to get his own shot and his passing skills are vastly underrated. Morrison’s mid-range scoring ability is also unsurpassed. And there isn’t a more competitive athlete who will be drafted on June 28.
What they wonder about: Can he be at least an adequate man-to-man defender? Will his diabetes be a long-term or short-term issue? Frank says: Morrison may not prove to be the best “player” in this draft. But it’s hard to believe he won’t be a 15 to 20-point per game scorer for a long time in the NBA.
Draft night projection: Top four

Rudy Gay (*6-7, 222; Connecticut)
Projected position: Wing (perimeter forward)
What NBA talent evaluators like: Athletically (re: speed, quickness and vertical explosion), he’s as good as there is at this position. His long arms enable him to play “at least 6-10”. His setup and release are a bit slower than one would like but there’s not much else to like about his jump-shooting ability. If he is so inclined, he has the ability to be a tremendous perimeter defender.
What they wonder about: Does he want to become a “great” player?
Frank says: He’s probably the guy in the draft with the most potential to be an all-star within three years.
Draft night projection: Top eight

Andrea Bargnani (7-0, 230; Italy)
Projected position: Wing (perimeter forward)/High post (power forward)
What NBA talent evaluators like: His perimeter offensive skills are the reason he’s drawing comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki. One veteran NBA personnel director called him “as good a jump shooter for a seven-footer as I’ve ever seen”. Bargnani is rated a “pretty good” athlete with more than adequate running and jumping ability.
What they wonder about: He doesn’t have much of an offensive low post game right now.
Frank says: It seems fairly safe to say he’s likely to end up being a lot closer, production wise, to Nowitzki and Pau Gasol than two other vastly overrated Europeans of his size range, Nikoloz Tskitishvili and Darko Milicic.
Draft night projection: Fourth to 10th

Ronnie Brewer (*6-5 ¾, 223; Arkansas)
Projected position: Wing (perimeter forward)
What NBA talent evaluators like: He’s got Brandon Roy-like versatility and projects to be able to defend pretty much anywhere on the perimeter. He’s considered a very good “scorer” if nothing more than an average jump shooter. Brewer makes pretty good decisions with the ball.
What they wonder about: What is his position?
Frank says: With another year in college, Brewer might have evolved into the kind of prospect Brandon Roy became as a Washington senior.
Draft night projection: 11 to 14

Rodney Carney (*6-4 ½, 204; Memphis)
Projected position: Wing (perimeter forward)
What NBA talent evaluators like: He’s a phenomenal runner and jumper, and as good an “above-the-rim” finisher as anyone in the 6-4 to 6-8 size range in the draft, with the exception of Rudy Gay. Carney’s jump shot improved a lot over four years, especially off of the pass.
What they wonder about: Is he too small to be a forward in the NBA? How well does he handle and pass?
Frank says: He was listed at 6-7 at Memphis but measured much shorter than that in Orlando. How does that affect his stock?
Draft night projection: Late lottery to early 20s

Shawne Williams (*6-7 ¼, 227; Memphis)
Projected position: Wing (perimeter forward)
What NBA talent evaluators like: He’s got the perimeter skills, including a deep jumper, to tease some with the notion that he could play guard some day in the NBA. Williams finishes in traffic, with either hand.
What they wonder about: He didn’t play with the kind of consistency last season that NBA decision makers would like to see in potential lottery selections.
Frank says: He’s one of the players who elicit the widest variety of opinions.
Draft night projection: Late lottery to early 20s

Thabo Sefolosha (6-6, 220; Switzerland)
Projected position: Wing (perimeter forward)
What NBA talent evaluators like: He handles and passes well, with enough explosiveness to culminate drives into traffic with dunks. Sefolosha can be a more than capable man-to-man defender in the NBA and could be a starter before too long assuming his jump shot evolves to the point where he has to be guarded tightly to nearly the 3-point line.
What they wonder about: His jump shot and his ability to become more of a guard than “small forward-type”.
Frank says: His stock has climbed about as rapidly as any player’s over the past month.
Draft night projection: Late lottery to mid 20s

Marcus Vinicius (6-9, 230; Brazil)
Projected position: Wing (perimeter forward)/High post (power forward)
What NBA talent evaluators like: His offensive skills, especially on the perimeter, have startled some of those who have worked him out without extensive portfolios on him.
What they wonder about: A broken finger earlier this week means he will not be able to work out for any more teams.
Frank says: He could be the first non-U.S.-based player to be drafted, after Andrea Bargnani, on June 28.
Draft night projection: Mid first to early 20s

Olexsiy Percherov (6-10, 225; Ukraine)
Projected position: Wing (perimeter forward)/High post (power forward)
What NBA talent evaluators like: He has a quick release (off the pass or dribble) and plenty of range on his jump shot. He’s also got a relatively polished low-post game, offensively.
What they wonder about: Is he strong enough right now to play close to the basket or quick enough to get a lot done, at both ends of the floor, from the perimeter?
Frank says: The perception is that a franchise has “promised” a first-round slot to him.
Draft night projection: Early to late 20s

James White (6-7, 205; Cincinnati)
Projected position: Wing (perimeter forward)
What NBA talent evaluators like: He has always been pretty good with the ball in his hands and a tremendous finisher, in transition and off drives, despite a wiry frame. And scouts are just as excited about his defensive potential.
What they wonder about: How strong will he ever get? Age: He’ll turn 24 on Oct. 21.
Frank says: Very quietly, his stock has climbed in the past month and a half. Don’t be surprised if he is selected in the first round.
Draft night projection: 22 to early second round

Bobby Jones (*6-5 ¾, 211; Washington)
Projected position: Wing (perimeter forward)
What NBA talent evaluators like: Jones has that nifty combination of quickness and tenaciousness and is always in an attack mode, defensively. His jump shot has improved considerably each season in college.
What they wonder about: He’s still an average (and all right-handed) dribbler and will force shots and be so aggressive, defensively, to the point of constantly getting into foul trouble.
Frank says: Many believe he can be the best defender in this draft class.
Draft night projection: Early second round

Steven Smith (*6-7 ½, 238; LaSalle)
Projected position: Wing (perimeter forward)
What NBA talent evaluators like: He has the kind of feel, offensively (both in the post and on the perimeter) that you would expect from a four-year college standout. Smith was much too strong and savvy for most college defenders.
What they wonder about: He never demonstrated the kind of deep shooting range NBA teams like to see out of their “threes” (small forwards).
Frank says: He could be a second-round bargain along the likes of Ryan Gomes a year ago.
Draft night projection: Early second round

Steve Novak (*6-8, 216; Marquette)
Projected position: Wing (perimeter forward)
What NBA talent evaluators like: His jump shooting stock is as valuable as that of any player who will be a rookie in the NBA next season. He has a better mid-range offensive feel than some scouts suspect.
What they wonder about: Is he quick enough to guard out on the perimeter? Can he get strong enough to guard post players?
Frank says: If you shoot as well as Novak does and play with his kind of focus, you’re going to earn NBA paychecks for a while.
Draft night projection: Early second round

Kevin Pittsnogle (6-11, 235; West Virginia)
Projected position: Wing (perimeter forward)/High post (power forward)
What NBA talent evaluators like: He’s the college senior class’ answer to Andrea Bargnani – a near-seven footer who jump shoot just about as well as anyone in this draft. He’s a very good passer as well.
What they wonder about: Can he rebound with the “big” forwards (fours) in the NBA? Can he become a more assertive scoring threat in the low post?
Frank says: If he becomes at least an “average” rebounder, he should be in the NBA for a while.
Draft night projection: Early to mid second round

P.J. Tucker (6-5, 225; Texas)
Projected position: Wing (perimeter forward)
What NBA talent evaluators like: Pound for pound and inch for inch, there aren’t but a few stronger players in this draft. He has a variety of ways of scoring down low and is an underrated ball handler.
What they wonder about: Can he shoot it well enough, or defend well enough, to convert to guard?
Frank says: The feeling of many is that he is more “undersized post player” than “future NBA wing”
Draft night projection: Mid to late second round

Other second-round possibilities:

Wing forwards:
Brandon Bowman (*6-6 ¾, 209; Georgetown)
Renaldo Balkman (*6-5 ¼, 206; South Carolina)
David Noel (*6-4 ½, 223; North Carolina)
Denham Brown (*6-4, 218; Connecticut).

High post/wing forwards:
Louis Amundson (*6-7 ¼, 221; UNLV)
Nik Caner-Medley (*6-6 ½, 234; Maryland)
Eric Hicks (*6-4 ¾, 238; Cincinnati).


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