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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Mike DeCourcy's Top Small Forwards (CDR #2)

Budinger tops a strong small forward crop

By Mike DeCourcy, Sporting News
Posted October 3, 2007

What is remarkable about the current crop of small forwards is that so many of them look like small forwards.

They might become shooting guards in the pros, but we're so used to seeing 6-2 guards interloping at this position that it's nice to find some 6-7 or 6-8 guys who can make a jumpshot, dribble the ball and pass it to teammates.

Almost every one of these guys would be able to survive for stretches playing power forward. Some already have. Some probably will this year. That's not a promise, but it's a warning.

Today's position: small forward

1. Chase Budinger, Arizona. Even though it wasn't always easy for him to get the ball away from teammates, Budinger still averaged nearly 16 points a game. He's a terrific rebounder for a small forward because of his remarkable jumping ability, and he promises this year to return in even better condition to avoid wearing down late in games. The next step to greatness: getting his long-range shooting up from 36.8 percent.

2. Chris Douglas-Roberts, Memphis. He won't wind up with the biggest scoring numbers, because he won't take enough shots to make it happen. It's not his style. CDR still is an overgrown point guard, creating opportunities for his teammates and, occasionally, for himself. Like Budinger, he would be even better if his long-distance jumpers (32.8 percent) fell more regularly.

3. Brandon Rush, Kansas. I have to admit to growing a little weary of waiting for Rush to become the dominant player he should be. It's never been a question of opportunity. KU coach Bill Self always has left open the door for Rush to score. He averaged 13.8 points on 44.3 percent shooting last season. Part of the reason that scoring number was so low was a lack of conviction about driving the ball and getting himself fouled, but he has that kind of ability.

4. Courtney Lee, Western Kentucky. It's kind of harsh to say a player who averaged 17.3 points and shot 40 percent from 3-point range had a disappointing season. Sorry, but it's true. The good news is that if that's a down year, imagine what it'll be like when he steps it up this time.

5. David Lighty, Ohio State. He guards, makes shots, plays with energy and wants to win. For the Buckeyes, the best thing about Daequan Cook leaving for the NBA is the chance to feature Lighty more.

6. Josh Carter, Texas A&M. This could go one of two ways. Either Carter won't get as many good scoring opportunities because Acie Law is not around to generate them, or he'll get more because Law, at the heart of it, was as much a scorer as a point guard. Make no mistake about this, though: Carter is the best pure shooter in college hoops.

7. DaJuan Summers, Georgetown. He didn't shoot the ball all that great last year, and he didn't rebound at all, but something about this kid's size and talent suggests he's going to be a star. I'd rather bet on him than against him.

8. Malik Hairston, Oregon. Hairston's early season injury led the Ducks to find other ways to win, and he was just squeezing himself back into the picture following his return. Hairston rebounds, though, and makes big shots. If somebody can get Hairston quality opportunities, he'll deliver.

9. Lawrence Hill, Stanford. Honestly, given Stanford's (lack of) point guard play, it's amazing Hill was able to produce like he did.

10. Paul Harris, Syracuse. Last year's hope that he could become a point guard has turned into this year's plan to make him a small forward. It's where he belonged all the time, but Demetris Nichols was in the way last year.

Almost, not quite: Shan Foster, Vanderbilt; Matt Bouldin, Gonzaga; Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, UCLA; Wesley Matthews, Marquette; Bill Walker, Kansas State; Tommie Liddell, Saint Louis; C.J. Anderson, Xavier; Gavin Grant, N.C. State; DeMarcus Nelson, Duke.

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