Ranking the Nation's Top 20 Power Forwards for 2013-14 NCAA Basketball Season
The challenge in making these rankings is balancing potential with past accomplishments. Both deserve to be taken into consideration.
No position is more difficult to judge at the top this season than power forward. You have one player, Kentucky's Julius Randle, who is one of best power forward prospects in the last 20 years. He has the physical tools to dominate right away. Then there's Creighton's Doug McDermott, who deserves to have "legend" associated with his name one day with the career he's already put together.
The challenges don't stop there, either. This is the deepest position group in the country, and some tough omissions had to be made to cut the list down to 20.
As a reminder, these rankings are based on predicted value this season. In case you missed it, here are the top 20 centers, and the rest of the rankings will be published on the following days:
Nov. 1: Small Forwards
Nov. 4: Shooting Guards
Nov. 6: Point Guards
Nov. 8: Top 100
All advanced stats, unless otherwise noted, come from KenPom.com (subscription needed).
20. Aaron White, Iowa
2012-13 Stats: 12.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1.1 spg, 0.7 bpg
Why He's Here: Aaron White is a coach's dream. He rarely ever fouls—1.8 per 40 minutes—and he's apparently impossible not to foul. Last season, White had a 86.3 free-throw rate and shot 258 freebies, knocking down a solid 74.8 percent at the line.
The Hawkeyes, who went .500 in the Big Ten, had a case as an NCAA tourney team and ended up as the NIT runner-up to Baylor. In those five NIT games, White shot 29 free throws and knocked down 25. Even when it's in the scouting report, apparently it's impossible not to foul this man.
19. Melvin Ejim, Iowa State
2012-13 Stats: 11.3 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.0 spg
Why He's Here: For the first two years of his career, Melvin Ejim was a great energy guy, an elite rebounder and a good finisher at the rim. Last year, Ejim added three-point shooting to his repertoire, knocking down a respectable 34.8 percent from deep.
The Cyclones have an undersized frontcourt with Ejim, who is 6'6", and Georges Niang, who is 6'7", but when defenses started having to guard Ejim on the perimeter, Fred Hoiberg's offense went from really good to elite.
18. Georges Niang, Iowa State
2012-13 Stats: 12.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 1.8 apg
Why He's Here: We've yet to be able to see what an elite scorer would do in more than one season in Fred Hoiberg's system until now with Georges Niang.
And yes, a guy who puts up 12.1 points per game as a freshman when he's surrounded by upperclassmen has, at the very least, the potential to be an elite scorer.
Niang is the perfect big man for Hoiberg's system. He's uber-skilled and can shoot the three. He's not overly athletic or big, but he has a great understanding for working angles and can score facing up or with his back to the basket over either shoulder.
By the time he graduates, he'll join the "how is that guy still in college" club.
17. Javon McCrea, Buffalo
2012-13 Stats: 18.0 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 2.0 apg, 2.6 bpg, 1.3 spg
Why He's Here: Javon McCrea was already a really good player in his first two years at Buffalo. Then last season, he more than doubled his blocks per game and went from a career 53.3 percent free throw shooter to 70.8 percent as a junior.
New Buffalo coach Bobby Hurley, the former Duke point guard, will be able to run everything through McCrea. The big man is a really good passer—he had a 19.7 assist rate last year—and can attack off the dribble or with his back to the basket.
With Hurley planning to play uptempo, McCrea could put up huge numbers this year.
16. Akil Mitchell, Virginia
2012-13 Stats: 13.1 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.3 spg
Why He's Here: Akil Mitchell is not the typical big guy for a snails-pace program like Virginia.
Mitchell is a great athlete who would fit really well in an uptempo attack, but he's figured out how to become a productive player in Tony Bennett's offense. Last year, he matured from an energy guy into the secondary scorer.
In his second year in the role, look for Mitchell's numbers to be on the uptick once again.
15. Mike Moser, Oregon
2012-13 Stats: 7.1 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.4 apg, 0.7 bpg
Why He's Here: Opportunity. That's what Mike Moser has again now that he's at Oregon.
Last season, Moser dislocated his elbow a month in, and when he returned, UNLV had a crowded frontcourt with Anthony Bennett and Khem Birch, who became eligible when Moser was out.
Moser just wasn't the same guy who averaged 14 points and 10.5 rebounds in his first year at UNLV.
Well, now he's at Oregon where the Ducks lost their entire starting frontcourt and need a reliable big man to go with their talented guards. The Ducks are hoping a change of scenery will do for Moser what it did originally when he left UCLA for UNLV following his freshman year.
14. Ryan Anderson, Boston College
2012-13 Stats: 14.9 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 1.6 apg
Why He's Here: Ryan Anderson is just a solid, fundamentally sound power forward who isn't flashy but gets the job done.
Boston College coach Steve Donahue moves Anderson around a lot and does everything he can to get him shots. The one area where Anderson has been inconsistent is in the mid-range. He has a nice looking jumper, but according to Hoop-Math.com, Anderson made only 30 percent of his two-point jumpers both as a freshman and a sophomore.
If Anderson can get that number up, he has the potential to lead the ACC in scoring.
13. Jeronne Maymon, Tennessee
2011-12 Stats: 12.7 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.2 apg, 1.0 spg
Why He's Here: First off, props to Tennessee in its attempt to show Jeronne Maymon is back and healed from the knee surgery that forced him to miss last season.
We already knew Maymon was a bad man on the court, and he's not afraid of gigantic snakes, either!
Maymon was Tennessee's best player two years ago. He has an old man's game that's mostly below the rim, so there's less reason to be worried about him getting his explosion back after knee surgery. Two years ago, Maymon showed off nifty footwork for a man with his strength and thrived at getting to the line—he drew six fouls per 40 minutes.
If Maymon can get back to what he was before the injury, he and Jarnell Stokes will form one of the best front lines in the country.
12. De'Mon Brooks, Davidson
2012-13 Stats: 13.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 30 steals
Why He's Here: Two years ago, Brooks was the Southern Conference Player of the Year. Last season, he took a backseat in Davidson's offense to Jake Cohen, who ended up winning Southern Conference Player of the Year.
Cohen is gone now, along with two other starters, and there's no doubt Davidson's offense will run through Brooks this year.
The Wildcats are one of the best mid-major programs in the country, and Brooks is the most talented player they've had since Steph Curry left. Opposing players find it difficult to keep Brooks from driving past them, and the fact that he's a lefty makes him an even tougher cover.
11. Perry Ellis, Kansas
2012-13 Stats: 5.8 ppg, 47.5 FG percentage, 3.9 rpg, 13.6 mpg
Why He's Here: When Bill Self says someone other than Andrew Wiggins could lead his team in scoring, that gets your attention. And Ellis is that someone.
It took some time for the McDonald's All-American to get acclimated last year, and he had some growing pains, especially finishing around the rim over length. He turned a corner late in the year, as he averaged 10.7 points per game and shot 66 percent over KU's final seven games.
I've seen Ellis play three times since the season ended, and he looks a lot more comfortable in his own skin. He's so smooth with the ball in his hands, and he looks to be a more explosive athlete after a year in KU's strengthening program.
10. Davante Gardner, Marquette
2012-13 Stats: 11.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 0.9 apg, 0.7 spg
Why He's Here: Per minute, there are few better than Davante Gardner. The 290-pound big man has soft hands, good feet, great vision for a big man and great touch.
And in the minutes he plays, Gardner is highly productive. It has been a challenge, however, for Buzz Williams to play Gardner enough minutes to make him a star.
Last year, Gardner played 21.4 minutes per game and averaged 21.5 points per 40 minutes. He did play 55 minutes in the final two NCAA tournament games, so maybe he is capable of a heavier minute load. If so, it'll be interesting to see if he can still produce at a similar rate as last season.
9. James Michael McAdoo, North Carolina
2012-13 Stats: 14.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 1.1 apg, 1.5 spg
Why He's Here: At some point, you would think a light bulb is going to go on for James Michael McAdoo and everything is going to click. Talent-wise, McAdoo is in the upper echelon of college basketball players.
McAdoo's production last year wasn't terrible, but his efficiency numbers have always been troubling. McAdoo shot just 44.5 percent from the field and is a 44.1 percent shooter for his career. His issue has been the type of shots he takes.
If McAdoo's understanding of the game ever matures, look out.
8. Cleanthony Early, Wichita State
2012-13 Stats: 13.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 0.9 bpg
Why He's Here: Louisville's championship run was nearly ended by this man. Cleanthony Early went for 24 points in the Final Four loss to the Cardinals, and the world got to see what Wichita State fans already knew: Few guys in the country can get buckets like Early.
The Shockers are usually a pretty balanced team, but now that Early is not playing alongside Carl Hall, another talented scorer, he could put up some big numbers this year.
7. Chane Behanan, Louisville
2012-13 Stats: 9.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.1 apg, 1.4 spg
Why He's Here: Before Chane Behanan's suspension, this is what I had written about him:
"It's doubtful that Chane Behanan puts up the third-best statistics nationally at his position this year, but if you held a draft and college coaches were selecting, Behanan would be one of the first power forwards off the board.
"Behanan showed how valuable he can be in the national championship game when he put up a beastly double-double (15 points and 12 rebounds). The guy has tree trunks for legs and it's impossible to move him on the blocks. He can also attack from the perimeter and he's a sneaky good steals guy for his size.
"Do not underestimate his value to the Cardinals. He might be the one power forward in the country equipped to guard the next guy on this list."
Spoiler alert: That next guy at the time was Julius Randle.
Behanan has dropped on this list because coaches would obviously not want to draft a guy who would get himself suspended and have his status up in the air. I believe, as does Behanan, that he'll eventually play for the Cardinals. But it's hard to be as high on him as I was before his suspension.
6. Jarnell Stokes, Tennessee
2012-13 Stats: 12.4 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1.1 bpg
Why He's Here: If Jarnell Stokes somehow doesn't make it professionally in basketball—the odds that he doesn't make it somewhere are slim—he has the look of the next guy who could pull off the basketball-to-tight end transformation.
Stokes gobbles up rebounds and moves extremely well for a guy at 6'8" and 260 pounds. Last year, he finished fourth in the country in offensive rebounding percentage. Stokes also had an impressive summer. Playing for the stacked United States' U-19 team, he started at power forward and averaged 7.2 points and 4.6 rebounds in only 12.7 minutes per game.
5. Cory Jefferson, Baylor
2012-13 Stats: 13.3 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 1.9 bpg
Why He's Here: Scott Drew has recruited a good number of ready-made stars to Baylor. Cory Jefferson might be the program's best example of developing talent.
Jefferson waited his turn for three years, including taking a redshirt as a sophomore, and last season it paid off. After averaged only 10.5 minutes off the bench as a redshirt sophomore, Jefferson became a starter and nearly averaged a double-double.
Baylor's offense will likely be build around Jefferson and fellow big man Isaiah Austin this year, and Jefferson will need to take the next step in his development, showing he can be a go-to guy without Pierre Jackson setting him up.
4. Juvonte Reddic, VCU
2012-13 Stats: 14.6 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 0.9 bpg, 1.4 spg
Why He's Here: VCU is known for its "Havoc" style and full-court defense, and Juvonte Reddic fits Shaka Smart's system. At 6'9", he can get up and down the floor.
But if the Rams are forced to slow down and play a half-court game, Reddic can play that style, too. He has improved his back-to-the-basket game throughout his career. He can also face up and knock down the mid-range jumper. And on top of that, Reddic is an elite rebounder.
Point being, Reddic is not just a product of the system.
3. Aaron Gordon, Arizona
2012-13 Stats (High school): 21.6 ppg, 15.7 rpg, 3.3 bpg (via Arizona Athletics)
Why He's Here: Aaron Gordon might not like that he's listed with the power forwards instead of the small forwards.
By the end of the year, Gordon will likely be starring for the Wildcats as a power forward, much like he starred with the United States' U-19 team this summer as a power forward.
Gordon is at his best when he's hanging around the rim where he can dominate the game with his quickness, length and hops. If he embraces that, he could be an All-American.
2. Julius Randle, Kentucky
2012-13 Stats (High school): 32.5 ppg, 22.5 rpg (via UK Athletics)
Why He's Here: In 20 years, we could look back at this Kentucky freshman class with the sort of nostalgia that the Fab Five has created, and Julius Randle will be the Chris Webber of the class...ya know, just without the timeout and all the scandal.
Like Webber, Randle is a physical specimen with great ball skills for his age, and he should be able to dominate right away. It has been a while since the college game has seen his combination of speed, strength and ball-handling, which should make Randle a great driver from the 4 spot.
He'll be the best player on Kentucky's stacked roster, and that title alone makes him an All-American and Naismith candidate.
1. Doug McDermott, Creighton
2012-13 Stats: 23.2 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 1.6 apg
Why He's Here: Let's compare Doug McDermott's junior season to the best seasons of some of the best scoring power forwards in college basketball in the last 25 years, shall we?
- McDermott, Creighton, 2012-13: 23.2 ppg, 57.3/49.0/87.9 (two-point percentage/three-point percentage/free-throw percentage)
- Danny Manning, 1987-88, Kansas: 24.8 ppg, 59.3/34.6/73.4
- Pervis Ellison, Louisville, 1988-89: 17.6 ppg, 61.7/0.0/65.2
- Larry Johnson, UNLV, 1990-91: 22.7 ppg, 69.8/35.4/81.8
- Christian Laettner, Duke, 1991-92: 21.5 ppg, 58.0/55.7/81.5
- Chris Webber, Michigan, 1991-92: 19.2 ppg, 67.9/33.8/55.2
- Kevin Durant, Texas, 2006-07: 25.8 ppg, 50.5/40.4/81.6
- Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina, 2007-08: 22.6 ppg, 54.7/0.0/80.6
Two things: Man, Larry Johnson was a machine, and McDermott's numbers last year were Laettner-esque.
In case you didn't know, now you should know. We're watching a college legend, folks. Enjoy the final season of McDermott.