Ranking the Nation's Top 20 Small Forwards for 2013-14 NCAA Basketball Season
Andrew Wiggins is the movie that everyone tells you is going to be incredible and you have to try to temper expectations in your own head or you're just going to be disappointed.
Yes, he's really, really, really talented. His highlight video is incredible.
Next thing you know there will be video of Wiggins walking on water, stepping out and then jumping flat-footed over a car while pulling off a between-the-legs dunk.
Not possible? Pshhhhhh. Social media can make this happen.
Ask anyone around the Kansas program and they will tell you that Wiggins does not love all this attention, but he realizes it comes with the territory. And after the last year of building hype, he's ready to step onto the stage fully realizing the expectations are out of this world.
That self-awareness is commendable and it's why you will find the freshman at the top of these rankings. There's no way to justify picking someone else. That does not, however, mean the rest of the country's small forwards are chopped liver. They're pretty good too. So, here it is, Wiggins and the other 19.
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. Jakarr Sampson, St. John's
2012-13 Stats: 14.9 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.1 bpg, 1.1 spg
Why He's Here: Jakarr Sampson is a great athlete who can finish around the rim and has the chance to be an excellent defender. Sampson put up good scoring numbers as a freshman, but he wasn't very efficient. He shot 46.4 percent from the field.
For Sampson to take the next step, he needs to develop a reliable jumper.
19. Branden Dawson, Michigan State
2012-13 Stats: 8.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.3 apg, 0.9 bpg
Why He's Here: Branden Dawson has yet to show the ability to be a great scorer at Michigan State, but he doesn't need to be one. The Spartans have enough scoring.
Dawson has found his niche as a great defender and rebounder from the wing. And if the reports this offseason from Michigan State are true, he'll be an improved finisher and shooter as well, which will be gravy for the Spartans.
18. Will Sheehey, Indiana
2012-13 Stats: 9.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.3 apg, 0.8 spg
Why He's Here: Will Sheehey was one of the best sixth men in the country last year. That Indiana team was talented enough to have a guy come off the bench at 6'7" who was a plus athlete with a really nice looking jumper.
Of course, Sheehey had a no-pressure role. Yes, he was asked to bring instant offense off the bench, but the Hoosiers had plenty of options that as long as he was a threat, they were just fine.
This season with so much youth on the team, Sheehey could be asked to play more of a go-to role, especially early in the year. It'll be interesting to see how he handles that after three years as a reserve.
17. Le'Bryan Nash, Oklahoma State
2012-13 Stats: 14.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.8 apg
Why He's Here: On some nights, Le'Bryan Nash can look like an All-American. On others, you forget Nash is even on the court.
That has been the story of Nash's career thus far at Oklahoma State. And it was beneficial to him last year to have Marcus Smart around to grab all the attention.
The good Nash is the one who uses his athletic ability to get to the bucket. Travis Ford typically played Nash as an undersized 4 last year, and that often created mismatches as he could attack slower defenders. When he's in attack mode and taking good shots, he can carry the Cowboys.
16. Kyle Anderson, UCLA
2012-13 Stats: 9.7 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.8 spg
Why He's Here: It's difficult to decide where to put Kyle Anderson. At 6'9", Anderson looks like a forward. But his play-making skills suggest he should be slotted at point guard.
That's a similar dilemma Steve Alford faces this year. The best option, probably, is to put Anderson in a point-forward role where he can defend a forward defensively and be near the basket to grab rebounds, which is one of his strengths. And then on the other end, UCLA can run its offense through him.
If used right, Anderson can be a great weapon.
15. Jerami Grant, Syracuse
2012-13 Stats: 3.9 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 14.3 mpg
Why He's Here: Syracuse is one of those programs where you wait your turn and it usually pays off. Last year, Michael Carter-Williams became a star after playing limited minutes as a freshman.
Next up is Jerami Grant.
Grant showed what he's capable of during a trip to Canada this summer. In four games in Canada, Grant averaged 13.3 points and 7.8 rebounds.
In the one game that was a close, overtime win against Canada's national champion Carleton, Grant went for 18 points and nine rebounds. Don't discount those numbers. Carleton knocked off Wisconsin and had blowout wins against Towson and TCU this summer.
14. T.J. Warren, NC State
2012-13 Stats: 12.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.2 spg
Why He's Here: T.J. Warren was an extremely efficient scorer as a freshman. He made 51.9 percent of his threes, although he only took 27 attempts. He shot 78 percent at the rim and made 43 percent of his two-point jumpers, according to Hoop-Math.com.
What's refreshing about Warren's game is that there is not a lot of wasted movement. He puts himself in position to score and doesn't try to be flashy.
Warren had the luxury last season of being surrounded by great talent and also a point guard in Lorenzo Brown who did a great job setting him up. Now the challenge this year is to see if Warren can become the man in the North Carolina State offense. A big key will be whether point guards Tyler Lewis and Cat Barber can get him the ball in scoring spots like Brown did.
13. Luke Hancock, Louisville
2012-13 Stats: 8.1 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 1.4 apg, 1.0 spg
Why He's Here: Maybe this is a little high for a guy who could once again come off the bench, but when you're the Final Four Most Outstanding Player, you deserve some respect.
The entire country got to see what Luke Hancock is capable of in Atlanta. Hancock is not the most gifted wing on this list, but he has a great understanding for his role and the moment. Against Wichita State, he realized the Cardinals needed someone to get some easy buckets, and he started driving to the rim.
Against Michigan, he knew his place was behind the three-point line, and he nailed all five of his shots from deep. In March and April, Hancock made 55.8 percent of his three-pointers. He may not start again for Louisville this year, but you better believe he'll finish.
12. Anthony Drmic, Boise State
2012-13 Stats: 17.7 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.3 apg
Why He's Here: Boise State is a program on the rise, mostly because of the international talent Leon Rice has been able to attract.
If you haven't already, learn the name Anthony Drmic. Drmic, an Australian, led the Broncos to an NCAA tournament appearance last year.
Drmic is capable of putting up big scoring numbers on a consistent basis. He scored 20-plus points in 11 of Boise State's final 15 games. He also had eight games with at least four three-pointers.
11. Dez Wells, Maryland
2012-13 Stats: 13.1 ppg, 3.0 apg, 4.9 rpg, 0.9 spg
Why He's Here: Ask Duke what Dez Wells is capable of. Wells essentially beat the Blue Devils by himself in the ACC tournament when he went off for 30 points. He saved his best for the end of the season, averaging 17.2 points over Maryland's final 10 games.
Wells is great off the bounce and usually finds himself at the basket. According to Hoop-Math.com, Wells attempted half of his shots at the rim last season. He doesn't have a one track mind either. He's a great scorer, but when help comes, he's willing to set up his teammates.
10. Treveon Graham, VCU
2012-13 Stats: 15.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.6 apg, 0.9 spg
Why He's Here: Treveon Graham is one of the best wings in the country at creating his own shot off the dribble. Graham can get to the rim and also has a nice mid-range jumper.
Shaka Smart had his best offense thus far in his career last year and Graham was the leading scorer on that team.
9. Alex Poythress, Kentucky
2012-13 Stats: 11.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 0.7 apg
Why He's Here: The numbers were solid last year for Alex Poythress. Kentucky just needed more, and when you watch the guy, you feel like he's capable of more.
Poythress has all the athleticism and strength in the world. He also appears to have a pretty good shooting stroke as well. He made 60.7 percent of his twos and 42.4 percent of his threes, yet he only attempted 33 shots from deep.
There's a lot of intrigue surrounding Kentucky because of all the talent coming in, but how a year in the program and the chance to play with better talent impacts Poythress might be just as intriguing.
8. LaQuinton Ross, Ohio State
2012-13 Stats: 8.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 16.9 mpg
Why He's Here: LaQuinton Ross gets the Mitch McGary treatment. McGary is getting preseason All-American love based off what he did in the NCAA tournament. And Ross has been tabbed the next Ohio State star, in part due to what he did in the final three games of the NCAA tournament.
In those three games, Ross averaged 17.7 points and also had a game-winner against Arizona. Ross was a streaky scorer all season and could become more consistent this year as his opportunities increase.
Similar to his predecessor in the go-to role for Ohio State, Deshaun Thomas, Ross is a shot-maker. His scoring instincts might not be at Thomas' level, but Ross is a better athlete and might be a better 3-point shooter. He shot 38.9 percent from deep last year.
7. Rodney Hood, Duke
2011-12 Stats (at Mississippi State): 10.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.0 apg
Why He's Here: North Carolina State coach Mark Gottfried this summer said that he believes Duke could have the No. 2 and No. 3 players taken in the 2014 NBA Draft in Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood.
It's no surprise to hear such remarks about Parker, who is one of the top-ranked incoming freshmen in an extremely hyped class. But to hear that of a Mississippi State transfer may have raised some eyebrows.
Hood is good enough for Duke to move Parker to the 4, and the early reports out of Duke's practices echo what Gottfried's remarks.
"That guy, I didn't know he was that good," Parker told Duke beat writer Laura Keeley. "Being in practice, his jump shot is so pure."
6. Sam Dekker, Wisconsin
2012-13 Stats: 9.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 1.3 apg
Why He's Here: It's rare that Wisconsin gets a highly-rated recruit, but Bo Ryan was able to convince Wisconsin native Sam Dekker to stay in his home state.
It's no wonder why Dekker, who was ranked 13th in the 2012 class by Rivals.com, wanted to stay home. He is the perfect weapon in Ryan's swing offense that is ideal for shot-makers who can play inside and outside.
Dekker was able to learn the system last year as the sixth man on an experienced team, and this year he will be the man. During Wisconsin's exhibition tour this summer in Canada, he averaged 19.4 points, 8.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists.
5. Dwayne Evans, Saint Louis
2012-13 Stats: 14.0 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 1.1 apg, 1.3 spg
Why He's Here: Saint Louis was the second-best mid-major team in the country last year behind Gonzaga. The Billikens were also deserving of the 4 seed that they got in the NCAA tournament. Rick Majerus built the program with heady players who didn't make mistakes and were difficult to guard. And that's Dwayne Evans.
Evans was the star for the Billikens last year and will once again be one of the toughest matchups in the Atlantic 10 this year. If you guard Evans with a bigger defender, he can drive to the bucket. Put a smaller, quicker guy on him, and Evans is a bulldog in the post.
With Saint Louis graduating its second and third-leading scorers, look for Evans to put up big numbers. He averaged 19.7 points per game over the Bills' final 10 games last year.
4. Glenn Robinson III, Michigan
2012-13 Stats: 11.0 ppg, 1.1 apg, 5.4 rpg, 1.0 spg
Why He's Here: Glenn Robinson III had one of the most efficient seasons in college basketball last season. Robinson was playing out of position at power forward, which would be a tough spot for most freshmen. But Robinson was as steady as a veteran, making 65.2 percent of his twos and rarely ever turning the ball over.
Of course, life was pretty easy when Robinson had Trey Burke setting him up. This season Robinson will take on a much larger role in Michigan's offense and will have to create shots for himself. He appears to have the ability to be that guy, but we really will not know until we see him do it.
3. C.J. Fair, Syracuse
2012-13 Stats: 14.5 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 1.1 spg, 1.1 bpg
Why He's Here: The scouting report reads C.J. Fair is going left. But for some reason, no one can stop Fair from going left.
Fair always finds a way to get where he wants to go. Last year he improved his range—he shot 46.9 percent from distance—and that made him even more difficult to guard as he can score from anywhere.
He's the most proven wing in the country and he'll be the best player on a Syracuse team that has the talent to get back to the Final Four.
2. Jabari Parker, Duke
2012-13 Stats (High school): 18.4 ppg, 10.4 rpg (via ESPN.com)
Why He's Here: Jabari Parker was once the star of the 2013 class; he was the guy featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
The hype has subsided some. Some of that is due to Andrew Wiggins, and some of it has to do with a foot injury that slowed Parker down during his senior year of high school.
Plus, Parker cannot match Wiggins' athleticism, and the ceiling for Wiggins might be higher than Parker's. Where Parker can make up for it though is with his skill and polish.
In fact, Parker is my pick to lead all freshmen in scoring. Mike Krzyzewski plans to use Parker at the 4 because of Duke's lack of big men, and that will create mismatches that Parker should be able to exploit.
1. Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
2012-13 Stats (High school): 23.6 ppg, 2.5 apg, 11.3 rpg, 2.3 spg, 2.7 bpg (via Max Preps)
Why He's Here: Andrew Wiggins will do things this year that we've never seen before. It's already happening with his teammates.
Andrew White III said soon after Wiggins arrived on campus, he drove to the basket during a scrimmage and missed a layup.
"His second jump was higher than his first jump," White said. "I've never seen somebody miss a layup, get their rebound and jump up so quick, and that's when I knew he had that next-level athleticism. That's something I'd never seen."
Don't expect Wiggins to put up Kevin Durant-like numbers—Kansas has too much balance and Wiggins isn't that kind of scorer—but similar to Kentucky's Anthony Davis two years ago, Wiggins has the ability to impact the game in so many ways on both ends.
Davis was one of kind, and his defense dominated the NCAA tournament in 2012. What Wiggins can do athletically puts him on another level, and the hope around Lawrence is he'll give the Jayhawks an edge in the month that matters.
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