Last summer, the Sixers gave a huge contract to Al Horford and expected him to play power forward. That didn’t end well. Al now seems to be primed to be traded away from Philadelphia and the Sixers will find themselves in the same position as they were in 12 months ago. However, the draft allows to them to try and fix the position, with a cheap rookie deal. Here are 5 power forward prospects that the Sixers should target.
Jalen Smith – Maryland
Jalen Smith is a phenomenal prospect that seems to be going under the radar during the run-up to the draft and I’m not sure why. The 6’10, 220 lbs, power forward out of Maryland was brilliant in all aspects during his sophomore year, improving his shooting and showing he’s an elite defender thanks to his 7’2 wingspan. During that sophomore year, Smith massively improved his 3 point shot to a solid 37% on the year, whilst also improving his free throw percentage from 65% to 75%. Smith is a very versatile forward who can punish teams at every level of scoring with his bouncy athleticism and ability to shoot at the top of his length.
Smith shines on the defensive side of the ball. He has an extremely high level of understanding of opposition systems and plays, will always react in the right way to his matchups movements and is a quality blocker of the ball. He’s quick enough to keep up with the speedy power forwards of the NBA and he’ll have an instant impact defensively.
Smith is a solid playmaker who won’t force too many bad shots, will usually find open teammates with solid passing, and has a constant burst of energy when on the court. His weight may seem like an issue, but he did add 15 pounds heading into this past season and I think there’s more to add if he wants to.
The only issue I really have with Smith is that he’s not the most fluid of players. He will struggle a little to create shots off his own dribbles due to average ball-handling skills, but he’s shown the desire to get better.
He also confirmed to my colleague, David Esser, that he’s been in contact with the Sixers during the draft process and thinks he’d compliment both Simmons and Embiid, going on to say that he would benefit greatly from learning under Embiid.
Zeke Nnaji – Arizona
Zeke Nnaji out of Arizona is one hell of an athlete at 6’10, 247 lbs, with a 7’1 wingspan and some scary speed for a man his size. Nnaji will love the NBA and the physical game it brings. At times, he would just bully matchups in college and really assert his dominance against opponents. Nnaji may be one of the best finishers within the arc in this years’ draft.
Defensively, Nnaji has everything you would want in a power forward. He can physically fight back against opponents, has enough speed to keep up with the more athletic forwards, and thanks to his size, he’s a very good rebounder who averaged 8.6 per game for Arizona.
Nnaji will catch a lot of NBA forwards off guard with how quick his first step is and this makes him very useful in the pick and roll game. He is only 19-years-old so he has much more to learn.
The one thing that really hurts Nnaji is his 3-point shot. It pretty much doesn’t exist and he’ll have to really develop one if he’s going to be a star in the NBA. He also needs to work on his ball security – he struggles to keep the ball and is prone to steals both off the dribble and when passing to teammates. However, when you factor in he’s only 19, there’s a very good chance he can take away these negatives in a couple of years.
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Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire