The role of the power forward in the NBA has been redefined in recent years as players like Boston's Kevin Garnett, Toronto's Chris Bosh and Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki have changed the way the position is played. The new crop of players looking to make the leap from the collegiate ranks to the NBA, for the most part, fills that role as well. Today, HOOPSWORLD takes a look at the top five power forwards prospects in college basketball, in no particular order.
Greg Monroe, Georgetown: Carrying on a long-standing tradition of terrific post players at Georgetown University, Monroe has made an immediate impact for the Hoyas. At 18 years old, the 6'10", 250 lb., freshman has made incredible strides since he arrived on campus, averaging more points and rebounds per game since the Hoyas moved into Big East play where he has faced the likes of proven collegiate stars Hasheem Thabeet, DeJuan Blair, and Luke Harangody. Monroe is surprisingly adept for a player of his size playing with his face to the basket and has tremendous ball handling skills to match his extended shooting range. While he isn't an eye-popping athlete, Monroe uses his high basketball IQ and solid fundamentals to overcome any athletic deficiencies. Monroe is a solid defender, averaging 1.8 steals and 1.6 blocks per game, but his intensity seems to waver as witnessed by his alarmingly low rebounding numbers (6.5 per game). Monroe, whose skill set (though not his demeanor) reminds me of a young Kevin Garnett, will likely be a top-five draft pick this June.
Jordan Hill, Arizona: Few players in college basketball have improved their draft stock this season as much a Hill. A remarkable athlete, Hill has become a viable offensive threat in his junior season and the Wildcats have become more dependent on the 6'10", 235 lbs. big man. In his first two seasons at Arizona, Hill did most of his damage on dunks and put-backs but has added some polish to his offensive repertoire this year and has seen marked statistical improvement due to his developing footwork and post moves. Based on his tremendous physical gifts and improved production each season in Tucson, Hill still has a rather large upside, particularly for a junior. Hill has seen his numbers dip slightly in conference play, which could impact his draft position, but his length, explosion and ability to finish with authority around the basket will likely land him in the middle to late portion of the lottery.
Gani Lawal, Georgia Tech: Extremely raw on the offensive end of the floor, Lawal is a highly energetic and athletic player. The 6'8", 230 lb., forward has seen his productivity, as well as his minutes, double from his freshman to sophomore season at Georgia Tech. Lawal leads the Yellow Jackets in scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage and masks his lack of polish on both ends of the floor by being extremely active, moving well without the ball on the offensive end and showing consistent effort on the defensive end. Though there is still a tremendous amount of room for improvement, particularly with his face to the basket, Lawal has undeniable upside and his tenacity and effort will likely earn him minutes at the next level. Lawal will likely be a mid to late first round selection in the 2009 NBA Draft.
DeJuan Blair, Pitt: Blair, an undersized power forward, exploded onto the national scene during his freshman season at Pitt and has continued to impress into his sophomore campaign. Although he stands just 6'7", Blair has a 7'3" wingspan and a nonstop motor to go along with the build of an NFL lineman that made him one of the premier rebounders in the nation from the moment he set foot on the Pittsburgh campus. A relentless rebounder, Blair averages over six OFFENSIVE rebounds per game and nearly 13 per game overall. His lack of height and unremarkable athleticism make his offensive efficiency a question mark at the NBA level, but Blair's size, intensity, soft hands and unparalleled hustle make him a desirable entity. Blair has proven to be highly productive against superior competition in the Big East and therefore Blair will likely be selected somewhere in the middle of the first round.
Blake Griffin, Oklahoma: Following a solid freshman year in which he was name First Team All Big XII, Griffin has enjoyed a breakout sophomore season in Norman this year. At 6'10", 250 lbs., Griffin possesses a rare combination of size and athleticism that has elevated him to the top of most NBA Draft boards. The likely number one overall draft choice in upcoming NBA Draft, Griffin has separated himself from his college basketball contemporaries. The Sooners are currently ranked second nationally in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Coaches Polls behind the spectacular play of their sophomore power forward. Griffin averages 22.4 points and 14.1 rebounds per game while shooting .638 from the field this season. A McDonald's High School All American in 2007, Griffin has 18 double-doubles in 22 games this season.
Honorable Mention: Tyler Hansbrough (North Carolina), Jeff Pendergraph (Arizona State), Josh Heytvelt (Gonzaga), Jon Brockman (Washington), Patrick Patterson (Kentucky)