He’s the best player in the nation, so it’s only logical that he’s tabbed as the best as his position. So, no huge surprise from ESPN as they put Shabazz Muhammad at the top of their small forward rankings. It’s the other players, though, that provide a little insight for Kentucky fans as Alex Poythress, Devonta Pollard and T.J. Warren also factor into the list. Here’s what the Worldwide Leader said about each player:
Muhammad has been considered one of the elite players in his class for some time, but his consistent high-level play, production and effort this summer not only earned him the right to be called the top small forward but also propelled him to the overall No. 1 spot in the ESPNU 100. His competitiveness, athleticism and work ethic set him apart from his peers. The fact he still has major upside and the drive to improve on his game is evidence we haven’t seen the best of Muhammad yet.
Poythress has been on the national radar as an inside/outside combo-forward who could play on the perimeter versus certain matchups. However, with an improved handle and 3-point stroke Poythress has made a smooth transition to the wing position, where he dominates his competition with his overpowering size and strength. He has great hands and rebounds his position as well as any small forward in the country. Poythress understands how to use his shot fake to lift his defender and attacks the basket, where he is adept at drawing contact and getting to the free throw line.
You have to watch Pollard a couple of times before you figure out which is his dominant hand, as the ambidextrous, smooth wing makes plays from 15 feet and in with equal effectiveness. He also has a deadly midrange game, using his length to knock down pull-up jumpers over his defender, and keeps opponents honest with his improved 3-point shooting. Pollard, who is ultra quick off the floor, is a terror on the offensive glass and a very good shot-blocker who forces opponents to account for his whereabouts on the floor.
Warren may have decided to take his talents to a Northeast prep school, but that won’t stop the talented small forward from being a major target for teams along tobacco road. The big-bodied wing is a deceptive athlete with a high basketball IQ who understands how to move without the ball and utilize screens to free himself. Once he catches the ball, he becomes a handful for opponents because he is effective in all three phases of the game. When attacking the rim, he is not only a great finisher through contact, but makes you pay at the free throw line, as well.