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Aztecs’ Kawhi Leonard leads small forwards in NBA draft

San Diego State’s Kawhi Leonard could be had by Kings with seventh pick. | Harry How~Getty Images

San Diego State’s Kawhi Leonard could be had by the Kings with the seventh pick. | Harry How~Getty Images

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spotlight on:
small forwards

top five prospects

1. Kawhi Leonard, 6-7, 225 pounds, San Diego State

Any other summer, Leonard might not even be a lottery pick. But his double-digit scoring and rebounding make him special in this so-so draft.

2. Chris Singleton, 6-9, 230 pounds, Florida State

Singleton averaged 13.3 points and 6.8 rebounds as a junior last season. His shooting wasn’t that great at 43.4 percent from the field, but he’s respected more for his defensive skills.

3. Marcus Morris, 6-9, 230 pounds, Kansas

Morris and his twin brother, Markieff, distinguished themselves as one of the best twin tandems in college basketball history, and they made the Jayhawks title contenders each season. Marcus averaged 17.2 points and 7.6 rebounds and had Kansas ranked No. 1 for much of the season.

4. Kyle Singler, 6-9, 225 pounds, Duke

Singler averaged 16.9 points and 6.8 rebounds for Mike Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils. You can’t doubt his fundamental skills, knowledge of the game and maturity because he stayed and played all four years. He could at least be a valuable role player for any team.

5. Jan Vesely, 6-11, 240 pounds, Czech Republic

Players coming from overseas are always a mystery. It’s basically a waiting game to see how well they develop. Vesely averaged 10.1 points and 6.3 rebounds last season for Partizan Belgrade. How that will translate into NBA numbers remains to be seen.

Updated: June 21, 2011 9:13AM

Arizona sophomore Derrick Williams is considered the best power forward in the draft because he’s 6-9, 250 pounds.

He’s so “pro-ready” that many insiders feel he should be the No. 1 pick ahead of Duke point guard Kyrie Irving.

But Williams also is the best small forward in the draft. After all, he moves well with and without the ball, shoots 59.5 percent from the field and 56.8 percent from downtown and is a trusty 75-percenter from the free-throw line.

But when it comes to natural small forwards, the pick of the pack is Kawhi Leonard, a 6-7, 225-pound sophomore from San Diego State. He averaged 15.4 points and 10.7 rebounds for the Aztecs to lead them into the NCAA tournament as the second seed in the West Regional. Eventually, they were ousted by the champion Connecticut Huskies.

Leonard is the main reason the Aztecs won their first 20 games and were ranked as high as No. 5.

After Leonard, the small-forward cupboard is far from bare with Florida State’s Chris Singleton and Kansas’ Marcus Morris.

HONORABLE MENTION: Tobias Harris, 6-9, 223 pounds, Tennessee; Jimmy Butler, 6-8, 222 pounds, Marquette; Chandler Parsons, 6-11, 221 pounds, Florida; Bojan Bogdanovic, 6-8, 218 pounds, Croatia; Davis Bertans, 6-10, 210 pounds, Latvia.

BULLS’ PROBABLE INTEREST: Very little, unless a small forward is the best player available. Luol Deng, Taj Gibson and Ronnie Brewer have been giving the Bulls what they need here.

TEAM MOST LIKELY TO DRAFT LEONARD: The Sacramento Kings are one of the teams needing a young small forward with a great upside. And they should be able to nab him with the seventh pick.

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