Jarnell Stokes, 6-foot-8 power forward, Tennessee
2013-14 stats: 15.1 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 2.0 APG, 69.6 FT%
A powerfully-built post player, Stokes’ rebounding ability alone intrigues NBA personnel, but the Memphis native possesses other qualities to his game. Young for his class after graduating high school early and enrolling at Tennessee, he has a pro-ready frame and made strides as a more versatile scorer and all-around contributor. Still, Stokes’ skill set has limitations and how much more he can develop is up for debate.
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Career highlights: As a freshman, Stokes became eligible in the second semester, but still managed to make his presence felt, averaging 9.6 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocked shots per game, earning SEC all-freshman team honors. His sophomore year, Stokes posted averages of 12.4 points and 9.6 rebounds per game, receiving second team all-conference recognition after posting stat lines like 24 points and 12 rebounds against Massachusetts and 15 points and 18 rebounds against Alabama. Stokes continued to improve as a junior, averaging 15.1 points, 10.6 rebounds and an even two assists per game, while shooting 53.1 percent from the field, racking up 22 double-doubles and garnering first team all-league accolades, as the Volunteers advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
Strengths: Having the frame of an NFL defensive end is Stokes’ biggest advantage on the hardwood, as he’s able to dislodge opponents for position while jostling for rebounds or in the low post, where he has solid footwork. He also made an effort to trim down, which was reflected in his improved ability to run the floor in transition, and while he isn’t an explosive athlete, his length makes him an effective finisher on the interior. Other areas where Stokes bettered himself are as a passer out of the post and with his soft touch, extending his shooting range to be able to hit open elbow, baseline and free-throw line jumpers.
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Weaknesses: Not having great bounce, Stokes could find it difficult to contend with more athletic, quicker, perimeter-oriented power forwards at the next level and while his strength allows him to match up with some centers, he would face a noticeable height disadvantage. An inside player through and through, he isn’t yet fluid away from the basket or in possession of the ball skills to make plays outside of the paint offensively. The faster-paced professional game as a whole could be an issue, as Stokes isn’t a major factor in transition.
Draft projection: Because rebounding is one of the few statistics NBA personnel believe translates from college to the pro game, Stokes has some value and could be drafted anywhere from the mid-20s to the early second round. While he’s a bit undersized for his position, there are plenty of past and present examples of role-playing rebounding specialists succeeding, and if he pays attention to detail defensively and makes an effort to polish and expand his offensive game, Stokes could not only see playing time early in his career, but be a long-term contributor. Teams can and have done worse than picking an above-average rebounder who plays within himself and understands his role, so with his frame ready for the rigors of the professional ranks, Stokes should be able to establish himself for years to come.