The power forward position has traditionally been a player with a combination of size and strength who can score in the paint. Specifically, the “four man” plays in the high post facing the basket or in low post with his back to the basket scoring, passing and using his dribble.
Since the inception of the 3-point shot, some forwards have utilized the line by becoming “stretch forwards.” Some forwards handle the ball extremely well for their size and have even become point forwards.
In today’s game, it’s hard to box some players into a specific position because the game is being coached differently. Coaches from the NBA level down to the high school game are reconstructing the power forward position into a hybrid spot and taking advantage of mismatches on the offensive end of the floor. They can adapt by playing faster or more zone if the matchup is not in their favor from a defensive perspective.
The power forward position in the Class of 2014 is strong and deep. Below are five keys that are important to being an elite a power forward and which prospects from the class best demonstrates each of those traits.
1. Hands and Feet
Why it's important: The basics of passing and catching, along with mobility and agility, are at the core of every high-level power forward. It’s vital that the power forward has sturdy hands to catch both good and bad passes as well as soft hands to score. The ability to have sure hands makes the power forward much more productive and valuable to his team. It all starts with footwork, whether you're running the floor or making moves in the open floor trying to maneuver when closely guarded in tight spaces. The power forward could gain a tremendous advantage inside or outside by being coordinated and displaying strong footwork. In any position, but especially a power forward, a player beats his opponent with his feet first.
Who does it best in Class of 2014:
Trey Lyles (Indianapolis/Arsenal Technical): As skilled as any power forward in the class, his impeccable footwork and flawless hands are at work in each possession. His agility with his feet allows him to get to an open spot on the floor, make a move and be on balance to finish. He displays hands that are large and full of dexterity when catching passes or finishing inside with either hand. When he attacks the basket from the high post or short corners, all of his moving parts (hands/feet) are under control to play from a triple-threat position, or make a quick sweep-and-go move. Lyles has the two most important tools to be not only productive, but also impactful, at the college level. One of the best at scoring from the high and low post because of his body, hands, feet and touch to shoot the ball out to the arc. Can power up, locate a defender and make a move or hit the jumper, which makes him such a dangerous scorer.
2. Low/high post scoring
Why it’s important: Inside on the blocks or at the restricted circle is where a power forward catches a post feed. Usually the tallest players who end up closest to the basket. A power forward must use his body to create space from the bigger defenders and create a lane to the basket from the high and mid post.
Who does it best:
Reid Travis (Minneapolis/De La Salle): Had a breakout summer and was consistent in his delivery of strong performances on a steady basis. Great hands and vision to locate open spots on court and plant his body in that opening for a score. He gets his baskets inside by grabbing offensive rebounds, pick-and-rolling to the rim or with an old-fashioned post-up to the mid-post as well a being a reliable open jump shooter. Embraces contact -- he plays quarterback in football and holds offers from a few Division I programs.
Craig Victor (New Orleans/Findlay Prep): His body is growing and developing, but what is in place are his advanced skills and footwork. His low post game is based on a quick move before the defense locks in, and it's usually a turnaround jumper or a spin to the baseline. At the mid and high post, he likes to face up his man and drive or pull the jumper. He is dependable from 17 feet. Parts of his talent come from playing some at small forward, which helps him against bigger, less mobile forwards. Sean Miller at Arizona will utilize and enjoy his array of skills.