Monday, September 2, 2013
Biancardi's Breakdown: Power forwards
By Paul Biancardi
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 has narrowed it down to Kentucky or Louisville, but has no timetable on a final decision.
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.
3. Shooting and skill
Why it’s important: In today’s game, the power forward has evolved into a hybrid position of more skill and shooting ability than ever. The ability to make jumpers opens up the floor for a post-up game, cutting and driving to the basket. To have another player on the floor who can pass, handle and shoot makes defenses have to make decisions on how to defend the low post.
Who does it best Isaac Copeland (Raleigh, N.C./Brewster Academy): Copeland shows a world of upside because he is long, lean and has a confident face-up game by way of the drive or the jumper, with range to the arc. His ball-handling will be employed in dribble handoff action and his passing talents are evident as he is functional on the perimeter and creates a hard matchup for the prototypical power forward who is less mobile. In Georgetown’s offensive schemes, he will operate at the elbows and along the arc, shooting, driving and passing as well as going into the post close to the basket. A perfect pick-and-pop shooter from mid-wing or beyond the arc.
Why it's important: A power forward is expected to make his mark on the backboards, but it’s not always the tallest, biggest or quickest player who rebounds the most -- it's the one with the greatest desire to gain possession. Consistent rebounding will give a team extra possessions, which translates into more chances to score or to stop the opposing team from scoring. Rebounding is not just in the paint -- today more than ever, the utilization of the 3-point shot has teams rebounding long misses. The percentage at which a player rebounds per minute is of more value than his overall numbers. Rebounding is one of a few skills that transfer as you go up in levels. It is imperative to team success.
Who does it best
Angel Delgado's prolific rebounding numbers makes him stand out among his peers at the 4-spot.
Cliff Alexander (Chicago/Curie): Alexander possesses athletic ability, mobility and competes with a high motor when it comes to rebounding. As much as rebounding is an effort and heart, it is also about anticipating where the missed shot will land. A big part of knowing where the ball might come off the rim is based on the location of the shot. Alexander is a master at moving while the shot is in flight to be in the right position when the ball misses. He can out-jump others or will put his body on opposing players and get two hands on the ball, and nobody will take it away. He owns a quick and powerful vertical leap and will move outside of his zone to capture the ball or fight in the space he is in to get it first off the rim.
Angel Delgado (Troy, N.Y./Huntington Prep): Delgado’s calling card is his ability to pursue the ball off the glass and get it to it first or take it away from others in traffic. His physical tools enable him to be a high-level rebounder as he is strong, athletic and mobile at his size (6-foot-8, 215 pounds). He led all rising seniors in the Nike EYBL regular season at 11.5 rebounds per game as he pulled down 208 rebounds in 418 minutes. That’s a rebounding rate of better than one rebound every two minutes, which is phenomenal. Seton Hall has landed an outstanding rebounder to its program.
Why it's important:This position has grown over the years as the players' skill set has emerged. To score inside will be of paramount importance and to step away and be a threat is just as crucial. The ability to pound it in through the post on the blocks or stretch out a defense with a jumper or drive makes the power forward so interchangeable for coaches. Defensively, they must guard the low/high post and play pick-and-roll coverages. The ability to guard a center in a pinch is necessary, as some teams play with two forwards and no center.
Who does it best Chris McCullough (Bronx, N.Y./Brewster Academy): Syracuse-bound because of his length and athletic ability, he is also a fluid and smooth operator with the ball in his hands close to the basket. Scores by running to the rim and finding the ball on put-backs, and also has a short jumper. He can comfortably handle the ball for a few dribbles and from the defensive end he will block shots and rebound with length. A big year for him, as he must show he will play with effort on more of a regular basis.
Abdul-Malik Abu (Boston/Kimball): Brings a wealth of versatility to the position along with a powerful build and competitiveness. Abu does a terrific job of keeping his defender on his back by moving his feet and maintaining a low, wide stance for an effective inside post-up game. His skill level has made big strides this summer as he now can be a threat facing the basket with an elbow jumper or a drive from the mid-range, and he is a capable 3-point shooter. A strong rebounder who gets off his feet easily and is strong-willed, crashing the glass anytime he spots a missed shot. Best at finishing at the rim through contact and making impressive dunks in traffic. Strong, mobile and gives plenty of effort on defense to bang inside, along with the physical traits to cover ground at the high post or short corners. One of the summer's most industrious players, as his skills are blossoming.