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NBA Report: (Power) Forward Thinking

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Words by Phlip

I’m STILL inclined to blame Stockton and Malone…

Much like the previously-discussed Point Guard position, the Power Forward position is one that LITERALLY no team in the NBA is legitimately hurting at these days. The difference, however, is that there are not a ton of Power Forwards sitting the bench all over the league that could be starting elsewhere. Each team has a starting PF right now, that for whatever combination of reasons (money, loyalty, etc.) can lay claim to deserving to be there. If there happens to be 25ish starter-quality point guards in the league right now, there are easily 35 Power Forwards when you stop and consider facts like the Clippers are starting Blake Griffin and bringing Kenyon Martin off the bench, or the Minnesota Timberwolves’ logjam at that position as well.

… and I refuse to call Tim Duncan one, he has never played like a Power Forward, and seemed only to be placed there when he came into the league alongside a top-10 all-time Center.

The first and most obvious cause of this is that playing a Forward position allows you similar-proximity (to the basket) touches of the ball as a center, with a enormous amount less of the defensive expectation. Speaking of the defensive side of it, you can very necessarily carry less weight on your frame, leaving yourself nimble enough afoot to be your Point Guard’s favorite pick-and-roll partner, netting him a ton of assists and you a ton of points. Isn’t that right, Karl Malone and Amar’e Stoudemire?

I would like to spend a bit more time on the “carrying less weight” thing as well, considering it seems that NBA players of this particular position are committing themselves to the European/Asian modeled players, who will be 6’10”-7’1” and not crack 250lbs, then work tirelessly on their jumpshot, thusly changing the whole dynamic of the game, and we find ourselves with a great many dynamic Power Forwards in the league right now, including…

  • Pau Gasol – sometimes labeled “soft” until he Kirks out and turns into Bobby Boucher for a game or two at a time when people go public calling him that. At 7’ tall, has one of the best-looking jumpers in the league, and an impressive half-court ballhandling ability and court vision, but why are we even seeing it at that size?
  • Dirk Nowitzki – also labeled “soft” for his seeming unwillingness to bang with people, routinely hoisting more 3-pointers than most teams’ shooting guards. Rarely to be found in the post.
  • Yi Jianlian – lol… guess the Yellow Fever thing never conspired to put him over, lol
  • Kevin Love – veritable jack of all trades, rebounds with the absolute best of them, shoots at distance with the best of them and legitimately able to guard all three front court positions, size bedamned.
  • Chris Bosh – similar to the Euro softies above, can create his shot and shoot at distance, but will get dunked on by Rajon Rondo before almost hurting himself getting too physical.
  • Blake Griffin – an amazing combination of Shawn Kemp and Karl Malone. I think the Malone thing has everything to do with the person feeding him the ball and not specific skillsets.
  • Amar’e Stoudemire – with a Point Guard in the fold and still being in a ‘Antoni (no D) system, once he and the Yellow Mamba mesh, will take off again.
  • Josh Smith – take all the good stuff I said about Kevin Love, add a vertical leap, then remove about 20 pounds and that jumpshot and there you have it.

    I could continue on, but I am sure it
    makes sense that I could do this with EVERY starting (and at least 5 reserve) Power Forwards in the league and the feedback would offer SOMETHING positive every time.

    “Why,” you ask?

    Me, I blame Michael Jordan, and not just because I blame damn near every paradigm shift in basketball in my lifetime on him, so stick with me here.

    Kids on the playground from my generation (say 1972-1984 births), of which most the NBA players are, all played ball and more often than not wanted to be like Mike, we had the shoes, the high/long-jumping layups/dunks, the shots, the ballhandling — ALL OF THAT. Some of us would find ourselves 5’8” and had better have gotten nice with a keyboard if we aim to feed our daughters, and others missed the window on the other side, being a gargantuan 6’9” or better. Those who made it to the other side were positionally (not a real word, I know) required to go play Power Forward, but held onto the as-nurtured Shooting Guard/Small Forward skillset. Then coaches who coached at size and not specific skills gave way to coaches who did, then the vicious cycle occurs. Whereas in our father’s generation, no one would have been able to simply choose their position, it happens every day now, 7-foot Forwards who play like small forwards and claim to be 3” shorter than they actually are (Lamar Odom, Kevin Durant, I am talking to you) to sandbag a position not only happens, but is damn near expected.

    None of this is to be lodged as a complaint, because it is FACT that we’re getting better basketball as a result of it. Much like the Steroid Era in baseball gave us 8th-mile home runs and tons of them, we’re seeing hyper-athletic and enormous players refusing to take what should be their natural positions – or freaks of physical nature like DeAndre Jordan, Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee merely conceding to theirs is precisely why the NBA’s television schedule is chock full of “WTF?” nationally televised games between teams like the Trailblazers and Warriors.

    If I do one of these on the other three positions on the court, it will be after the All-Star break and will run corollary to these last two pieces, instead involving itself in the growing dearth of superstar players in the other positions on the floor.

    Scratch that, I just committed to three more posts, I am going in.

    Words by Phlip
    @CallMePhlip
    callmephlip.blogspot.com

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    4 comments on “NBA Report: (Power) Forward Thinking

    1. DV
      February 17, 2012

      Whats sad is the guys who where big (and played big) to “regular sized” people who where unable to play guard once they got to college or higher. Knew a guy about 6’2 (played like Z-Bo) who led our H.S. to a state championship. He always played PF since youth league through high school but had to play SG/SF if he expected to see any playing time at Gonzaga. Talk about a fish out of water.

      The one thing that frustrates me about Lamar Odom and Rasheed Wallace (when he played) is that they never played to they full potential. They both couldve been among the greats if they had that “beast mode/killer” gene in them. In high school and college Odom looked like the next Magic. I dont recall another bigman (before Rasheed) of his size with a inside/outside game who played defense too , he shouldve won championships.

      Like

      • Phlip
        February 18, 2012

        Funny you mention Rasheed Wallace (who is mulling a return from retirement)…
        I have a cousin that walked onto Carolina’s squad and sat the bench, his Junior and Senior seasons were Rasheed’s Freshman and Sophomore seasons.
        Needless to say, being that it was 40 minutes from the house, we went to plenty of games and sat in on many a practice, got into the tunnel after games and yaddauaddayadda, Rasheed was EASILY the funniest dude on those teams, you could hear him singing in the showers from the tunnel, real cool cat.

        Anyway, back on topic, he DID win one championship, on that “team of no superstars” Detroit team that shocked the Lakers in 2004.
        I agree, though, if he had more effectively applied himself and gotten his head out of his ass, he would be a surefire hall of fame player. Same with Odom, he played well enough to get a big contract in LA and Miami, then went back to sleep until it came time to get a couple of rings in LA, then got all butt-hurt when he was almost traded to a team slated to miss the playoffs.
        Funny how those things work out, huh.

        Like

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