College Basketball: Top Power Forwards

    
November 4th, 2008
For all intents and purposes, the majority of front court players in the college game today are power forwards, there are just too few true centers out there. Like the point guard, having a solid big man is extremely important to a team’s success. All four Final Four teams from last season featured at least one NBA caliber big man (Kevin Love, Joey Dorsey, Darrell Arthur, Tyler Hansbrough). Is it any wonder then that each of the players featured on this list will be suiting up for a team primed to make an extended run into March? Probably not.

 

 

 

Pick Six: Top Power Forwards

Throughout the week, check back for articles highlighting the Top 6 players at each position. Tomorrow we’ll be rolling out the Top 6 at shooting guard.

 

1. Tyler Hansbrough – North Carolina

 

From an individual standpoint Hansbrough has nothing left to prove as a college player. If not for his love of being a student and the desire to win a national championship, Hansbrough would already be in the NBA. There isn’t a harder working player in the country, period. Hansbrough has a highly developed post game, though often he gets his points on sheer hustle and smarts. He gets to the free throw line at an incredible rate thanks to his patience, use of fakes and ability to keep his pivot. Over the years he has gradually extended his range to the point where he is now a threat to knock down an open 18-footer if the defense will give it to him. Even if Hansbrough isn’t hoisting a championship trophy in March, chances are he will surpass J.J. Redick as the ACC’s all-time leading scorer.

 

Stats: 22.6 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 0.9 apg

 

2. Blake Griffin - Oklahoma

 

The top returning player from last season’s freshman class, Griffin is an absolute physical specimen. At 6’10” 240 pounds, not only does he have a body capable of dolling out punishment in the paint on a nightly basis, he also possesses well above average athleticism for his position. Griffin’s post game is very advanced for a player at his stage of development. He owns an extensive repertoire of back to the basket moves and has a very soft touch around the rim. His combination of strength and explosiveness make it nearly impossible for most defenders to handle him one-on-one when he has the ball on the block. The next step in Griffin’s development is being able to step away from the basket somewhat. At this point he rarely if ever will shoot the ball from the mid-range, but if his 59% free throw shooting is any indication, he has some work to do. Defensively Griffin has the skills to be a major impact player, he just needs to show more effort at this end of the floor.

 

Stats: 14.7 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 1.8 apg

 

3. Luke Harangody – Notre Dame

 

The reigning Player of the Year in the Big East is back for more and defenses will have their hands full. Harangody is built like a tight end and he plays like it to. Over 40% of his shots come in the post where he uses his tremendous strength to overpower defenders, finishing baskets with a very soft touch. So much of his game reminds of Tyler Hansbrough, the hustle, the hard nosed style, and the frequent trips to the free throw line. He shows some ability to put the ball on the floor, but generally this is only in a straight line and against equally slow big men. Harangody is one of the elite returning rebounders in the country, averaging a whopping 14.7 boards per 40 minutes last season. While it may be asking a lot for the junior to improve on his 20 and 10 numbers last season, expect Harangody to be a double-double machine once again for the Irish.

 

Stats: 20.4 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 1.7 apg

 

4. Patrick Patterson – Kentucky

 

Few freshman last season were relied on as heavily by their teams as Patterson. The Wildcats’ big man was a force last season, finishing 4th amongst all SEC frontcourt players in scoring. Patterson showed some real nice ability around the basket, mixing in a baby hook and turnaround jump shot on the block. In addition he showed some flashes of a mid-range jumper that could make him an ever more dangerous offensive weapon this season. Patterson relied a little too heavily on his physical abilities last season, so seeing him add a little polish to his offensive skills would go a long way to making him an even better player. Defensively he is able to guard player much bigger than he is thanks to a 7’2” wingspan and an excellent motor.

 

Stats: 16.4 ppg, 7.7 rp, 1.7 apg

 

5. Earl Clark - Louisville

 

The Cardinal’s junior may be the most intriguing player on this list, possessing a great physically make up and a nicely developing all-around game. At a solid 6’9”, Clark has great athletic ability and has become more versatile in each of his last two seasons, reminding somewhat of current NBA player Marvin Williams. He shows nice ability to take defenders to the basket off the dribble with either hand and has a good first step for a player of his size. Both his perimeter and post up games are continual works in progress, but he has shown some real nice flashes, particularly with his mid-range jump shot. Becoming more consistent with this aspect of his game will make him a real inside-outside threat. Defense is where Clark has made his biggest impact at the college level so far. He is a tremendous rebounder, pulling in 11.4 boards per 40 minutes last season thanks to his quickness of the floor and lengthy wingspan. His aggressiveness and lateral quickness allow him to effectively cover both perimeter and post players, averaging one steal and nearly two blocks per game last season.

 

Stats: 11.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.4 apg

 

6. Damion James – Texas

 

When you’re strong and athletic enough to average a double-double in the Big 12, all while knocking down over 40% of your three-point attempts as a sophomore, it’s a safe bet you’re going to do some real damage as a junior. James has one of the better basketball IQ’s on this list, showing a great ability to read defenses and move without the basketball. He is also a workhorse on the offensive glass, pulling down better than boards per game last season. James has shown flashes of ability shooting off the dribble, but at this point his handles aren’t polished enough to be a consistent threat away from the immediate vicinity of the basket. He shows some real potential on the defensive end, albeit he needs to cut down on how often he bites on fakes. His length and athleticism make him a versatile defender like many of the guys already listed; he’s even able to slide over and pick up quicker guards on occasion if he has to. With D.J. Augustin having departed, James should finally start to get the recognition he deserves this season.

 

Stats: 13.2 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 1.3 apg

 

Next in Line: DeJuan Blair, Pittsburgh; Jon Brockman, Washington; Greg Monroe, Georgetown; Kyle Singler, Duke; James Johnson, Wake Forest

 

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