The traditional meaning of a power forward in the NBA is a player that typically played with their back to the basket. While that meaning is still true today, there are a number of players that are changing the way the position is being played. The evolution of the power forward position has brought us to a point where some players are now referred to as stretch fours, which are players that are sized like a typical power forward, but can shoot from long distance like that of a guard. Kevin Love, Ryan Anderson, Chris Bosh, Rashard Lewis and Kevin Durant all come to mind when thinking of a stretch four.
The position is quite possibly the most underrated position on the floor. A team that can properly utilize a power forward in either the traditional way or in a stretch four type of situation can really do some damage in the league. A back-to-the-basket power forward can cause issues on both sides of the ball and become difficult to guard, while the stretch power forward can cause even more problems by being able to stretch the floor and allow room for penetration inside.
There a number of young power forwards in the league today that could make the leap into the conversation as the best in the league. Here are five power forwards poised to make a jump this season in the league.
Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets – In just three seasons in the league, Faried has managed to earn the nickname the “Manimal.” While his numbers haven’t necessarily reflected overall dominance, there is no reason to doubt that he won’t one day be there. Faried averaged 13.7 points and 8.6 rebounds per game last season with the Nuggets and thus far has increased his production in each season in the league. His average was helped by an outstanding second half of the season in which he averaged 18.8 points and 10.1 rebounds. It seems like after the All-Star break Faried really started to grasp new head coach Brian Shaw’s offense and his play on the court showed that. As the season progressed, Faried became more aggressive down low, which allowed him to draw more fouls and get to the free throw line more.
Perhaps the biggest thing that will lift Faried to a higher level next season is his time playing with Team USA this summer. Faried has played in and started all four games for Team USA during their exhibition games and is leading the team in field goal percentage at a blistering 72 percent (technically Mason Plumlee is leading the team, but has only six field goal attempts). Something like that – leading a team in shooting with other premier players on the team – will certainly help his confidence when he returns to the Nuggets this upcoming season.
Mason Plumlee, Brooklyn Nets – If Plumee’s summer is any indication about what kind of season he’ll have this season, he’s in for an immediate rise in the ranks. During his time for the Nets in the Orlando Summer League, Plumlee averaged 18 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game and often looked like the best player on the court. Plumlee dropped 23 points on 8-of-11 shooting during his first game out of the gate in Orlando. Then, following the Summer League, Plumlee was invited to be on Team USA’s Select Team and it only took one practice to be brought on board to the main roster. After practicing and playing with Team USA for about a month, Plumlee was named to the final 12-man roster that begins tournament play in Spain on Saturday.
Plumlee is the type of big man that plays great defense and has the ability to move up and down the court. Plumlee showed exactly the type of athleticism he has when he blocked what would have been LeBron James’ game-winning dunk against the Nets back in April. It also seems that Plumlee will have the benefit of playing next to Kevin Garnett next season as Garnett is reportedly going to return after contemplating retirement. Like Faried, Plumlee will have that same confidence of being named to the final-12 man roster on Team USA heading into next season for the Nets. After establishing himself through his rookie season and throughout the summer, Plumlee will find himself as a guy the Nets will count on often next season.
Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers – While it looks like Thompson will be coming off of the bench with Kevin Love now on the team, the move to the bench could be a benefit for Thompson. His role off of the bench will be to anchor the second team and to do what he does best: use his athleticism to make plays, rebound and clean up shots at the rim. Thompson now won’t be burdened with any unnecessary pressure that came with starting and being on a team with LeBron James – he will now come off of the bench and give the Cavs 20-25 minutes a game. There will be times when James and Thompson will be on the court together and Thompson fits in well with how fast James runs the floor. As simple as it may sound, adding an MVP to your team will improve everyone’s game, Thompson included.
Derrick Favors, Utah Jazz – After signing a four-year, $49 million deal last October, Favors didn’t really perform to that contract’s standards. He certainly elevated his game from the previous season, jumping from 9.4 points to 13.3 points per game last season while improving from 7.1 to 8.7 rebounds per game. Favors is the guy that the Jazz need to help improve its defense and now with the departure of Marvin Williams, Favors can return to his natural position of power forward. The move back to power forward will allow Enes Kanter to start at center and form and impressive young front court. Their play together has already proven to be better defensively than their predecessors in Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap as the Jazz give up fewer points to opponents with Favors and Kanter on the floor than it did with Jefferson and Millsap playing. Favors has great athleticism and immense potential, and should continue to improve in key statistical categories. The Jazz are one of the increasing amount of teams that feature a promising young core of guys and could be a team to watch in the upcoming years.
Ryan Anderson, New Orleans Pelicans – Anderson played in just 22 games last season as he suffered two herniated discs in a scary collision in Boston, but is said to be recovering well and will be ready for Pelicans training camp in October. With a healthy roster and the addition of Omer Asik, the Pelicans should be a team on the rise this season and Anderson will have a big part of that. Anderson is one of a few stretch four bigs that can both ends of the floor effectively and he proved to be effective when paired next to Anthony Davis.
Ed Davis, Los Angeles Lakers – Davis will be entering his sixth season in the NBA with the Lakers come October and could be in a prime position to make a jump. Davis turned down an offer with the Clippers and decided to go with the Lakers where he feels he’ll have an opportunity to be productive. While Davis will be competing against Carlos Boozer, Jordan Hill and Ryan Kelly, he brings experience to the table and that could help him lock into a big role with the team. On a two-year contract worth just $2 million, the Lakers got a steal in the free agency class. Davis has proven that when he sees extended minutes, he’ll produce well so he should be a guy to keep an eye on this season.
Channing Frye, Orlando Magic – Another stretch four that could have a great season is Frye in Orlando. The Magic were able to snag him up in free agency by giving him $32 million over four years. Many have said that the Magic overpaid for him, but it likely took a couple extra million to sway Frye into joining a team in a rebuild when he could have easily signed with a contender. As a team that will be searching for a leading scorer to fill the void left by Arron Afflalo and Jameer Nelson, Frye could step into that role. The main attraction the Magic had with Frye is his ability to shoot the three-ball as the team finished in the bottom half of the league in three-point shooting. The Magic should be able to count on more than the 11.1 points per game Frye scored last season in Phoenix as he will have a large part in the team’s offense.
Who do you think is going to breakout at the power forward position next year? Leave your thoughts below!