Big East 2007: Top Power Forwards

    
February 5th, 2007

Determining the Big East’s top power forwards at this juncture of the season is no less challenging than assessing the conference’s top centers was. The same issues arise: deciding which players qualify as 4s, whether to focus on the conference season or the entire season, and identifying the primary criteria.

The answers are basically the same as they were for ranking the top 5s in the conference. The player’s primary position during the conference portion of the season must be the 4, even if that is not the individual’s best or most natural position. Both Geoff McDermott and Russell Carter, for example, played the 4 during most, or all, of the non-conference portion of the season but have played the 3 more than the 4 in league games.

Also, the critical factor, once again, in these rankings is “productivity,” which includes – but is not limited to - each player’s P-5 score (Potential Point Production & Prevention Profile). To calculate each player’s P-5 score one simply adds points scored, rebounds, assists (times 2), steals, and blocks, then subtracts the number of turnovers. This total is then divided by the number of minutes played.

However, the final determination for this particular ranking is in which order I would want that individual to play on my team if I were a Big East coach. The process is simple: go through the power forwards, team by team, and create an order of “desirability” as I go.

We start with Cincinnati’s Cedric McGowan (P-5 = .484) versus UConn’s Jeff Adrien (P-5 = .759): This is no contest. McGowan has been a bit of a disappointment. As the only senior on his team and the only player with D-1 experience, he needed to improve his level of productivity from last year for the Bearcats to be successful, especially once prized recruit Hernol Hall was ruled ineligible by the NCAA. But McGowan is averaging only 7.2 ppg on 41.0% shooting and 5.0 rpg in conference play.

Adrien has been the main man for a struggling UConn team. Like McGowan, the 6’6” sophomore had more experience in conference games than any other player on his team, but, unlike McGowan, he has risen to the challenge. He’s averaging 14.1 ppg on 49.4% shooting and an impressive 9.5 rpg. He’s also been consistent as he’s scored in double figures in seven of eight conference games, and the only time he failed to meet that standard was a nine-point effort against St. John’s. Plus, Adrien plays hard every minute on both ends of the court.

Order: 1) Adrien 2) McGowan

Wilson Chandler (P-5 = .735) of DePaul is tremendously talented. Before the season, some even wondered if he might bolt for the NBA after his sophomore year. However, his level of his play has been inconsistent. He’s averaging 12.6 ppg on rather mediocre 39.2% shooting and 7.0 rpg. Based on his averages of 15.0 ppg and 6.7 rpg and his shooting percentage of 48.4% last season, I expected those stats to rise this year. That hasn’t been the case. Furthermore, though at times the 6’8” sophomore appears to play with passion, at other times intensity seems to be lacking.

Order: 1) Adrien 2) Chandler 3) McGowan

Georgetown’s Jeff Green (P-5 = .747) is unquestionably one of the most versatile, most athletic, most talented players in the conference. There are times when he makes plays that make you shake your head in disbelief and admiration. However, there are too many games in which he is practically invisible for extended periods. In a four-point loss to Villanova, for example, he had seven points, four rebounds, one assist, and five turnovers in 26 minutes. Still, the 6’8” junior can do almost anything on the court – drive to the hoop, shoot from the outside, rebound, handle the ball, and pass. Even taking into consideration the Hoyas’ deliberate offensive style, however, Green should be averaging more than 13.6 ppg, and he should be getting more than 5.1 rpg, especially considering he averaged 6.5 rpg last season.

Order: 1) Adrien 2) Green 3) Chandler 4) McGowan

Louisville’s Juan Palacios (P-5 = .760) has battled injury problems this season, just as he did last year. He played only three minutes against Providence, 12 minutes against Notre Dame, and 19 against Marquette. Like almost every other Louisville player, he’s been inconsistent, though that’s also been a trademark of his play throughout his career. His averages of 9.4 ppg and 4.4 rpg are obviously skewed by his limited minutes in a couple of games, but the bottom line is he has yet to be the dominant player he’s occasionally flashed this season on anything approaching a regular basis. Too often he drifts to the perimeter instead of using his quickness and athleticism around the hoop.

Order: 1) Adrien 2) Green 3) Chandler 4) Palacios 5) McGowan

Dan Fitzgerald (P-5 = .667) doesn’t normally start at the 4 for Marquette, but he’s averaging more minutes at the position (20.3 mpg) than anyone else on the team. His averages of 7.7 ppg and 4.8 rpg during such limited playing time are respectable. Extrapolated to 30 mpg, he’d be averaging 11.4 ppg and 7.1 rpg. His primary contribution is his three-point shooting (46.9% in conference games). After hitting only three of 15 treys in his first five league games, he’s made 12 of 17 the last four. His shooting has been a major factor in MU’s last four wins. At times Fitzgerald struggles on the defensive end of the court, but without him, Marquette would not be sitting in second place with a 7-2 record.

Order: 1) Adrien 2) Green 3) Chandler 4) Palacios 5) Fitzgerald 6) McGowan

Rob Kurz of Notre Dame (P-5 = .717) missed the Syracuse game due to injury and played only 19 relatively unproductive minutes against South Florida. Even with that zero-point, one-rebound performance, he has been one of the major surprises in the conference this year. He is physical in the paint, hits the glass with a vengeance, and can also drain the perimeter shot. However, his production has dropped in the conference portion of the season to 9.8 ppg and a still highly-respectable 7.8 rpg. His shooting from the field (36.2%) has plummeted dramatically during league play. Still, in tandem with freshman center Luke Harangody, Kurz presents opponents a significant presence around the hoop.

Order: 1) Adrien 2) Green 3) Chandler 4) Kurz 5) Palacios 6) Fitzgerald 7) McGowan

Pittsburgh’s Levon Kendall (P-5 = .527) is one of those players whose value can not be assessed entirely through statistics as he brings many intangibles to the court for the Panthers. He is one of the top interior defenders in the conference, and he plays on a deep, balanced team for which he does not have to score a lot. Still, he’s taking an average of only 4.3 shots per game in 26.6 mpg. He’s a decent shooter (48.7%), but he passes up many shots he could, and probably should, take. Opposing defenses often sag off him to clog up the lane and make life more difficult for all-conference center Aaron Gray because they know Kendall seldom shoots. As much as I respect Kendall’s overall game, he’s not aggressive enough offensively for my taste. Any player who once scored 40+ points for a Canadian national team against its USA counterparts, should be more of a scoring threat.

Order: 1) Adrien 2) Green 3) Chandler 4) Kurz 5) Palacios 6) Kendall 7) Fitzgerald 8) McGowan

Jonathan Kale (P-5 = .511) moved into the starting lineup at the 4 at the start of the conference season. He has done a respectable job during that time, averaging 7.4 ppg and 4.4 rpg in 22.5 mpg. He is athletic as well as strong, and he has a bright future at Providence. At this time, however, he is certainly not one of the better power forwards in the league, though he may be before his career is over.

Order: 1)Adrien 2) Green 3) Chandler 4) Kurz 5) Palacios 6) Kendall 7) Fitzgerald 8) McGowan 9) Kale

A year ago Rutgers’ JR Inman was one of the top freshmen in the conference despite missing nine league games due to injury. This season Inman (P-5 = .613) is the Scarlet Knights’ leading scorer at 11.3 ppg and the second leading rebounder at 7.4 rpg in conference play. However, the 6’9” sophomore is shooting a mediocre 35.3% from the floor, down from 40.4% last season over 24 games. Inman is athletic and skilled. He can handle the ball and drive to the hoop, and he can hit the outside shot. But he hasn’t been as efficient/productive so far this season as he needs to be for Coach Fred Hill’s team to be more successful. Inman has a ton of potential, and he’s having a decent season so far, but in only four of nine conference games has he scored more than 10 points.

Order: 1) Adrien 2) Green 3) Chandler 4) Kurz 5) Palacios 6) Kendall 7) Inman 8) Fitzgerald 9) McGowan 10) Kale

As much as I would love to rank Seton Hall’s Brian Laing (P-5 = .739) among the 3s, since that is what he really is, and view Stanley Gaines as the 4, the reality is that Laing has been forced to play the “power forward” spot for the Pirates for at least half, and usually considerably more, of each game. The 6’5” junior is definitely one of the most improved players in the league. In 10 conference games he is averaging 17.4 ppg and a respectable 5.9 rpg. He is also shooting 52.1% from the field in those games, including 38.5% on three-pointers. Laing uses his quickness and athleticism to create match-up problems for most of the bigger, stronger power forwards he faces, drawing them outside because of his solid perimeter shooting, then taking them off the dribble with his quickness. Plus, Laing has been resilient as his 38.0 mpg illustrate. While I would certainly prefer to use him at the 3 if I were a coach, or even at the 2 for that matter, circumstances force me to rank him among the 4s.

Order: 1) Adrien 2) Laing 3) Green 4) Chandler 5) Kurz 6) Palacios 7) Kendall 8) Inman 9) Fitzgerald 10) McGowan

One of the more under-appreciated power forwards in the conference is South Florida’s McHugh Mattis (P-5 = .784). The 6’6” senior is averaging 13.2 ppg, 7.4 rpg, and an impressive 3.3 blocks per game in nine league contests. Like most of the power forwards in the conference, Mattis has been inconsistent. He had three points and six rebounds against Pitt and six points and four boards against Rutgers. However, he’s been on fire lately as he scored 20 points, grabbed nine rebounds, and had six blocks against Marquette, then had 23 points and 16 boards against Notre Dame. The extremely quick, athletic junior college transfer has become one of the most feared shot-blockers in the conference.

Order: 1) Adrien 2) Laing 3) Green 4) Mattis 5) Chandler 6) Kurz 7) Palacios 8) Kendall 9) Inman 10) Fitzgerald

If I were an avid St. John’s fan, I think Lamont Hamilton (P-5 = .685) would have me talking to myself, or maybe that should be muttering to myself. The 6’10” senior has teased the Red Storm faithful with some exceptional play at times, but then tormented them with enough mediocre games to send them to the medicine cabinet for Prosac. Hamilton is big; he’s strong; he’s athletic, he’s reasonably skilled. Yet his performance seldom matches his potential. In conference play this year he’s averaging 12.1 ppg and a paltry 5.2 rpg. There are guards in the conference averaging more than 5.2 rpg. A couple of weeks ago Hamilton had 23 points and 12 rebounds against Notre Dame, with 21 of those points coming in one half! The previous game he also had 12 rebounds, against Syracuse’s tall and talented front line. But he’s also had three games with three rebounds each, one game with two, and one game with zero (when he fouled out in 13 minutes). In terms of scoring, Hamilton has put up more than 10 points in only four of 10 games. I expected Hamilton to be one of the top three power forwards in the conference. He’s not even close, at least at this point of the season.

Order: 1) Adrien 2) Laing 3) Green 4) Mattis 5) Chandler 6) Kurz 7) Palacios
8) Hamilton 9) Kendall 10) Inman

Syracuse’s Terrance Roberts (P-5 = .741) is another power forward who tantalizes fans with some performances then turns around and taunts them with mediocre games. Roberts’ averages of 12.1 ppg and 7.7 rpg are certainly respectable, especially since he is usually the third or fourth option on offense. Still, in nine league contests, he’s had games of six points and two rebounds, eight points and six rebounds, seven points and six rebounds, and another one with seven points and six rebounds. For those four games he averaged 7.0 ppg and 5.0 rpg. Contrast those four performances with his other games: 17 points and 14 rebounds, 17 points and 10 rebounds, 11 points and 10 rebounds, 16 points and nine rebounds, and 20 points and six rebounds. In those five games he averaged 16.2 ppg and 9.8 rpg. To expect those kinds of numbers every game is foolish, but the discrepancy between the two sets of stats is striking. Roberts is one of the league leaders in field goal percentage at 62.3%, but, overall, one gets the feeling he could be one of the leading scorers and rebounders as well.

Order: 1) Adrien 2) Laing 3) Green 4) Mattis 5) Roberts 6) Chandler 7) Kurz 8) Palacios 9) Hamilton 10) Kendall

In some ways Will Sheridan (P-5 = .418) reminds me of Levon Kendall, at least in the sense that they are complementary players who know their roles and try to fill them. Sheridan’s role is to play solid defense, grab rebounds, and set picks. He does the dirty work for his higher-profile teammates. Still, it’s hard to ignore the fact that in nine conference games, Sheridan is averaging only 3.3 ppg in 27.7 mpg. He is averaging a decent 5.4 rpg, but that figure is nothing to write home about. What is most noticeable, other than the fact he’s taken only 34 shots in league play, is that he’s made only 10 of them (29.4%). As much as I appreciate what Sheridan does on defense, that is a ridiculously low shooting percentage.

Order: No Change

West Virginia’s Joe Alexander (P-5 = .783), like Laing at Seton Hall, is one of the major surprises in the conference, probably even more so than Laing. The 6’8” sophomore played in only nine games a year ago and averaged only 1.4 ppg in those games. In conference play this season, he’s averaging 12.9 ppg and 4.3 rpg in 27.7 mpg. He is shooting 46.5% from the field, including a respectable 36.1% from behind the arc. Coach John Beilein reportedly called Alexander the most athletic player he’s every coached. He uses this athleticism to score in a variety of ways. He can put the ball on the floor and drive to the basket, pull up for a solid mid-range jumper, or hit the trey. He is difficult to match up with because he can play inside or outside. Alexander should definitely be in the running for Most Improved Player in the conference.

Final Order: 1) Adrien 2) Laing 3) Green 4) Mattis 5) Alexander 6) Roberts 7) Chandler 8) Kurz 9) Palacios 10) Hamilton

The variety of styles, strengths, and weaknesses among the conferences power forwards is amazing. Yet, there is one quality that applies to almost all of them – inconsistency. Additionally, I think that many of these players have fallen short of meeting logical expectations, for whatever reasons. In fact, it is Adrien’s overall level of consistency that puts him at the top of the list, at least at this point. Others are equally talented, or even more talented, but the UConn sophomore has been productive in nearly every league game so far.

Here’s a quick overview of the Top 10 scorers among power forwards in conference play:

Laing – 17.4 ppg
Adrien – 14.1 ppg
Green – 13.6 ppg
Mattis – 13.2 ppg
Alexander – 12.9 ppg
Chandler – 12.6 ppg
Roberts 12.1 ppg
Hamilton – 12.1 ppg
Inman – 11.3 ppg
Kurz – 9.8 ppg

Similarly, the top 10 rebounders among 4s in conference play are:

Adrien – 9.5 rpg
Kurz – 7.8 rpg
Roberts – 7.7 rpg
Inman – 7.4 rpg
Mattis – 7.4 rpg
Chandler – 7.0 rpg
Laing – 5.9 rpg
Sheridan – 5.4 rpg
Kendall – 5.3 rpg
Hamilton – 5.2 rpg

(Palacios would almost certainly be in the top 10 in both categories, except he played only three minutes in one game and 12 in another.)

The P-5 scores, of course, change with each game just as points per game and rebounds per game do. While they are certainly not the sole determinant of players’ rankings, they do provide insight into how productive players have been overall. It is interesting to note that the Top 10 players on my Final Order do, in fact, have the Top 10 P-5 scores.

Remember, these rankings are not based on level of talent or likelihood of a career in the NBA. They are based on the players’ on-court performances during the conference season.