Good PFs blend muscle with finesse

The power forward traditionally has been a player with size and strength who plays in the high or low post. Power forwards, known as the "four" in position-numbering short-hand, can either play with their back to the basket in the low post or facing the basket if they step off the block or come up to the high post.

However, since the introduction of the 3-point line, many power forwards have begun to play farther from the hoop and developed into excellent shooters who can put a lot of pressure on the defense. In addition, if a power forward can handle the ball a little and can pass, he becomes a very valuable offensive weapon.

The premier power forwards are tough, rugged and love physical contact. In order to be a high-level college or NBA power forward, a player must be able to go to war in the paint. Whether it be boxing out and going to the glass, posting up deep in the lane or protecting the rim on drives, players who control this area of the court usually create victories for their teams.

Good power forwards have a low-post game, exhibiting the ability to physically post-up and call for the ball and have good hands to receive it. A high-level player can operate on both the left and right box and has developed one or two offensive moves to use when he catches the ball.

A post man who can step out and shoot the ball from 15-17 feet provides an added dimension. Coaches utilize many pick-and-rolls and pick-and-pops now, and if a power forward can shoot the pick-and-pop shot, he becomes a valuable weapon.

Power forwards are one of the most important lines of defense because they are so close to the basket. The four must be able to defend the low post and not let his man catch it deep and score easily in the low-post area. In addition, big forwards must protect the paint and not let guards and wings drive the ball to the rim. If a power forward has good height and length, it comes in handy, allowing the defender to go after and block shots around the hoop.

Rebound, rebound, rebound. Power forwards must be able to rebound the basketball. Dennis Rodman made a living in the NBA with just one skill. He was the league's best rebounder because of his relentless pursuit of the basketball. In order to be a big-time rebounder, a power forward must initiate contact and not back down from the physical play on the glass. If a power forward can go out and get you 10 rebounds a game, he is doing a very good job.

In the NBA, Karl Malone was an example of a prototypical power forward. Strong and powerful, he could score inside, run the pick-and-roll or defend and rebound at a very high level. In today's NBA game, Elton Brand is more like Malone, while Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan are examples of versatile big men who can score inside but also step away from the hoop and make something happen.

Power Forward Grading System

Scouts Inc. will evaluate power forwards on the following criteria:

1. Toughness: How tough is the prospect? Does he love physical contact? Is he willing to go to war on the low blocks and in the paint? Does he back down to anyone?

2. Scoring: Does he possess a low-post game? Does he know how to get deep low-post position and hold it? Does he have good hands, and can he catch the ball? Does he have a low-post repertoire with moves and counter moves? Can he handle a double-team, and how does he react?

3. Shooting range: Can he step out and shoot the 15-17 foot jumper? Does he have 3-point range? Can he run pick-and-rolls and pick-and-pops and knock down the open shot?

4. Defending: Can he defend his position? Whether he is playing a tough inside player or a perimeter big man, does he understand how to defend? Is he willing to mix it up inside around the basket?

5. Rebounding: Does he love contact when the ball goes up, or does he shy away from it? Can you see this prospect being a high-volume rebounder?

6. Feet and hands: How good are his feet? Is he fast enough to get where he needs to be? Is he fast enough to run the court on the fast break? Does he have soft hands? Does he catch everything thrown at him, or does he struggle to catch the ball?

7. Versatility: Can he do more than your typical post player? Can he handle or pass the ball? Can he guard a center in a pinch? Can he step away from the basket and knock down the 3-point shot?