Player Profiles

Player profiles: Centers

We wrap up our player profiles series with the players that put the five in starting five - the center.

Whether your team has a true center or not, someone in the starting five is technically playing the "five spot". The whole team cannot hang out on the perimeter, so it falls to the center by default to set up shop in the paint.

Like the other positions that we have discussed, there is no specific way to approach playing the center position. The traditional thought is that the center of a team is its leading rebounder and best rim-protector. Most centers in today's game can do more than just swat shots and grab boards, but there are still plenty of prominent examples of traditional players that we will go over.

The best centers are often still great rebounders, but scorers as well. We will breakdown "all-around" centers below that can do a bit of everything on the court.

We will be going over former and current NBA centers, but it is worth noting that there are some great centers to watch today in the WNBA as well. Candace Parker and Brittney Griner come to mind with former player Lisa Leslie being another great one to watch.

Traditional centers to watch

For all the talk about traditional centers going away in the age of the three-point shot, there are still plenty of examples of excellent traditional centers in the game. There are three high-caliber examples that quickly come to mind: DeAndre Jordan, Rudy Gobert, and Andre Drummond.

Jordan is a tenacious defender and rebounder. His poor free throw shooting is offset by the way he uses his length on both ends of the floor to make an impact. Drummond is the player to watch if you need a free clinic on rebounding the basketball. Rudy Gobert may be the best interior defender in the world. Watch the Frenchman Gobert to learn how to use defensive length and footwork to protect the strong and weak side of the paint.

A few more current examples of traditional centers in the NBA are Steven Adams, Clint Capela, Dwight Howard, and Hassan Whiteside who all make their impact with defense, rebounding, and hustle.

Known for his defense and teamwork more than his scoring, Bill Russell may be the top traditional center in history. Film on Russell may be scarce, but his 11 championships and winning ways speak loudly for his style of play.

All-around centers

By now you may have noticed a trend with these player profiles. You can have plenty of success as a player that focuses on specific skills, especially at lower levels of the game. More often than not though, it is the players that can do a bit of everything on the floor that are often the best at their position.

Even players like Shaquille O'neal, that has every appearance of a traditional center is more well-rounded than he may get credit for. Despite his massive size, Shaq could run the floor, pass, and make shots from mid-range-in with surprising finesse. Another Lakers great, Kareem Abdul-Jabaar is arguably the best all-around center for his defense, rebounding, and peerless scoring ability.

The list of former all-around centers is pretty long and impressive, including names like Hakeem Olajuwon, Moses Malone, David Robinson, and Patrick Ewing.

A few current well-rounded centers that are quickly ascending are Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid. Jokic is a great center to watch for passing out of the post while Embiid is great to watch for his post moves and shot-blocking. An underrated, but well-rounded center to watch today is Al Horford.

Two more of the best all-around centers in the game, Karl-Anthony Towns and DeMarcus Cousins are certainly great players to study up on for improving centers. Just don't emulate Cousins' technical count.

That does it for our player profiles! Take note of these players to watch as great examples at their positions. Stay locked into Yanders Law as we continue to give you player tips!

Player profiles: Power forwards

An ever-evolving position, being a power forward today can mean a lot more than it did 10 or 20 years ago.

The name "power forward" comes from players at the four position being bruisers in the paint. Where the center position has balanced size and skill for many years, the PF spot traditionally meant a foul-prone post player that cleared out opposing players to hog rebounds and create driving lanes for others.

Today, that is no longer the case.

Players at the four spot can have a variety of skillsets and roles on a team. Today, stretch-fours that can shoot are as common if not more common than traditional post players.

You can be a stretch four or still carve out a role as a traditional, rebounding post player. Below we break out some current and former players at the highest level of the game for you to watch if you want to strive for either role.

Stretch-fours to watch

The concept of the stretch-four is not entirely new. Since at least the 90's there have been plenty of post players venturing out beyond the three point line. Many of them come from overseas as that has long been a staple of the European game. Likely the best power forward to do it is no exception.

Recently retired, Germany's Dirk Nowitzki is a stellar example of stretch-four. His use of his seven-foot frame allows him to shoot over the top of the defense from any distance. Though he is a fan of the three point shot, back-to-the-basket scoring ability has made him one of the most versatile scoring threats in basketball.

One of Springfield, MO’s personal favorites, Anthony Tolliver of the Minnesota Timberwolves is another excellent stretch-four example. The Kickapoo High grad has coupled his height with a shooting touch that has helped him on his way to a long and successful NBA career.

Kevin Love is a good example of a player that was rebounding and interior focused, but adjusted his game to expand his range. Playing alongside rim-attacker LeBron James meant more perimeter time for PF Love. He was hurt last season, but it will be interesting to see how his game shapes up next season with LBJ still in Los Angeles and the Cavs made up of young guns.

Traditional power forwards

Many of the best examples of traditional power forwards have since retired from the professional game. Debateably the top PF to have played was Tim Duncan. "The Big Fundamental" could extend his range if the moment called for it, but he stayed within himself and did most of his damage with hookshots, offensive put-backs, and short-range barrages. His shot blocking and excellent footwork make him one of the most well-rounded players that you could study today.

Duncan's "replacement" in San Antonio, LaMarcus Aldridge is a solid scoring PF to watch as well. He has gradually expanded his range, but his knack for timely rebounding and interior scoring make him a bit of a throwback big. For a more defensive-minded traditional four, check some footage of Kevin Garnett. A capable scorer, KG made his biggest impact by being a ferocious defender.

Some imposing physical power forwards to watch in today's game are : Derrick Favors, Blake Griffin, and Taj Gibson. Some throwback guys are Charles Oakley and the ultimate rebounding power forward, Dennis Rodman.

Keep in mind as you strive to become or improve upon being a power forward, that shooting is becoming more and more important. The way the game is played today requires almost all players on the floor to shoot unless you have a center that can hold down the paint on his own (Dwight Howard in Orlando, Clint Capela in Houston, Deandre Jordan in New York).

You can still be a strong, rebounding-focused four, but do not neglect the softer skills of the game such as shooting and passing out of the post. Remember to get with your coach or mentor to discuss your best fit!

Player profiles: Small forwards

Not too big, but not actually small, the small forward is the in-between guy or gal on a basketball squad.

The term small-forward is a bit of an oxymoron, at least at the highest levels of the game. To be a forward, you would naturally be a larger or more stout player. Depending on the lineup of your team, the small forward can be expected to play on the perimeter or occassionally down in the post depending on the flow of the game.

Often a "jack-of-all-trades" for a team, the role of a small forward is varied. Some may be scorers, others may be defenders, and many times they are asked to do a bit of everything.

With versatility being the name of the game, it is best for current or prospective small forwards to do their best to balance their entire game. If the two guards are locked down by a full-court press, it falls to the small forward to become the ball handler. If the two post player get locked up double-teaming in the post, it becomes the small forwards job to get in the paint to protect the weak side.

Most examples of small forwards to watch at the highest level of the game can do a bit of everything on the floor. We will still break it up a bit by scorers, defensive-minded, and Swiss Army Knife type players.

Scoring small forwards

In looking at starting small forwards in today's NBA, it is unusual to find many scorers that don't also make a substantial impact on the defensive end. Even Kevin Durant, who is perennially one of the top scorers in the world, stepped up his defense over the last couple of seasons, using his length to become a formidable shot-blocker. Still, he is a great one to watch for his ability to score in the post on out to the three point stripe.

Though he is currently without a team and starting to show signs of aging, Carmelo Anthony is a true example of a scoring small forward. His footwork, fadeaways, and nose for driving lanes make him a good example to emulate on the offensive end.

A few more examples are: Demar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Tobias Harris, and Brandon Ingram. A former pure-scoring SF was Larry Bird. Larry Legend could do a bit of everything on the floor as well from passing to guarding multiple positions. However, post play and early adaptation of perimeter shooting made him a nightmare to guard at the small forward position. A few more are Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, and Julius Erving.

Defensive-minded small forwards

Historically, Bruce Bowen of the San Antonio Spurs is one of the first defensive-minded small forwards that come to mind. Often pushing the limits with what he got away with, Bowen is still an excellent example of a defender at the small forward position - able to guard perimeter and post players alike. Really there are multiple players to examine from not that long ago; Scottie Pippin, Shawn Marion, and Metta World Peace (Ron Artest) are all standouts.

Also defensive-minded, but a bit more offensively capable than Bowen, current NBA player and former NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala is a tremendous example to watch today. Iguodala did some scoring and distributing for his former teams, but coming off the bench for the Warriors, he is allowed to focus on his specialty; defense. His defense on LeBron James and timely three point shooting is what landed him 2014-15 Finals MVP honors.

A few other examples of current small forwards are Jaylen Brown and Otto Porter Jr. Both of these players have carved out defensive roles on their teams, but are constantly working to enhance their scoring ability as well. P.J. Tucker is an example of a more pure defender.

One takeaway from defensive-minded small forwards is the players that established themselves as defense-first stars and then blossomed their offense later. Kawhi Leonard and Giannis Antetokounmpo both broke into the league with defense, but are now well-rounded superstars.

Swiss Army knife small forwards

The best small forwards are often the ones that can do it all. The ultimate do it all SF past or present has to be LeBron James.

LeBron entered the league already having great size and speed, allowing him to defend multiple positions. His ball-handling and scoring ability put him on par with any guard on the court. He developed a shooting touch as well, rounding him out as one of if not the best all-around players in the history of the game.

We have already touched on Durant, Antetokounmpo, and Leonard who are a few of the best all-around small forwards. Another Swiss Army knife SF that needs to be mentioned is Paul George.

Considered to be one of the best two-way players in the game, PG-13 is one of the top small forwards to watch on both ends of the floor. On defense, he knows when to have active hands vs. when to just use his body and size. On offense, he uses his whole repitoire to score when the defense forces him either out of the paint or off of the three point line.

Gordon Hayward of the Boston Celtics is another example of a good two-way SF, with former Celtic Paul Peirce being a prime example as well. Pierce was known for his scoring, but his underrated defense was fueled by his competitive fire. Some good examples from a little further back would be Chris Mullen and Dominique Wilkins.

If you need some small forwards to watch and mold your game after, the above players should provide you with a great starting point!

Player profiles: Shooting guards

A shooting guard or "two-guard" can be various things for their team. Shooting is in the title, but defense can be paramount as well.

Point guards bring the ball down and initiate the offense, but they are not alone on the perimeter. Offense often runs through the wing players as well, as they have superior angles for passing into the post or swinging the ball around the outside.

As the title suggests, shooting is a duty that has long been reserved for the two-guard in a lineup. However, with the evolution of the game, there are now shooters at every position. For this reason, shooting guards have been asked to do more and more on the floor. A superior wing defender is now as coveted as a solid shooter because they can guard the opponent's top perimeter scorers.

Let's get into some shooting guards that you can emulate if you are or want to become a shooting guard.

Scoring shooting guards

In today's game, it is tough to find scoring shooting guards that are not also solid defenders. If you are needing some examples of SG's that can score though, below are a handful of players to model your offense after.

Bradley Beal and Devin Booker are some of the sweetest shooting two guards in the game right now. Another, more underrated scorer is Kris Middleton of the Milwaukee Bucks. A former player, recent enough that there is plenty of film on him, is Ray Allen.

One of the top, if not the top scoring shooting guard in the game is Klay Thompson. He is a good defender, but he is the player to watch if you want a scoring SG to emulate. He has what may be the prettiest shot in the game and the way he works to get it off is a great example for any current or budding shooting guard.

Lockdown defenders

Though many teams/coaches would prefer at least a three-and-D type of player, some shooting guards get by on their defense alone. Defensive focus at the highest level takes a lot of work, though you must still remain an option on offense by at least slashing to the basket and being a willing distributor.

Two examples of this type of player today are Andre Roberson of the OKC Thunder and free agent, Tony Allen. Don't watch film of Roberson shooting, but watch some of his time on the defensive end to understand his place in the NBA. Roberson's use of length and Allen's use of positioning, footwork, and strength are great things to watch for.

An example of a couple of three-and-D type players still in the game are Danny Green and Avery Bradley. Some former players are Sidney Moncrief and Michael Cooper, who could defend multiple positions.

Somewhere in-between

With point guards, it appeared that somewhere between pass-first and shoot-first would put you in a great spot in the modern game. With shooting guards, things appear similarly, as some of the all-time greats were not only fantastic scorers, but elite defenders as well.

The best shooting guard to date is Michael Jordan, who was not only a 10x NBA scoring leader, but also 9x All-NBA Defense, including Defensive Player of the Year in 87-88. For film analysis of a SG that could do it all, MJ is the ultimate example.

One of the most elite scorers in basketball history, but also another accomplished defender is Kobe Bryant. If you need to work on footwork, Kobe is one of the best guards to watch.

A few more current players to watch that do a little bit of everything are the recently retired Dwyane Wade, as well as Victor Oladipo and Jimmy Butler.

That should give you plenty of homework if you need to study up on becoming or improving upon being a shooting guard. That wraps up the guard positions, so forwards, you're up next with the player profile on small forwards. Stay tuned!

Player profiles: Point guards

This is the first of a five-part series about specific basketball positions. We will show you some examples of players to watch at each position, starting with point guard.

Point guards have long been described as "floor generals" on the basketball court. They are in charge of bringing the ball up the court to initiate offense. Typically, the point guard will determine which plays are to be run, or the coach will relay the plays through the point guard. Some of the best point guards are the equivalent of another coach on the floor.

In player profiles, we will give you a few examples of players to watch if you are a point guard or would like to become one. There are dozens of players that set great examples on the floor, especially in the pros (which this series will primarily focus on). We will pick out a few of the best in the game, or maybe some older players if there is adequate footage.

Let's open up with the more traditional point guard style:

Pass-first point guards

In the age of the three point shot, perimeter players are often attempting to emulate the likes of Steph Curry. Historically, point guards have been less scoring-oriented and more concerned with facilitation and assist-to-turnover ratio.

Many of the best pass-first point guards have retired, such as Jason Kidd or Steve Nash. Their highlights are still worth watching as well as more general game footage. Their ability to keep their head up while dribbling allows them to see every passing angle available on the floor.

There are still a few pass-first PG's left in the NBA. Mike Conely of the Memphis Grizzlies has come into his own as a scorer, but is still defensive and passing-minded. Future Hall of Famer, Chris Paul is a pass-first guy that is a terrific example if you are on a team that plays at a fast pace.

 Another example is Rajon Rondo. Rondo has had an up-and-down career, but when he is locked-in, he may be the best example of a pass-first PG you can learn from in today's game.

Scoring point guards

Being a point guard means you will have the ball in your hands a lot. When you have a lot of touches and can score, it is a great benefit for your team. You will naturally get assists as well, but scoring guards are typically relied on by their team more for points.

There are many examples of scoring guards in today's game. Steph Curry, Kyrie Irving, and the combo guard James Harden are some big-name examples. An often underrated theme between these guards is their ball-handling ability that allows them to shake defenders on the perimeter and get to the rim at will.

Another great example to watch is Damien Lillard. Dame "Dolla" is a no-nonsense scorer that leads his team with a competitive fire.

Somewhere in-between

Not everything is black and white in terms of labeling a point guard's style. If you are interested in being a facilitating point guard that is also a capable scorer, there are plenty of those options as well.

The ultimate do it all guard today is Russell Westbrook. Coming off of his third season averaging a triple-double, Russ is a great one to watch as he overcomes his point guard size to ferociously attack the glass, the defense, and anything that stands in his way. Despite his tenacity, he always has his eyes open for teammates as one of the league's top assist men.

Who should you model your game after?

NBA, WNBA, and NCAA players both past and present give players plenty of templates to base their games after.

Naturally, each individual player needs to be just that: their own individual player. No one else has the exact same qualities and characteristics that you possess. There are so many aspects of basketball; shooting skill, ball handling, leadership, internal motor, and more add up to make a player.

Still, when it comes to the sport, there are still qualities and playstyles that you may want to emulate. Just because you are typically defense-oriented doesn’t mean that you cannot learn a thing or two by studying Carmelo Anthony’s turnaround jumper in the paint.

Positions in basketball are becoming more fluid, meaning that size does not necessarily dictate where you will be playing. For example, in the NBA, Ben Simmons plays point guard at 6 foot 10, where Draymond Green plays power forward at 6 foot 7.

So study who you want to, but just make sure that you are staying within yourself. Before you start chucking threes like Steph Curry or Damian Lillard, make sure that you have all of the basics down and then some. Before you start banging in the paint like Anthony Davis or Brittney Griner, you may need to hit the weight room.

A while back, The Basketball Movement highlighted some top players at each position to model your game after. Again, positions can be fluid, but it could still serve as a nice starting point for players to watch and model parts of your game after.

Over the coming weeks, we will be sharing these player profiles with you, starting with point guards. Make sure you are following us on social media so that you can be the first to receive these tips and more from your friends at Yanders Law!