Thursday, September 21, 2006

Best Frontcourts


In order to win a championship, everyone thinks guard play is necessary. That is true, but a team won't win without a solid frontcourt. If you have a post player that will get you a basket with the clock winding down, it gives you an advantage over smaller, guard-laden clubs. Rebounding and defensive stops down low will come easier if you have a good group of players in the paint. The best backcourts in the country will falter early in March without a solid duo or trio on the baseline. Who has the best frontcourts headed into the season? Starters in italics

1. Florida (Al Horford, Corey Brewer, Joakim Noah, Chris Richard, Dan Werner): The defending National Champions have one of the best frontcourts in recent memory—the three starters are potential lottery picks—and could make it back to the title game if this group plays as well as it did during the NCAA Tournament. All three starters are ranked in the top-5 at their respective positions. Corey Brewer is one of the most versatile players in the country and is a very good defender. He is athletic and is adept and getting into the lane and finishing. Joakim Noah had a breakout NCAA Tournament, and has appeared on several All-American teams. He is a difficult match-up due to his athleticism, size, and speed. He is an outstanding defender with his shot-blocking ability and quick hands. Al Horford goes unnoticed at times lining up next to the passionate Noah. However, he is a terrific rebounder and a very good defender. Off the bench, Chris Richard provides excellent low-post scoring and rebounding. Dan Werner will contribute as a freshman.

2. North Carolina (Tyler Hansbrough, Reyshawn Terry, Alex Stepheson, Brandan Wright, Deon Thompson, Danny Green): More depth and talent for the Tar Heels. Similarly to their backcourt, Roy Williams’ biggest problem is going to be finding minutes for everyone. Tyler Hansbrough leads the group. The All-American is very efficient down low and could have an even better year this season with more help in the low post. Some considered him North Carolina’s best freshman ever. Reyshawn Terry was vastly underrated on a national level last season, but is poised to make a name for himself. He is very good at driving to the basket and getting points inside the arc. Danny Green will see minutes behind Terry again. He is above-average on the defensive end and can also make threes. Brandan Wright, the #1-ranked PF recruit, could start immediately. He is a big-time scorer and can create match-up problems up front. Alex Stepheson and Deon Thompson will provide depth in the paint, giving the Tar Heels rebounding and defense.

3. Alabama (Jermareo Davidson, Richard Hendrix, Alonzo Gee, Yamene Coleman, Demetrius Jameson): If not for Florida, this group would have the best frontcourt in the SEC—no easy task. Even with the Gators, the Crimson Tide frontline can match-up with anyone in the country. Jermareo Davidson is a match-up problem at the center spot. He is very athletic down low and is also an excellent shot-blocker and rebounder. Richard Hendrix is ready for a huge season as a sophomore. He is an outstanding rebounder but needs to work on his offensive game in order to fulfill his potential. Alonzo Gee is solid on the wing with his driving ability. Redshirt Yamene Coleman and freshman Demetrius Jemison are two more big bodies in the paint.

4. Georgetown (Jeff Green, Roy Hibbert, Vernon Macklin, DaJuan Summers, Pat Ewing, Jr.): Georgetown is ready to return to their “Hoya Paranoia” days with this group leading the way. The size and rebounding ability of this quintet is out of this world. Jeff Green is one of the best all-around players in the country, and might be the best power forward in the country. He will play some small forward this year for the Hoyas, and will be a match-up nightmare with his inside-outside game. 7-2 Roy Hibbert is getting a lot of hype this season, and he has the ability to live up to the expectations. He had a huge NCAA Tournament, which could be the springboard for a big junior season. The newcomers are going to round out the frontline. Indiana transfer Patrick Ewing, Jr. is athletic, while freshmen Vernon Macklin and DaJuan Summers will also be in the running for the available starting forward spot.

5. Pittsburgh (Aaron Gray, Sam Young, Levon Kendall, Tyrell Biggs): An experienced and solid group. Size, athleticism, versatility, defense, rebounding, depth—it’s all here. Aaron Gray is one of the best centers in the country and is a potential All-American. The double-double machine is dominant, but struggled down the stretch at times last season. However, his defense and rebounding ability make him a force to be reckoned with every night out. Sam Young and Levon Kendall form a dynamite power forward duo. Young is poised for a breakout season with his athleticism and all-around game. Kendall is a good defender and rebounder who also has an underrated, well-rounded offensive game. Tyrell Biggs is a beast on the inside who will improve his numbers with more playing time.

6. Kansas (Brandon Rush, Julian Wright, Sasha Kaun, C.J. Giles, Darnell Jackson, Darrell Arthur): This group could easily be in the top-3 by the end of the season. There is a phenomenal amount of talent here, but it is relatively unproven for the most part. If each of the players lives up to their potential, this frontline is going to be unstoppable. Brandon Rush has the ability to be a star. He can create his own shot and is a very good scorer. However, he was too unselfish last season and deferred to his teammates too often. Julian Wright is one of the more versatile players in the Big 12. He can play nearly every position on the floor. He is athletic and can finish in the lane. The three-headed monster of Sasha Kaun, C.J. Giles, and Darnell Jackson down low provides the Jayhawks with ample scoring, rebounding, and defense. Kaun leads the way with his underrated all-around game. Giles has great potential and is a very good shot-blocker, while Jackson is a load inside. Freshman Darrell Arthur can play anywhere on the frontline and will have an immediate impact.

7. LSU (Glen Davis, Magnum Rolle, Tasmin Mitchell, Darnell Lazare): Even without #2 overall pick Tyrus Thomas, the Tigers’ frontcourt is going to be outstanding. The SEC is loaded in the frontcourt, and LSU matches up very well. Glen Davis is a sure-fire All-American and might have a better year than last season. He lost weight during the offseason to improve his athleticism and stamina, which will only add to his ability to dominate his opponents in the paint. Tasmin Mitchell is a candidate for a break-out season. He demonstrated some of his myriad talents last season, starting every game and playing very well down the stretch. Magnum Rolle and Darnell Lazare will try to replace Thomas. Rolle is a carbon copy of Thomas, with his length and athleticism. He is a good shot-blocker and can run the floor. Lazare is a big body who will be a nice complement to Davis.

8. Louisville (David Padgett, Terrence Williams, Derrick Caracter, Earl Clark, Juan Palacios, Terrance Farley): The Cardinals’ quest to return to the NCAA Tournament after a disappointing campaign a year ago depends on their frontcourt. This group is deep and talented, but it needs to play to its potential in order for Louisville to be a contender. David Padgett is a very good inside-outside player who has the ability to be one of the better big men in the Big East—if he stays healthy. He is injury-prone and missed ten game season due to injuries. Juan Palacios is also injury-prone but he should be healthy and ready to go this season. He has a versatile game and is a match-up problem due to his ability to get to the basket as well as pass and shoot. Terrence Williams is extremely athletic but needs to improve his decision-making and shot selection. Terrance Farley is a good shot-blocker off the bench. Freshmen Earl Clark and Derrick Caracter could both start eventually. Clark is versatile and is also very good on the offensive end, while Caracter is talented but has character issues.

9. Georgia Tech (Thaddeus Young, Jeremis Smith, Ra’Sean Dickey, Mouhammed Faye, Zach Peacock, Alade Aminu): The Yellow Jackets’ frontcourt is relatively unproven right now, but it is definitely talented and has the potential to be one of the top five in the country. A lot of that depends on the arrival of Thaddeus Young. He can score from the perimeter and is also adept at driving to the basket and finishing. He is going to be a star—if only for a year. Ra’Sean Dickey was known for inconsistency for much of his first two seasons, but he broke out in the latter part of last season and looks primed for a big year. The underrated Jeremis Smith is an excellent rebounder and a solid defender next to Dickey down low. Mouhammed Faye will likely be the first big man off the bench, while Zach Peacock and Alade Aminu will also see minutes.

10. Syracuse (Terrence Roberts, Darryl Watkins, Demetris Nichols, Matt Gorman, Mike Jones, Arinze Onuaka): Is this the year that the Orange’s vaunted senior class finally lives up to the hype they had when they arrived on campus four years ago? The fourth Big East team on this list needs a big year from their frontcourt if they are going to compete in the conference. Demetris Nichols is an excellent shooter from behind the arc, but needs to attack the basket more often as to not become one-dimensional. Terrence Roberts has shown flashes of his potential throughout his career, but has never been consistent enough to be a star. He is very athletic and aggressive and also runs the floor well. Darryl Watkins is a good rebounder and shot-blocker who played well down the stretch. Freshman Mike Jones is a terrific leaper who can also shoot the ball from three. Returnees Matt Goman and Arinze Onuaka provide depth.

Honorable Mention

Wisconsin (Alando Tucker, Brian Butch, Marcus Landry, Jason Chappell, Greg Stiemsma, Joe Krabbenhoft): The Badgers are relying heavily on this group to stay healthy (and eligible, in the case of Marcus Landry) in order for them to be a contender in March. Alando Tucker is one of the best players in the country, and is very difficult to stop on the offensive end. He is completely healthy this season and has also improved his jumpshot. Brian Butch is a top-25 center nationally who can score and rebound well. Marcus Landry was academically ineligible for the second half of last year, but has the potential to be a big-time performer this season. Jason Chappell and Greg Stiemsma are both solid big men who play defense and rebound. Joe Krabbenhoft is a shooter.

Kansas State (Cartier Martin, David Hoskins, Jason Bennett, Luis Colon): Bobby Huggins has a nice frontcourt group to build upon. Cartier Martin might be the best player in the Big 12. He is an outstanding scorer and also a very solid rebounder. David Hoskins creates match-up problems on the wing with his size and inside ability. Martin and Hoskins form one of the best forward tandems around. 7-3 freshman Jason Bennett will start right away and will make an impact with his shot-blocking and rebounding ability. Fellow freshman Luis Colon will also contribute.

UCLA (Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Josh Shipp, Lorenzo Mata, James Keefe, Alfred Aboya, Ryan Wright): The Bruins’ quest to return to the Final Four will have a lot to do with the development of the frontline. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is an all-conference performer who is excellent on the boards and has an emerging offensive game. He could be a star. Josh Shipp returns from injury. He is a very good scorer who will help on the wing. James Keefe is a McDonald’s All-American who will make an impact with his size and shooting ability. Lorenza Mata, Alfred Aboya, and Ryan Wright will compete for the starting job at center. Mata and Aboya could combine for a nice two-headed big man.

Washington (Spencer Hawes, Quincy Pondexter, Jon Brockman, Joe Wolfinger, Hans Gasser, Artem Wallace): If this group didn’t rely so much on freshmen, they would be much higher on the list. Center Spencer Hawes is one of the best big man prospects in years (outside of Greg Oden, of course). He has a developed inside-outside offensive game and is going to be a star. Quincy Pondexter is extremely athletic on the wing who will provide excitement and finishing ability for the Huskies. Returnee Jon Brockman is a banger on the interior who can score and rebound well. Redshirt Joe Wolfinger, Hans Gasser, and Artem Wallace will come off the bench to provide depth.

Duke (Josh McRoberts, Gerald Henderson, Lance Thomas, Brian Zoubek, David McClure, Jamal Boykin): Like Washington, this group depends on the play of several freshmen. However, sophomore Josh McRoberts leads the way. He was a role player last season, but has the ability to be an All-American. He is very athletic, can block shots and rebound, and is also a good scorer. Freshmen Gerald Henderson and Lance Thomas will likely start at the forward spots. Henderson has an excellent mid-range game and can get to the basket at will, while Thomas is a versatile player with very good all-around ability. Brian Zoubek was a McDonald’s All-American but is not ready to be a star yet. David McClure and Jamal Boykin will see minutes off the bench.

Others to Watch

Arkansas: JC transfer Sonny Weems will play right away, while Charlie Thomas, Steve Hill, and Darian Townes are tough inside.
Penn State: Geary Claxton and Jamelle Cornley form one of the best forward tandems in the country—and most haven’t heard of them.
Providence: Very underrated. Randall Hanke and Herbert Hill are solid inside, while Geoff McDermott is a bull on the wing.
Xavier: Versatile and talented. Josh Duncan will break-out, while Justin Doellmann and Justin Cage form solid tandem.
Texas A&M: Joseph Jones is a loaded to handle in the post. Marlon Pompey, Bryan Davis, and Antanas Kavaliausakas contribute.
Michigan: Courtney Sims has great potential. Lester Abram is a solid wing. DaShawn Sims and Brent Petway are athletic forwards.
Maryland: Ekene Ibekwe and James Gist form athletic inside duo. D.J. Strawberry will play to his potential now that he’s on the wing.
Massachusetts: Rashaun Freeman and Stephane Lasme form imposing duo down low. UVA Transfer Gary Forbes is a big-time scorer.
Arizona: Marcus Williams and Chase Budinger have the ability to become stars. Ivan Radenovic is an underrated all-around player.
New Mexico: Transfers J.R. Giddens and Aaron Johnson will make immediate impact. Kellen Walter is solid.

Connecticut: Jeff Adrien is an emerging star. Freshmen Stanley Robinson and Haseem Thabeet could start right away.

1 comment:

  1. You don't mention Wake Forest at all. They consistently obtain top 25-50 recruits that have a top 25 team mentality. Team chemistry, quality of personal character, and institutional support also have a lot to do with team success. I predict your concentration on individual talents does not take into account the other human and social factors that may be bigger for susceptible 18-23 year olds.