Player DNA Part II: Power Forwards

Here we go with LaMarcus Aldridge and Channing Frye, as well as how they compare to a number of other power forwards in the league.

Please refer to Player DNA Part I for an explanation on how this data is collected, used in video games and by teams, and what its limitations are: It focuses exclusively on offense. And It shows how frequently a player does certain things, not how good. A visual tool for that would be the NBA Hotspots charts that I previously used for other comparisons. If a concrete trade would be going down, combining the two would be interesting to look at. Here is again the EA trailer to give you a brief idea.


While seemingly similar players with fans regularly claiming Channing was just a worse version of LaMarcus, they did play pretty differently last season. Channing took most of his shots spotting up (often from just within the three point line as we remember), while LaMarcus posts up his players much more often with his back to the basket before turning around for the shot. Again, this doesn't show how good the players are at either of these things. It's safe to say LMA has overtaken the earlier pick who he was compared to before the 2006 draft in about every category (1 NBADraft, 2 DraftExpress).

For some reason the database has a glitch and lists LaMarcus as a center, maybe because he played that position more frequently in 2007/08.

I won't use comparisons to our other PFs here (except Ike to Channing) since they played too infrequently. I also didn't include Travis, partly due to lack of space. I would prefer to put him in a post with Nic Batum and compare him to other SF and SF/PF players, although his future minutes might be split about evenly between the 3 and 4 position on the Blazers and he did perform good there. But it's still a bit hard to imagine him going up against all the guys below on a consistent basis in the final minutes especially regarding defense and rebounds.

External comparisons Aldridge


1. What might surprise people is that Aldridge in fact is posting up more than his often cited comparison and ceiling Chris Bosh ("get in the post LMA!!!"), while Bosh works significantly more in isolations taking his man off the dribble. He also slighty uses picks more often, which is again a bit surprising with Bosh having Calderon as his ball handler.


2. Another comparison that came up pretty often is Pau Gasol. He is even more specialized than LMA as a post up man, but uses cuts more than most power forwards which makes sense playing next to a lot of good shooters and passers in the triangle offense giving him open lanes (an extreme example is Millsap, who has a 40% tendency here. See below).


3. Yet another name that came up in discussions before the last deadline was Amare Stoudemire. The main problem I would see with him is his defense. Offensively he is attack the rim more than LMA via isolations as well as receicing the ball on cuts, and pick and rolls.


4. David West stands in the way of LaMarcus and the All-Star game at the moment (deservedly or not, though he is not the only one). Very good from mid-range, he gets a significant number of his attempts as a spot up shooter. Another large block is posting up his defender with his back to the basket, but not as much as other top power forwards. Surprisingly he doesn't seem to run a lot of pick and rolls with Chris Paul.


5. Dirk Nowitzki is a pretty unique being in the NBA anyway, so probably not that much to learn here. Maybe interesting to see that Dirk does a little bit of everything which is unusual for a power forward, and overall is more evenly distributed between his three most common offensive actions (iso, post up, spot up).


6. Another comparison that doesn't come up all that often is Tim Duncan. But why not take a look at how the best or at least the most successful PF/C of the last decade operates. Not that different actually. He doesn't spot up as much as LaMarcus, but apart from that they are surprisingly similar in their tendencies.


External comparisons Frye


1. Channing and Ike Diogu who the Blazers traded away again. As said above Frye got most of his plays as a spot up shooter and another big portion off the pick and roll/pick and pop. He rarely posted up, was used in isolations or cut to the basket. Diogu's game is of course a mix between his time in Portland and the games where he got more minutes in Sacramento. But it's easy to see that he is a very different player.


2. A name coming up frequently in free agent plans for this summer is Brandon Bass, who distributes his plays fairly evenly between five of the seven categories tracked here.


3. Another one is Paul Millsap, which will likely remain just a dream as Utah is very high on him. Unusual is the high number of plays on which he cuts, which is over 10% higher than the respective number for his teammate Carlos Boozer (8, 0, 14, 29, 21, 2, 26). And the relatively low number of pick and rolls (for both). Wasn't that the specialty in Utah not too long ago?


4. Another likely pipe dream would be David Lee for his ability to play PF and when in need C (or even SF in emergency).  He is pretty sure to remain in NY unless he demands just plain too much. Another player who gets many of his points from cutting, but also a lot from posting up and picks.


5. Here is an example of a player who posts up a ton: Chris Wilcox, who occasionally gets mentioned as an available player to fill out the backup position. Wasn't the most active player in Seattle (as pictured in his jersey here) and OKC, but might be an option.


6. Charlie Villanueva might be described as a rich man's Channing Frye. Similar playing style, but a much higher efficiency. Picked in the same draft, he has developed quite a bit better in Milwaukee. As another restricted free agent, he migth become available if the Bucks can't manage to shed enough salary to keep him and Ramon Sessions otherwise. Though Portland is likely not his preferred destination when he can start somewhere else.

So that's it for the power forward position. Anything that especially strikes you? Other players you would like to compare to Channing or LaMarcus?

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