#FIBAAsia2015: The top five FIBA Asia power forwards right now
Less than two months remain before the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship in Changsha, China. As of this writing, most of the perceived title contenders have already begun training for the all-important competition that will reward just one country with an outright berth in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
As a run-up to that tournament, I will be posting a series of articles focusing on key players with whom we need to be familiar. These range from the newcomers, the breakout ballers, the tried-and-tested veterans, the local stars, the naturalized players and the top cagers per position.
In the previous post in this series, we looked at the top five FIBA Asia small forwards. These are some of the most versatile players on the planet.
In this issue, we’ll look at maybe the most peculiar position in basketball – the power forward position. A PF, in the traditional sense, is smaller than the center, but a little bigger than any of the wingmen. He is not really supposed to man the middle, but he should be inside. Typically, he is not the first option in the low block, but he would do well not to shoot from way out, too. It’s perhaps one of the toughest positions to fill simply because a PF, again, is expected to possess the skills of both a center and a small forward without being “too much” of either position.
It is no surprise, then, that these muddled responsibilities and varying skill sets are present in Asian PFs. It is with this context that we look at the top five FIBA Asia Power Forwards.
*These rankings are based solely on my observations and analyses. I’ve only included those who have played in the 2014 FIBA World Cup or at least one of the last three major continental tournaments (2013 FIBA Asia Championship, 2014 FIBA Asia Cup, and 2014 Asian Games) or are certainly playing in the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship.
Amjyot Singh – India, 23 years old, 6’8
2014 FIBA Asia Cup: 14.7ppg, 6.9rpg, 1.7spg, 54.4 FG%
- This native of Chandigarh is one of the rising stars in Asian basketball, with the rare combo of wingman skills in a 6’8 frame. I mean, talents like Amjyot are uncommon outside the People’s Republic of China. In the past few years, the versatile frontliner has become a focal point of India’s resurgence, all culminating in their huge upset of the Chinese in the 2014 FIBA Asia Cup. Along with fellow big man Amrit Pal Singh, Amjyot blazed a new trail for Indian hoopsters as he joined the Hyogo Impulse in the BJ Challenge Summer League in Japan. That effectively made him and Amrit Pal the first native Indians to play professional basketball abroad. This year, Amjyot is expected to lead his team anew as they try to continue their rise despite losing one of the biggest reasons for their improvement — American coach Scott Flemmin.
Oshin Sahakian – Iran, 29 years old, 6’7
Current club & stats: Mahram Teran (Superleague): 7.3ppg, 6.1rpg, 1.5apg, 49.8 FG%
2014 FIBA World Cup: 4.2ppg, 3.2rpg, 55.6 FG%
- In a recent interview, Iranian big man Oshin Sahakian was quoted as saying that he and his teammates were the best players in Asia. Going by his (he was the best power forward of the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship) and his team’s track record (Iran has won 3 of the last 4 FIBA Asia titles), it’s hard to argue the contrary, but that doesn’t mean Iran is a shoo-in to win. They’re the favorites, sure, but with their relatively advanced age, it’s also possible Father Time may be catching up and this may be the last time this golden generation plays together.
Zaid Abbas – Jordan, 33 years old, 6’8
Current club & stats: Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons (CBA): 12.4ppg, 10.0rpg, 1.6spg, 1.8apg, 60.3 FG%
2011 FIBA Asia Championship: 11.0ppg, 7.1rpg, 1.1apg, 1.2spg, 45.8 FG%, 34.6 3pt%
- Abbas is expected to make a triumphant comeback to the FIBA Asia stage this year after he skipped the 2013 joust in Manila. He’s been playing basketball non-stop for the better part of the past 5 or so years, owing to his being one of the most sought after Asian imports in the Chinese Basketball Association. His size, skill-set, and consistency make him a rare commodity, and it’ll be a treat to see him play for Al Nashama again in Fiba Asia 2015.
Yi Jianlian – China, 28 years old, 7’0
Current club & stats: Guangdong Southern Tigers (CBA): 27.6ppg, 10.8rpg, 1.3apg, 1.7spg, 57.8 FG%
2013 FIBA Asia Championship: 17.4ppg, 6.6rpg, 1.6apg, 57.9 FG%
- Given his list of accolades, it’s pretty amazing that Yi Jianlian is still not even 30 years old. This guy is just reaching his prime, and it’ll be interesting to see if that translates to his dominance in this year’s tournament. Yi and his teammates have always played much better on home soil, and they are expected to be a very strong contender to unseat Iran’s hold on the throne. Yi will also be expected to be the undisputed leader of the Big Red Machine on and off the court as he is projected to be surrounded by much younger talents who stand to benefit from his example and tutelage. Health was an issue two years ago, but he’s looking fit now, so we should all see him play at a much more productive rate.
Tien Lei – Taiwan, 32 years old, 6’8
Current club & stats: Tianjin Steel (CBA): 9.2ppg, 3.1rpg, 1.2spg, 1.9 triples per game, 38.0 3pt%, 50.6 FG%
2013 FIBA Asia Championship: 9.9ppg, 4.6rpg, 2.2apg, 1.3 triples per game, 36.4 3pt%, 42.2 FG%
- Tien Lei is the paragon of stretch-forwards in the Asian scene. At 6’8, he can cause mismatches at the swingman spot while also being a solid choice at the 4. He also sometimes moonlights as a small-ball slotman for the Taiwanese, who are looking to build on their breakthrough top 4 finish in 2013 by bringing back their vaunted veteran core for maybe one last run. Together with Tseng Wen-Ting, Wu Tai-Hao, Lin Chih-Chieh, Lee Hsueh-Lin, and Lu Cheng-Ju, Tien is hoping for an even more amazing Cinderella run in 2015.
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