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October 25, 2006

Sizing up the centers

The Rivals.com Elite Team centers have success with contrasting styles of play. Third-teamer Kosta Koufos has a finesse, European-style face-up game. Second teamer DeAndre Jordan is a long, springy athlete, and first teamer Kevin Love has an old-school skill game. Here is a look at how all three Rivals.com Elite Team centers get their jobs done.

How do they score?

Love - Never afraid to bury his man down low and score on power moves, Love scores off an effective inside pivot when posting outside the lane. Very much like Tim Duncan, Love will freeze his man with the pivot and then bank a smooth jumper off the glass. If his man plays the shot, Love will spin into him and use his wide body to get an edge for his accurate jump hook.

Love also has a knack for knowing when his man is worn out from banging down low. He will step out to the 3-point line for an uncontested jumper. It is his long-range shooting that will carry him in the NBA, where he will be very effective in the two-man game with another scorer.

As mentioned at the beginning, Love's power game often sends him to the line - where he shoots a high percentage. If he gets his man up in the air on a shot fake, he can hit the pull-up jumper off the bounce.

Jordan - With his length and athleticism, Jordan is most dangerous as an offensive rebounder. His post moves are rapidly coming along, but he still needs some more strength and repetition. One thing Jordan showed this summer, is that he is going to be able to score with his right hand as well as his dominant left hand. A jump hook off a spin move is becoming a threat.

Right now Jordan's range extends to 15 feet, and he is a much more comfortable shooter from that distance than he was a year ago. I also expect his range to increase.

He doesn't have a pull-up game yet, but Jordan is capable of getting to the basket with a couple dribbles along the baseline or from the high post.

Koufos - Most comfortable facing the basket, Koufos has no problem operating from well behind the 3-point line. We're talking about a 7-footer who isn't afraid to dribble into a 3-pointer or use a cross-over dribble to drive past his man.

Koufos can also score down low, but he lacks a power game to compliment his jumper. His post moves generally will end with him going away from the basket.

Koufos has the makings of a terrific mid- to long-range scorer, and has the potential of being a scorer off one foot.

Besides scoring what can they do with the ball?

Love - Not the type of player who is going to do a whole lot off the bounce, Love can pass it like a madman. Opponents better not double team Love in the post if he has scorers around him. He's terrific in the high post in the high/low game, and his most unique trait as a passer is his outlet passing.

This fundamentally sound big man also knows how to set a wicked screen.

Jordan - In flashes over the summer, Jordan demonstrated the ability to make plays on the move in the open court. He is not a bad passer out of the double-team, but his skills do need refinement. His passing from the high-post is adequate.

Although distributing the ball is not the strength of Jordan's game, he will eventually be a quality passer.

Koufos - Like Love, Koufos has an advanced feel for passing the ball. Most comfortable facing the basket, Koufos is most dangerous when passing from the perimeter. In fact, the 7-footer has the ability to find scorers off the dribble.

At the next levels, expect to see his passing become one of the hallmarks of Koufos' game.

What do they bring to the table defensively?

Love - Not much of a vertical threat, Love does a great job playing position defense. As long as he doesn't play a quick double-threat scorer, Love bodies up on his man and makes him score over him. He tends to always maintain rebounding position on his man - while still being aware of giving help to teammates.

Certainly Love can be exposed when defending on the perimeter, but he is a top-notch quarterback for any defense. He does a great job stabilizing his team with his constant communication from the back side of the defense.

Jordan - Getting better at banging inside, Jordan is a finesse defender who is capable of harassing shooters in the lane. The critical issue is Jordan's effort. When he plays hard, he is a big-time defensive force around the basket. There have also been times when he struggles to get involved with the play. This instances became rarer, and in fact non-existent, toward the end of the summer.

What is so encouraging in the long run for Jordan is that he has great potential as a perimeter defender.

Koufos - Tough to score over inside because of his length, Koufos is hardly ever overpowered inside. It is the quick face-up player like a Tracy Smith or Delvon Roe who gives him trouble. Koufos tends to play upright and is not the quickest laterally. If he stays in front of his man, however, he is not easy to score over.

What kind of rebounders are they?

Love - A great position rebounder, Love has the hunger and hands to dominate the boards. He proves that basketball is more about controlling horizontal space than it is about controlling vertical space. Love is very good at rebounding his misses, but he is a better overall defensive rebounder than offensive rebounder.

Jordan - Certainly able to win the vertical rebound, Jordan must develop more strength to be able to control the boards. Better as an offensive rebounder, Jordan is very quick to the ball and garners a couple tip dunks in most games.

Koufos - Solid on both ends, but Koufos has room to improve as a rebounder. Rarely does he rebound a ball out of his area. Koufos is good, however, at holding his position and winning the 50/50 ball. He has good hands and size as a rebounder, but his hunger for the ball could be better.

How do they impact the transition game?

Love - Love can ignite his team's transition game with his outlet passes. With precision, Love easily hits teammates with length-of-the-court chest passes for non-dribble lay-ins.

Although not the fastest guy on the court, Love is the sharpest. He's always looking for that easy bucket where he runs past lazy defenders.

Jordan - Able to bust out with a couple dribbles after a defensive rebound, Jordan can get to the rim in a hurry after giving up the ball. He does need to improve his awareness of the open man up the court, however.

Jordan is also fully capable of filling the wing and finishing at the basket with authority.

Koufos - Along with Love, Koufos is a serious threat filling the trailer position on the break. Occasionally he will get out on the wing, but more times than not Koufos will be in the middle of the floor - either trailing the play or occasionally out in front with the ball.



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