Today we review the power forwards, also known as 4s. A word about the 4 in modern basketball parlance. I initially wrote this as power forwards, but the Gophers only have one true power forward on the roster in Jordan Murphy. For that matter, Murphy is a non-traditional power forward.
In the old days, a 4 was a back to the basket player who did almost all of their work in the low post. The most recent true power forward that donned maroon and gold was Trevor Mbakwe. In the last decade (though examples can be found from before), the 4 now may refer to players who have the size to play the 4 but operate on the perimeter. The Gophers' current forwards embody both of these archetypes.
Who played minutes?
Jordan Murphy and Eric Curry. Murphy followed up a strong freshman campaign with an All Big Ten Third Team appearance. After a rough opening to the season, the sophomore had a frank discussion with his coaches and began dominating competition. He was a double double machine in the back half of the Big Ten season.
Eric Curry showed lots of potential as a freshman. He was frequently the first player off the bench as a result of foul trouble by starters, and performed well for a freshman. Unlike Murphy, Curry liked to operate farther from the basket. He showed a nice jump shot and good passing skills on offense. In addition, Curry was responsible for a variety of "winning plays" throughout the season. The most notable of these was a tip out to set up Akeem Springs winning layup against Indiana.
Forwards Per 100 Possessions
Forwards Statistical Profile
Murphy is a dominant rebounder and low post scorer despite his size. He continues to possess great athleticism and timing. Thus far, Murphy gets his points by either bullying his defender or off put backs.
Curry showed off a good passing game for a big man. He also showed range out to the three point line throughout the season, and has good shooting form. That shooting form bodes well for future growth as a jump shooter. On defense, Curry had a knack for making key hustle plays, and held his own against bigger players.
They got better over the course of the season, but Jordan Murphy needs to get in the gym and work on his free throws. During his slump, it was actually mathematically better to send him to the free throw line than let him shoot anywhere closer than 12 feet. In addition, Murphy still needs to improve his foul percentage in order to stay on the court as much as possible. The frontcourt of Murphy and Lynch can be dominant when they stay on the court, and the Gophers’ success will likely depend on them avoiding fouls. Murphy also is not a threat beyond about 8 feet from the basket, which made it easier for teams to guard him when the Gophers did not have lots of shooters on the floor.
Curry for some reason has a weird tendency to miss layups. I hope this is just statistical noise, but perhaps a few Mikan drills in the offseason. He also needs to improve his decision making, not surprising for a freshman. On defense, Curry had a tendency to bite on fakes and leave his feet. These are all easily fixable, and Curry has a lot of potential going forward to be a weapon on offense.
Projection for next season
Jordan Murphy and Eric Curry return for their junior and sophomore seasons respectively. Murphy will continue to be the starter and should hopefully use the offseason to work on developing some kind of jump shot and on his ball handling. Curry will need to improve across the board because he’s a freshman. This should mean a big leap in his play next season, which should be exciting for fans. Curry will likely continue to grow into a stretch 4. If he is able to make that transition this offseason, the Gophers will have multiple options for lineups.
The other player who is slated to return is Davonte Fitzgerald. The transfer missed all of this season with another knee injury. Fitzgerald is supposed to be an athletic player who can defend multiple positions, but that requires him to be able to be healthy enough to be on the floor. At the beginning of the season, I would be mildly surprised if Fitzgerald came off the bench before Curry.