Strength-4: Identifying the Next Wave of Wing Connectors
Part Two on the traits of successful NBA 4 men, which prospects could embody them, and a brief glimpse through the looking glass to see what trends may come next
Part One of this series was vital as a philosophical thinkpiece and identification of a trend: teams were winning in the NBA by having a smaller, more versatile 4-man than ever before. Having one veteran role player at the 4 with defensive acumen has a correlation to success through the regular season and into the playoffs.
That’s the what. Here in Part Two, we hope to answer the why.
Right off the bat, several overlap points come when looking at successful archetypes like PJ Tucker, Jae Crowder, Robert Covington, Grant Williams, and Dorian Finney-Smith:
Size - all players are somewhere from 6’6” to 6’9” and, ideally, have decent length.
Exceptional strength - few offensive players can displace them on the block one-on-one. There are countless examples where isolation scorers get them in the pinch post and cannot easily back them down. They hold their ground and meet contact with a strong chest.
High defensive IQ - Being a defensive specialist doesn’t just mean following around another star player and beating the crap out of them physically. A great deal of awareness goes into avoiding switches, being a good team defender, neutralizing threats at other positions… and taking on the mental gamesmanship of outdueling the best in the world when they have an advantage.
Workable catch-and-shoot impact - There have been many potential defensive specialists who can fit the mold put forth by these five guys, including Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Andre Roberson. MKG and Roberson got played off the floor in postseason series in a way that these guys haven’t. The main reason is competence in standing on the perimeter and hitting open 3-pointers.
Accepting their role - The biggest X-factor between why some role players make it and others do not is their willingness to fully embrace what they’re being asked. These guys don’t average 15 points per game or get montage highlights on YouTube after every game. For this role in particular, it takes a special person to thrive year after year and become a professional star-stopper.