In basketball, a stretch four (or cornerman) is a player who plays in the power forward position. "Stretch" describes the effect such a player has on the opposition defense, and the power forward position is also known as the "four position"; hence "stretch four". The stretch four is a fairly recent innovation in the NBA (with an "explosion" of players coming through since the 1999-2000 season), but is still becoming increasingly common in today's game, as many NBA coaches now utilize the "small-ball" line-up/tactical play.
Style of Play
Power forwards (PF's) traditionally play close to the basket, using their size and strength to provide interior defense, posting-up (scoring close to the basket) and rebounding. A stretch four is a player that is of power forward size but has superior shooting skills (especially three-point jump shots). While using these skills on offense, the player retains the ability to defend the opposing power forward.
Stretch fours are tactically employed in this way to "stretch" the opponent's defense. The ability to score a high-percentage of catch-and-shoot three-point shots from distance (the distinct feature of a stretch four) causes defensive problems for the opposing team, as it pulls the opposing (and crucially, defending) power forward out of the low post area, opening up driving lanes for guards to exploit (these can be running lanes or passing lanes) and results in more post space and potentially scoring and rebounding opportunities for the center player.
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Whilst the term "cornerman" is now used interchangeably with "stretch-four", it should be noted that the traditional use of the term cornerman was for a player who was frequently deployed in either of the forward positions in the team. Whilst most stretch fours could play the small forward position, if necessary, many are strictly utilized in the power forward position, or sometimes restricted to just the power forward/center positions (lacking the requisite small forward play element of a cornerman). Strictly speaking, not all forwards are cornermen (and vice versa).[unreliable source?]
Some cornermen are versatile enough to play three positions (the two forward positions and one additional position), examples include those skilled enough to also play the shooting guard position (i.e. they are both a swingman and a cornerman, such as LeBron James or Paul Pierce). Meanwhile other cornermen have the requisite abilities to play both forward positions and the center position. These players are typically very tall (6'9" or greater) cornermen like Kevin Garnett, Juwan Howard, and Clifford Robinson. Some of these players, such as LeBron James, also have very good play-making, ball-handling and passing abilities (especially in relation to their size), and hence can add a fourth position to their repertoire - that of the point guard (these forwards are known as point forwards).
Players who play as a Stretch Four/Cornerman
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Kevin Love of the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers, Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks, Miami Heat's Chris Bosh and Ryan Anderson of the New Orleans Pelicans are players characterized as being stretch fours. Most stretch fours range from 6'9" to 7' in height. Further examples of stretch fours include Ersan Ilyasova, Mirza Teletović and LaMarcus Aldridge.
Cornermen are usually shorter (6'6" to 6'10), they are often distance volume-scoring, athletic small forwards and are moved to the four position to emulate the stretch-four style of play; Rashard Lewis, Derrick Williams, Lamar Odom, Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony are examples of such players .[original research?]
Elgin Baylor, who is one of the greatest cornermen in the history of basketball, and James Worthy are some of the historic basketball figures that fit this description. In addition to those named above, Al-Farouq Aminu, James Johnson, Matt Barnes, Marcus Morris, Draymond Green, Tobias Harris, Shawn Marion, Paul Pierce, Josh Smith and Rudy Gay among the notable cornermen in the NBA today. Good examples of Euroleague cornermen are Georgios Printezis and Victor Khryapa. In the women's game, perhaps the archetypal "cornerman" is Candace Parker; when she was playing college basketball at Tennessee, she was simultaneously listed on the Lady Vols' roster as a center, forward, and guard.
The cornerman position has become especially important in international play, where three-point shooting and floor spacing are more important due to the zone defenses implemented by many international teams, as well as the shorter three-point line (compared to the NBA). In recent years, the U.S. men's senior basketball team has exemplified the importance of the international cornerman by playing players such as LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony as cornermen in international play, in order to make use of their size and skills.
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- NBA.com: Elgin Baylor Bio