In basketball, a stretch four (sometimes called combo forward 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 use 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 "combo forward" (or "cornerman") is now used interchangeably with "stretch four", it should be noted that the traditional use of the term combo forward 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 used in the power forward position, or sometimes restricted to just the forward-center position (lacking the requisite small forward play element of a combo forward). Strictly speaking, not all stretch fours are combo forwards (and vice versa).[unreliable source?]
Some combo forwards 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 combo forward (cornerman), such as LeBron James, Paul Pierce, and Paul George). Meanwhile, other combo forwards have the requisite abilities to play both forward positions and the center position. These players are typically very tall (6'9" or greater) combo forwards 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/combo forward/cornerman
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Dirk Nowitzki of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat, Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Ryan Anderson of the Houston Rockets are players characterized as being stretch fours. Most stretch fours range from 6' 9" (2.06 m) to 7' 0" (2.13 m) in height. Further examples of stretch fours include Pau Gasol, Kevin Garnett, LaMarcus Aldridge, Anthony Davis, Serge Ibaka, Ersan Ilyasova, Channing Frye, Patrick Patterson, Mirza Teletović, Andrea Bargnani, Matt Bonner, Andray Blatche, and Keith Van Horn.
Combo Forwards are usually shorter (6' 7" (2.01 m) to 6' 10" (2.08 m)), they are often distance volume-scoring, athletic small forwards and are moved to the four position to emulate the stretch-four style of play; Larry Bird, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, Draymond Green, Lamar Odom, Rashard Lewis, and Derrick Williams are examples of such players .[original research?]
Elgin Baylor, who is one of the greatest combo forwards 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, Charlie Villanueva, Marcus Morris, Tobias Harris, Shawn Marion, Paul Pierce, Josh Smith, Rudy Gay, Thaddeus Young, Andre Roberson, James McAdoo, and Michael Beasley are among the notable cornermen in the NBA today. Good examples of Euroleague cornermen are Georgios Printezis and Antonis Fotsis. 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 combo forward 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 combo forward by playing players such as LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony as combo forward in international play, in order to make use of their size and skills.
- Pattrick, Hayes (13 March 2013). "The 'Stretch 4s' of the '90s speak on today's perimeter-oriented big men". sbnation.com. VOX Media. Retrieved 5 November 2014.
- "Player Season Finder". basketball-reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved 5 November 2014.
- Harper, Zach (15 October 2013). "Stretch-4s in the NBA: The balance between stretching and defense". CBS Sport. CBS. Retrieved 5 November 2014.
- Wasserman, Jonathan (8 August 2012). "The Evolution and Anatomy of the Combo-Forward". NBADraft.net. Retrieved 5 November 2014.
- "Definition: Cornerman". Sporting Charts. Futures Knowledge. Retrieved 5 November 2014.
- NBA.com: Elgin Baylor Bio