Wednesday, February 22, 2012

All in with the Spartan Front Court

A look at the recent the play of Derrick Nix (Jr. 6'9"- 270lb), Branden Dawson (Fr. 6'6"- 220lb), Adreian Payne (So. 6'10"- 240lb) and Draymond Green (Sr. 6'7"- 230lb).

Michigan State has one of the most devastating front courts in college basketball. Together they average 39 points and 23 rebounds. However, it's not pure offensive numbers that make them tough. There's more to their build then just stats. This Spartan front court production has to be witnessed to be seen. During the current 5-game winning streak these players have physically and mentally wore down opponents with big defensive stops, offensive rebounding and explosive buckets at the rim. 

Nix coming off the bench gives Michigan State a big time advantage when it comes to the center position. They are able to run starting center, Payne at the opposing team's center for 6 to 7 minutes hard and then come with a fresh Nix off the bench to bang at them some more. The front court toughness also comes from the relentless attacking of the rim that Dawson and Green present on the defensive and offensive glass. One common theme from the current 5-game winning streak is that Michigan State's front court is simply wearing opponents out. The double digit margin victories and opponent's average field percentage of 34% during the past 5 games are further evidence of this.

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Derrick Nix is becoming a force. The last two games he has been the bench for MSU scoring 12 points each time out. Nix is not just a offensive factor. His defense and rebounding make up a major part of the Spartan toughness. Coming off the bench may have played a factor in early season inconsistency. Regardless, if the offensive numbers aren't there every night he still has brings out tons of effort every game out. The past three games Nix is starting to define himself as a Michigan State leader with his play. His defense against Ohio State star forward Jared Sullinger was superb, the offensive moves he's displayed against Wisconsin and Purdue are making Spartan fans believers.

Nix's nimble feet and soft touch reminds me of a 'Zach Randolph' type of game. Which is an efficient low to ground game with a soft touch at the rim. Nix still has plenty of work to go before he's compared to other great Spartan BIGS, but the maturity that he's shown this year buying in to the program is making me go all in with him. Nix averages about 8 points and 4 rebounds a game. The minutes will go up if he can stand it.

AP Photo
Branden Dawson is really coming in his own as a freshman. When he came in to East Lansing, there were many who compared him to a 'Raymar Morgan' type of player. He definitely has the same caliber of skill as Morgan, but there seems to be more fire or 'swag' with Dawson, maybe it's the Gary, IN in him that makes him great. Most games this season Dawson has looked like the most athletic player on the court from either team. His athleticism is displayed with his fierce play at the rim typified with explosive dunks. He is averaging 9 points and 7 rebounds his past 5 games. Against Purdue, Dawson went off with a double-double of his own, 15 points and 11 rebounds. Watching Dawson on the offensive glass is like watching him play against 7th graders. He just has more bounce then anyone in the B1G off the floor. Scary thing is he's still just a freshman and very raw.

AP Photo
Andreian Payne's coming out party was in his home state in Columbus against Ohio State. AP came out that game with such a purpose hitting a 18 foot corner jumper the first possession, swish! It was the first 2 points of a career-high 15 for the game. Payne outplayed his AAU teammate Jared Sullinger, whom he had many practices against. Payne had 12 points prior to the Ohio State game against Penn State. Although Payne has struggled to remain consistent in his offensive production he like Nix has learned how to effect the game in other ways with blocks and rebounds. Payne has a NBA body in the making and a nice stoke from the outside that will develop in time. He has been a game changer in many games with his thunderous put back dunks and alley-opp throw downs.

Terry Gilliam/Associated Press
Draymond Green gives MSU the ultimate advantage. A true inside-out threat from the 3 or 4 positions on the floor. Green can handle the ball up top, on the wing and on the block. Along with his skill set, there's the immeasurable aspects of his game like leadership and high basketball IQ make him so valuable to this Spartan team. One asset that Green's game has always had was his passing ability. He displayed it when first got to MSU and he has only gotten better as a facilitator this year (100 assists, 2nd on team). Being able to guard the other team's best player is something Green has become accustom to. Defensively, he leads the Spartans in steals (37) and is 2nd in blocked shots (25). Green is averaging around 18 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists during the current 5-game winning streak. He has reached a double-double in 4 of the past 5 games to give him total of 15 for the season which leads the B1G. 

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