The right physique doesn’t guarantee a slam dunkProfessional basketball players are blessed with the physical means to excel on the court, but that doesn’t mean they have no limitations. Forwards who fail to grab rebounds, centers who can’t dunk, and shooters who miss from beyond the arc are not hard to find.
Kim Min-soo of the SK Knights, a runner-up for last season’s Rookie of the Year, is a forward who averages 4.4 rebounds per game. That puts him 21st among the top rebounders, but well below Chris Alexander of the LG Sakers, who leads the league with 10 rebounds.
Born in Argentina to an Argentine father and a Korean mother, Kim has an impressive vertical leap.
“Once he jumps, he has enough hang time to boil a pot of ramen and eat it before he lands,” joked one SK official.
Despite his excellent leap and hang time, Kim shies away from defense and battling for rebounds in the paint. Instead, he focuses on dunking and putting points on the board.
Song Young-jin of the KT Sonic Boom is another forward who doesn’t always grab rebounds. Known for his excellent defense, the 198-centimeter (6-foot-4) Song’s average of 2.92 rebounds per game this season falls short of other forwards, and even of guards Lee Jung-suk of the Samsung Thunders (3.57) and Joo Hee-jung of the SK Knights (3.49). But instead of having Song battle for rebounds in the low post, the KT coaching staff keep him in the perimeter to shoot when the opportunity arises.
Then there is a big man who can’t dunk. Ham Ji-hoon of the Mobis Phoebus is considered one of the league’s top centers. While he’s respected for his intelligent play, Ham has never dunked. “I have yet to dunk since I took up basketball in my youth. My vertical leap is below the league average,” Ham said.
Listed at 198 centimeters, Ham’s shortcomings are difficult to understand if you consider 182-centimeter (5-foot-9) Samsung guard Lee Sang-min, who regularly dunked earlier in his career. To avoid getting blocked, Ham uses an assortment of fakes and pivot work.
It’s not just domestic players who come up short. Terrence Leather and Ivan Johnson of the KCC Egis, widely considered the best overseas pair in the league this season, respectively average 0.28 and 0.27 blocks per game. This makes them the two worst among overseas players.
The irony does not stop there. Yoon Ho-young of the Dongbu Promy connects on 61.6 percent of his shots, making him the league’s eighth-best shooter from the field. But while he connects on 70.1 percent of his attempts from two-point range, his accuracy plummets to 17.1 percent beyond the three-point line. Byun Hyun-soo of the SK Knights is another guard with a limited range.
When assessing such players, head coaches around the league use the “what if” factor.
“If Yoon can connect on his three-point shots, he can become the best player in the league,” said Kang Dong-hee, Dongbu’s head coach.
“If Byun improves his three-point shots, he can become a player in the class of Cho Sung-won,” said SK head coach Shin Sun-woo.
By Kim Woo-chul, Jason Kim [firstname.lastname@example.org]