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The Top Forwards in Asia for 2017
MANILA (Enzo Flojo's Asia on My Mind) - Guards dominate the floor in Asian basketball, but that doesn't mean wingmen and frontliners did not have their spot in the limelight this 2017.
On the contrary, forwards aplenty performed impressively this year, and my column for this week will present the top small forwards and power forwards who played in Asia for 2017. Like last week's lists of top guards, the lists you will find below are compiled based on production and not hype or potential. I only deal with the numbers, which means my principal basis is empirically grounded. The players you will see are chosen based on their quantifiable impact on the games in which they played. In addition, I only considered those who played in either or both the FIBA Asia Cup 2017 and the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Asian Qualifiers first window.
After listing the top five for each forward position, I also included a shortlist of three players who nearly made it to the top five. These are the players who are "outside looking in." They're not in the top five, but we should still watch out for them in the near future.
This is the second of three parts, and the final one next week will focus on the top centers and the top five players overall.
Here are the top 5 small forwards and top 5 power forwards in Asia for 2017.
Fadi El Khatib (Lebanon)
Stats per game - 25.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.6 assists.
Isn't it amazing how a 38-year-old player was still the best small forward in Asia this year? The man called The Lebanese Tiger was absolutely amazing for Lebanon, scoring 30 or more points in four of their seven contests at the FIBA Asia Cup 2017. The 1.98m wingman may already be retired from international play, but he still bows out in style as the best small forward in the continent.
Anatoliy Kolesnikov (Kazakhstan)
Stats per game - 16.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.5 steals.
The half-Australian, half-Kazakh Kolesnikov missed the FIBA Asia Cup 2017, but he certainly made his presence felt in the Asian Qualifiers, where he was instrumental in giving Kazakhstan two wins after the first window. The 2.00m forward was brilliant for the Steppe Wolves, especially in their huge win over Iraq, where he drilled in 21 points on top of 9 boards, 4 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks.
Ding Yanyuhang (China)
Stats per game - 19.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.0 three-pointers.
The CBA Most Valuable Player had a ho-hum outing against Hong Kong in China's opener at the Asian Qualifiers, but he more than made up for that by exploding for 30 points against bitter rivals Korea in their next match. The 2.00m swingman could hardly be stopped when he wanted to score, and, not surprisingly, China went on to bag a tremendous triumph on the road in Goyang.
Kevin Galloway (Iraq)
Stats per game - 15.3 points, 9.5 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 3.0 steals.
When one talks about do-it-all players in Asia, Galloway should be part of the conversation. Iraq's naturalized small forward served as the country's lynchpin at the FIBA Asia Cup 2017, where it seemed like everything the team did began and ended with him. At 2.00m, he has great size for a wingman, and he can play pretty much every position for Iraq, proving his worth as their most productive player.
Reuben Te Rangi (New Zealand) - 13.8
Stats per game - 12.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists.
Te Rangi was solid if not spectacular for the Tall Blacks this year. With the absence of key guys like Mika Vukona and Thomas Abercrombie, Te Rangi filled in the role as New Zealand's Team Captain and top swingman. He accomplished that with aplomb, and his numbers certainly showed it. His most productive game was against Hong Kong, where the 1.98m wingman tallied 16 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, 1 block and 4 three-pointers.
Outside looking in:
Mohammad Jamshidi (Iran)
Gabe Norwood (Philippines)
Jeon JunBeom (Korea)
Oh SeKeun (Korea)
Stats per game - 15.1 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.9 assists.
Korea shone brightly in both the FIBA Asia Cup and Asian Qualifiers, and for sure SeKeun was the biggest reason why. The 2.00m forward was Korea's main scoring option, and delivered big time, hitting double-figures in each of their matches. He will surely want to continue his great showing in the next windows in 2018.
Abudushalamu Abudurexiti (China)
Stats per game - 12.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.5 blocks.
Abudurexiti may not be a household basketball name for China, but that did not stop the 2.03m big man from turning a lot of heads at the Asian Qualifiers. He was splendid in both of China's wins against Hong Kong and Korea, showing great effort on either end of the floor. At just 21 years old, Abudurexiti still has a long way to go, but his performance at the first window should serve notice that a new Chinese kid is ready to take over for Team Dragon.
Finn Delany (New Zealand)
Stats per game - 12.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.3 steals.
Delany was not a daily double-double threat for New Zealand, but what he lacked in consistency, he made up for in explosiveness. For most of the games in the FIBA Asia Cup and in the single game he played in the Asian Qualifiers, the 22-year-old was impressive. He displayed great mobility, athleticism and basketball IQ as he filled in the spot that usually belonged to Isaac Fotu.
Arsalan Kazemi (Iran)
Stats per game - 9.0 points, 9.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.4 steals.
What one has to love about Kazemi is how he makes an impact on a game without the need to score a ton of points. The 27-year-old did not shoot well in the Asian Qualifiers, but he didn't really have to as many of Iran's other players took up the scoring cudgels. The 2.00m power forward can significantly affect a game with his rebounding, playmaking and defense, and that's what makes him so important for Team Melli.
Ira Brown (Japan)
Stats per game - 9.7 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.2 steals, 1.2 blocks.
Much like Kazemi, Japan's naturalized player Ira Brown isn't one of the team's main scoring options, but he doesn't have to toss in a ridiculous amount of points to make a dent in a game's outcome. At only 1.93m, Brown is severely undersized for his position at the international level, but that hasn't stopped the 35-year-old from being a double-double threat for Japan.
Outside looking in:
Lee SeungHyun (Korea)
Zaid Abbas (Jordan)
Anton Ponomarev (Kazakhstan)
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