With the increase in smaller lineups used by a lot of teams (Heat, Knicks, Denver to name a few) the power forward position might have the widest array of talent sets in the league. The position ranges from Lebron James to Blake Griffin to Ryan Anderson to Tim Duncan to Zach Randolph to Dirk Nowitzki. So obviously, the four spot is absolutely riddled with talent. And since there are so many players I want to touch on I’m just going to get right to it.
Players who played themselves out of contention in the playoffs
Chris Bosh (Miami Heat)- I know he technically plays center but c’mon you’re not fooling anyone. He’s basically a power forward who plays like a small forward but is forced to lineup at center. You following this? It’s weird. This lack of identity has seen his playoff numbers drop for three straight years, culminating in the embarrassing beat down he received at the hands of the Pacers’ and Spurs’ front courts. 0 points in Game 7 of the finals?! Jeez.
David Lee (Golden State Warriors)- Ok, he didn’t really play in the playoffs buuuuuut Golden State blossomed as soon as he was out of the lineup. Coincidence? Or was it the fact that he’s possibly the worst defender in the NBA and takes offensive touches away from The Splash Brothers and Harrison Barnes?
After that debacle, here are the guys that didn’t “qualify” to be ranked this year (but probably would)
Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves)- Not counting Lebron James (he’s just not fair) Love would be the best player at this position. He grabs rebounds at a freakish rate (14.0, 13.3, 15.2 since becoming starter) despite not being known for his jumping ability or height like many other top rebounders AND he can stretch the floor all the way to the three point line. Unfortunately though, the time has come to start questioning the guy’s durability. A groin injury and multiple hand breaks have kept Love out of a third of games including all but 18 last year. No matter how great of a player you are, if you can’t stay on the court, it’s hard to be labeled “elite”. Just ask Grant Hill. But for defensive reasons, Minnesota would be smart to pair him with a Larry Sanders style front court partner (but when have the Timberwolves front office done anything smart?) instead of the equally flat footed Pekovic.
Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas Mavericks) and Pau Gasol (Los Angeles Lakers)- These future HOFers had three things in common last year: injuries, management issues, and #DwightHowardProblems. For Pau he had to play with the guy. This pushed Pau’s game a little farther from the basket…and a little more on the bench…than he was used to. For Dirk, he missed out on playing with the guy who could have filled a Tyson Chandler sized hole in his defense heart. As for management, Pau had to deal with two coaches, neither of which used him to his full potential while Dirk had to put up with Mark Cuban, who has successfully demolished the Mavericks championship team, missed out on Deron Williams, Chris Paul AND Dwight (twice now) and essentially trapped Dirk on a team that will most likely miss the playoffs next year. Wait they signed Monta Ellis? Oh, then they will definitely miss the playoffs. Same goes for Pau’s Lakers if he remains there.
Both of these guys are young and could make a big jump next year.
Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans)- If Davis hadn’t missed the beginning of the season (during which Lillard came out swinging and got off to a HUGE start) we may have had a debate on ROY last year. If he can continuing improving into his sophomore year, the Pelicans are a dark horse to steal that eighth seed in the West.
Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets)- The word that best describes Faried is “motor”. He never stops. He gets to every loose ball, every rebound that takes a wayward carom, and most of all, every one’s nerves. His constant motion and physical tendencies have gotten under more than a few people’s skin the past season but they would be lying if they said they didn’t want him as a teammate.
Best of the Rest
Serge Ibaka (Oklahoma City Thunder)- He will be unfairly linked to the James Harden deal until OKC can win a title (which is far from guaranteed) but there is no denying that Ibaka is an impact player. With his intuitive help defense and incredible jumping ability he makes driving the lane a nightmare for opposing players. His evolution from a purely athletic follow up dunker (think Tyson Chandler) to an elite midrange jump shooter over, seemingly, one offseason was impressive. If he can make similar advances in his game this offseason, perhaps adding some better back-to-the-basket moves, he could make the jump into the Top 5 next year.
Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers)- Two years ago Griffin broke onto the scene averaging 22 and 12 as a “rookie” and looking like the most explosive player of his generation. Fast forward a couple years and he’s still the same old player. His offensive progression has seen his post game develop into average at best, no defenders respect his jumpshot, and while having possibly the highest vertical in the game, has yet to average a block per game in any season. Meanwhile, his scoring and rebounding have dropped every season as defenders adapt to his ever-unadapting game. If he spent more time working on his game and less time on KIA commercials and dunk contests maybe their wouldn’t be rumors that Chris Paul (and a growing media population) thinks he is “soft”. And if all of that wasn’t enough to warrant an admittance from the Top 5, the fact that he gets benched during close fourth quarters due to his abysmal free throw shooting and inconsistent defense should be enough to sway you
Lamarcus Aldridge (Portland Trail Blazers)- Quietly, over in Portland, Lamarcus Aldridge has been suffering through a career riddled with more disappointment than a stripper’s parents. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a great player who has contributed since he debuted but just look at the events that have unfolded around him since he was drafted…
I bring to you……“Bad Luck Lamarcus”
Buck up Lamarcus, I notice you. Just not enough to put you in my Top 5.
David West (Indiana Pacers)- He’s not going to win over any fans with his brutish style but he sets the tone for Indiana with his toughness and grit. Like two behemoth playground bullies, West and partner Roy Hibbert helped push the Heat to game 7 in the playoffs. That performance earned West a 3-year, $36 million deal. Hopefully that rivalry continues to grow, it’s the best one the East has to offer now that Boston has officially dismantled.
Finally…The Top 5
5. Josh Smith (Detroit Pistons)
Here’s the list of players that averaged 17+ points, 7+ rebounds, and 4+ assists last year: Lebron James, Kevin Durant, Paul George and Josh Smith. Ratchet the rebounds up to 8 per game and goodbye KD and George. Add the caveat of one steal and one block per game and only one remains: Josh Smith. So how come he doesn’t get nearly as much respect as those other guys? He has been the best player on his team, which he’s led to the playoffs every year since 2008 nonetheless, and routinely puts up those stat lines but has never made an All-Star game. Hopefully a change of scenery in Detroit will get him to focus on playing more efficiently. The perception of him as a guy who “never maximized his talents” could switch to “elite” if he stops chucking low percentage outside jumpers. Cut back on those and maybe that All-Star drought will change too.
4. Kevin Garnett (Brooklyn Nets)
The days where KG steps out and drops 20, 20, 7 are long gone but he still has a large impact on his team. It may not show in the box score as his numbers aren’t what they used to be but his defensive awareness, intensity, basketball IQ, and leadership qualities are still unmatched. He’s a coach on the court and masterfully coordinates his teammates on defense. It’s going to be really weird seeing him in a Nets jersey but at least now we have the pleasure of watching him compete deep in to the playoffs again. He’s shown that he leaves a little in the tank for the playoffs with continuously strong playoff outings. Or at least that’s what the Nets and their $22 billion payroll hope.
3. Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks)
Carmelo is an incredibly polarizing player. On one side he might be the most complete scorer in the NBA and, along with Steph Curry and KD, he might be the most dangerous White Hot guy in the league (remember this bit in the Olympics). But on the other hand, it’s time to look at the big picture and question what he has accomplished. He’s advanced past the second round ONCE in ten seasons. He doesn’t seem to make the people around him better (mostly because he doesn’t facilitate ball movement too well) much in the same way Vince Carter did in his prime. Watching him, you get the vibe he would rather be the best player on a losing team than the second best on a winning team (maybe that’s just me). Regardless, there is no denying his talent. Few players can take over a game quite like Carmelo Anthony.
2. Tim Duncan (San Antonio Spurs)
I like to think of Tim Duncan as the best player of his generation (yes, better than Kobe, he was the best player on EVERY one of his championship teams). Right now, he’s a little long in the tooth but like a fine wine, just keeps getting better with age. Well, not better per se, but at least not losing a step. His cerebral and stoic approach to the game may not be entertaining (to most people at least, I find his footwork and pinpoint outlet passes to be poetic) but he’s been getting the job done and defying odds since he entered the league. Every year is Duncan’s “last year playing at this level” but he never drops off. Ever. Or smiles. Ever. Just an indifferent barrage of defensive rebounds, putbacks, drop steps, off-glass bankers, and Tony-Parker-freeing picks. He’s everything JR Smith isn’t. Probably sometime after leading the Spurs to a title in the 2020’s.
1. Lebron James (Miami Heat)
Despite a Google search and a full day of watching ESPN, I can’t find any news on this guy. I’ve only heard from a couple insiders that he is “a dark horse to break out next year”. I’m just trying to get him some recognition before the rest of the world catches up. In fact it might even be Lejon Brames and I just misheard his name. Either way, keep an eye open for a 6’9” freakazoid with “the ability to play and defend every position”. Yeah….I’ll believe it when I see it.
tweet me @chris_barbee19 and let me know what you think.
Coming Next Week….Top 5 Small Forwards
 Deepest position other than point guard in my opinion. Best positions in the NBA right now in order: Point Guard, Power Forward, Shooting Guard, Center, Small Forward (because I’m counting Lebron and Melo as PF)
 Me neither.
 That’s an ill-timed comment considering they essentially traded OJ Mayo for Kevin Love on draft night. But I don’t care, one trade does not make a GM. Yeah I’m talking to you too Joe Dumars.
 At least until another 23 year old phenom entering his prime is traded for a bucket of dirt.
 WARNING: The decisions to bench Griffin were made by Vinny Del Negro and do not necessarily reflect the views of a competent head coach.
 2013 edition: Has another chance at a great young duo/ Piano falls on Damian Lillard’s head.
 Here are Garnett’s rebounding totals for the Knicks series last year: 9, 11, 17, 17, 18, 10. Might I add the Celtics also held the Knicks to 85, 87, 90, 90, 86, 88. I say KG’s still got it.
 This is the nicest way I could think of to say he’s a ball hog.
 Or at least one missed tip back from being the best…too soon?