My Top 5 Power Forwards in the League

My Top 5 Power Forwards in the League

Here’s a link to last week’s Top 5 Centers

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[1]. And since there are so many players I want to touch on I’m just going to get right to it.

Detroit Pistons v Phoenix Suns

Before you get your hopes up….No, Charlie V was not considered.

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?[2] 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?[3]) instead of the equally flat footed Pekovic.

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Rough season for these three…

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.

 

Next Generation

Both of these guys are young and could make a big jump next year.

Anthony-Davis-New-Orleans-Pelican-Jerseys

The brow..errr..face of the Pelicans

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[4] 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[5]

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”

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Buck up Lamarcus, I notice you. Just not enough to put you in my Top 5[6].

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)

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Please make us relevant again….PLEASE!!!

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)

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Everything about this picture is bizarre

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[7]. 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[8]) 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)[9]. 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)

yawn

yawn

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


[1] 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)

[2] Me neither.

[3] 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.

[4] At least until another 23 year old phenom entering his prime is traded for a bucket of dirt.

[5] WARNING: The decisions to bench Griffin were made by Vinny Del Negro and do not necessarily reflect the views of a competent head coach.

[6] 2013 edition: Has another chance at a great young duo/ Piano falls on Damian Lillard’s head.

[7] 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.

[8] This is the nicest way I could think of to say he’s a ball hog.

[9] Or at least one missed tip back from being the best…too soon?

Fan Fiction: Lebron James follows in Steve Jobs footsteps by Drew Jurgensen

Not only will the 2014 NBA Draft be an historic one (see ’13 Mock Draft for the details), but the off-season’s other big story arc – free agency – looks to be just as, if not more, promising.  Here’s a quick list of potential[1] free agents in the summer of 2014 (next offseason):

 

Lebron James

Kobe Bryant

Carmelo Anthony

Kyrie Irving

Ricky Rubio

Lebron James

Dwayne Wade

Eric Bledsoe

Lebron James

Paul George

Demarcus Cousins

Andrew Bogut

Evan Turner

Derrick Favors

Kyle Lowry

Lebron James

Andre Iguodala

Luol Deng

Monta Ellis

Rudy Gay

Pau Gasol

Paul Pierce

Dirk Nowitzki

And…Lebron James

 

Now, before you get excited and start picking five guys from the list you would like your team to sign and begin a dynasty with, remember that most of those guys will get re-singed/extended.[2]  But even if say, 1/3 of them remain viable, open-market free agents, we as NBA fans will be in for a treat.

Dolla dolla bill y’all…

The purpose of this post is to make a modest proposal.  And instead of eating his children[3], I propose Lebron James pulls a Steve Jobs.  That’s right – eliminate his salary.  The infamous, iconic, computer/idea guru made $1 as an annual salary (making plenty of cash off shares in the company, for those of you not familiar with the story).  Because of NBA rules, Lebron can’t go that low, but he could accept the veterans minimum and make about $1.5 million a year.  And the best part is: that wouldn’t even count against the cap!![4]

Is it crazy? Yea.  Dumb? Probably.  Would it also be perhaps the greatest thing to ever happen in sports?  Debatable, but definitely in the conversation.   Here’s why he does it:

 

He doesn’t need the money.

 

Just like Jobs, James[5] is doing all right financially.  He was signed to a large rookie contract before the rookie scale, he signed a mega extension with the Cavs after that, and even though he took “less” money to sign with the Heat, he still rakes in about $19 mil a year after incentives.  Anybody could live off that. 

 

And that’s before you even mention his endorsement deals.  Remember when a thin (well comparatively thin) high-school Lebron inked that $90 million deal with Nike?  Yea, not only is that a lot of money, but just like his player contracts, that was also extended.  He also is signed with Coca-Cola (Sprite) and McDonalds, as well owning a share of the Liverpool FC.  He’s got money, is what I’m trying to say. 

 

Now for those of you who say “Drew, sure he’s rich, but leaving a max deal, or even lesser deal on the table could mean losing anywhere from $18-25 million PER YEAR!  Sure he wants to win, but that’s a hefty price for a championship.”

 

For starters, excellent point hypothetical adversary.  However, by simply pointing out rings (at least the kind Lebron seeks) can’t be bought, you’re point becomes pointless.  And yes that’s a lot of money to leave on the table, which is why it would be one of the greatest things in sports history etc.

 

Besides being rich beyond my/our/almost everybody’s wildest dreams, Lebron should do it for his legacy.  I have always been a Lebron fan because I love his talent.  When the decision came and went, suddenly Lebron haters who had been lurking in the shadows, complaining about his lack of rings and “clutchness”, finally had something to truly villianize him with.[6]  Whether or not it was warranted, the hate built.  The “not one, not two, etc.” video fueled it, and an admittedly awful choking in the Finals against the Mavs cemented it.

 

Of course, Lebron turned himself into the best baller since Jordan, won a title, won a gold medal, won (another [few]) MVP’s and remained relatively humble the entire time.  The haters still credit the Heatles for winning the ship (“Jordan never would have left Chicago!” they chant, forgetting he threatened to bolt if they didn’t help him out; enter Scottie Pippen).  But what are you gonna do, haters gon hate.

 

Signing for the minimum wouldn’t make everybody like him, that’s impossible when you’re that famous and successful.  But it would make people view him in a different way.  He can never be Jordan, that’s just unfair – different eras, positions, yada yada.  But he could do something, by basically playing for free, that not even the great winner Michael Jordan ever did.  He would go down as completely unselfish – taking no money, while allowing his teammates to cash in, all for the sake of winning.

 

So there are the reasons he does it: already rich and individualizing his legacy.  Here’s what it might look like:

 

He announces this is his plan and basically every NBA team puts together a proposal.  They tell him what players they have under contract and who they are willing to sign to pair with him (remember the class is chalk-full of talented vets).  Lebron looks, for a moment like an egotistical maniac, basically controlling the direction of every team in the entire league.[7]  However, about a week or two in he adds his caveat: he wants whatever salary he’s worth/would have been paid, to be given to a charity of the owners/teams/fan bases choice.  Another Armageddon like craziness ensues and the league tries to determine if this is legal.[8]

 

And that’s it.  He picks a team that will also sign 3-4 of the guys on the list.  If he picks a relatively bad team, they will add a potential superstar in the loaded class of ’14, and LeaguePass subscriptions will rise by approximately 1 million percent. 

 

Here’s my hope.  He goes down the road to Orlando.  The charity of choice is expanded to cover 100 different ones each receiving about $1 million, some in Orlando, some nationwide, quite a few in Akron/Cleveland.  They trot out this lineup every night:  Marcus Smart – Iguodala – Pierce – James – Nikola Vucevic.  Not historically amazing, but I didn’t mention the bench.  A second line of Kyle Lowry – Aaron Afflalo – Andrew Wiggins (their top pick from 14) – Dirk – Pau.  Not only is that amazing, it’s extremely possible if James only made $1mil and the vets (Pau, Dirk, Pierce) also took cuts, which they would have to do anyways.

 

Scary.

 

And here’s the thing, even though all of this is possible and none of it will happen, Kobe could do it too.[9]


[1] This list includes all types of FA’s as well as players who may or may not opt-out of contracts with player options, and guys who may be cut by GM’s using a team option, or shedding a non-guaranteed contract.  Basically there’s like a million ways to leave a team/get rid of a guy in the NBA.

[2]Particularly those coming off rookie contracts (Irving, Rubio, Cousins, etc..) as the NBA’s new CBA lets their current team give them more money AND an extra year to stay.

[3] What up Liberal Arts majors!

[4] Although, to get hypothetically technical here, if this really were to happen, I’m sure the team would just pay him the 1.5 mil and keep it against the cap to save their exception for a different veteran or minimally priced player.

[5] “…picked a peck of pickled peppers…”

[6] I apologize for this bullish footnote in advance.  Lebron was constantly under-manned in Cleveland (when Mo Williams is your best supporting player, you’re not winning titles) and when he did reach the finals put up some of the gaudiest stats in recent memory during the playoff run.  As for the Decision?  It wasn’t his idea, his handlers (whatever those are), agent, and ESPN put him up to it, almost all of the money from it went to charity, and all of those Lebron haters were watching it along with the rest of us.

[7] That drama playing out alone is enough for me to want this to happen.

[8] I have no idea.

[9] Although it would really never happen, Kobe could replace AI in that starting lineup…

Trade Deadline: Much Ado About Nothing.

The NBA. Where deadline induced blueballs happen. Nobody moved! That was so disappointing.

List of players whose name were linked to possible trades: Josh Smith, Pau Gasol, Kevin Garnett, Monta Ellis, Kris Humphrie’s contract.

List of player’s that actually did move: JJ Reddick, Eric Maynor, Thomas Robinson, Ronnie Brewer, Jordan Crawford

List of player’s that moved that will affect the championship race:

In other words, we all got duped. Regardless, here’s a take on a few of the trades that did happen.

Boston gets G Jordan Crawford

Washington gets C Jason Collins, G Leandro Barbarosa

So basically Washington was so fed up with having Jordan Crawford they traded him for a guy who has a torn ACL and who’s contract will end before he recovers1.
Even though Boston really had nothing to lose in this trade can someone please
tell Danny Ainge that no number of combo guards will make up for the loss of
Rondo come playoff time. Their back court now consists of Avery Bradley, Jason
Terry, Courtney Lee, and Jordan Crawford.That being said, I actually kind of
like the move. Crawford has proven to be an irresponsible shooter, but if KG
can scare him into a smarter shot selection his scoring could come in handy at
some point. The guy has shown that he can put up points in a hurry if he
catches fire while the other three can’t create their own shot (in the case of
Jason Terry he just hasn’t meshed in Boston). Best Case Scenario. Worse case scenario: he provides nothing which puts him right on par with what Barbarosa was going to give this
season.

Orlando gets G Doron Lamb, Beno Udrih, and F Tobias Harris

Bucks get JJ Redick, C Gustavo Ayon, and G Ish Smith

I’m sad that this was the biggest trade of the deadline. Milwaukee, trying to hang on to their opportunity to get swept in the first round by Miami, goes out and gets Redick, a guy who can stretch the floor and has really improved as a passer this year. Does this make them a threat in the East? Absolutely not. But when you can make a move to ensure you have the worst defensive backcourt in the league you have to pull the trigger. This move would have made a lot more sense if they traded Ellis as well, started Redick, and ended this failed experiment2 that is starting two score-first point guards.

Sacramento trades Thomas Robinson

Did the Maloofs forget that they used a 5th overall pick on this guy just eight months ago?! So Robinson struggles a little his ROOKIE year on a team where the locker room and overall situation is a complete disaster and you just give up on him? I hope this team is taken away from the Maloofs so that things like this don’t happen anymore. Great move by the Rockets though. Robinson, if nothing else this year, can bring a little toughness to a talented, but soft team. Next year he has the chance to become a key member of a young team on the rise.

 

  1. Assuming no deer antler spray is involved.
  2. I realize this isn’t big news I just wanted a reason to post this video.
  3. Ellis was coming off two straight 24+ ppg seasons with Golden State (and was scoring almost 22 at the time) before being shipped to Milwaukee. This year he has failed to crack 20 in 34 of 57 games. I bet an offer of Ellis and Larry Sanders would have got serious looks. Maybe even Ellis and John Henson too.