Friday, Sept. 17, 2010
By Aggrey Sam
A historic summer for the NBA has passed and for the Bulls, while they didn't acquire quite the star power many expected andor hoped for, optimism runs high, both within the organization and throughout the team's fan base. With the offseason coming to an end, the time to fully delve into the upcoming NBA season is here. Instead of a traditional season preview, issues both throughout the league and in Chicago will be probed daily here on CSNChicago.com up until the squad officially convenes for training camp toward the end of September.
10. Who are the top 10 power forwards in the league?
1. Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks (2009-10 season averages: 25.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, 48.1 field-goal percentage in 81 games): The years go by and Nowitzki continues to achieve at a high level, carrying his always-successful Mavs through the regular season without a true sidekick and even when they're inevitably eliminated from the postseason, putting up monster performances, often in vain.
2. Pau Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers (2009-10 season averages: 18.3 points, 11.3 rebounds, 53.6 field-goal percentage in 65 games): Playing second fiddle to Kobe Bryant has clearly paid off for Gasol--viewed by many as the game's best true big man--but even with his marvelous array of post moves, unbelievable fundamentals, stout defense and strong rebounding, he'll always be seen as a tad brittle and not exactly the toughest competitor.
3. Amar'e Stoudemire, New York Knicks (2009-10 season averages: 24.1 points, 9.3 rebounds, 55.7 field-goal percentage in 82 games): Not having Steve Nash to spoon-feed him easy baskets will prove to be a challenge, but Stoudemire seems to be embracing New York's spotlight already and if under current and former coach Mike D'Antoni, he can produce numbers in the fashion fans are accustomed to seeing, the glare won't be too harsh--regardless of how the Knicks fare.
4. Chris Bosh, Miami Heat (2009-10 season averages: 24.0 points, 10.8 rebounds, 51.8 field-goal percentage in 70 games): With the caliber of at least two of his new teammates, it's unlikely Bosh will get the opportunity to be the dominant force he was in Toronto, but if he can play in the same fashion he did in the 2008 Olympics, he'll be much more valuable to the Heat.
5. Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs (2009-10 season averages: 17.9 points, 10.1 rebounds, 51.8 field-goal percentage in 78 games): Duncan has slowed down over the past few years, but is still as consistent as it gets, has a major impact on games even when he doesn't put up huge numbers and is the main reason the aging Spurs are still viewed as a contender.
6. Carlos Boozer, Chicago Bulls (2009-10 season averages: 20.5 points, 11.8 rebounds, 56.2 field-goal percentage in 78 games): While Deron Williams is Utah's franchise player, Boozer was the team's leading scorer and despite a semi-feud with Jazz management, he produced in a major way, while proving to be a bit more durable than given credit for.
7. Zach Randolph, Memphis Grizzlies (2009-10 season averages: 19.8 points, 11.2 rebounds, 48.8 field-goal percentage in 81 games): After years of bouncing around the league--and acquiring a less-than-stellar reputation in the process--Randolph seemed to turn the corner in his debut campaign for Memphis, providing a formidable low-post presence and surprising veteran leadership.
8. Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks (2009-10 season averages: 15.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, 50.5 field-goal percentage in 81 games): It appears that Smith also finally figured it out last season, as he subtracted his erratic shot selection in favor of using his superb athletic gifts closer to the basket on offense, all while dominating defensively at times and displaying extremely underrated savvy and unselfishness.
9. Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics (2009-10 season averages: 14.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 52.1 field-goal percentage in 69 games): "The Big Ticket" is obviously no spring chicken, something made clear by both his numbers and significantly downgraded athleticism, but his heart, determination, tough defense, selflessness, high basketball I.Q., inspirational tactics and occasional flashbacks make him more valuable than many of the players who now surpass him physically.
10. David Lee, Golden State Warriors (2009-10 season averages 20.2 points, 11.7 rebounds, 54.5 field-goal percentage in 81 games): It's easy to believe Lee's Big Apple production was inflated because of D'Antoni's system--fortunately for him, he'll be coached by similar-minded Don Nelson in Oakland, unless a change is made in the very near future--but it's hard to argue with the Florida product's numbers, hustle and versatility, if not his sometimes-lax defense.
Next 10 (in alphabetical order):
LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trailblazers: Although Aldridge hasn't quite been able to shed his "soft" label, he has clearly taken strides over the course of his young career and developed into a reliable second option.
Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers: This selection is a bit of a cop-out--any one of Oklahoma City's Jeff Green, Washington's Andray Blatche, Toronto's Andrea Bargnani could have been in this spot--but if healthy, the youngster should make the most of his postponed rookie season, as his physical tools are simply too good not to make a splash in the league.
Antawn Jamison, Cleveland Cavaliers: Forced to choose between fellow perimeter-oriented big Rashard Lewis of the Magic and Jamison, the vet wins out due to his versatile offensive game and the fact that he'll be more in his previous go-to guy Wizards role with the departure of one of his team's key components.
Al Jefferson, Utah Jazz: Jefferson barely missed the top 10 simply due to an expected adjustment process--and with Mehmet Okur out for an extended period, he'll have to play some center, where he's less effective--but name a more productive, more fundamentally sound, more underrated big man in the game.
Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves: With the aforementioned Jefferson gone, Love will have more opportunities to dominate the boards, play his workmanlike yet savvy game and do what he does best--put up double-doubles.
Paul Millsap, Utah Jazz: No longer Boozer's understudy--although the addition of Jefferson will cut into his minutes--Millsap will finally have a chance to prove he's more than just a great bench player.
Troy Murphy, New Jersey Nets: While he's not the best defender you'll come across, Murphy has toiled in the shadows by virtue of playing on some pitiful squads, and while that won't necessarily change this season, the Jersey native's contract year and playing in front of his hometown fans should provide sufficient motivation.
Lamar Odom, Los Angeles Lakers: Playing behind Pau Gasol, many observers likely forgot what Odom was capable of, but his outstanding performance in the World Championships demonstrated he's more than Mr. Kardashian.
Luis Scola, Houston Rockets: If his second half of last season didn't alert fans to his abilities--the Rockets must have paid attention, as they inked him to a hefty contract extension in the offseason--then surely Scola's FIBA dominance this summer made it evident that he's one of the league's more underappreciated players.
David West, New Orleans Hornets: Chris Paul's sidekick isn't the multi-faceted type--his defense and rebounding are lacking, to say the least--but his precise offensive game makes him one of the toughest matchups at his position.
Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.