20 in 20: The top 10 power forwards in the NBA

262235.jpg

20 in 20: The top 10 power forwards in the NBA

Friday, Sept. 17, 2010
10:56 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com
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.

Morning Update: Dwyane Wade comes up clutch in close win vs. Kings

update-121.jpg
AP

Morning Update: Dwyane Wade comes up clutch in close win vs. Kings

Dwyane Wade gets a little help but saves the day defensively vs. Kings

Sunday on CSN: UIC travels to Valparaiso

One-goal victories are great but Blackhawks’ method has to change

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

Road Ahead: Blackhawks play three home games before All-Star break

Blackhawks acquire Michael Latta from Kings in swap of minor leaguers

Phillips DT Chris Elmore commits to Syracuse

Dwyane Wade gets a little help but saves the day defensively vs. Kings

Dwyane Wade gets a little help but saves the day defensively vs. Kings

It was a gift and the Bulls weren't going to look it in the mouth as Dwyane Wade was poised to finish off another one of his sterling defensive plays with a breakaway dunk with the game tied and Arron Afflalo and DeMarcus Cousins trailing.

Lightly touched by the small of his back by Cousins, Wade miscalculated his liftoff and missed the dunk but was bailed out by the refs for a foul with 14 seconds left.

Then, he bailed the Bulls out.

Wade had his fifth fourth-quarter defensive play, stripping Cousins on a steal on the ensuing possession with the Sacramento Kings having a chance to win, leading to a Michael Carter-Williams dunk and finishing a 102-99 win Saturday night at the United Center.

It was a clock-turning performance for Wade on both ends of the floor, even if his missed dunk is a reminder that he is 35 years old. 

"I took off too far as I look at the instant replay," Wade said. "I should've took maybe one more dribble. Can't say I felt 35, I just took off too far (laughs). But hey, sometimes you get calls, sometimes you don't. I'm a person who hasn't gotten a lot all year so I'm not gonna apologize for nothing."

Stripping Cousins on his spin move was the finale, but he swatted an Arron Afflalo corner triple in the fourth, smothered Ty Lawson at the rim twice for blocked shots to end the third and tortured Lawson again in the fourth for another steal that led to him following up a Jimmy Butler missed layup with a follow and foul.

"Just a read," said Wade on stripping Cousins. "We knew he was gonna go to DeMarcus at that point. Once we forced him left, I knew he had to come back to the right hand. And being in the right place at the right time, the ball was right there for me."

Wade played like a desperate and motivated man, putting up 30 with six rebounds and four assists on the second night of a back-to-back is proof positive he took Friday's loss to Atlanta personally and used his play to back up those feelings.

He took to twitter to apologize for the poor effort against the Hawks, producing his best all-around performance as a Bull.

"We've been good in desperate moments," Wade said. "We haven't been good in non-desperate moments, when we win three in a row or playing a team that we should beat. But (in) the desperate moments I like us."

He scored 13 in the fourth, along with the last of his four blocked shots and all three of his steals took place in the final 12.

"I thought he was terrific," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "He was aggressive all game long, taking the ball to the basket, getting to the line 15 times. He came up with two big plays."

Hoiberg threw out different lineups and rotations, playing Paul Zipser as a sixth man and having the second-round draft pick close the game. Zipser took advantage, hitting three triples and scoring 13 points.

"I thought it was night and day from last night," Hoiberg said. "Our energy was really good all night long. We got just enough stops to find a way to win."

Cousins dominated the game with 42 and 14 rebounds in 35 minutes, the only Kings player in double figures all night.

"He was pretty much unguardable for the majority of the game, Taj did a solid job on him," Hoiberg said. "When Robin was on him, they put him on the perimeter and let him shoot threes. He's a monster."

Back-to-back triples from Cousins gave him 40 and tied the game at 97, as a third one rimmed out with a little under two minutes left.

Cousins dominated the start of the third quarter, hitting midrange jumpers over Lopez and taunting the Bulls bench after hitting a jumper to put the Kings ahead, 70-63 midway through the third.

But the Bulls stayed close, with Hoiberg choosing to sit Rajon Rondo for the second half after playing him six minutes in the second quarter, using Wade as a point guard and going with Carter-Williams for defense, along with Zipser, who didn't look scared of the moment.

"I like the wrinkle coach put in there, putting him in early," Wade said. "He gave him an opportunity and he helped us big time."

Butler scored 23 with seven assists and five rebounds in 39 minutes, didn't have to play the hero for once and made fun of Wade's apology tweet.

"He was due for a big night," Butler said. "He can tweet again if he can come out again and give us 30 and some big steals and big dunks."

"I think that's what called of him, to score baskets and guard. It's kinda sneaky. You never really expect it until it happens."

It looked like the worst was over when the Bulls made a short run to end the third, surviving the onslaught from Cousins — and surviving their own experimenting with Zipser instead of going with Denzel Valentine, switching things up altogether.

But the tone was set by the leaders, who can only manufacture but so much urgency on a nightly basis.

"I like this team when we're desperate," Wade said. "A desperate team, we're not bad."