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

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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.

It's Bobby's World in Bulls' lottery-improving loss to 76ers

It's Bobby's World in Bulls' lottery-improving loss to 76ers

The final 25 games was supposed to be all about the development of the Bulls’ recent acquisitions and securing a record worthy of one of the last three envelopes at the NBA Draft Lottery.

Only Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn seemed to matter, with Cameron Payne and Cristiano Felicio being the perfect window dressing for development as opposed to just saying a team is tanking.

But Bobby Portis is making a case that he isn’t to be forgotten in the big picture, that his worth is more than just being a punchline to the jokes that followed his incident with Nikola Mirotic.

The only thing Portis didn’t do right in the Bulls’ 116-115 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers was missing a point blank shot that would’ve given the Bulls an improbable and unwanted win, and it would’ve given him 40 points.

Instead he had to settle for a career-high 38 as Joel Embiid was bearing down on Portis when he caught a diagonal pass from Dunn with 1.1 seconds left, having the shorter T.J. McConnell on him and taking a power dribble to gather himself.

“If I could go back I would’ve just went up the first time off the glass like I always do,” Portis said. “We just have to try to close out games better.”

Embiid showed he’s worth all the trouble with his health problems, scoring 30 with 13 rebounds and five rebounds while Ben Simmons put up 32 with 11 assists and seven rebounds as the 76ers improved to 31-25, good enough for seventh place in the East.

In a game that featured remarkable resolve from a purposely undermanned Bulls team as they sat Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday, they put themselves in position to win after trailing by 18 early. After leading by five courtesy of a LaVine walk-down triple with 1:02 left, they made a couple critical errors that allowed the 76ers to steal a game the Bulls won’t mind them taking at the end of 82.

Denzel Valentine’s inbounds pass with 5.9 seconds left was intended for LaVine, but Embiid stepped in front for a steal as they were in position to make it a free-throw game the rest of the way.

Similar to the Bulls’ unlikely win over the Orlando Magic before the All-Star break, they returned the favor as 76ers rookie Ben Simmons made free throws after the steal to give the visitors a one-point lead, setting the stage for the final play.

If learning lessons is what the last 100 quarters of basketball is supposed to be about, the Bulls got a big-time lesson in a game that ultimately means nothing.

“These are learning opportunities for our team,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “I couldn’t be happier, the way we went out and competed. We dug ourselves an 18-point hold and (fought) our way back—have complete control of the game.”

Control was wrestled from the 76ers by Portis’ able and quick hands. Taking more of a scoring posture since Mirotic’s departure, Portis has never been shy about being aggressive.

But now he’s being encouraged in that department, playing a big part in the Bulls’ tying their franchise record of 18 triples with six of his own, scoring 21 in the first half and not backing down one step from the massive Embiid.

“I kind of struggled from (three) in the last six, seven games,” said Portis, who didn’t take much time off during the All-Star break. “I think I’ve shown this entire year, trying to stay consistent and be a spark off the bench.”

Counting the last two games before the break, Portis has been on the best scoring binge of his career—cementing his place in the league when just a few months ago, many were questioning if the Bulls should’ve actually picked up his player option following the Mirotic incident.

His 25.0 points in the last three, along with scoring in double figures for seven straight games are career-bests. With every flex, every energetic plea to the crowd and resourceful score underneath the rim, Portis is becoming a player the Bulls can’t afford to plan without.

The stage was set for a Portis breakout shortly after the incident, when he was serving his suspension to start the season. When the Bulls traveled to Miami and Orlando, he flew on his own to Orlando for dinner with his mentor, former NBA veteran and Magic assistant coach Corliss Williamson.

Williamson, a player who was not to be trifled with during his career, told Portis essentially, “this too shall pass”.

“Just play your game,” Williamson told NBCSportsChicago.com recently. “Don’t put any pressure on yourself about what’s gonna happen after this year. What’s got him here is hard work, how hard he plays in the game. He continues to do that, he’ll be successful.”

Portis recalled the dinner where he was finally able to confide and unleash after weeks of frustration. Calling Williamson a father figure dating back to their Arkansas roots, where Portis played on Williamson’s AAU teams in middle school, Portis put his trust in him and came back reinvigorated.

“We talked for hours about the whole situation,” Portis told NBCSportsChicago.com “He told me when I come back to come 10 times harder. When people play this game and play the right way, they forget about the other stuff. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

Scoring 38 tends to remake a narrative.

“Bobby just continues to improve,” Hoiberg said. “He’s a confident kid that goes out and plays with a ton of swagger and toughness. You need that, to go out and play with that type of effort. He’s tenacious on the glass. He’s getting the crowd into the game.”

When speaking of Portis, Hoiberg’s face went from flush to beaming, knowing how far Portis has come in his three years—being a player who wouldn’t take 3-pointers with confidence to now unleashing them whenever a defender’s feet shows the slightest hint of leaning back.

No hesitation.

“Regardless if I’m making shots, I try to leave it all out on the floor,” Portis said. “It felt good making shots, being able to help the team. I wanted the win tonight.”

Portis helped make up for the Bulls not getting their usual production from Dunn, who struggled guarding the bigger Simmons and Lauri Markkanen, who missed all five of his 3-pointers and made just one field goal in 32 minutes.

“You can put he and Lauri together,” Hoiberg said. “It gives you two guys that can stretch the floor and space it, two guys that can rebound, two that can put it on the floor. It’s exciting to think about when Kris gets his rhythm back.”

And now, Williamson’s words have proven to be prophetic for his pupil, because if the Bulls aren’t seeing Portis as a key part of their future, there’s about 25 other teams who’ll be lining up for his services this summer.

“I told him don’t even worry about it,” Williamson said. “Let your game speak for itself. People who really know you, know what type of person you are. You start producing people will forget about it and love you for what you do on the court.”

His game is talking, even if the Bulls’ loss was one they’d rather have taken in silence.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Projecting the Bulls’ future

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Projecting the Bulls’ future

In the latest edition of the Bulls Talk Podcast, Mark Schanowski, Will Perdue and Kendall Gill recap the Bulls’ 116-115 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, look at the continued growth of Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn, and discuss if Bobby Portis is part of the Bulls’ long term future.

They also check in on LeBron James and the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers, discuss whether or not the Golden State Warriors can make another title run and the latest on the status of San Antonio Spurs guard Kawhi Leonard. The guys also discuss how Oklahoma guard Trae Young could look in a Bulls uniform if he’s available for them in the draft.

Listen to the full episode at this link (iOS users can go here) or in the embedded player below. Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.