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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.

New-look Mavs looking to make big jump this season

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USA TODAY

New-look Mavs looking to make big jump this season

Outspoken Dallas Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban conceded his team was playing for draft lottery position last season, but insisted it would be a one year only strategy.

Dallas finished tied for the league’s third worst record, but fell to fifth after the lottery.

So, Cuban and the Mavs’ front office decided to make a bold move on draft night, trading their 2019 first round pick to Atlanta to move up two spots for a chance to select international sensation Luka Doncic.

Early in the season, Doncic has more than lived up to the hype, showing the creativity and flair that made him such a fan favorite on the European professional circuit. Through the Mavs’ first two games, Doncic is averaging 18 points, 7 rebounds and 3.5 assists while giving Rick Carlisle’s team a much-needed boost in transition.

Doncic and second-year guard Dennis Smith Jr. will give opposing teams nightmares in the open court all season long. They led the offensive onslaught in the Mavs’ 140-136 win over Minnesota Saturday night, combining for 45 points. Doncic finished with 26 points, while Smith scored 10 of his 19 in the 4th quarter, including a tie-breaking three-point play with six seconds left.

Veteran swing-man Wesley Matthews added 19 against the Timberwolves, and his 3 point shooting helps the Mavs maintain floor balance in half-court sets.

The Mavs also strengthened their front court in the off-season, signing veteran center DeAndre Jordan in free agency. Dallas was overmatched in the middle last season, with future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki and Dwight Powell giving up size in the post, but Jordan will provide rim protection and an alley-oop threat when Doncic, Smith Jr. or veteran point guard J.J. Barea drive to the basket. Jordan had a big game in the home opening win over Minnesota, scoring 22 points, pulling down 10 rebounds and blocking 5 shots.

Nowitzki, starting small forward Harrison Barnes and backup guard Devin Harris all missed Saturday’s game because of injuries, but Barnes and Harris are considered game-time decisions against the Bulls.

Here’s what the Bulls will need to do to get their first victory of the season Monday night.

1. GET BACK ON DEFENSE! Doncic and Smith Jr. are deadly in the open court, capable of making spectacular plays to bring the home crowd to life. The Bulls’ players have to sprint back on defense after missed shots to cut off transition opportunities, or it’s going to be a long night. The Mavs are averaging 128 points through the first two games.

2. CLOSE OUT ON 3-POINT SHOOTERS This will be a familiar theme in my keys until the Bulls start doing a better job of matching up in transition and closing out on three point threats. Detroit’s win at the United Center on Saturday came down to the Pistons’ 18-40 shooting from three-point range, and Dallas has even more players capable of doing damage from beyond the arc.

3. LET DUNN DO IT Getting Kris Dunn back from paternity leave should make a big difference on both ends of the court. Dunn has the athleticism and physicality to match up with either Doncic or Smith Jr., and his defensive skills will be critical in keeping the Mavs from turning this game into a track meet.

On the offensive end, Dunn need to be patient and get the ball into the hands of the Bulls’ top scorers, Zach LaVine and Bobby Portis. Even though Fred Hoiberg wants his team to play at a fast pace, they’ll need to pick their spots on when to run against the explosive Mavs.

As always, turn to NBC Sports Chicago for the very best pre and post-game coverage. Kendall Gill and Will Perdue join me for Bulls Pregame Live at 7 p.m/, and we’ll have expanded post-game analysis when the action goes final in Dallas. You can also stream the shows live on the brand new My Teams by NBC Sports app.

Bulls defense costs them late but showing 'competitive spirit' a step in right direction

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USA TODAY

Bulls defense costs them late but showing 'competitive spirit' a step in right direction

The Bulls defense is nowhere near where it needs to be, and it cost them dearly on Saturday night. But in a season that’s still about seeing progression both individually and collectively, the Bulls took a step in the right direction with their effort and what Fred Hoiberg called “competitive spirit.”

That won’t change the standings when they wake up Sunday morning, now facing an 0-2 hole in the early season. And while better effort and tougher defense helped them stage a second-half comeback they weren’t able to manage on Thursday, it was a defensive miscue that cost them the game.

Ish Smith split a double screen at the top of the key and sliced his way past Jabari Parker for a wide open go-ahead layup with 5.4 seconds left. Zach LaVine, who 20 seconds earlier had tied the game with the last of his 33 points, was unable to get a shot off after a timeout. Better than Thursday for 47 minutes and 50 seconds. But still costing them when it mattered most.

“We can’t give up a layup for the last play,” said LaVine, who was guarding Smith. “We just got to get our defense right. That’s why it’s really upsetting because we played so well, we came back but we can’t give up a layup. We at least have to make him take a tough one. That was as easy a layup as you can get. It’s really upsetting.”

Fred Hoiberg defended his decision to leave Parker in the game instead of inserting rookie Wendell Carter Jr. He opted to ride the group that helped the Bulls erase a fourth-quarter deficit when it appeared the Bulls were spiraling toward another double-digit loss.

But the Pistons were ready to find the weak link in the Bulls defense and expose it, like they did much of the fourth quarter while attacking Parker with Blake Griffin. As the screen was set Parker jumped outside to cut off Smith, who then made a cut inward and made a dash to the rim. Parker was a couple steps late, allowing the 5-foot-9 Smith to score with ease to give the Pistons their lead and the eventual game-winner.

Bobby Portis, whose shot wasn’t falling but played admirable defense against a talent like Griffin, was on the other side of the double screen and didn’t have a great view of the play. But he said allowing a layup with the game on the line is inexcusable.

“It’s a tough play but at the same time you don’t want to give up a layup at the end of the game,” he said. “You want to make him take a tough shot. That’s something we’ve got to work on, is late game execution on defense.”

But again, it’s about baby steps. The Bulls will want that final possession back, and Hoiberg might also want it back after leaving Parker in the game over Carter. But from where the Bulls were on Thursday, this was better. Granted, allowing 118 points and 18 3-pointers to the Pistons isn’t a recipe for success, it’s improvement nonetheless. Detroit got a career-high five triples from Griffin, four from Reggie Jackson (a career 32 percent 3-point shooter) and a pair from Stnaley Johnson (a career 29 percent 3-point shooter). The Bulls will be able to live with some of those makes.

On Thursday the Bulls trailed by just six early in the third quarter before the Sixers ripped off a 19-3 run to put the game out of reach. On Saturday the Pistons got out to a six-point lead on two different occasions, and then a seven-point lead with just 2:01 to play. All three times the Bulls came roaring back, using timely spots and clutch baskets from LaVine, Park and even Cameron Payne, who tied a career-high with 17 points.

Ultimately it wasn’t enough, but it’s a positive sign that they were able to battle back and show some fight defensively. They’ll certainly need that when they travel to Dallas to take on a Mavericks team that scored 140 points on the Jimmy Butler-less Timberwolves on Saturday. They should get Dunn back, which will help,  and now have a close contest under their belt on which to build. It didn’t result in a win, and the late-game cross-up was the cause, but the Bulls finished Saturday in a much better place than they were in on Thursday.

“Yeah but obviously we want to get the win. I feel like we fought hard,” Portis said. “Even when adversity hit everybody stuck together. We did our thing tonight. You want to win the game but I felt like we did our job tonight. We just gave up a bad play at the end of the game.”