FOUR TIMES A CHARM IN NBA

Serge Ibaka 568As more teams begin to buy into the “small ball” philosophy, the centre and power forward positions underwent an unofficial merger that has thwarted the once-prominent five spot, and conversely, favoured the present-triumph of the four spot. Here is my break-down of the deepest position in the NBA.

 

When I was scribbling down notes for this column on my ragged-but-sacred ‘NBA notebook’, the power forward no-brainers that I automatically wrote down, in no particular order, were Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin, and Chris Bosh. I say “in no particular order” because, in my personal opinion, you could make a case for any of the players in question, to be ruler over the others. And that alone, may vary according to who performs best over a prolonged stretch.

Deciding on a top dog among power forwards isn’t as clear cut as it is for the other four positions. Nine times out of ten, one is likely to pick Chris Paul as the top point guard, James Harden as the de facto best shooting guard, LeBron James as the king of small forwards (no pun intended), and Dwight Howard as the unanimous winner among centers. For the power forward spot, coming up with a consensus isn’t as easy. Not even close.

Here’s why:

Affirming that the four spot is the deepest position in modern basketball would mean nothing if I didn’t illustrate and present a full-list of players that make up its bulge.

You already know my “no-brainers”, but check out my “how could I forget yous”:

Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans); Tim Duncan (San Antonio Spurs); David Lee (Golden State Warriors); Zach Randolph (Memphis Grizzlies); Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas Mavericks); Serge Ibaka (Oklahoma City Thunder); Paul Millsap (Atlanta Hawks); David West (Indiana Pacers).

Except for Serge Ibaka, who has been sensational so far, all of the players above have made at least one All-Star appearance during the course of their careers. This means that almost half of the teams in the league are likely to get All-Star level productivity from their power forwards alone on any given night. Can we say the same about the other floor positions?!

I have another list for you. The “not elite but still relevant” category assigned for those players who, when you think about them, you say: “That guy is a tad underrated!,” or  “Yeah, he’s overpaid, but I’d rather overpay him than distribute his salary to three or four inexperienced rookies.” Basically all the players that could start on a contender.

Here’s the “not elite but still relevant” list:

Thaddeus Young (Philadelphia 76ers); Terrence Jones (Houston Rockets); Amir Johnson (Toronto Raptors); Taj Gibson (Chicago Bulls); Carlos Boozer (Chicago Bulls); Greg Monroe (Detroit Pistons); Ryan Anderson (New Orleans Pelicans); Nene Hilario (Wahington Wizards); Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets).

The reputations the names above carry are not in the same class as the names on the other aforementioned lists; but that being said, consistent strong displays from either of these players would put them in a position to at least sniff elite/All-Star territory.

Not long ago, on ESPN’s NBA countdown, Jalen Rose, Bill Simmons, and Avery Johnson came up with their top five true ‘power’ forwards. Don’t ask me why the word “power” is under single quotation marks, I’m still trying to figure that one out.

Ladies and gentlemen, the true ‘power’ forward rankings according to the experts:

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There are so many things wrong with these rankings, hence why the PF position is an enigma of the highest order.

Things that are wrong:

1. Chris Bosh.

– Are we really going to sit here and say he isn’t a top five power forward in this league?

– Did they not include him because technically, in Miami’s small ball system, he is listed at the five?

– How did Serge Ibaka make TWO of these rankings and Bosh NONE??!!

2. Somebody needs to tell Jalen Rose we are in 2014, not 2007. Plus he had Aldridge at five. FIVE!! I don’t hate his list, but you can easily see that he disregarded the ‘current NBA’ guideline.

3. None of the experts seem to agree on a number one, but Jalen and Avery both have Kevin Love and Blake Griffin as their number two and three. Again, Jalen included two Hall of Famers (Duncan, Nowitki) whom are both excluded on Avery’s list, and only one, Tim Duncan, made Bill’s. Had ESPN asked them to give their top five for the other four positions, their picks would have somewhat coincided.

4. True ‘power’ Forwards.

I don’t know why they were not asked to just give their ‘top five power forwards today’. The words “true” and “power” (under single quotation marks), are not only confusing, but also misguiding. Are they supposed to rank the best players that play at the four, or rank the players that best fit the position’s job description?

I’m getting a little off topic, but I just wanted to draw the picture of how complex and baffling this topic can be.

Debating about who is the top power forward is like having a debate on which Denzel Washington movie is the best. Some might say Training Day, others Glory, and others American Gangster. Then, like me, you might go on Google just to double-check your picks and realize that you left out Remember the Titans, Philadelphia, Flight, Inside Man, Man on Fire, Crimson Tide, The Siege, John Q, Hurricane, and of course, He Got Game.

When it comes to power forwards, there is no unanimous agreement. No clear winner, no undisputed first. Just a long row of five-star, A-list players who, luckily for us, go live on our TV screens almost every night.

If you ask me, this isn’t a conundrum, its a blessing in disguise.

Pic: NBAE/Getty

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