Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Depth Perception: Power Forward

The NBA game is a dynamic game where over time, the nature and necessity of different positions have changed. Conventional ideas suggest that you need one really good ball handler, one really tall guy to prevent teams from getting easy stuff inside, one guy who is really good at shooting, one guy who is really versatile, and one guy to do all the dirty work. It's easy to see this being the ever popular PG, C, SG, SF and PF concept of a team. Some positions are obviously more important than others -- every good team needs a competent PG on offense to runs things. Similarly, teams without someone who can score usually lose a lot (a talented SG or SF is absolutely necessary). Some teams prefer to do things inside out, and thus, a good C is often a road to the title (Shaq, Hakeem, Kareem, Wilt, Mikan, etc). That said, these positions have changed quite a bit over time.

Previously the point guard was just the guy who could beat the press, drive, and dish to the right guy at the right time. Individuals like Bob Cousy and John Stockton clearly displayed this pass first motive. Other, arguably more flashy and talented lead guards took upon the concept of being a complete player, and endeavored to score more frequently -- while still passing the ball and being the primary ball handler. Isiah Thomas was one of the best at this -- but surely not the only one to bring a balanced offensive attack from the PG spot.

Maurice Lucas takes care of bid'ness Another spot on the floor that has changed over time was the power forward spot. For the longest time it was dominated by beefy characters who could bang, play defense, get boards, and get out of the way on offense. Individual talents like Bob Pettit and others tried to bring scoring into the fold; though guys like Maurice Lucas / Kermit Washington always seemed to find a home in the NBA being lunch-pail types at the 4. The evolution of the power forward took a quantum leap forward with Elgin Baylor -- a superb scorer par excellence. Elvin Hayes brought the toughness, but the examples of these individuals and Charles Barkley, Karl Malone and Chris Webber pointed out that it was really difficult to win the NBA title by focusing on a power forward.

Kevin Garnett won a title with the Boston Celtics as a top level power forward; however he was far from the primary offensive force for his club. Tim Duncan has won quite a few titles as a power forward; though one gets the feeling that had he been drafted by a club that was bereft of a David Robinson type that he would never have played there.

Today most teams look to the 4 spot to contribute on the glass and with defense -- like always; but now expectations for power forwards to score a bit more have been raised. Not many power forwards are known for being great shot blockers, though some exceptions to the rule exist. Most surprisingly the evolution of the power forward has branched out into seemingly different species as the needs of teams have changed.

Jason Maxiell is a power forward and so is Vladimir Radmanovic. The only similarities that these two guys seem to have is their heights, and that their talents are so focused that they are not capable of playing the three or the five. In some respects, the four spot is the utility spot. If you need extra athleticism, start Josh Smith there. If you need shot blocking, you've got Elton Brand. Shooting skills are easily found with Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki. Lamar Odom is a fantastic passer who has a great handle for a power forward. That said, which team is the best equipped (as far as the current make up of teams exist today) at Power Forward?

Atlantic Division:

Boston Celtics New Jersey Nets New York Knicks Philadelphia 76ers Toronto Raptors
Kevin Garnett Yi Jianlian Zach Randolph Elton Brand Chris Bosh
Glen Davis Eduardo Najera David Lee Reggie Evans Jermaine O'Neal
Kendrick Perkins Stromile Swift Wilson Chandler Marreese Speights Andrea Bargnani
Brian Scalabrine Sean Williams Malik Rose Jason Smith Kris Humphries
  Josh Boone Jared Jeffries   Nathan Jawai

Boston is anchored by KG and it quickly goes downhill from there. Big Baby, Perk (shifting over from the 5)and Scal are all bangers, and there is no real versatility here. New Jersey sports average talent in a number of bodies, Yi has the upside, Najera is a scrappy player, Stromile can sky in for dunks, Boone is a disappointment and Sean Williams (more of a true center) blocks shots. The Knicks manage to have both talent and depth -- Zach is a 20-10 guy when he wants to be, David Lee never gets tired, Jeffries is very versatile and Rose and Chandler are on opposite sides of the age/experience spectrum. Philly is interesting because they have Brand, who is a top level PF, and is backed by other bangers who can be rotation guys on almost every team. Evans and Evans Jr. (Speights) may seem a bit redundant, however Smith can shoot it well enough to give Philly an edge over the Knicks or the Nets. Toronto, though, is the class of the Atlantic when it comes to their power forwards. Chris Bosh is very underrated, he can do everything from hit game winning threes, to running up and down the court to block shots, and he makes all of his free throws. Behind him there is Bargnani (who will bounce back) and has unlimited range for a 4, Humphries hustles and bangs and rookie Jawai can play the 5 or the 4. Then there is Jermaine O'Neal who is a heck of a talent who does many things well. The Raptors have good defenders in Bosh and O'Neal, scrappy energy types like Humphries and Jawai and a very deadly outside shooter in Bargnani. All of these guys are tall, Jawai is the shortest, and he's only 6'10.

Winners: Toronto Raptors  
CB4 throws it down Anything is better than Indiana Look for a better season than his Soph slump All banger, no brains Man his arms are very long!
Chris Bosh Jermaine O'Neal Andrea Bargnani Kris Humphries Nathan Jawai

Central Division:

Chicago Bulls Cleveland Cavaliers Detroit Pistons Indiana Pacers Milwaukee Bucks
Drew Gooden Ben Wallace Antonio McDyess Troy Murphy Charlie Villanueva
Tyrus Thomas Anderson Varejao Jason Maxiell Josh McRoberts Joe Alexander
Andres Nocioni LeBron James Rasheed Wallace Shawne Williams Malik Allen
Joakim Noah JJ Hickson Amir Johnson Maceo Baston Luc Mbah a Moute
Cedric Simmons   Walter Herrmann Jeff Foster Dan Gadzuric

Chicago has quite a bit of talent here. Gooden is gooden enough to be a 15/10 guy with enough playing time, Tyrus has prime time athleticism, Nocioni is a heady player who can rebound, pass and shoot the ball, Noah (a center) can slide over and be a Tyrus clone, and Simmons shows a lot of potential as well. Cleveland is a special case, as they start Ben Wallace there, who while a shell of his former self, can still be counted on to at least intimidate. I don't know anything about JJ Hickson (or Lance Allred), but I know that Anderson Varejao can slide over from the 5 to play some 4. Cleveland really sucks at the 4, save for the fact that if they needed (or wanted) to, they could plop LeBron down here, and they'd be quite okay. Detroit has a good mix of veteran savvy (McDyess), tenacity (Maxiell), shot blocking and outside shooting (Wallace), a utility man (Herrmann) and potential (Johnson). Depending on the situation, Detroit has a variety of guys they can go to at the 4. Chicago (save for Nocioni) only has guys with limited ability outside of the paint. I am giving the edge to Detroit here. Indiana is the opposite of Chicago. they are all guys who are better outside of the paint than inside. Milwaukee is like the Nets, in that they have the ability to show a lot of different things at the 4, but they are all pretty average to poor. Detroit wins!

Winners: Detroit Pistons
Gosh darn it, Ref, you're absolutely right about that call! Not pictured: eating babies I used to be a star! The CJ Miles of Bigmen I'm too sexy for this blog
Rasheed Wallace Jason Maxiell Antonio McDyess Amir Johnson Walter Herrmann

Southeast Division:

Atlanta Hawks Charlotte Bobcats Miami Heat Orlando Magic Washington Wizards
Josh Smith Emeka Okafor Udonis Haslem Rashard Lewis Antawn Jamison
Al Horford Gerald Wallace Michael Beasley Hidayet Turkoglu Oleksiy Pecherov
Solomon Jones Jared Dudley Shawn Marion Brian Cook Darius Songaila
Randolph Morris Sean May Joel Anthony Tony Battie  
  Alexis Ajinca David Padgett Marcin Gortat  

Atlanta is exciting with younger players like the hyper athletic Josh Smith and center worthy Al Horford. Aside from those two guys it's pretty much useless. Horford should play more center anyway, so it's pretty much just Josh Smith. He's a good player, but his limitations are obvious. The Bobcats are much more deep and versatile. Okafor is a defensive stalwart who is getting better offensively. Gerald Wallace is no slouch on defense, and he has the occasional ability to hit the three. He's mainly a slasher. Outside of these two are a few individuals playing out of position -- Jared Dudley is more of a 3 in the way Melo is, he can shoot and posts up, but isn't a full time 4. Sean May is a 5, but he can play a slow, but thick, 4 for a bit. The skinny but quick Ajinca is a 7'0 French player who can't possibly be thinking of playing the 5 over here in America. The Bobcats are pretty good here. Miami has three solid guys that could start: Haslem is one of the last Oakley types in the NBA, Beasley has all the potential in the world and Shawn Marion is very capable to do many different things well. It doesn't really matter after that. Marion cancels out whatever Gerald Wallace can do, Okafor is better than Haslem though. Is Beasley better than Dudley, May and Ajinca? Most definitely, so Miami is in the lead so far. Orlando is troubling. They basically play two small forwards (who are 6'10 and 6'11) here, and both of them are perimeter oriented offensive players who leave all the dirty work to Dwight Howard. That said, they won quite a few games for Orlando this season -- their clutch shooting was a great help to their team. Cook can also shoot it from the outside, and everyman Tony Battie can still get up there to block some shots (but he's mostly a 5). Marcin Grotat is probably a solid pick and pop guy as well. If you are looking at pure scoring, it's hard to say no to Orlando. Washington has Antawn Jamison, who is (statistically) one of the best PFs in the Eastern Conference, even if no one talks about him. Oleksiy Pecherov will one day pan out to be a poor man's Detlef. Darius Songaila is a poor man's Jamison. All three are capable outside shooters, and all three are solid rebounders. They don't have much depth and versatility -- all are basically differing talent levels of the same type of power forward archetype. Miami's lack of depth is a worse problem than Orlando's lack of inside muscle, or Washington's lack of versatility.

Winners: Miami Heat
I don't play well with others, go ask Steve and Amare Anyone remember Loy Vaught? Will he prevent Boozer from signing here? Joel spent the last season learning how to tank I'm here to let Beasley dunk on me in practice
Shawn Marion Udonis Haslem Michael Beasley Joel Anthony David Padgett

Southwest Division:

Dallas Mavericks Houston Rockets Memphis Grizzlies New Orleans Hornets San Antonio Spurs
Dirk Nowitzki Luis Scola Hakim Warrick David West Tim Duncan
Brandon Bass Carl Landry Antoine Walker Melvin Ely Kurt Thomas
James Singleton Chuck Hayes Darrell Arthur Julian Wright Matt Bonner
  Ron Artest Darko Milicic Ryan Bowen Ian Mahinmi
  Mike Harris   Hilton Armstrong Anthony Tolliver

Dallas begins and ends with Dirk. He is one of the Top 5 power forwards in the league. Behind him is the inside brute Brandon Bass. Singleton almost has to bring nothing, and the Dallas power forwards are one of the better ones in the league. Singleton is apparently very athletic, so he only makes Dallas stronger. Houston has a legion of guys 6'9 and under to throw at teams. Scola is the best of the bunch, and guys like Landry, Hayes and Harris are all inside players. Landry is quite a good defender. Speaking of crazy defenders, the Rockets may elect to play Ron Artest at the 4 in spurts. He is capable of playing good off the ball and man to man defense against taller players. In the absence of Ron Artest, Dallas is much better than Houston, even though Houston has many more fouls to go around. (Keep in mind that some of these guys on the Rockets are also their back-up centers) Memphis has Warrick, who is an exciting young player; alas, he's not good enough to elevate this rag-tag group of power forwards over any of the other groups in his division. Walker is crazy talented, but he's not playing in many games. Darko can slide over, but I doubt that he would -- unless Marc Gasol is really good. The Hornets have one of the best mid-range jump shooting bigmen in David West. Their back-up is really Ryan Bowen (think Harpring, but taller, and less capable), but I've include the ability for them to shift people around a bit (like centers Ely and Armstrong). The Hornets are good -- but not because of their fear inducing power forwards for certain. The Spurs have Tim Duncan, Kurt Thomas (like McDyess but better), Bonner (a guy for threes), Mahinmi (one of the better NBA-DL players out there) and this Tolliver guy. I know next to nothing about this guy, but I know he was drafted by the Spurs, and they rarely make mistakes. Dallas vs. San Antonio for this one . . . and . . . well, Duncan is way more clutch than Dirk in the playoffs.

Winners: San Antonio Spurs
Tim Duncan just wins, baby. Ancient doesn't even begin to define my knees The Red Rocket Je suis tres desole Must . . . impress . . . Eva . . .
Tim Duncan Kurt Thomas Matt Bonner Ian Mahinmi Anthony Tolliver

Northwest Division:

Denver Nuggets Minnesota Timberwolves Oklahoma City Thunder Portland Trailblazers Utah Jazz
Kenyon Martin Al Jefferson Chris Wilcox LaMarcus Aldridge Carlos Boozer
Nene Ryan Gomes Donyell Marshall Channing Frye Mehmet Okur
Renaldo Balkman Craig Smith Jeff Green Ike Diogu Andrei Kirilenko
Linas Kleiza Brian Cardinal Nick Collison Travis Outlaw Paul Millsap
Chris Anderson   Joe Smith Raef LaFrentz Kosta Koufos

Denver is talented here, K-Mart can run, jump and dunk. I'm not a fan of his, but on paper is he good enough to start on most teams. Nene -- probably the starting center -- can fit in well here as well. Balkman escapes from New York to bring his all around hustle to the Mile High city. Kleiza is a very accomplished shooter and international player who even put up something like 42 points against the Utah Jazz last season. The Birdman returns to the NBA as part of the Nuggets. All in all, they are very talented, have a solid outside spot up shooter in Kleiza and a couple of inside only guys. The T-Wolves are no slouches either. If Chris Bosh is one of the most under rated 4's in the league, Al Jefferson is not even mention at all. He is a beast on the inside. Gomes is very talented as well, and can do almost anything on the floor from hitting threes to blocking shots. Craig Smith is in that Maxiel/Millsap mold, but plays in relative obscurity. Brian Cardinal is Ryan Bowen with an outside shot. A solid group, but Gomes is not quite good enough to be a running four (like what Kleiza would be great at). Oklahoma is actually pretty good. Wilcox is the starter who can score in the paint. Donyell is a three point specialist to the point that he doesn't bring anything else to the table anymore. Jeff Green can slide over from the three to rebound and play well. Nick Collison is a rugged interior defender and Joe Smith is a very capable inside scorer. Portland just has LaMarcus -- and while he is a good young player, I'd rather have any other group of power forwards from the Northwest division than what Portland puts out there. Lastly, we have the Utah Jazz and, well, let's put it this way: three of these guys have been All-Stars. Carlos Boozer, for his defensive faults, is one of the best power forwards in the game -- he is a monster on the boards and is able to shoot from 18 feet or work inside with solid post moves. (Does David West have any post moves?) Mehmet Okur was a power forward up until Carlos Boozer finally got healthy two seasons ago. In Detroit he was a power forward and he was in Utah as well. He has great range, can block shots (like his game winning block), is an under rated man to man defender (like how he locked down Yao in games 5, 6 and 7 in 2006-2007) and can even drive. Andrei Kirilenko is very versatile, can guard guards and block the shot of centers. He shot 38% from deep last season and was European player of the year in 2007. He's also a very good shot blocker. Paul Millsap is the back-up of Boozer (because Ak is at the 3, and Memo at the 5), but in a true test of ability, he is farther down the depth charts. He is a tough defender who hustles for loose balls and is an energy player like Tyrus Thomas and others. Koufos is really a center, but his college game seems to translate better to the four. He's over 7' feet tall and can block shots and hit jumpers. I like what Oklahoma City has, I'm surprised at how good they are as a group. Denver is always tough, and they got much better by adding Balkman and Anderson -- though I can't vote against the Jazz. Not when three of their five guys at power forward have been All-Stars, and that any of their top three guys would start for almost every other team in the league.

Winners: Utah Jazz
Dunking is fundamental! Memo dunks on Amare Nyet to Carmelo! Millsap throws it down Kosta has balls
Carlos Boozer Mehmet Okur Andrei Kirilenko Paul Millsap Kosta Koufos

Pacific Division:

Golden State Warriors

Los Angeles Clippers

Los Angeles Lakers

Phoenix Suns

Sacramento Kings

Al Harrington

Al Thornton

Pau Gasol

Amare Stoudemire

Mikki Moore

Brandan Wright

Tim Thomas

Lamar Odom

Boris Diaw

Kenny Thomas

Rony Turiaf

Brian Skinner

Vladimir Radmanovic

Louis Admunson

Shelden Williams

Anthony Randolph

Steve Novak

Luke Walton

Robin Lopez

Shareef Abdur-Rahim

Richard Hendrix

Marcus Camby

Josh Powell

Matt Barnes

Jason Thompson

Golden State is interesting, they have a Jamison type with Al Harrington, and occasional center Rony Turiaf is quite good as a backup. They've channeled the Department of Redundancy Department with Brandan Wright and Anthony Randolph. Unfortunately for this group, I think the whole is less than the sum of their parts. The Clippers will probably have to use either Kaman or Camby here -- I guess Camby as he used to be a PF back in the olden days. Novak and Thomas can shoot it, and Thornton has potential to be something. The Lakers, on the other hand, have guys who are something. Gasol will have to move to the 4 to make room for Bynum. This makes Odom one of the most talented back-up power forwards of all time. He is great when he is on. Vlad Rad is all about shooting, and Luke struggles at time, but over all, he's not that bad. Phoenix has Amare, the ultra versatile Diaw, the monumental punk Matt Barnes (but he can sometimes hit a three), Mr. Hustle Louis Admunson and if they really need him, Robin Lopez. Over all, it's a solid group, but Gasol and Odom are greater than Amare and Diaw. Sacramento is were somewhat talented power forwards go to die. Easily the Lakers win this one.

Winners: Los Angeles Lakers
Halitosis attack! One of the best ball handling bigmen Am not an R Tard I'm good, really I am . . . Journeyman . . .
Pau Gasol Lamar Odom Valdimir Radmanovic Luke Walton Josh Powell

The question remains though . . . which of these six groups is the best? (remember to think about strengths, depth, versatility, offensive diversity, defense, star power, awards, and chemistry)


khandor said...


Chris Bosh's best position in the NBA ... is CENTER.

As a PF, CB4 simply does not present the same degree of match-up difficulty for his opponents as he does at the 5-spot, relative to the other top players in the NBA.


Other than that ... solid job on your part, evaluating the PF's in the League today.