Projected Power Forward Rankings: 2013/14

Kevin Love.  Projected Ranking: First.  Current Ranking: Unranked due to injury.

Kevin Love: Earning a rebound.

Kevin Love: Earning a rebound.

Last season was a bit of a wash for Kevin Love.  He played a handful of games, but not enough for me to rank him top ten, especially considering the disgustingly low FG% he posted (easily his career worst).  Such numbers are to be expected when a player is coming back from injury, so I don’t expect this to be an issue this year.  What Love did do last season was continue to demonstrate that he is easily the best rebounder at the power forward position, outside of perhaps Reggie Evans.  Due to limited games played, I thought it was unfair to rank him ahead of any number of players for this past season, but next season, providing the he returns to full health, I expect Love to be back to the level of play he was at before, if not playing better.  He is the best shooter at his position, the best rebounder, has a great post game and seems like a mature player.  There may be issues though.  The T-Wolves seem like the may be willing to trade Love instead of letting him test the market, so that may provide a distraction.  His play making could also use some improvement. He is by no means a selfish player and is willing to move the ball, which is half the battle, but his turnovers suggest that he is not as efficient as he could be.  He also needs to step it up on defence.  He may not be as bad as his reputation suggests, but it is an area of his game that he needs to tighten up if he wants to be the best player in the league at his position.

Blake Griffin.  Projected Ranking: Second.  Current Ranking: Second.

Blake-GriffinThere are some who think Griffin needs to diversify his offensive game a little.  He has some quick moves around the post, but he could use a consistent jumper with a little more range.  He gets his share of steals, but his defence is not where Kevin Garnett’s was at this point in his career, so improvement there would help the Clippers a lot.  His rebounding numbers have actually slipped a bit from his rookie season (much like Chris Bosh’s and Amare Stoudemire’s numbers did), so he needs to bring them back up.  He also needs to improve his free throw shooting, which seems likely considering that he shot a career best from the line last season.  That said, he is a decent defender and a solid rebounder with a good offensive game and great athletic ability that gives him an advantage over a lot of players.  He is also a willing and relatively efficient passer, which is great to see in a young player.  I expect much of the improvement that needs to be seen in Griffin will be pulled out by Doc Rivers this season. 

David Lee.  Projected Ranking: Third.  Current Ranking: First.

David Lee (left) is not to be confused with David Lee Roth (right).

David Lee (left) is not to be confused with David Lee Roth (right).

I gave Lee a first-place ranking for this past season almost by default, but he did have a better season than any other power forward in the league.  He is perhaps the best passer at his position, and no power forward grabbed more defensive rebounds than Lee this past season and only one power forward averaged more boards per game (Zach Randolph).  Coupled with that, only one power forward averaged more points, LaMarcus Aldridge, but Lee shot a higher percentage and also did it on a playoff team.  He also got more rebounds and assists than Aldridge.  The only think Lee doesn’t excel at is defense.  He puts in the effort but he doesn’t dominate the way Garnett does.  This, though, seems to be a common deficiency among many power forwards in the league and so does not hold Lee back the way it would have a few years ago.  Lee may see less usage this upcoming season with a healthy Andrew Bogut expected to play a full season coupled with the addition of Andre Iguodala and the expected development of Harrison Barnes, Klay Thompsn and Stephen Curry, but he will still be among the best rebounders at his position, and a consistent scorer with a respectable FG percentage. 

Zach Randolph.  Project Ranking: Fourth.  Current Ranking:  Third.

Zach Randolph (left) hugs teammate Marc Gasol for yet again saving his ass on defense.

Zach Randolph (left) hugs teammate Marc Gasol for yet again saving his ass on defense.

If there was a better rebounder than David Lee at the power forward position this past season, it was likely Zach Randolph (Reggie Evans would be the clear pick if he had gotten starting minutes from the beginning of the season).  No forward got more offensive rebounds than Randolph and no forward averaged more rebounds per game than Randolph.  Randolph is also a consistent post scorer.  His percentages and his assist numbers, though, are not at the level that Lee’s are, and so I give an edge to Lee.  He also lacks a defensive presence.  He does put an effort in on the defensive end, but he lacks the athleticism that some other forwards have.  Playing alongside Marc Gasol and Tayshuan Prince though, helps to negate that.  Randolph should see increased usage next season as well since Rudy Gay will be no longer be on the team, so his scoring average should see a slight increase.

Anthony Davis.  Projected Ranking: Fifth.  Current Ranking: Unranked.

Anthony Davis, an inspiration to all teens sporting unibrows

Anthony Davis, an inspiration to all teens sporting unibrows

Davis’s rookie season was a little spotty because of injuries that slowed him down, but he showed the promise that warranted him being the first overall pick.  He got limited minutes due to injury, but his rebounding numbers were extremely good for a rookie, as were his defensive stats.  He seems to be a natural defender and should be among the best in the game at that as soon as this season.  Despite getting impressive defensive stats, he did not get an exceptional number of fouls, which is typical of rookies (only 3 per36), and his FG% was easily over .500, which is normally another problem spot for rookies.  Assuming that the Pelican are smart enough to split Ryan Anderson’s minutes between power forward and small forward, and that they give Davis some minutes at center, though should be able to get 36+ minutes out of both Anderson and Davis.  If they do this, Davis’s number, even if he doesn’t improve them from last season, will be among the most impressive stats at his position.  Significant improvement is a fair expectation though, and so I expect that Davis will soon be able to count himself among the best forwards in the game, though like Duncan, he seems built to play center.  I expect as his career progresses, he will play more at center, but since he started at power forward this past season, I’m including him with the power forwards.

Josh Smith.  Projected Ranking: Sixth.  Current Ranking: Ninth.

joshsmithIt is unclear as to what position Josh Smith will be playing this season.  The Pistons could keep him at power forward, which is where he played this past season, or they could move him to small forward, where he has played most of his career.  I am ranking him with the power forward since that is the position he played last season.  There are few forwards who are as versatile as Smith.  His steals and blocks are high whilst his fouls are low. He is certainly among the better defenders in the league, and unlike guys who are good man-on-man defenders, his steals and blocks usually create a few fast-break points each game.  He is also happy to pass the ball (he averaged 4 assists per36 last season), though he could afford to reduce the number of turnovers.  He does have an issue when it comes to taking shots from behind the arc. He seems to think that he is a competent long-distance shooter and he simply is not.  If he can either improve his 3pth percentage to above .350, or just retire that part of his game, it would be fine, but I expect he will continue to take the ill-advised shots regardless, and so it does dilute his impact on the game slightly.  His poor free-throw shooting needs to be improved upon as well.  Still, Smith is a great player to have on the floor and I expect him to make his first All-Star game this season.

Carlos Boozer.  Projected Ranking: Seventh.  Current Ranking: Fifth.

carlos-boozerBoozer is a grossly underrated player, and this past season demonstrated that.  With Rose out, few expected the Bulls to do as well as they did, but with a great coach and amazing efforts from their starting front court (Boozer, Deng and Noah), the Bulls finished second in their division and managed a first-round upset over the Brooklyn Nets.  Rose’s return should mean a reduction in usage for Boozer, but the team will still require his rebounding expertise.  Boozer has a decent post game, is a double-double player and is a respectable defender (though perhaps playing with Deng and Noah simply make it easier for him to defend, especially when being coached by a defensive coach as good as Tom Thibodeau).  Even if Boozer is overpaid, he is a reliable and consistent forward who will get you points and rebounds, and that is more than some forwards can do.  I have Boozer ranked ahead of forwards like LaMarcus Aldridge, because even though Aldridge had the highest scoring averages among power forwards, his rebounding is still lacking for me and Boozer has traditionally shot a higher percentage from the floor, which I expect him to do next season as well. 

Kevin Garnett.  Projected Ranking: Eighth. Current Ranking: Fourth.

Kevin Garnett, a first-aid trainee who is constantly practicing how to get a heart started back up.

Kevin Garnett, a first-aid trainee who is constantly practicing how to get a heart started back up.

Is there a better defender at the power forward position?  Has there ever been?  The answer to both those questions may be no.  Garnett’s defense is not where it was in 2008, when he won the Defensive Player of the Year Award, but it is good enough to put him among the best at his position when it comes to defense.  Only one power forward made the All-Defensive Team this past season (Serge Ibaka; no power forwards were awarded a spot on the All-Defensive second team), but Garnett could have easily been awarded a spot on that team.  I expect that Anthony Davis make take the crown as the best defensive power forward next season, but Ibaka and Garnett will not make it a title to be easily won.  Garnett’s averages weren’t to impressive last season due to a lack of minutes, and those minutes may be slightly reduced this season as well (Reggie Evans will be backing up Garnett), but when looking at his per36 numbers, Garnett is still very close to being a double-digit rebounder and grabbing over a steal and over a block a game whilst handing out almost 3 assists.  Those are numbers that put him in rare company.  I expect a slight decline next season, but if players like Garnett and Tim Duncan have proven anything over the last few seasons, is that conditioning and work ethic can help a player maintain a high level of play well into a player’s late 30’s.  It may seem that Aldridge is ranked a little low, but considering how great Garnett remains on defence, even though his averages had dipped, I’d have a hard time ranking an inferior defender and rebounder ahead of Garnett just because he scored a couple of baskets more a game (a difference that shrinks considerably when comparing their per36 minutes stats). 

LaMarcus Aldridge.  Projected Ranking: Ninth. Current Ranking: Seventh.

LMAI really don’t mean to be so harsh to Aldridge, ranking him as low as ninth despite the fact he lead all power forwards in points per game last year, but his lack of rebounding just doesn’t sit well with me.  His defence is also a question. He is good on defence (there are many worse), but he isn’t as great on defence as Garnett, Davis, Kenneth Faried or Ibaka.  LMA’s percentages were good, especially considering his usage, but I expect that on the Trailbalzers, he may see a reduced role as Nicolas Batum and Damian Lillard improve and expect his role to be reduced as a result.  LMA is a great player and one of the best scorers at his position, but he doesn’t rebound as well as a great power forward should and the position, though not as deep with Hall-of-Fame calibre players and great rebounders as it was in the 80’s and 90’s, is deep in regards to players can play at an All-Star level and score in the high teens, like LMA.

Dirk Nowitzki. Projected Ranking: Tenth.  Current Ranking: Eighth.

Though his rebounding and defense have been slowed by aging, Dirk's golden locks look as though they are fresh from the draft podium.

Though his rebounding and defense have been slowed by aging, Dirk’s golden locks look as though they are fresh from the draft podium.

Part of me expects Dirk’s number to actually improve from last season since he missed a portion of the season due to injury and had to work his way back to his usual levels, but at the same time his age is a factor.  He was never as strong a rebounder as some, and this deficiency has only gotten worse with age.  He is still among the best shooters in the league, and is a mature player, but the Mavs have little chance to make the playoffs this season and I think the length of the season will wear on Nowitzki.  Trade rumours are bound to creep up as well, which may serve as a distraction.  Nowitzki’s defence has never been stellar either, and with age, like the rebounding, there has been more of a regression than an improvement.  That is not to say that Nowtizki doesn’t have game left.  He could actually be very effective as a small forward on the right team, and is still capable of posting 20+ points a game.  Dirk’s day as an elite power forward are behind him now.  That said, it has been a joy to watch him play against other greats like Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett.

Honourable Mention:

David West (right) shoots over Reggie Evans.

David West (right) shoots over Reggie Evans.

David West.  West is a consummate professional, former All-Star, solid post player and a big reason why the Indiana Pacers almost beat the Miami Heat in this year’s playoffs.  He’s capable of providing a 20/10 on a good night and forces defence to keep bodies in the paint, which allows the Pacers’ perimeter players to spread the floor.   

Reggie Evans.  As limited a player as Evans is on offense, his defence and rebounding seem to make up for it, his rebounding most especially.  He won’t get as many minutes this year, due to the Nets acquisition of Hall-of-Fame-bound forward Kevin Garnett, but Garnett is getting older, so Evans will still be getting significant minutes. 

Gasol dunking on Stoudemire.

Gasol dunking on Stoudemire.

Pau Gasol.  Gasol is likely the most talented player of those I did not include in my top ten.  His production seems to have fallen off the past couple of years, but that may have been due in part to Andrew Bynum’s development and the arrival of Dwight Howard.  This season may see Gasol return to high usage and minutes, but injuries slowed him down last season.  We have yet to see what Gasol’s game will look like post-injuries, so things are up in the air. If the Lakers are struggling to earn wins, Gasol’s expiring contract may prove an interesting trade piece to bring in young talent.

Ama’re Stoudemire.  Injuries slowed Stoudemire down last season.  This season Stoudemire will be competing for minutes with the newly acquired Andrea Bargnani.  If healthy, Stoudemire could return to form and provide the Knicks with the lift they need to improve upon last season and could be among the best offensive players at his position.  If not, he may be pushed back to the bench.  His per36 number last season suggested he was ready to play at a high level again, but coach Mike Woodson, perhaps out of concern for his injury, did not seem interested in increasing his minutes.

Kenneth Faried throwing down a high percentages shot.

Kenneth Faried throwing down a high percentages shot.

Kenneth Faried. There were a couple of aging vets that I included in the top ten, such as Kevin Garnett and Dirk Nowitzki.  Along with Ilyasova, I believe that Faried can certainly unseat these vets and rank among the best power forwards in the league.  There will be few, if any, power forwards who are better on defence than Faried, and he is also one of the best rebounders at his position.  What is holding him back?  A limited offensive game.  He is aware of his limits and so does not take shots he isn’t going to make, which gives him a FG% that is well above .500, and though he only gets 1.4 turnovers a game, he also gets fewer assists than most forwards who get starting minutes.  Still, his defensive and rebounding presence is extremely impressive.    

ilyasovaErsan Ilyasova.  Ilyasova proved to be not only a quality 3pt shooter, but a good rebounder.  He is the type of forward a team could really build around, and with the departure of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, Ilyasova might finally get a starring role on offence.  I actually expect that he may crack the top ten next year if his game continues to improve, but there are so many other forwards who I expect great improvement from.  Ilyasova may make me look a fool before the season is over for not awarding him a spot in the top ten.

Serge Ibaka puts the breaks on Ryan Anderson's drive to the basket.

Serge Ibaka puts the breaks on Ryan Anderson’s drive to the basket.

Serge Ibaka.  Like Faried, Ibaka is one of the best defenders at his position, and this past season saw him begin to develop a reliable jumper as well.  His rebounding, however, is not as impressive as the likes of Faried or Evans and actually dipped down a little bit this past season. I do expect him to bounce back, but the Thunder have also drafted a big man to add to their roster and so Ibaka could find he has new competition for rebounds and minutes.

Ryan Anderson.  It seems unfair that the Pelicans should have two of the best power forwards in the league, but both forwards are versatile.  While Davis can play minutes at center, Anderson can play minutes at small forward.  Anderson is a nice compliment to Davis. Though he is not as strong a rebounder or defender, he has range that is lacking in Davis.  The Pelicans should win any power forward match-up they have this season so long as these two guys stay healthy. 

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