Who Will Have the Best Front Court In the NBA for 2013/14?

There have been more than a moves so far this off season, and with big name free agents making moves, there has been a shift in the NBA power balance.  There are now several teams vying for the best starting front court in the league.  Teams like the Heat and the Thunder clearly have the best small forward in the league, but they both lack dominant rebounders and defenders in the post, so despite the fact they are among the best teams, it is hard to say they have the best front courts.  Looking at the moves that have been made, here’s how I see the best front courts shaping up:

1.  The Detroit Pistons.

Greg Monroe (left) and Andre Drummond.

Greg Monroe (left) and Andre Drummond.

It is unclear how newly minted Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks will put the line-up together, but the potential starting front court could consist of Andre Drummond starting at center, Greg Monroe starting at power forward and Josh Smith starting at small forward.  The combined FT shooting of those three may be the worst in the league, but the defence and rebounding would be insane.  Josh Smith is the worst rebounder among the three and he has pulled down as many as 9.6 per game.  Monroe has averaged as much as 11 per 36 minutes and in his rookie season Drummond posted 13.2 per 36 minutes.  There is no way all three will be able to post their best numbers whilst competing with each other for rebounds, but the fact that the Pistons will have all three of these guys crashing the glass ensures they will be one of the best rebounding teams in the league next year.  Each of these big men average no less than 1.3 steals per 36 minutes and combined they averaged over 5 blocks per 36 minutes last season.  On offense, Monroe and Drummond are both over .500 from the floor, so even if their offensive games aren’t as refined as some, they know when to pick their spots, and Smith, though a little too eager to drop a shot from down town, does have a respectable .465 from the field.  The Pistons seem the easy favorite for best starting front court in the league. 

2.  New York Knicks

Knicks fans hope that Melo, Amare and Chandler reach their potential this year.

Knicks fans hope that Melo, Amare and Chandler reach their potential this year.

I’m not sure what Mike Woodson’s plan is for next season, but I’m going to assume that Amare Stoudemire is healthy and is going to get 30+ minutes a game (which I grant is a huge assumption).  With or without Stoudemire though, the Knicks will be starting last year’s league-leading scorer at small forward in Carmelo Anthony, and the 2012 Defensive Player of the Year in Tyson Chandler.  On paper that is a great mix of offense and defense.  With a healthy Amare thrown in, the Knicks could have one of the most versatile, offensive, forward combinations in the league.  Anthony can create his own shot, and Stoudemire, when healthy, can post up, face the basket, create off the dribble and run the pick and roll.  There is little Stoudemire can’t do on offense when healthy.  The question is whether or not Woodson will be looking to assert Stoudemire as the primary second option, or whether the Knicks will be content paying a max-contract to a role player.  Talent wise though, the Knicks have the potential to be starting the best front court in the league.  Should Amare find himself coming off the bench or on the injured list, the Knicks will likely not even have one of the ten best starting front courts in the league, but the potential is there.

3.  Brooklyn Nets

Brook Lopez will be welcoming Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn's front court.

Brook Lopez will be welcoming Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn’s front court.

They will be aged, but they will also have experience.  With the offensively talented Brook Lopez starting in the middle, and the defensive minded Garnett starting at power forward beside him, the power positions will have a great balance of offense and defense, and Lopez’s rebounding numbers weren’t as awful last year as they had been previously.  Paul Pierce just makes it gravy.  He is a strong rebounder for his position, and a great ball handler and has been known to play some great defense.  The only question is: How much will age play a factor this season?  Garnett and Pierce may rely heavily on their back-ups, but since Reggie Evans will be spotting Garnett and Andrei Kirelenko will be backing up Pierce, that shouldn’t be too big of a problem. 

4.  Indiana Pacers

Hibbert, West, George and Granger will make for a formidable line-up in Indiana next year.

Hibbert, West, George and Granger will make for a formidable line-up in Indiana next year.

I may be underrating the Pacers, but there is some stiff competition in the league this upcoming season.  Roy Hibbert, David West and Paul George (or Danny Granger) are going to make up one of the elite starting front court next season.  West is a solid post scorer, Granger and George are both solid wing scorers that have multiple weapons, and Hibbert, if you would believe his coach, is the best defensive center in the league.  This is the team that took the champion Heat to 7 games and very likely could have won the series had the ball bounced the other way on a couple of plays.  Still, though the Pacers may be better as a team, I’m not sure the front court has the same potential to dominate as some other teams.

5.  Chicago Bulls

None of the current front courts in the NBA have been playing together longer than Deng (left) Boozer and Noah.

None of the current front courts in the NBA have been playing together longer than Deng (left) Boozer and Noah.

I know what you’re thinking.  Is this a list for the East?  The East has been weak in years past, but the past few seasons have seen them improve vastly.  The Bulls have Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng (for now at least).  Noah and Deng are premiere defenders at their position, and Boozer can score in the post as well as anybody in the league while also pulling in his share of the rebounds, which, when you couple that with Noah’s rebounding, spells trouble for other teams.  When you consider the fact that these guys are all willing to sacrifice for the team, and that they have one of the best coaches in the league orchestrating the defensive schemes, it becomes clear that these three will be one of the most effective starting front courts in the league, so long as Chicago keeps them together. 

6.  Goldenstate Warriors

Andrew Bogut and David Lee will be welcoming Andre Iguodala to the front court to make up the best passing front court in the league.

Andrew Bogut and David Lee will be welcoming Andre Iguodala to the front court to make up the best passing front court in the league.

Like the Pacers, I may be underestimating the Warriors.  The combination of David Lee, Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut make for a very unique combination.  All three have made All-Star appearances, and all three are great play makers for their position.  There will not be better ball movement coming out of any front court in the league than there will be from these three players.  Bogut and Lee averaged a little over 22 rebounds per 36 minutes in tandem last season, and Iggy can pitch in over 5 a game himself, so they will have more than respectable rebounding numbers as well.  Offensively their combined FG% will be a little lower than some, but Bogut and Lee take more jumpers than some big men in the league, so that is to be expected.  With their smooth passing ability and stellar rebounding, they should be able to play as well as any front court they meet in the playoffs, even if defensively they aren’t as exceptional as a team like Detroit. 

7.  Memphis Grizzlies

After a deep playoff run, the Grizzlies are likely hoping to build on last year's success.

After a deep playoff run, the Grizzlies are likely hoping to build on last year’s success.

Though Zach Randolph finished in the top five for rebounding, the numbers that Marc Gasol and Tayshaun Prince post are not as impressive as some others at their respective positions.  The Grizzlies should be able to keep up on the glass, but they won’t win the battle of the glass every night.  Neither will they be posting the best FG% in the league.  But they are not without their merits.  There is perhaps not better passing big man in the league other than Gasol, who hands out over 4 assists per 36 minutes and with a better assist-to-turnover ratio than some point guards.  He is also the reigning defensive player of the year, which has got to count for something.  Randolph is one of the best post scorers in the league.  Prince is more of a role player, but he is a defensive specialist who has been able to slow down some of the league’s best offensive players.  Just look at playoff match-ups he’s had with: LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Tracey McGrady.  Aside from his defence, he has proven a reliable 3-poitn shooter throughout his career and he’s a great team player. 

8.  Houtson Rockets

Will Dwight Howard make Houston's front court one of the best in the league?

Will Dwight Howard make Houston’s front court one of the best in the league?

There is not a better center in the league than Dwight Howard.  That does not mean he is not without his limitations.  He will likely be demanding the ball a lot in the post and that will mean some offensive fouls and some turnovers.  He does not handle double-teams well.  That aside, he is of course the league’s leading rebounder (I would suggest Reggie Evans is the better rebounder of the two, but Evans has his own set of limitations), and Dwight is also the best defensive anchor in the league.  The reason the Rockets are not higher on the list is of course the fact that they don’t really have a power forward.  My assumption will be that Omer Asik will be moving to power forward and Chandler Parsons will be starting at small forward.  Parsons displayed some great potential last season and is a solid rebounder for his position and great shooter.  He is also a solid playmaker, but his frontcourt mates are notorious for turning the ball over.  Asik may prove to be the best rebounder on the team, and his defensive stats rival Dwight’s, so there should be few easy paths the basket for opposing teams so long as these two are on the floor together, but I’m not sure the chemistry required to make them the best front court in the league will be present.  Teams like the Pacers, the Grizzlies and the Bulls have been playing together for years while the Warriors and the Nets are adding some talented veterans that know how to gel with teammates.  It remains unclear how well the melding process will go with Asik and Howard, and if they aren’t on the court at the same time, there will be a gaping hole at power forward.  Who knows though, Greg Smith could blow up next season.

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