By Chris Le
(original post on 11/20/07)
Power Forward, unquestionably, the marquee position of the last decade. And there’s a nice crop of young, budding superstars waiting in the wings for their turn in the spotlight. As of right now, however, the old school veterans dominate this position, and I don’t expect them to relinquish their stronghold any time soon.
My top three selections have won four the last six MVP trophies, and, most importantly, four of the last ten championships. Though, credit the latter accolade to one man…
Tim Duncan – There really isn’t anyone else that could rationally hold this spot. His numbers may be modest compared to those directly proceeding him on this list and his game considered boring by some, but all TD has done since entering the league in 1998 is win—and that’s all that really matters. Not to mention he’s made the All-NBA and All-Defense Team every year he’s been in the game. It’s hard to imagine anyone doing it quietly, but Timmy has inconspicuously built a strong argument as the best player in the post-Jordan era.
- Kevin Garnett – If anyone in the NBA deserves an NBA championship, it’s KG. Nobody plays as fervently, works with his soldier-like mentality, or wears more of his emotions on his sleeve. That’s been the case for many years now. This season, however, it appears that his team, at least on paper, might be good enough to win one. Either way, he’s still going to post 20-12-4.
- Dirk Nowitzki – How can the reigning MVP merely be the third best player at his own position? Answer: when the reigning MVP was barely the second best player on his own team (Josh Howard), when the Dallas Mavericks were upset by the 8-seed Golden State Warriors. In the postseason, Nowitzki saw his regular season numbers drop in points (24.6 to 19.7), field goal percentage (.502 to .383), three-point percentage (.416 to .211), and increase in turnovers (2.14 to 2.33). Still, I’m being supercritical (though we should be when analyzing supposed superstars and MVPs). Dirk remains a matchup nightmare for any coach, and you won’t find a better 7-foot shooter…ever.
- Chris Bosh – Give Bosh credit for making the LeBron-Wade-‘Melo 2003 draft class discussion into the LeBron-Wade-‘Melo-Bosh debate. Give him even more credit for taking a Toronto Raptors team that was 27-55 in 2006 (12th in the East) to 47-35 last year (4th in the East). If Bosh recovers well from his recent foot injury (which he should), I wouldn’t automatically give the Atlantic Division to KG and his Boston Celtics just yet.
- Carlos Boozer – Booz was a stud a year ago (20.9 ppg, 11.7 rpg, 3.0 apg), and even more of a monster in the playoffs, posting 23.5 ppg, 12.2 rpg, 2.9 apg. He also served the man who occupies the number one ranking on this list one of the sickest rejections I’ve seen in a while. The upcoming years in Utah are looking pretty good with two franchise caliber players in Boozer and Deron Williams (my 8th best point guard in the NBA).
- Elton Brand – What a difference a year makes. Two seasons ago, he was being showered with MVP and All-NBA consideration. Now, he’s all but forgotten, due to the Clippers missing the playoffs and a ruptured left Achilles tendon, which is expected to sideline Brand for several months into the 2008 season. Even with the injury, Brand warrants a high ranking because when healthy, he’s an elite power forward, evidenced by career marks of 20.3 ppg, 10.2 rpg, and 2.1 bpg.
- Jermaine O’Neal – Speaking of precipitous drops from the limelight, it was only a few seasons ago that O’Neal was considered a top three power forward. Marred by injury and a dysfunctional relationship with the organization, it appears O’Neal is ready to re-enter the elite of the elite—and that may mean moving to another team. Teams will definitely be interested in this baby-faced big man, with his double-double dependability and defensive stoutness (2.6 bpg in 2007, 3rd in the league).
- Rasheed Wallace – The Detroit Pistons are testing out ‘Sheed at the center position, but until I see him for a full season at center, I’m considering him a power forward—and a good one at that. When he keeps his temper in check (and he did somewhat in the past season), he is one of the best one-on-one defending fours in the league. And though his 12.3 ppg in 2007 is paltry by comparison to the other power forwards on this list, they don’t indicate Wallace’s effect on the offensive end, stretching an opposing defense with his three-point capabilities.
- Pau Gasol – One of the many stars this summer to demand a trade and another PF that could possibly play center in the upcoming season, Gasol has been flirting with 20 and 10 for the last couple of seasons. This could be the year in which he becomes a legit double-double machine. That goal will be delayed with Gasol recently suffering an ankle injury, but with incoming rookie point guard Mike Conley Jr., I expect both to put up big numbers.
- Antawn Jamison – Playing alongside Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler, you can imagine not getting many shot opportunities or much time in the spotlight. But Jamison still managed to put up 19.8 points and 8.0 rebounds per game, and when his two All-Star teammates went down just before the postseason, he displayed some true scoring proficiency, exploding for 32.0 points and 9.8 points per game in the first round booting by the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Honorable Mention: Zach Randolph, Al Jefferson, Lamar Odom