In the wake of the swirling trade rumors this summer surrounding Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star Kevin Love, it got me thinking about where Love stacks up with the rest of the Power Forwards in the loaded Western Conference (Charles Barkley recently called Love the best Power Forward in the NBA). With the Golden State Warriors reportedly one of the heavy suitors for Love; David Lee would almost certainly be involved in the trade, which got me thinking about where he falls on a list of the top PF’s out west. Of course this list would need tinkering if Love gets dealt to one of his Eastern Conference (Cavs, Bulls) suitors before the season starts but for now he resides in the West. This list is based on how good the players are at this very moment, not their overall career resume or their potential. Stats are from the 2013-14 season.
Excluded. Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
The legend of the best Power Forward of all time has grown after playing very well in two straight NBA Finals at the end of his career. Even though he is still a productive player on both ends of the floor, Duncan has been slowly turning into a Center the last few years as his foot speed and athleticism deteriorates to the point where he played almost exclusively at Center this past season. And with the infusion of small ball throughout the NBA he is clearly more of a Center than Power Forward in the year(s) to come. So he gets left off the list because this is my subjective list and I think of him as a Center.
10. Ryan Anderson, New Orleans Pelicans: 36.1 minutes per game (mpg), 19.8 points per game (ppg), 6.5 rebounds per game (rpg), 43.8% field goals (fg%), 40.9% 3-point field goals (3p%)
Limited to 22 games last season due to a serious neck injury (yikes!) all signs point to him being ready for training camp. One of the best shooting big men in the NBA makes him arguably the best 6th man in the league when healthy. Unfortunately for the Pelicans their defense seems to disappear when Anderson and blossoming star Anthony Davis (more on him later) play together. An annual trade chip, Anderson could be shopped again by New Orleans this season if him and Davis can’t play together and could make for a nice consolation prize for contenders who miss out on acquiring Kevin Love.
9. Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets: 27.2 mpg, 13.7 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 54.5 fg%
Heading into his 4th NBA season, the book is still out on Faried. He came into the league as a super athletic defender and rebounding manic. While his rebounding hasn’t been spectacular, it’s still been solid. However, he has morphed into a below-average defender which would have left him off the list if he hadn’t developed into an above-average offense player. Confused as I am? Eligible for an extension this season, the Nuggets would be inclined to wait and see what kind of year Faried has in 2014-15.
8. David Lee, Golden State Warriors: 33.2 mpg, 18.2 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 52.3 fg%
David Lee’s lack of defensive skill has been well documented, especially here in the Bay Area. Simply put he is a poor on-ball defender, even worse as a help defender, and sometimes appears clueless defending the pick & roll. With that being said averaging 18 and 10 while playing in the Western Conference is nothing to sneeze at. Combine that with his above-average passing ability and solid locker room presence and Lee can be a very effective offensive player and valuable contributor on a good team. At 31, Lee may not be in decline yet, and if he remains in a Warrior uniform I expect another solid offensive campaign.
7. Zach Randolph, Memphis Grizzlies: 34.2 mpg, 17.4 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 46.7 fg%
Heading into his 14th year, Z-Bo is still one of the NBA’s premier offensive post players. At times Randolph quite frankly cannot be guarded one-on-one by other Power Forwards, which makes Memphis the perfect team for him because Centers have to deal with Marc Gasol, Z-Bo’s goliath tag-team partner. Also a more than capable rebounder, Randolph tied for 4th in the NBA with 47 double-doubles. Memphis rewarded Randolph this summer with an extension that will keep him with the Grizz for 3 more seasons. He also headlines the list of “NBA players you’d most want on your side if a brawl broke out”.
6. Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City Thunder: 32.9 mpg, 15.1 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 2.7 blocks per game (bpg), 53.6 fg%, 38.3 3p%
The first real two-way player to appear on this list. Ibaka was 2nd in the league in blocks per game and 1st in blocks per 48min in 2013-14. One of the most disruptive defensive players in the league already, Ibaka has steadily improved his jump shot and thus his overall offensive game. His 3-point% has improved every year to the point where he cannot be left open anymore beyond the arc. The fact that he’s the third best player on his own team is a sign of how dangerous OKC can be, and makes 2014-15 another championship or bust season for the Thunder.
5. Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks: 32.9 mpg, 21.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 49.7 fg%, 39.8 3p%, 89.9 free throw% (ft%)
A supreme offensive player for more than a decade, Dirk has seemed to benefit from a little more rest the last two seasons. In 2012-2013 Nowitzki averaged 31.3 minutes per game, which was his lowest mark since ’98-’99. His minutes did rise a shade this past season, but it was still his second lowest mpg this century. Those extra few minutes of rest per game assuredly helped Nowitzki turn in his best overall season since the Mavs won it all in 2011. He was 8th in the league in points per 48 minutes.
4. LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers: 36.2 mpg, 23.2 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 45.8 fg%
Is it possible Aldridge had the best season of his career while also recording the lowest field goal percentage of his career? Of course it’s possible; because that is exactly what happened. Aldridge shot over 20 times per game in Portland’s super up-tempo offense, which helps make his low shooting percentage understandable. Aldridge is a legit 6’11 and his array of face-up and turnaround jump shots are virtually impossible to block, making him a nightmare to guard one-on-one. If he can get close to 50% on an unblockable shot, it’s one well worth taking. He also finished 2nd among Power Forwards in rebounds per game.
3. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans: 35.2 mpg, 20.8 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 2.8 bpg, 51.9 fg%, 79.1 ft%
Arguably the third best asset in the entire NBA behind LeBron and KD. Davis won’t turn 22 until March 2015 and is rapidly ascending. He led the NBA in blocks per game this past season to go along with his improving offensive skills. The importance of Davis’ all around game to the Pelicans landed him 4th in the NBA in PER (John Hollinger’s Player Efficiency Rating), behind only Durant, James, and Kevin Love. The Pelicans have struck gold with a superstar in the making.
2. Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers: 35.8 mpg, 24.1 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 3.9 assists per game (apg), 52.8 fg%
The Clippers are essentially running back the same team from last season. After a disappointing ending to the season including: a bizarre situation with their owner, a gut-wrenching loss in game 5 in Oklahoma City, and getting eliminated at home in game 6, there should be pressure on the Clips to go deeper in the playoffs next season. The weight of their success will hinge on Chris Paul and Griffin, who at 25 years old is already a top 8 player in the NBA. He was 6th in the NBA in scoring and will only get better as a post scorer. The West will be loaded once again, but expectations should be on LAC to at least reach the Conference Finals.
1. Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves (for now): 36.3 mpg, 26.1 ppg, 12.5 rpg, 4.4 apg, 45.7 fg%, 37.6 3p%, 82.1 ft%
So it took over 1,000 words for us to realize that we agree with Charles Barkley. Kevin Love is the best Power Forward in the NBA and a top 5 player overall. He trailed only Kevin Durant and LeBron James in PER and Estimated Wins Added, two categories used by stats expert John Hollinger to measure how much value a player has to his team. The knock on Love is that he failed to lead his team to the playoffs once again. The counterargument is that the Timberwolves would have been the worst team in the Western Conference without him. He was 4th in the NBA in scoring and 3rd in rebounding. He recorded 65 double-doubles, most in the league, in just 77 games played. Among Power Forwards he ranked 1st in: scoring, rebounding, assists, and free throws made. It’s no wonder why Love is so highly coveted.