NBA: Top Six Power Forwards
By: Travis Heath
Power forwards in today's game take many different forms. Some possess perimeter skill sets, while others dominate in the post with their backs to the basket. This makes evaluating the four-spot a unique challenge.
Please keep in mind this list will feature your friendly neighborhood columnist's prediction of the six power forwards who will have the best seasons in 2008-09, and is not necessarily a list of the six "best" power forwards in the game today (although there is admittedly some overlap).
With that understanding, here's a look at the players HOOPSWORLD believes will have the best season at the power forward position in 2008-09.
6. Chris Bosh - Toronto Raptors
With Jermaine O'Neal in the fold and Jose Calderon signed to a long-term deal, Bosh is set up to have a great season. His versatility offensively and his mobility on both ends of the floor will be on full display this season since he will not have the burden of carrying the entire load in the pivot. The Raptors will be a fun team to watch and could make some noise in the East. If everything goes right, it wouldn't be a shock for Bosh's name to be a part of the MVP conversation. Even if that doesn't happen, expect Bosh to have a career-year in 2008-09.
5. Amare Stoudemire - Phoenix Suns
There was some doubt as to whether or not Stoudemire would ever be the same player after he underwent microfracture surgery in 2005. Fortunately for Stoudemire, he appeared to hit his stride again last season. While he may have lost a little bit of spring in his leg, he's still a monster for any defense to try and contain. He's also a solid rebounder and can at times very much intimidate opposing offenses with his shot-blocking ability. It remains to be seen whether or not the Suns' championship window has officially shut as many prognosticators believe, but Phoenix will be a playoff team next season. The fact Stoudemire will be running with Steve Nash, still one of the best point guards in the game, virtually ensures another big season for "STAT."
4. Carlos Boozer - Utah Jazz
This is a player who often gets left out of the discussion of best forwards in the game today. Boozer has been very good since arriving in Salt Lake City. The fact he has the ability to opt out of his deal and cash-in big next summer should provide even more motivation for him to perform this season. Boozer is very good offensively and can score from mid-range and on the box. He may be the best forward in the game today at using his off-hand to score around the rim, which often puts defenders a little off-kilter when trying to defend him. With Deron Williams running the point again next season, expect Boozer to get a ton of easy baskets on the break and off of the pick-and-roll thus ensuring he will again be one of the most productive forwards in the game in 2008-09.
3. David West - New Orleans Hornets
For my money, West is the most underrated player in the Association. Last season, he got some much deserved recognition after being named a Western Conference All-Star. Even so, it seemed many people still chalked up a great deal of his success to the play of Chris Paul. There's no doubt Paul is amazing, but West's performance is more than just a simple bi-product of playing next to Paul. West often extends defenses because of his ability to hit the 17-foot jumper and can also score inside with his back to the basket. It's easy to forget he also averaged 8.5 rebounds per-game last season, too. He was great last season and will be even better in 2008-09.
Despite coming to play every single night for over a decade, many fans failed to give Garnett his due mostly because he had never won a title. After one season in Boston, that all changed. While teammate Paul Pierce has been busy proclaiming himself the best in the world, Garnett has been training hard and mentally preparing himself to lead the C's to another title. Garnett's passion, focus and commitment to the defensive end of the floor completely transformed the Celtics last season. Expect Garnett to once again be the unequivocal leader for a Boston team that will have a fantastic chance of winning the Eastern Conference again next season.
1. Tim Duncan - San Antonio Spurs
With all due respect to Karl Malone, Tim Duncan is the best power forward who ever set foot on a NBA basketball court. Unfortunately, he never seems to get the credit he deserves because of his non-flashy and business like approach to the game. Make no mistake about it, though, Duncan is one for the ages. Sure his career averages of over 21 points and 11 rebounds might not floor folks, but Duncan is so much more than numbers. Every year Duncan is healthy is a year the Spurs have a legitimate shot at winning a championship. Since entering the league in 1997, Duncan's Spurs have won four titles. And despite the fact he will turn 33 on April 25th, Duncan is still performing at a high level. Moreover, San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich always seems to find a way to make sure Duncan is fresh come playoff time. Assuming he's healthy, Duncan will average his 20 and 10 and the Spurs will have another very good shot at bringing home title number five in the Duncan era.
Elton Brand - Philadelphia 76ers: Brand looked remarkably sharp during the last couple weeks of the season after returning from a torn Achilles. If he continues that trend and returns to his pre-injury form, Brand could be one of the best forwards in the game next season for Philly. If everything comes together, Brand's Sixers could win the East.
Dirk Nowitzki - Dallas Mavericks: It's easy to forget this guy was the league MVP just a couple of years ago. He's in the prime of his career and remains one of the most unique scorers in the game today with his 7-foot frame and outstanding outside shooting ability. Dallas fans are hoping new coach Rick Carlisle will pump some new life into Dirk and the Mavs. If he does, Nowitzki could easily be in the MVP discussion once again next season.
Pau Gasol - Los Angeles Lakers: Pau earned the nickname "Gasoft" during his time in Memphis with the Grizzlies. While Gasol will never be a power player, he certainly was very good after arriving in Los Angeles before the trade deadline last season. If Gasol is your number one guy, you're in trouble. But playing next to players like Kobre Bryant, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom should ensure Gasol has perhaps the best overall season of his career in 2008-09.
Rasheed Wallace - Detroit Pistons: Sheed is kind of like the Manny Ramirez of the NBA. When he's focused, he can absolutely dominate games on both ends of the floor. When he's not, though, things can become a circus. If he comes to camp in shape, keeps his head on straight during the regular season and maintains his focus once the playoffs commence, Wallace could help lead the Pistons to another title. On the other hand, Sheed could end up being traded by the deadline if he gets off to a slow start.
LaMarcus Aldridge - Portland Trail Blazers: Aldridge split time between the four and the five last season. This season, though, Aldridge will probably see more minutes -- and quite possibly the majority of his minutes -- at the four as the season progresses. As such, it was impossible to keep him off this list. He made huge strides last season and has the chance to develop into an All-Star in the very near future. He can score inside and out and rebound the ball. Playing in the high-post, he should be a very nice complement to Oden this season and for many seasons to come.