Roundtable: NBA's power forwards
1. Who's the best power forward in the NBA?
Sebastian Christensen, ESPN Deportes: LaMarcus Aldridge. He has great size, a well-rounded post game and a decent 18-foot jumper. While he lacks consistent health and a good team, he is the power forward with the best skill set in the NBA.
Ian Levy, The Two Man Game: Kevin Love. Health questions aside, extreme efficiency and versatility make him my choice. He may not be the best in any single area, but doing so many things well at the offensive end means an array of different lineups and skill sets can be oriented around him. His best comes from filling the cracks and supporting his teammates in countless ways.
Benjamin Polk, A Wolf Among Wolves: Kevin Love. I say this with hesitation because Love is still a mediocre defender, and his 2012-13 season was wrecked by injuries. But I'm still convinced that when he's healthy, he's one of the top six or seven players in the league. Nobody in the NBA can match his synthesis of offensive volume, scoring efficiency and utter rebounding domination.
Ramona Shelburne, ESPN Los Angeles: I can't believe how difficult it is for me to answer this one. I want to say Tim Duncan after his resurgent season. But how can I ignore younger talents like Blake Griffin, Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge? And how can I dismiss veterans like Pau Gasol, Zach Randolph, Kevin Garnett and Dirk Nowitzki? Ah, forget it, I'm going to stick with Duncan. He was one Patrick Ewing moment away from his fifth ring at age 37.
Jordan White, Hardwood Paroxysm: Kevin Love. Love's limited season robbed us of one of the NBA's best young players, one who is capable of posting a 20-point, 20-rebound line on any given night. He has improved enough on the defensive end to where he's no longer a liability, and is in fact decent in man-to-man situations. Still, his calling card is on offense, where he can do equal damage from inside and out and on the boards.
2. Who's the most underrated power forward in the NBA?
Christensen: Kevin Love. He doesn't have the sexiest game and is coming of an injury plagued season in which he played only 18 games. Love is a very good free throw shooter, an above average 3-point threat for his size and a double-double machine. Show him some love.
Levy: LeBron James. Underrated and LeBron don't usually overlap, but the only reason he isn't my answer to the first question is the lingering shadow of traditional positional designations. He played the majority of his minutes as a power forward last season, but it was difficult to tell because he single-handedly redefined the standards of versatility.
Polk: David West. I love the contrast between West's studied, schematic midpost game and his bricklayer attitude. The dude is just a house of pain.
Shelburne: Al Horford. He's been forced to play center and go up against much bigger guys the past couple of seasons because of Atlanta's limitations, but still managed to hold his own and grow his game in relative anonymity. I would've loved to see him paired up with a true center like Dwight Howard (so would the Hawks, by the way) but it was not to be, and now he faces an even bigger challenge without Josh Smith to help protect the rim.
White: Ryan Anderson. Perhaps it was New Orleans' miserable season that caused Anderson to fly under the radar, or maybe it was the misconception that Anderson is simply a 3-point specialist. True, his long-range sniping is his specialty (he shot 38 percent from deep last year), but he also moves very well without the ball and is a surprisingly efficient rebounder, averaging 7.5 rebounds per 36 minutes last season.
3. Who's the most overrated power forward in the NBA?
Christensen: Blake Griffin. The human highlight reel is all about power and thunderous dunks. However, he still has ways to go with his jumper and his post game is lackluster. He has gotten better with his free throw shooting but is still under 70 percent.
Levy: David Lee. His ability to hit the midrange shot, score in the post and operate from the elbows make him an important offensive cog. But Lee's defensive deficiencies are so significant that it's often a wash. He's a useful player, but just looking at point totals inflates his value.
Polk: Serge Ibaka. Yes, Ibaka is a menacing shot blocker, and yes, he has nice touch from 15 feet. But his shot-blocking has always distracted fans from his team defensive shortcomings. And last year's playoffs revealed just how limited his offensive game still is.
Shelburne: Andrea Bargnani. It's a little odd to be dumping on him after one of his worst seasons as a professional, but such is the life of a former No. 1 overall pick. Bargnani is positioned for a nice rebound season with the Knicks, if he can stay healthy. Tyson Chandler will cover up his liabilities as a defender and rebounder, Carmelo Anthony will alleviate the pressure Bargnani has always faced to live up to that No. 1 pick status. Or at least one would hope so, as Bargnani's 11.27 PER rating last year was dreadful.
White: David Lee. Yes, he's very good on offense, but any work he does on that end is essentially negated by his production (or lack thereof) on defense. Lee is a defensive sieve, letting opponents have their way in the post or further out, ranking in the bottom five in proximal field goal percentage, allowing opponents to shoot 53 percent against him.
4. Who's the most promising power forward in the NBA?
Christensen: Anthony Davis. Playing for New Orleans, it is easy to fly under the radar, but Davis had a very decent rookie season. He averaged 13.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 1.2 steals. He still has to get stronger and develop his post game, but he will definitely be one the best power forwards in the NBA in seasons to come.
Levy: Anthony Davis. His promise is covered with the brightly patterned paper of defensive dominance and wrapped with a ribbon of supreme athleticism. Any frontcourt player who can single-handedly control the paint on defense will always find NBA success, and Davis can be that a thousand times over, to say nothing of his untapped potential at the offensive end.
Polk: Anthony Davis. At age 19, just two years removed from high school, battling injury and with very little refinement in his game, Davis still managed to be a relatively efficient NBA scorer and rebounder. And with that serpentine body and the ridiculous things he can do athletically, Davis has the potential to be a crushing defender.
Shelburne: Blake Griffin. That sounds like a strange answer for a guy whose made the All-Star team in his first three years in the league, but as Chris Paul noted the other day, Griffin is still far from reaching his ceiling as an NBA player. As talented as he is, Griffin is still working to improve his midrange game, timing with the pick-and-roll and defense. At best, he projects to a Karl Malone-type player. At worst, he's Shawn Kemp.
White: Anthony Davis. This is a somewhat circumstantial answer, as the Pelicans could easily move Davis to center full time if his body fills out. However, given that Davis played most of his minutes at power forward last season, I'll give him the label of most promising at this position. He displays a preternatural sense of timing on defense, which, when combined with his tremendous length, makes him a shot-blocking terror and overall menace at that end.
5. Who will be the best power forward in the NBA in five years?
Christensen: Kenneth Faried. Probably the most exciting player to watch in the league. He is a fierce rebounder and hustles at all times. He moves well without the ball and doesn't necessarily need the rock to help his team win. When he develops his offensive game, he will be the best power forward in the NBA.
Levy: Anthony Davis, again. He shows the most promise, and I haven't seen any reason to think he won't deliver on that promise.
Polk: Anthony Davis. I considered Love, but I worry that the incredible effort required to do the things he does will hamper his rebounding production down the road. So I'm going to gamble on Davis' defensive potential and say that, at 25, he'll be combining an efficient offensive game with the ability to destroy anything an opposing offense tries to do.
Shelburne: Blake Griffin. I repeat myself, but in this case it's because I know the man's work ethic and desire to be great. Plus, there's the matter of Chris Paul pushing him every day. There's a good argument to be made for Love, Davis, or Aldridge, but in terms of ability, talent and ceiling, it's Griffin all the way. Love and Aldridge pretty much are what they're going to be, and Davis projects out to a Kevin Garnett-type, if he can add a post game and midrange jumper. But Griffin has the talent and drive to surpass all of them, if he continues to develop.
White: Anthony Davis. Again, this comes with the caveat that Davis is of the rare hybrid power forward/center breed and, in five years, could easily be a center. That said, Davis is already a terrific defensive player in the frontcourt and hasn't even begun to scratch the surface of his potential on offense. His rookie year per 36 averages of 16.9 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.2 blocks already foretell of a dominant two-way player.