Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki

On the first full week of each month this season, I’m going to rank the top 10 NBA players at each position based on how I expect them to perform in the coming month. If a player is injured and is expected to miss most of the month, then they probably won’t make the list regardless of his value when healthy. I’ll rank the point guards on Monday, the shooting guards on Tuesday… you get the picture.  Your feedback is welcome, even if you want to tell me how incredibly, irredeemably clueless I am.

Today, we’re counting down the power forwards. A few explanations in advance: Carlos Boozer isn’t on the list because he’s not going to be playing this month and Pau Gasol isn’t listed because I’m ranking him as a center — I’ll explain why in tomorrow’s rankings. As for David Lee, his numbers are certain to decline on a Warriors team that doesn’t play “Nellieball” anymore and he remains one of the worst defensive big men in the NBA so he just missed the cut for the start of the season.

10. David West, New Orleans Hornets — 2009-10 stats: 81 GP, 36.4 MPG, 19.0 PPG, 3.0 APG, 7.5 RPG, 0.9 SPG, 0.7 BPG, .505 FG%, .259 3P%, .865 FT%, 18.9 PER

This may seem like a low ranking for a player who appeared in back-to-back All-Star Games in 2008 and 2009, but West’s defense and rebounding have slowly declined over the past few seasons in New Orleans. He’s still a very good offensive player, with a lot of his points coming off a deadly mid-range jumper he shoots frequently off pick-and-pop scenarios with Chris Paul. But at 30 years old, it’s unlikely he’s going to return to the All-Star Game at this stage in his career.

9. LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers — 2009-10 stats: 78 GP, 37.5 MPG, 17.9 PPG, 2.1 APG, 8.0 RPG, 0.9 SPG, 0.6 BPG, .495 FG%, .313 3P%, .757 FT%, 18.2 PER

Great things were expected of Aldridge when he was signed to a five-year, $65 million contract extension by the Blazers last October, but he leveled off last season and it now seems like multiple All-Star Game appearances may not be in the cards. He’ll probably produce in the range of 18 points, eight rebounds and a block per game over the next few seasons, but Blazers fans were probably aiming a little high when they believed they had another Chris Bosh on their hands.

8. Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves — 2009-10 stats: 60 GP, 28.6 MPG, 14.0 PPG, 2.3 APG, 11.0 RPG, 0.7 SPG, 0.4 BPG, .450 FG%, .330 3P%, .815 FT%, 20.7 PER

Attention fantasy team owners! You’re looking at a probable breakout fantasy stud for the 2010-11 season. When T-Wolves GM David Kahn traded Al Jefferson, he created the opportunity for Kevin Love to earn starter’s minutes this season and show if last season’s eye-popping per-36-minute averages (17.7 points, 13.8 rebounds, 2.9 assists) will continue when he’s actually playing around 36 minutes per game. With his improving three-point shot and surprisingly solid defense, there could be some All-Star love in the big man’s future. And don’t mind the wisecracks you might receive from your fellow fantasy owners if you take him in the second round of the draft. If Love stays healthy, you’ll probably have the last laugh.

7. Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks — 2009-10 stats: 81 GP, 35.1 MPG, 14.2 PPG, 2.3 APG, 9.9 RPG, 0.7 SPG, 1.1 BPG, .551 FG%, 1.000 3P%, .789 FT%, 19.4 PER

Considering that Al Horford has progressed quite nicely in his three seasons as the Hawks’ starting center — including his first All-Star Game appearance last season — I’m not entirely sure it’s a good idea to move him to power forward in 2010-11. He’s become one of the better defensive big men in the game and I assume that would make him more valuable as a center. But he’s moving to the four-spot regardless and I expect he’ll do just fine thanks to an improved jumpshot and the size and footwork to guard most opposing power forwards.

6. Zach Randolph, Memphis Grizzlies — 2009-10 stats: 81 GP, 37.7 MPG, 20.8 PPG, 1.8 APG, 11,7 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 0.4 BPG, .488 FG%, .288 3P%, .778 FT%, 21.2 PER

Z-Bo’s ninth NBA season was his best one, and it’s safe to say not too many people saw that coming. More than ever, he’s an absolute beast as a post scorer and on the boards and there are only a handful of other players who are as reliable at giving his team 20-and-10 every game. On defense, he has the size to be decent in the post when he’s interested, but his inability to convince the Grizzlies to offer him a contract extension could lead to some disgruntlement. Then again, playing in a contract year could be just the motivation he needs to play even harder than ever.

Chris Bosh and Kevin Garnett

5. Amar’e Stoudemire, New York Knicks — 2009-10 stats: 82 GP, 34.6 MPG, 23.1 PPG, 1.0 APG, 8.9 RPG, 0.6 SPG, 1.0 BPG, .557 FG%, .167 3P%, .771 FT%, 22.6 PER

Needless to say, Knicks fans have extremely high expectations for their “big catch” from the 2010 free agency bonanza. Reuniting with coach Mike D’Antoni figures to be good for him, but with all due respect to his new teammate Raymond Felton — he’s no Steve Nash. Suns fans know how inconsistent his effort can be on defense and on the boards, but if new Knick center Timofey Mozgov eventually lives up to his apparently vast potential, those areas might be taken care of. Most of all, Amar’e needs to stay healthy and on the court to win the hearts and minds of New York’s hoops faithful.

4. Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics — 2009-10 stats: 69 GP, 29.9 MPG, 14.3 PPG, 2.7 APG, 7.3 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 0.8 BPG, .521 FG%, .200 3P%, .837 FT%, 19.4 PER

Perhaps more than any of my October positional rankings, this one is a “hunch pick”. While reports out of Boston that he’s regained most of his mobility should be taken with a grain of salt, he ran without an apparent limp in his preseason debut against the Sixers last night. More than anything, I’m giving K.G. some credit for his leadership and obvious hunger to avenge last season’s devastating Finals loss to the Lakers. He’ll never again be the “Big Ticket” he used to be, but he’s still better than all but a few power forwards in the NBA.

3. Chris Bosh, Miami Heat — 2009-10 stats: 70 GP, 36.1 MPG, 24.0 PPG, 2.4 APG, 10.8 RPG, 0.6 SPG, 1.0 BPG, .518 FG%, .364 3P%, .797 FT%, 25.0 PER

While it’s almost certain that Bosh will take a significant hit to his scoring output now that he’s playing with LeBron and Wade, it would be unwise for the Heat to only see him as a “third option” on offense because he’s become one of the most unstoppable and versatile scorers in the game. It will be very interesting to see what he can accomplish now that he won’t be facing double teams most of the time he gets the ball. It wouldn’t surprise me if his field goal percentage rose into the mid-50s this season.

2. Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks — 2009-10 stats: 81 GP, 37.5 MPG, 25.0 PPG, 2.7 APG, 7.7 RPG, 0.9 SPG, 1.0 BPG, .481 FG%, .421 3P%, .915 FT%, 22.9 PER

It bums me out a little to think that Dirk Nowitzki might not win an NBA title, because he’s been one of the great players of the past decade and also one of the most enjoyable to watch. While his rebounding has declined as he enters his 30s, he’s still an elite scorer and inexplicably underrated as a defender — the Mavs allowed 5.1 fewer points per 100 possessions when he was on the court compared to when he was off the court last season. If there’s one thing I would change about him if I was his coach, I would advise him to jack up treys more like he did in his early years. With a 42 percent success rate beyond the arc last season, it’s puzzling that he only averaged 1.5 attempts per game.

1. Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs — 2009-10 stats: 78 GP, 31.3 MPG, 17.9 PPG, 3.2 APG, 10.1 RPG, 0.6 SPG, 1.5 BPG, .518 FG%, .182 3P%, .725 FT%, 24.7 PER

Before we ponder whether or not The Big Fundamental still belongs at the top of this list, we should probably determine whether he’s really a power forward or a center. Most fans think of him as a power forward, but Duncan has played most of his minutes at center in recent years. However, the signing of Tiago Splitter most likely means that Duncan will return to his preferred role as starting power forward — hopefully meaning that his body will hold up better over the course of the season. As for his placement at the top of this list, he may be a step slower and he can’t play as many minutes as he used to, but nobody on this list can match his all-around game. There’s a good reason most smart basketball minds consider him to be the greatest power forward in the history of the game.

Comments (28)

  1. Wow. Even as a Spurs fan, I’m surprised that TD’s numbers are equivalent if not better than Dirk’s. That’s not even counting all the little things he does to win a game that can’t be quantified.

  2. I’m a little confused as to what authority you’re going under that’s moving Al Horford to PF and Josh Smith to SF… I haven’t read anything, but I could be blind.

  3. No Scola on the Top-10 list? Are you sure you watched the FIBA World Championship? Don’t tell me that he couldn’t make the list…

  4. Happy to see TD at number 1. Hes one of my all time favs!

  5. There’s been a lot of disclaimers about not putting and Warriors on the list. I could be sensing some bias but I guess our record might not lie.

    Still disclaimers on pg (Curry), sg (Ellis), sf (former warrior magette), pf (Lee)

    but i won’t fault you if you leave Biedrins off haha

  6. Jaceman: I’ve read it in several places, but here’s a link: http://www.hoopsvibe.com/nba-news-and-rumors/articles/105411-size-matters-al-horford-must-play-pf-for-hawks-to-contend

    Javier: Scola was excellent at FIBA, but that’s not the NBA and it’s a small sample size. These rankings are updated monthly so if he steps up his game like that in the NBA regular season, then he’ll crack the top 10 at some point.

    SpnSprt: I don’t have bias against the Warriors, but I do dislike Monta Ellis’ game. Curry and D. Lee would probably be ranked 11th at their respective positions if the list went that long. And for what it’s worth, I’m a Raptors fan and you might have noticed there haven’t been any Raptors on these lists, either.

  7. Remember when power forwards used to block shots? Those were the days.

  8. Millsap is better than Aldridge.

  9. I assume you just decided to move Pau Gasol to center? cause he’s better than anyone on this list bar none.

  10. also, no Boozer?

  11. 2nd AlexO. No Pau? ‘Cause he is ranked the best PF by NBA GM’s, Yahoo Sports, and me.

  12. AlexO and Everett: Read the intros to these power rankings. Pau will be in the C rankings. As for Boozer, these rankings are for the next month, and Boozer won’t be playing in October — or November, for that matter.

  13. Great stuff, as always. Some reservations, as always.
    1. Dirk Is about as much fun to watch as your grandmothers knitting. His fadeaway 7ft act is a disgrace on the level of Hoff, and he’s exhibit A in the ‘never make a jump shooting PF your guy.
    2. On the topic of jump shooting PF’s – how can you not at least drop Bosh 3 or 4 spots lin these rankings for defense? He rarely blocks and almost never alters shots – something actual elite big men tend to do.
    3. Stoudamire’s defense was fantastic throughout the playoffs. He deserves better.
    4. Kudos for leaving David Lee off the list.

  14. Since Pau is arguably the best PF in the league you’re going to make him a Center, smart move, I guess he forgot how to play his natural position overnight?

    Oh no, I get it!… let me guess, 2nd behind Dwight?, and then you name Popovich the best coach.

  15. correct me if i’m wrong, but last i checked Pau Gasol still plays in the NBA and is a PF. he should probably be # 1 on this list right now.

  16. So no Boozer or Josh Smith in the top 10? Pretty interesting stuff considering Boozer has made Chicago one of the big teams and Smith was one of the best players in the first half of last season.

  17. the only reason Pau not in here cuz hes gonna play center for injured bynum so at least mention that don’t just oh you’ll find out why i put him on the center list when i put it up seriously TBJ use to be good what happened since they becoming big time and gettin a tv deal and shit they don’t care anymore about real fans so they put crappy bloggers to take their place like Trey “Brad Miller Give me Orgasms” Kerby and This guy whos doing the positional rankings by pulling stupid shit out of his ass wheres odom at and plus HWANG is big

  18. max and ksp: Pau played more minutes at C than PF last season and most likely will again this season because of Andrew Bynum’s ongoing injury problems. I’ve tried to rank players at the positions where they’ll play the most minutes. Wouldn’t you agree that makes sense?

    Peter: Horford is the Hawks’ PF now which means Josh Smith is their SF, as indicated in yesterday’s rankings. And Boozer won’t play all month so there’s no reason to include him in this month’s rankings.

  19. What a bunch of whiny brats.

    A. Read the whole post before you blast the author for things he already clearly explained and you obviously couldn’t be bothered to read before opening your fat mouths.

    B. If you don’t like his list or his criteria for labeling X player at Y position, GO MAKE YOUR OWN !! The author doesn’t need your approval or your validation.

  20. David Lee is definitely better than David West and probably better than LaMarcus Aldridge.
    I tend to think that both of those guys are super overrated, though.
    Since when was Horford not their C? Who did they get that will replace him there?

  21. Ah… as of today the Hawks still start Hoford at C and Josh Smith at PF (check their preseason game against the Grizzlies)

  22. Yikes… TD may be the best PF to ever play the game, but at age 34, are you sure you’re not over-rating him here?

    Statistically, I think Amare will probably be the PER king of PFs next month. If you’re talking about wins contributed, Dirk Nowitzki is probably the guy I’d have at 1.

    I like Atlanta moving Horford to PF. Physically, the guy is too small for C, and the beating he’s taken his whole career thus far has been kind of unnecessary. I feel like ATL shortened his career by slotting him in at C, and I’m glad they’re taking steps to move him back to his natural position.

  23. armand: If Horford and Smith end up playing most of their minutes at the same positions they played last season, then I’ll move them to those rankings. I’m just going by what news reports have indicated in preseason.

    Bing: These were the toughest rankings for me to create from 1 through 5 out of all the positions. In spite of his gentle decline, I put Duncan at the top because he remains the one player out of the top five who doesn’t have a significant weakness in his game.

  24. - What do you mean nobody saw ZBo’s season coming? Attitude and legal problems aside, he’s been basically a 20-10 guy for years.

    - If you’re using the finals as evidence of KG STILL being an elite player, you must have been listening to Tommy Heinsohn without any visuals.

    - Grow a pair and don’t cop out with “Boozer’s injured so he’s off the rankings”. Might as well say he’s top 10 when healthy or that he’s injury prone, undersized and is completely inept at either help or 1 on 1 d.

    - Tim Duncan, like every year since about 08, starts out at the top of the list and then is gassed by the time the playoffs roll around. Until Nowitzki shows any signs of slowing down, we can assume he’ll overtake the #1 spot by the end of the year.

    -Kevin Love is well on his way to becoming the next Antawn Jamison: great stats, no D, and a disaster any time he steps on the court in a big game.

  25. Fritz: I suggest you grow a pair of eyeballs and read the very opening line to these power rankings: “On the first full week of each month this season, I’m going to rank the top 10 NBA players at each position based on how I expect them to perform in the coming month.” With that in mind, do you understand now why I wouldn’t include Boozer in this particular ranking?

  26. I seen that, Scott and I understood exactly what you said. I still think it’s a bit of a cop-out. And I just to express the opinion that even when healthy, I don’t think Boozer should be there. Especially when people on this board are claiming that he’s “made the Bulls one of the big teams” when
    a) he hasn’t played a single game there and is already injured to boot
    b) a middle-of-the-road playoff team let him walk away for nothing
    c) he was losing minutes to Millsap who won’t even be starting for said middle-of-the-road playoff team
    Speaking of which, if we’re going to include perpetually injured 4′s who can’t guard anyone, I think Al Jefferson is a better choice.

  27. you’re retarded. josh smith should be on here, and horford shouldn’t be on here. Also if you continued to follow your logic regarding gasol, TD should be a center.

  28. @Fritz..Seems like you were the only one without visuals during playoffs…K.G might not be the do-it-all PF that he was,but his 1 on 1 D and help D are better than anyone on the list save if gasol wasnt listed as a C AND KG was the 20-10-5 guy if i remember correctly and not TD great though he is….if you saw the entire playoffs, you would have known how he completely neutralised Beasley, Jamison and Lewis in the EC…he got outplayed by Gasol in 4 of the 7 games but dats decent for a guy who’s supposed to be dust….

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