If you’re a fan of any of the players on this list besides Dirk Nowitzki, odds are you’re going to think I ranked your guy too low. What does that say about the depth of talent at this position? Of the top 20 in each category, here are the number of power forwards among these leaderboards:
- Points per game: 6
- Rebounds per game: 14
- Blocks per game: 6
- Player Efficiency Rating (PER): 6
When Josh Smith, Carlos Boozer and Paul Millsap aren’t quite good enough to crack this month’s rankings, that’s a sign that there are a lot of really good NBA power forwards right now.
10. (New entry) Zach Randolph, Memphis Grizzlies — 2010-11 stats: 50 GP, 37.0 MPG, 20.2 PPG, 1.6 APG, 13.2 RPG, 0.7 SPG, 0.4 BPG, .487 FG%, .179 3P%, .754 FT%, 21.7 PER
Do you think Zach Randolph looks at his numbers and wonders why everyone’s making such a big deal about Kevin Love? Let’s just say that Z-Bo was probably a little more motivated than usual on defense when they faced each other on Feb. 2 — Randolph finished with 23 and 13 in a win while K-Love was held to 10 and 10.
9. (New entry) Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs — 2010-11 stats: 52 GP, 29.0 MPG, 13.4 PPG, 3.0 APG, 9.2 RPG, 0.7 SPG, 2.0 BPG, .483 FG%, .000 3P%, .711 FT%, 21.5 PER
I left Timmy off my January rankings because of the widely-held belief that he’s slowing down and the fact that Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is limiting him to 29 minutes per game. Then I saw him dominate the Raptors on the defensive end last night and looked up his per-36-minute averages this season to compare to his career averages, which are coincidentally on exactly 36 minutes per game. This season’s per-36-minute averages: 16.7 points, 11.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 2.5 blocks. His career averages: 20.7 points, 11.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 2.3 blocks. So Duncan doesn’t score as much as he used to but he sets up his teammates more and he’s still a dominant rebounder and shot-blocker. It’s not just out of sentimentality that Duncan is going to play in his 13th straight All-Star game — he’s still pretty damn amazing.
8. (6.) Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves — 2010-11 stats: 52 GP, 36.8 MPG, 21.4 PPG, 2.5 APG, 15.6 RPG, 0.5 SPG, 0.4 BPG, .471 FG%, .439 3P%, .879 FT%, 24.5 PER
The Kevin Love backlash has begun (“He only cares about his numbers!”) and the critics have a point that he’s not helping his team win games. However, if you put him next to a solid defensive bigman and teamed him with an elite wing scorer, he’s probably still going to give you 18 and 12 on a winning team. It’s true that the only numbers that really matter are wins, but Love’s a special talent that the T-Wolves can build around.
7. (5.) Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers — 2010-11 stats: 52 GP, 37.6 MPG, 22.6 PPG, 3.5 APG, 12.6 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 0.5 BPG, .514 FG%, .500 3P%, .605 FT%, 22.4 PER
It was inevitable that teams were going to start to gameplan and double-team Griffin more extensively and we’re discovering that teams with great defensive frontcourts can limit the damage he inflicts. In a recent five-day, three-game span, he shot 8-for-18 against the Hawks, 7-for-17 against the Heat and 4-for-12 against the Magic. Lest you think I’m suggesting that the whole league is figuring him out, I should mention that Griffin went off for 47 points and 14 rebounds on 19-for-24 shooting against the Pacers on Jan. 17.
6. (7.) Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics — 2010-11 stats: 42 GP, 31.1 MPG, 14.9 PPG, 2.3 APG, 9.0 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 0.9 BPG, .528 FG%, .000 3P%, .838 FT%, 21.0 PER
If this was an intensity ranking, it’s safe to say that KG would be the obvious choice for the number one spot. There’s growing evidence that he may be gradually crossing the line separating intensity from insanity, but you can’t really disagree with what Celtics president Danny Ainge said about him recently: “There’s not a team in the league that wouldn’t die to have him, and there’s not a coach or general manager in the league, or fans, that wouldn’t wish that every one of their players played like Kevin Garnett.”
5. (4.) Chris Bosh, Miami Heat — 2010-11 stats: 48 GP, 35.6 MPG, 18.2 PPG, 1.9 APG, 8.0 RPG, 0.8 SPG, 0.7 BPG, .496 FG%, .278 3P%, .785 FT%, 19.2 PER
You might notice that Chris Bosh is setting up offensively on the right side more than he used to, and that’s because Heat coach Erik Spoelstra showed him some film and spreadsheet data which revealed that he’s been historically more effective on that side. Bosh being the scholarly (read: nerdy) type he is, he accepted the feedback and is adapting his game accordingly. Behold! Stats nerds are changing the game whether you like or not, haters!
4. (New entry) LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers — 2010-11 stats: 52 GP, 39.3 MPG, 21.6 PPG, 2.0 APG, 9.1 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 1.3 BPG, .489 FG%, .188 3P%, .782 FT%, 21.1 PER
OK, let’s just get this out of the way. I would like to apologize to Blazers fans for being so egregiously wrong when I left Aldridge off last month’s PF rankings. I didn’t believe that he could keep playing at that high level but in the 16 games since my horrific oversight, Aldridge has averaged 25 and 10 on 51 percent shooting and the Blazers remained in the Western Conference playoff hunt with a 9-7 record over that span. With Brandon Roy expected to return to the lineup soon, Blazers fans know their selfless star will gladly sacrifice a few shot attempts if it means rising up in the standings.
3. (3.) Amar’e Stoudemire, New York Knicks — 2010-11 stats: 51 GP, 37.0 MPG, 26.2 PPG, 2.7 APG, 8.6 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 2.2 BPG, .509 FG%, .500 3P%, .786 FT%, 24.1 PER
Stoudemire provides a strong example of how stats can be deceiving — he’s fourth in the NBA in blocks per game this season, but anybody who has watched more than a handful of Knicks games this season should have noticed that Amar’e is a weak and sometimes indifferent man-to-man defender. This is nothing new, and neither is his ability to occasionally dominate a game single-handedly with his ridiculous offensive arsenal.
2. (2.) Pau Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers — 2010-11 stats: 52 GP, 37.4 MPG, 18.7 PPG, 3.6 APG, 10.5 RPG, 0.6 SPG, 1.9 BPG, .525 FG%, .000 3P%, .814 FT%, 23.6 PER
It’s well-known that Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson are constantly prodding Gasol to be more aggressive. On a recent kids TV show appearance, a seven-year-old named Tobey told Pau, “You need to try to get fouled more.” Damn, you know you have a soft rep if a little kid is calling you out. Anyway, Gasol went to the free throw line nine times in each of his last two games so he apparently took the kid’s advice to heart.
1. (1.) Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks — 2010-11 stats: 43 GP, 34.4 MPG, 22.8 PPG, 2.4 APG, 6.8 RPG, 0.6 SPG, 0.8 BPG, .521 FG%, .411 3P%, .882 FT%, 23.3 PER
In my mind, Dirk has surpassed Kobe as the last man I want to have the ball on an opposing team in the dying seconds of a tie game. According to 82games.com, Dirk trails only Kobe in points scored per 48 minutes in “clutch situations” this season (4th quarter or overtime, less than 5 minutes left, neither team ahead by more than 5 points) but Dirk’s far superior success rate on those shots (.600 FG% compared to .385 for Kobe) gives him the clear edge. Of course, Dirk’s “clutch rep” will never compare to Kobe’s unless the big German leads the Mavs to a championship.