Top 10 NBA Power Forwards

With the talent level as high as it has never been in the league, we’re taking the difficult task today of making our NBA predictions for the Top 10 power forwards that the Association has to offer.

It’s clear that there are a few tiers of power forwards in the league. No one is going to debate the fact that Tim Duncan is the dean of PFs in this league, knowing that he is probably the only surefire Hall of Famer that we have at the position today. However, LaMarcus Aldridge is the only man eligible at the power forward spot that is averaging more than 20 points per game this year, and the impact that players like David Lee and Blake Griffin have on their team is huge.

Chris Bosh is often overlooked, as he is the third member of the Miami Heat trio, while Kevin Love is a totally forgotten about man this year since he has only played in 18 games with various injuries and won’t be back any time soon.

Heck, Al Jefferson is probably getting a one-way ticket out of Utah right now, as he has been dangled as trade bait.

Those seven are easy to identify as seven of the best power forwards that the game has to offer. Zach Randolph is going to be asked to carry the Memphis Grizzlies at the PF position, and he had better be one of the best in the game if the team is going to go anywhere in the playoffs. DeMarcus Cousins would be a Top 10 player in the entire league if he could just keep his head on straight.

Meanwhile, our last pick for the Top 10 power forwards in basketball is Ryan Anderson. He’s a new power forward essentially, as he stretches the court like no other. He averages taking 7.5 three-point shots per game and leads the league with 153 made triples on the season.

Rookies That Could Boost A Teams Chances

As the halfway point of the NBA season approaches, it’s worth taking a look at the emerging stars of this year’s rookie class and the potential impact they could have on their teams moving forward.

Let’s start in Detroit, where two first-year pros could continue to emerge. The struggling Pistons have gotten no better since the trade of Tayshaun Prince a week ago—in fact, they’ve dropped three straight games since that swap. Perhaps that means theirs room to grow.

Detroit feature a pair of rookies—Kyle Singler and Andre Drummond—that could improve the bottom-line results for the Pistons in the second half as they continue to gain game experience. While Singler is still finding his way at the shooting guard position, his scoring has been on the rise and it should continue to improve. Drummond, a 6′-10” center, has been a rebounding machine while playing just limited minutes to this point. However, the UConn product could see increased playing time with the departure of Prince and that could be a good thing for the Pistons.

Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards and Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers are the other two standouts worth keeping an eye on. They have been  perhaps the two best rookies of this NBA season to this point and will need to be accounted for before making any further NBA predictions.

Beal has missed the last five games dealing with a wrist injury, but prior to this break he was averaging 13.2 points a game at shooting guard to help be named the NBA Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for both December and January. That came largely minus point guard John Wall in the lineup, who has since returned and sparked the Wizards (13-35) to consecutive wins over the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Clippers.

Given its poor straight-up record, Washington has been largely disregarded by bettors and that has resulted in an excellent 29-17-2 against the spread this season. Beal’s return, combined with a healthy Wall, should continue that positive trend.

Lillard is the de-facto NBA Rookie of the Year at this point following a brilliant first-half that’s seen the point guard from Weber State average 18.4 points, 6.5 assists and 3.3 rebounds a game for the Blazers (25-24). He’s helped keep Portland in the playoff race, but it remains to be seen whether the small-college product can continue this type of production for a full rookie campaign.

Randolph, Grizzlies Going Nowhere

When the Memphis Grizzlies traded Rudy Gay to the Toronto Raptors, there were rumors that immediately started to swirl over the futures of just about everyone else on the team. Zach Randolph is one of the men that could be moved by the trade deadline, but if we had to make our NBA predictions on his future, he’s going to be staying right here in Memphis.

Randolph just means too much to the Grizz to trade him now. They are still a competitive team, in fifth place in the Western Conference playoff chase, and they’re coming back home for three straight home games starting on Friday night against the Golden State Warriors.

Randolph is also the team’s leading scorer (15.7 PPG) and rebounder (11.7 PPG). The big man had three awful games in a row against the Philadelphia 76ers, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Washington Wizards. In those games, he put up just a total of 20 points with seven turnovers. In the two games since then though, Randolph has really settled down and put together more Zach Randolph-like numbers, averaging 20.5 points and 10.0 boards per game with just a total of two turnovers in those outings.

Memphis has done everything that it can to shed salary to avoid the league’s luxury tax, and by trading Gay, that goal is done. We just have a terrible time seeing how Randolph would get moved unless there was another big piece to the puzzle coming back in return. Perhaps a team like the Los Angeles Lakers could be involved to send off Pau Gasol to Memphis, but after Gasol was injured on Tuesday night, it seems less and less likely that the two Gasol brothers will be reunited in Memphis.

Finding another trading partner with Randolph as the key cog of the deal is surely going to be difficult with just two weeks left to go until the trading deadline.

Smith Continues To Be Glue For Hawks

The Atlanta Hawks have had all sorts of problems over the course of the 2012-13 season. Their backcourt play has been shoddy at times, and Devin Harris and others have spent plenty of time injured, and they have lost their share of close games. Yet through it all, the team enters play on Wednesday night five-games above .500 and comfortably in the No. 6 spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Why has this team continued to win games this year? Josh Smith.

Averaging over 35 minutes per night, Smith is the constant in this lineup. He commands respect on both sides of the court, and when he is at his best, there are few in the league that can slow him down. The man from Oak Hill Academy isn’t having his best season, but he is averaging 16.7 points and 8.5 boards per game, ranking first and second on the team in those categories respectively.

When he’s not getting his points, Smith is getting the job done on the defensive end of the court, where he has put up 2.2 blocks and 1.2 steals per game as well.

Smith has really stepped it up over the course of his last six games. In that stretch, he has three games with 20+ points, five games with 10+ rebounds, and five double-doubles. He has blocked 11 shots in those five games, right on his average for the year, and he has five steals as well.

What is underrated about Smith’s game though, is his ability to distribute the basketball. He didn’t have a single assist against the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday night, but he had seven straight games with at least three assists prior to that.

There are very few men at 6’9″ that have the skill set that he does to be able to play every facet of the game at a high level.

Nets Poised To Make A Run At A Championship

While the Brooklyn Nets have cooled off a bit since their blistering run that followed the firing of its head coach in December, they remain in the hunt for a high-seed come playoff time thanks in large part the continued high production from its “core four.”

All-Star Brook Lopez, front-court running mate Gerald Wallace and the backcourt duo of Deron Williams and Joe Johnson have lifted the Nets (28-19) to the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference through Monday. This week they have a trio of games on the docket, starting with the Los Angeles Lakers at home Tuesday followed by road games against the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday and the Washington Wizards on Saturday.

As you consider your NBA predictions for the week, the success of the Nets has largely been predicated on the defensive end. Brooklyn ranks fifth in the NBA in points allowed at just 94.5 points but, curiously, opponents have been able to shoot a very high percentage from the field, including beyond the three-point line.

The reason for the Nets’  success has been its dominance on the defensive glass. Lopez and Wallace have proven themselves as rugged as it comes on the boards, especially the latter. Wallace is proving to be indispensable for the Nets, as he is the “high-energy, do-whatever-it-take-to-win” type that is needed on any successful NBA team.

Lopez, the Nets leading scorer at 18.7 points a game, was recently rewarded for his stellar first-half of by being named to the Eastern Conference All-Star team. He is shooting 52.2 percent from the field, an excellent mark, and is also averaging 2.2 blocks a game, which is good for seventh in the NBA.

Williams, an All-Star the three previous seasons, has regained that form at the point guard position under interim coach P.J. Carlesimo. After struggling the first two months under former coach Avery Johnson, Williams has played much better while bumping his numbers to 16.8 points a game with 7.7 assists and 3.2 rebounds.

Johnson, a six-time All-Star while a member of the Atlanta Hawks, has helped stretch the floor as a consistent perimeter sniper for the Nets. He has scored double-digit points in all but three of the 42 games he’s played this season while averaging 17 points a game.