The NBA’s Top 10 Young Power Forwards

Here’s a quick list of the top 10 power forwards under the age of 26, ranked in the order of a combination of current performance and trade value (regardless of salary).

I’ll also list the player’s age and his Player Efficiency Rating. Keep in mind that I am ranking the player based on their listed position at ESPN. Maybe I’ll move some of these guys around the next time I publish these lists.

1. Chris Bosh, Raptors
Age: 24
PER: 22.67

Bosh has averaged at least 22 points and nine rebounds in each of the last four seasons. He shoots 50% from the field and 83% from the line, but I’d like to see more blocks (0.8) from a guy his size. Will he rendezvous with LeBron at MSG in 2010? They would make a devastating duo.

2. Josh Smith, Hawks
Age: 23
PER: 16.23

Smith is having kind of an off year so far as he works himself back from an ankle injury. It’s a tough call between Smith and the next guy on this list, but I have to go with J-Smoov due to his versatility.

3. LaMarcus Aldridge, Blazers
Age: 23
PER: 17.96

He’s not very strong down low, but for a big guy he can really shoot the ball. He loves the face up jumper, and looks to be a 17/7 guy for the foreseeable future.

4. Paul Millsap, Jazz
Age: 23
PER: 19.96

Millsap is averaging 18 points and 11 boards (shooting 57% from the field) filling in for the injured Carlos Boozer, which makes some wonder if the Jazz should bother to re-sign Boozer when he opts out after the season.

5. Michael Beasley, Heat
Age: 19
PER: 14.95

I see Beasley as more of a small forward, but he’s listed as a PF. He is averaging 14 points and five boards in 27 minutes. I’d like to see better assist (1.0) numbers, but that should come with time.

6. Marvin Williams, Hawks
Age: 22
PER: 15.74

Williams is another guy that can play either forward position. He has really improved his long-range accuracy this season (+29%), but is still scoring at about the same rate. With the departure of Josh Childress, I thought Williams was going to take a big step forward this season, but his numbers are pretty much the same across the board.

7. Charlie Villanueva, Bucks
Age: 24
PER: 17.49

Can Charlie V play for Scott Skiles? So far, the answer seems to be yes, even though Skiles prefers Luc Richard Mbah a Moute’s defense and rebounding. Villanueva is still a below average defensive player, but Villanueva can really light it up. He’s going to be a restricted free agent this summer, so it will be interesting to see what the Bucks do with him over the next 9 months.

8. Carl Landry, Rockets
Age: 25
PER: 19.19

For his minutes (21.3), Landry is one of the most productive big men in the game. He’s a great interior defender and his FG% is stellar (58%).

9. Brandon Bass, Mavericks
Age: 23
PER: 13.00

His biggest problem is that he plays the same position as Dirk Nowitzki. He’s strong as hell and has a nice face up game. It will be interesting to see how he flourishes once he’s somewhere where he’ll get 30+ minutes a game.

10. Kevin Love, Timberwolves
Age: 20
PER: 15.17

Granted, his 40% shooting is brutal, especially for a power forward, but Love is posting better than eight points and eight boards in just 24 minutes a game. With his passing ability, I thought that his assist numbers (1.2) would be better. Right now, it’s definitely looking like Memphis got the better of the Mayo-Love trade, but he should develop into a solid starting power forward.

So who am I missing? Before you jump all over me for leaving someone off the list, be sure to check the player’s age – all these guys are 25 or younger.

Other lists:

Top 10 Young Point Guards
Top 10 Young Shooting Guards
Top 10 Young Small Forwards

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Josh Smith says, “Get off me!”

Couch Potato Alert: NBA Wednesday

There are a few interesting NBA games tonight:

Utah (5-1) @ Philadelphia (2-4)
The 76ers are off to a disappointing start. Offseason acquisition Elton Brand is more than five points per game off his career mark, and Andre Iguodala is shooting a miserable 38% from the field. Second-year swingman Thaddeus Young is lighting things up with a 16.5 ppg average on 52% shooting. This game will feature a great power forward matchup between Brand and Utah’s Carlos Boozer. The Jazz have been without Deron Williams, but Utah still managed to get off to a 5-1 start. He’s expected to make his debut tonight. Too bad the game is only available in local markets (unless you have the NBA League Pass). Game time is 7 PM ET.

Atlanta (5-0) @ Chicago (3-4)
Three of the Hawks’ five wins have come on the road and they hope to extend their unbeaten streak tonight in Chicago. Unfortunately, the high-flying Josh Smith is sidelined with a high-ankle sprain, but Joe Johnson has been doing his best MVP impersonation (25.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 3.8 apg). For the Bulls, Ben Gordon (20.0 ppg) leads his team in scoring, but it’s rookie sensation Derrick Rose (17.7 ppg, 5.1 apg) who is really turning heads. The game is on locally at 8:30 PM ET.

L.A. Lakers (5-0) @ Dallas (2-4)
The Mavs are off to a slow start, but in Jason Kidd, Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Howard, they can compete on any given night. They host the Lakers who are coming off a long stretch of down time in their schedule. L.A. is getting great play from Kobe (of course) and Pau Gasol, while Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom have been a little disappointing. Trevor Ariza and Jordan Farmar anchor a terrific bench. The game is on NBATV at 8:30 PM ET.

Four emerging NBA storylines

It’s early in the NBA season, but these four things have jumped out at me during the first week of action.

1. The Lakers are dominating, but Lamar Odom isn’t thriving off the bench.
The Los Angeles Lakers are 4-0 and have won those four games by an average of 20.8 points. Granted, they’ve already played the Clippers twice, but the Nuggets gave them a test in Denver. The Lakers are doing it with defense, holding opponents to just 39.3% shooting and 85.0 points per game. (The Lakers are second in the league in both categories.) The team is off to a quick start despite so-so play from Andrew Bynum (8.3 points and 9.3 rebounds) and Lamar Odom (10.0 points and 6.5 rebounds), who isn’t exactly tearing it up off the bench. His numbers are boosted by a pretty nice 15-point, nine-rebound effort against the Clippers last night. Those are kind of numbers that Odom should be posting on a regular basis. The Lakers are getting nice play from Trevor Ariza, who has produced 9.8 points and 4.3 rebounds in just 20.5 minutes of play. If he continues his deft shooting from long range (71%), it won’t be long before he cracks the starting lineup. One of the underlying strategies heading into the season was to cut back on Kobe’s minutes, and thus far the plan has worked. He averaged 38.9 last season and is only playing 33.3 this season. His minutes are likely to rise as the Lakers play in more close games, but right now Phil Jackson has to be feeling pretty good about how his team has started.

2. The Bucks are finally playing some defense.
Last season, Milwaukee was last in the league in defensive field goal percentage (48.0%), but through five games, they’re holding opponents to 44.2% shooting, which is #14 in the league. New head coach Scott Skiles demands a lot from his players on that end of the court and so far the Bucks are responding with increased effort. The addition of Richard Jefferson certainly helps defensively, but he’s also getting it done on the other end of the court. RJ is averaging 18.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game, even though he’s only shooting 41% from the field. Without Michael Redd in the lineup, Jefferson had a great 32-point, nine-assist effort in a 112-104 overtime win against the Wizards Wednesday night. The Bucks are also getting great play from a couple of unexpected sources. Second-year point guard Ramon Sessions turned a few heads last year when he averaged 12.9 points and 12.4 assists (including a franchise record 24 dimes against the Bulls) over the last eight games of the season. The Mo Williams trade that brought Luke Ridnour to team looked more like a salary dump than a personnel move, but maybe the Bucks decided they had their point guard of the future in Sessions, who is averaging 17.3 points and 8.3 assists on the year. Second round pick Luc Mbah a Moute has outplayed first round pick Joe Alexander thus far. Skiles likes Mbah a Moute’s great defense and toughness, which he learned playing in Ben Howland’s system at UCLA for three years. He’s playing 25.2 minutes and is averaging 8.6 points and 5.0 rebounds per game. The Bucks are 3-2, but have a rough eight-game stretch ahead of them that features the Celtics (twice), Suns, Cavs, Spurs, Nuggets and Jazz. If they can come through that gauntlet close to .500, we’ll know that the Bucks’ improvement is for real.

3. The Spurs were thisclose to starting 0-4.
If not for last night’s 55-point, 10-assist, seven-rebound effort by Tony Parker that helped the Spurs survive a double-overtime scare against the Timberwolves, San Antonio would be looking at an 0-4 start. They lost to the Suns at home by five and to the Blazers by one in Portland, but it was the 98-81 loss to the Mavs at home that was really surprising. The Spurs’ problem is two-fold. Collectively, they’re getting older and they miss Manu Ginobili. Parker (33.3 points, 7.3 assists) and Tim Duncan (27.0 points, 11.8 rebounds) are doing all they can to keep the Spurs in games, but they aren’t getting much help from their supporting cast, specifically Michael Finley (33% FG%) and Kurt Thomas (14% FG%). The Spurs are getting good play from fifth-year guard Roger Mason, who is averaging 15.8 points per game on 60.5% shooting. He’s been extremely hot from downtown, knocking down 64% of this three-point shots. Right now, it’s a three-man show and that’s it; no other Spur is averaging more than 7.5 points per game. The schedule gets a little easier over the next two weeks, with winnable games against the Heat, Knicks, Bucks, Kings and Clippers. San Antonio should be back above .500 before too long.

In my 2008 NBA Preview, I had the Hawks ranked #20 to start the season. After a 3-0 start, they should definitely be in the top half, maybe even in the top ten. I thought the loss of Josh Childress and the steady decline of Mike Bibby would outweigh whatever improvements this young team could make, but they have proven me wrong. The Hawks’ three wins are impressive. They beat Orlando by 14 points on the road, beat Philly at home by seven and then beat the Hornets in New Orleans by eight. Joe Johnson has led the team in scoring in all three games, and is averaging 28.0 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists on the year. Even more impressive, the Hawks have won despite poor shooting from Josh Smith (42%), Mike Bibby (34%) and Marvin Williams (39%). If Johnson is able to keep up this level of play, the Hawks shouldn’t have a problem making the playoffs for the second consecutive year. Long-term, I like the direction this franchise is headed, but they still need to find their point guard of the future. Mike Bibby is on the decline and Acie Law hasn’t done much in his young career to indicate that he’s the guy they should lean on. The Hawks will have plenty of cap space over the next couple of seasons, so they should be planning to find a point guard that can complement Johnson and forward/center Al Horford.

2008 NBA Preview: #20 Atlanta Hawks

Offseason Movement: The Hawks screwed the pooch when they failed to sign Josh Childress to a long-term deal. They didn’t think he had any leverage since he was a restricted free agent, but he had the cojones to sign a deal with a Greek team instead of signing a one-year tender with the Hawks. Childress is the biggest talent to leave the NBA to play overseas in the prime of the career, and the Hawks will forever be known as the team that let him go. They replaced Childress with…wait for it…Maurice Evans.
Keep Your Eye On: Marvin Williams
Thus far, the former #2 overall pick has been decidedly average – he ranks 29th amongst all small forwards in PER. The good news is that he’s just 22 and entering the final year of his rookie contract. His qualifying offer next year ($7.3 milllion) is big enough that the Hawks could conceivably pass if he doesn’t show substantial improvement this season. The team usually went with Childress at small forward in crunch time, but now those minutes should belong to Williams, and he needs to make he most of them.
The Big Question: Which direction is this team headed?
The Hawks were a surprise playoff team last season and they took the NBA champs to seven games in the first round. But Mike Bibby is a year older (and a year slower) and they lost utility-man Josh Childress. I thought it was a mistake to trade for Bibby, and now he’s in the final year of his contract ($15.2 million), which means he might become a distraction as the season wears on. If they elect to let him play out his deal, the team will have a load of cap room next summer, so it looks like the Hawks could take a step back before taking another step forward.
Outlook: The long-term outlook is bright. The Hawks have Josh Smith (5 years) and Al Horford (4 years) locked up for the foreseeable future. Joe Johnson is under contract for two more years, but the Hawks have enough salary cap flexibility to make a splash in the next year or two for a star free agent. Until then, they’ll have to settle for the chance to fight for a playoff spot in the mediocre East.

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