Try as I might, I couldn’t justify putting Tim Duncan on the list—and it had nothing to do with my long-standing argument that the 6-foot-11, 250-pounder is actually a center.
But for the record, he is.
Admittedly, the 38-year-old Duncan’s numbers are still pretty good this year at 13.9 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks a game, but there’s plenty of competition at power forward. Others who just fell short include Serge Ibaka, Derrick Favors, Zach Randolph, and Paul Millsap. Here are the top five:
5. Pau Gasol, Chicago Bulls—It’s amazing what a change of scenery (and coach) can do for a player. Gasol signed with Chicago in the summer after a couple of years of toiling away in Mike D’Antoni’s offense and has seen his production rise significantly.
The 7-footer, who hasn’t averaged more than 18 points per game since 2011, is at 20.1 points per game this year, is third in the league in rebounding at 11.9 per contest, and even ranks seventh in blocks at 1.8 every time out.
Career averages: 18.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game.
4. Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers—Love’s numbers (17.4 points, 10.0 rebounds per game) with Cleveland have taken a hit this year as he’s no longer the center of the offense. In fact, he’s become the third option in an offense that features four-time MVP LeBron James at small forward and shoot-first point guard Kyrie Irving.
I’m giving Love the fourth position on this list in the hopes that his considerable offensive talent (he averaged 26.1 points a game last year) will eventually be better utilized in Cleveland’s offense. Otherwise, the man who’s been an All-NBA second-teamer two of the last three years will watch his stock steadily decline.
Career averages: 19.1 points, 12.1 rebounds, 0.5 blocks per game.
3. Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers—Although Griffin is only ranked third on this list for production, he would rank first in terms of excitement. Never one to shy away from a highlight dunk, the high-flying Griffin has ranked in the top 10 in points per game two of the last three years and is currently fifth this season at 24.0 a game.
Curiously his rebounds have declined from 12.0 a game as a rookie in 2010–11 to just 7.6 in 20 games this season, although part of that has to do with his sharing the lane with rebounding-center DeAndre Jordan.
Career averages: 21.5 points, 10.0 rebounds, 0.6 blocks per game.
2. LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers—Aldridge shot up this list last spring when he averaged an eye-opening 26.8 points and 10.6 rebounds in the playoffs—including back-to-back 40-plus point games in the first round against Houston. This year Aldridge, who’s averaged better than 20 points and 8 rebounds a game for the last five seasons is at 22.3 and 9.9—ranking in the top 12 in the NBA in both categories.
Though he’s one of the better low-post offensive players in the game, Aldridge’s defense is the biggest difference between him and the top spot on this list.
Career averages: 19.0 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 1.0 block per game.
1. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans—Davis’s one year of college—when he led Kentucky to a national title in 2012 by swatting away anything near the rim—left no doubt that he’d soon be an All-Star in the NBA. That day came last year, in Davis’s second season, when he led the league in blocks (2.8 per game) while averaging 20.8 points and 10.0 rebounds a game.
This year the 6-foot-10 forward has continued his ascension, averaging 25.2 points (second-best in the league), 2.9 blocks (first), and 10.7 rebounds a game—eighth-best overall. The 21-year-old, who’s sure to make the All-NBA first-team and All-Defensive team, looks like a lock to remain here for a long time to come.
Career averages: 18.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks per game.