Random Thoughts about Power Forwards

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Published: May 26, 2009

I was watching the Conference Finals a bit over the weekend, and I had a funny thought I figured I’d share.

Where did all the power forwards go?

Seriously.  In this round of the playoffs, every team but the Lakers field a set of fours that don’t exactly provide a complete set of those skills normally associated with Power Forwards.  Even the Lakers usually shift Pau Gasol to the center position for most of the game.  The Cavs and Nuggets run out defensive specialists and offensive non-entities in Kenyon Martin and Anderson Varejao, and the Magic feel no need to play a Power Forward at all with Dwight Howard in the middle, instead running out Rashard Lewis and his 5.7 rebounds a game.

It’s not just the playoff teams either.  I was trying to figure out what Power Forwards in the league I’d be willing to trade the 28-year old David West for, and only Chris Bosh was a clear “yes”.  Pau Gasol probably.  Outside of that, no one else was a lock.  Amare Stoudemire is a whiner.  Boozer has issues, both injury-wise and other. Nowitzki, Garnett and Duncan are all the wrong side of thirty.  So is Antawn Jamison.

LaMarcus Aldridge?  Maybe, but there have been a few red flags about how touchy he can be.  I love Horford’s toughness, but the Hornets need more scoring in the frontcourt.  David Lee?  Paul Millsap?  Kevin Love? I’d love to have them, but they haven’t proven anything and I’m not sold they’d be an upgrade and provide the Hornets with what they need.

It’s pretty weird really.  Just think back six or seven years ago, and it was the era of the Power Forwards in the league.  At one point there were stars Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Chris Webber, Dirk Nowitzki, Rasheed Wallace, Elton Brand, and Ben Wallace.   Kenyon Martin and Jermaine O’Neal were near the top of their games.  There were even high-level scoring power forwards like Antawn Jamison, Antoine Walker, and Keith Van Horn.  That’s twelve guys all just starting or into their prime at the position.  To cap it off, Karl Malone was still floating around, playing at a pretty high level too.

Now, typically I’m one of those people who roll their eyes when hearing stuff about “how the game has changed”.  Every retired player and fan remember when players played in an era that was tougher than the one today.  Every player remembers the good ol days when fundamentals were sound, mid-range jumpers were pure, and the game was played the “right way.” It’s the same type of tripe that gets spewed in politics about the good ol’ days when people didn’t sleep around or do drugs and refrained from violence – but when you study history you realize how ridiculous those claims are.

Still, I wonder if the smaller number of traditional power forwards – and centers for that matter – is perhaps an indication of a real trend.  Insiders have said for a while that the NBA has been trying to head for a more exciting, perimeter-oriented, maybe even euro-inspired, brand of basketball.  This could be an early indicator that their policies are working . . .

. . . Or, it could just be that really tall people with the agility, speed, and skills of NBA players are kinda rare, and we’ve just encountered a small lull in available talent.  Whichever floats your boat.

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