While there may be less emphasis than ever before on the center position, a team cannot survive in the NBA without a solid frontcourt trio. Here are the five best in the NBA:
The Pacers led the league in rebounding last season, mainly because of two players. One is listed at 7’2”, 290 pounds and the other is 6’9”, 250 pounds of chiseled brick muscle. We saw in the playoffs against Miami how physically imposing Hibbert and West can be, forcing the Heat to a Game 7. Hibbert’s size and presence in the paint defensively forces teams to shoot from the perimeter. On the other hand, the former All-Star Granger returns to the lineup to add more firepower. In his last full season in 2011-12, he averaged 18.7 points per game and his game is not as wild and out of control as Lance Stephenson’s. With an improved bench, the Pacers could be the most complete team in all of basketball.
Gasol and Randolph are the staples of the Grizzlies offense. Between Mike Conley, Tony Allen and Prince, the team lacks perimeter shooting, so the post play is crucial to their success. Gasol and Randolph are one of the few tandems in the league that can match the size and physicality of Hibbert and West. It is no coincidence that the Grizzlies were the top defensive team in the league as well (fewest points allowed per game) and that Gasol is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. Meanwhile, Randolph is a walking double-double every night (15.4 points, 11.2 rebounds). Prince is an extremely long perimeter defender who can guard the opposing team’s best offensive player. He is not going to wow you with his stats, but he is a solid overall player and veteran for this team.
Was Miami the worst rebounding team in the league last year? Absolutely. Did it deter them from winning back-to-back titles? Nope. That’s how much of an impact LeBron has on the game. When you have a player like that who can take over on both ends of the floor, you can overcome your deficiencies as a whole. That’s the benefit of having the best player on the planet. Bosh may no longer be an All-Star, but he is still going to average between 16 and 18 points per game. Haslem is a throw-in as the starting power forward, as this group is strictly led by LeBron’s dominance.
Durant is one of the elite scorers in the game as a three-time scoring champion at just 25 years of age and considered by many to be the best player outside of LeBron. Ibaka, or “Iblocka,” just led the league in blocks last season, as the team chose to lock him up long term instead of James Harden. Ibaka is still a work in progress offensively, but he’s only 24 and can hit the mid-range jumper out to 20 feet. Perkins is not as solid as a one-on-one post defender as he used to be and is quite limited offensively and that is why the team drafted Steven Adams in the first round. Still, the length, defensive ability and athleticism of this frontcourt gives the Thunder a chance to finish as one of the top teams in the conference.
The Nets finished in the top 10 last year in both points allowed and rebounding and that was without KG. The expectation is that KG will improve the defense and provide mental toughness, something lacking from last year’s playoff team. Lopez could be the biggest beneficiary playing alongside a player like KG, who is known to be a leader in the locker room. Pierce can still be a big-time player in the fourth quarter and he will not be asked to create as much with Deron Williams and Joe Johnson creating much of the offense from the perimeter. If Pierce plays the role of closer, KG continues to be a cog defensively and Lopez plays like a top-five center, the Nets will be a threat to come out of the Eastern Conference.