San Antonio Spurs' Tim Duncan was once known as the best power forward in the game and will be known for the foreseeable future as the greatest power forward ever. But there's no denying Duncan's game has slipped some in recent years, mostly due a bulkier knee and an advanced age. On top of that, the power forward position hasn't been this strong since Duncan, Kevin Garnett and Chris Webber were on its way up and Karl Malone was at the tail end of his career. As a result, Sean Deveney of Sporting News has ranked Duncan sixth among power forwards in the league.
Ahead of Duncan was (in order) Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin, Dirk Nowitzki and Pau Gasol. What's interesting about this list is Deveney chose to make Kevin Garnett and Chris Bosh centers. Garnett made the transition midway through last season for the first time in his career and Bosh did it for part of the Heat playoff run. However, Duncan's been the Spurs' defacto center since DeJuan Blair moved in to the starting line up. So to list Duncan as a power forward, but not Bosh and KG seems a bit off.
But, using Deveney's list, you could argue Duncan is properly ranked on this list. You could also argue he's a little too low, or rather a couple of guys are a little too high. Kevin Love is a unique talent, ferocious rebounder and improving defender. Tough to argue his position at the top. Same goes for LaMarcus Aldridge. Unfortunately he's tucked away in a small market on a mediocre team so he doesn't get as much notice, but he probably has a better all around game than any other guy on this list. Blake Griffin is a few spots too high. He's tough to defend, but he has just as tough a time defending the other guys on this list. To add to that, his mid-range game didn't improve much last season. Still, they guy's a lock to average 20 and 10 so it's hard to move him too far down the list.
Is Dirk Nowitzki ranked too high? He's still incredibly difficult to defend (that jumper will always be impossible to defend), but are we allowed to say 2011 was Dirk's final run as an elite guy? Am I overreacting from a good but not great lockout shortened, post-title hangover season? These are all things I'm interested in finding out in this coming season.
If we move Duncan to center he's easily top five and maybe top three. Dwight Howard, assuming he's healthy, is still number one. Andrew Bynum, assuming he's healthy, is still number two but is there a clear cut number three? Tyson Chandler is a great defensive anchor and Marc Gasol is a terrific all around center but would you rather have either of them over Duncan for the next year or two? Obvious it's not an apples to apples comparison, but advanced stats say Duncan still has a bigger impact on the game.
We can argue positions some other times, but power forward or center, Tim Duncan still has a serious impact on the game. By the way, Deveney ranked Tony Parker fourth among point guards, Manu Ginobili fifth among shooting guards and didn't have Kawhi Leonard ranked in his top ten among small forwards. He will next year.
Duncan is still better than Griffin from a PF perspective. Duncan is a better rebounder, shooter, defender, and has better post-moves. The Griffin hype machine at work again. For the 100th time, athleticism does not equal basketball talent.
I still say Pau Gasol is vastly overrated. He has had a mental breakdown each of these past two seasons because of pressure and the nature of the Laker-media beast. Kobe has broken him down, Phil Jackson has broken him down, Jerry Buss has broken him down, hell, even Shannon Brown broke him down pulling the old Tony Parker with Pau's girlfriend. You can see the terror he feels on the court as the game grinds down and Kobe wants to pull his "Kobe time" routine. Pau doesn't want the ball, the responsibility, or the spotlight. He just shuts it down and makes terrible mistakes. He is and will always be soft around the basket. Don't get me wrong, Pau could be a great NBA player as evidenced by his Olympic run. However, when he has to take the subsidiary role to KB24, he shrinks tremendously. It is honestly almost as bad as what happened to Lebron in the 2011 Finals when you watch it. He could be the best PF in the NBA, but his mental state prevents him from being above #5 in my opinion.
I think Dirk deserves to be top 5 after his incredible 2011 performance shaking off his "choke" status in tremendous fashion. However, his flamingo fadeaway still bothers me as borderline illegal. For a comparison: clearing out with your elbow whether it be in the post, or driving in the lane, is illegal. The point of those pushing elbows is to create, or shield space from the shot blocker. If you apply this logic not just to the upper limbs, but the lower limbs, then Dirk's flamingo fadeaway is clearly illegal. It is a clear-out move plain and simple. Not to mention potentially very painful to be hit with a boney German knee to the groin or solar plexus. If you takeaway the fadeaway, which is Dirk's goto post-up move, I say Dirk loses at least 1/4 if not 1/3 of his offensive moves. This would also make it a lot easier for players to defend him because they wouldn't have to be so close to him to contest his illegal fadeaway. That means Dirk has a lot less blowbys on up close defenders. But, the league would never crackdown on a single move done almost exclusively by a single player as illegal.