NBA Cornerstones: Power Forward

Cornerstone players will be a recurring theme on Second Look Sports where I look at each position in a certain sport and I choose a cornerstone player to build my franchise around. I have a couple of parameters for this selection though. I will factor in age, potential, injury history, experience, reputation and production. I think this should be a fun and interesting topic to discuss on here. I hope you guys agree.

The selection- Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
Honorable mentions- LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin, Greg Monroe, Jabari Parker, Derrick Favors

There is a lot of talent at the power forward position right now in the NBA. There is a solid contingency of older players who are still holding down the fort and there is the new wave that is taking over more and more. At the head of the young wave is the massive man from the Bayou: Anthony Davis. Davis is oozing with potential. At the age of twenty-one he is becoming a dominant scorer and is an even better defensive player. His ability to control the paint on both ends of the floor make Davis special.

Davis is still developing as an offensive player but defensively, he has already come into his own. The Pelicans’ big man leads the NBA with 2.86 blocks per game, which would be the second year in a row that he topped the league in that category. Davis also leads all power forwards in steals per game at 1.62, well ahead of the next man as well with only 1.38. Davis also ranks in the top ten for all players when it comes to steals per turnover ratio, which is best among power forwards. The lanky kid from Kentucky is showing he can do it all and he will likely still get stronger as he continues to play with the pros.

While he may be better defensively, that should not take anything away from his offensive performance. So far this season, Davis is averaging 24.5 points per game, good for third in the NBA and most among power forwards. His shooting is much better this season as well. He has gone from shooting under 52 percent to now knocking down 55.5 percent of his looks. He has also shown steady improvement in his free throw shooting. The third year veteran finished his rookie season shooting 75 percent from the line. He bumped that number up to 79 percent last season and now he is hitting 83 percent of his attempts this season.

As a rebounder, Davis has been one of the best in the NBA. He has ranked in the top ten each of the last two seasons, averaging more than ten boards per game. Davis’ huge frame and freakish athleticism makes him a lot to handle in the paint and make him a great prototypical rebounder. His ability to average a double-double and rack up almost three blocks per game puts him into the category of an elite player.

There are a few knocks against Davis though. He excels in close to the basket but does not have a reliable mid-range jumper. He also has a bit of an injury history. In his first two seasons, Davis only managed to appear in 64 and 67 games respectively. He is faring better this year, but still has already missed five games. He also has zero playoff experience, not that many high draft picks do in their first few season, but it is worth noting. It is concerning to pick a player who is not guaranteed to be on the court every night but Davis’ play and potential outweigh the risk.

Looking past the basic stats as well, Davis has been pretty stellar this year. Davis leads the league in Win Shares per 48 minutes played this season and ranks second only behind James Harden in Win Shares overall. New Orleans’ superstar also tops the league for Player Efficiency Rating with a staggering 31.83 rating. If the season ended today that would be the best mark in NBA history. Yes, all time. That includes Jordan, Wilt, Kareem, LeBron, Shaq and any other Hall of Famer (or future Hall of Famer) you want to consider. And Davis is only getting warmed up.

Davis’ potential is scary. He is already making a huge impact on the league and likely will be in conversation for MVP at the end of this season. The ceiling for this kid is unparalleled and I do not think he has met it yet. As good as Griffin and Aldridge are right now, it is hard to argue that Davis is not already better than both of them are. If he isn’t yet, he certainly will be. There is no doubt in my mind that Davis will be a great NBA player and he might just be the best player in the league three years from now, leading who knows what team on the march for an NBA title.

For more Cornerstone selections, click here.

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NBA All Star snubs

The NBA All Star rosters took another step towards being finalized yesterday. The coaches decided on who the reserve players for each team should be. The East roster now features Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Pau Gasol, John Wall, Kyle Lowry, Al Horford, Jeff Teague, Chris Bosh, Jimmy Butler, Paul Millsap, Kyrie Irving and Dwayne Wade. The West includes Blake Griffin, Marc Gasol, Anthony Davis, Kobe Bryant, Stephen Curry, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Durant, Tim Duncan, James Harden, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Klay Thompson. At least two players, Wade and Bryant, will likely not be participating due to injury. There are some notable names missing from this list and I am going to break down who among them should have made it.

The first name to jump out at me absolutely has to be Derrick Rose. The Bulls’ point guard has had an injury-ridden season but when he has played, he has looked like one of the best players in the league. He has struggled though, especially shooting the ball. However, he is still scoring at a great rate and he is tied for 16th in points per 48 minutes played. He is also scoring more than Teague or Wall, who made the team over him. Rose is averaging fewer assists and shooting at a much worse rate per game though so I can understand why he was not picked. That being said, I think he is the next logical add if it turns out that Wade cannot go.

The other thing that bothers me in the East is leaving out the Pistons’ frontcourt. Both Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe are in the top ten for rebounding this season with Drummond ranking second and Monroe tying for ninth. Drummond is averaging almost thirteen points per game as well with Monroe accounting for more than 15 per night. Drummond also has the most board per 48 minutes played and is an excellent shot blocker ranking ninth in the league. The issue for these two guys is that it is hard to argue whose spot they should take. I think Millsap and Horford were deserving of their selections. Both of these Pistons’ big men have played well though this season and certainly should have been considered.

Flipping to the West now, there is no bigger omission than DeMarcus Cousins. The man they call “Boogie” has been a force in Sacramento this season. Cousins has missed some time due to injury this year but he has put on a show out in California. He cleans up the board with 12.3 rebounds a game, good for third in the NBA. That is also two more rebounds per game than Duncan, who did make the team. The Kings’ big man has also made his presence felt defensively, with roughly 1.5 blocks and steals each per matchup. Duncan is logging about 2 blocks but only 1 steal per game. The biggest difference though is the gap in scoring. Duncan is scoring a solid 14.7 points per game. Meanwhile, Cousins is tallying 23.8 per night, which ranks fifth best in the NBA. I understand that Duncan is a great veteran player but I would definitely have selected Cousins over him.

Damian Lillard was another man forgotten in the All Star selection process. He has been a much better scorer than Chris Paul has this season but Paul has registered a lot more assists. The Blazers’ floor general shot much more effectively than Bryant did this season but Kobe, even despite his age, has been the better defender. The reality is that Lillard has played extremely well but it hasn’t been enough to push his name into being an All Star. There is a good chance that had Lillard been playing the East he would have been selected this season. He has outperformed the majority of the guards in the East but that does not matter with voting being conducted by conference.

It is hard to argue with the lineups being assembled to play in New York this season (well, outside of Kobe of course). There were some guys who were probably qualified to make these teams but unfortunately come up short based on how tough it is to make the 12-man roster. Only 24 players are named All Stars meaning that there are plenty of others who are left out. Let me know if you think there were some other players who should have made it.

NBA All Star voting flaws

The NBA announced whom the fans selected to participate in the 2015 All Star Game. The Eastern Conference squad features John Wall, Kyle Lowry, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Pau Gasol. The Western Conference side consists of Stephan Curry, Kobe Bryant, Blake Griffin, Anthony Davis and Marc Gasol. As always, there were some noticeable omissions from the lineup. On top of that, a couple of names made the list who were very debatable. Now, as everyone will want to know, who were the biggest names left off the list and who should have been left off the team entirely? I am not sold on how well the fans did at selecting these teams. Let’s take a look at the shortcomings.

For some context, this is just the preliminary roster with Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr and Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer set to name the reserves early next week. That means that some of the notable snubs will be added in that round of selections. Kerr is likely to add Thunder stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in addition to Clippers guard Chris Paul. For Budenholzer, he will likely name Heat forward Chris Bosh, Bulls guard Derrick Rose and Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving.

Another name that should crop up is James Harden, who more than likely should have been a starter over Bryant for the West team. This is a huge oversight by the fans. On his own merits, Bryant should never have been added to this roster, and definitely not as a starter. I have spouted off previously about Kobe and his steadily declining play. Meanwhile, Harden is in the midst of an MVP-caliber season piloting Houston to a tie with the Clippers for fifth in the Western Conference. The Rockets guard has averaged an NBA-leading 27.2 points per game along with 6.7 assists and 5.5 rebounds while converting the sixth most three pointers. Defensively, Harden has stepped up his game too with career highs in blocks and steals. Harden also ranks first in Win Shares and fifth in Player Efficiency Rating among starters. It makes no sense to me that he is not on this list and Bryant is instead, despite him having a disappointing year. Bryant will not be playing for the team anymore due to a torn rotator cuff and Harden should be his replacement.

The other glaring issue with the rosters is the makeup of the West’s starting five. You have Curry and for arguments sake, let’s say Harden. Then you have Griffin, Davis and Marc Gasol. Those last three are big men who play best as either a power forward or center. None of them could really make it as a small forward. So somewhere in this starting five, Kerr has to find a small forward for game day; there is not one there though. Griffin is the closest thing he has to a small forward and he would have his hands full playing against either Melo or LeBron, whomever he covers. The system of voting has left the Western team in a bind not really creating a true All Star lineup. I have always felt that the team should have a player from each position rather than general labels like guard and forward. That might be my opinion but it definitely would make for a cleaner lineup.

I do not have an issue with the selection that many people, most notably Charles Barkley, have openly disputed. Carmelo Anthony should absolutely be starting in the Eastern Conference. If this were similar to the NFL Pro Bowl, where the teams are not sorted by conference, then Melo likely would not make the cut. Under this current format, he is the best option available, and it is not even close. Anthony is second for forwards in scoring in the East with 24 points per game. The next highest scorer is Tobais Harris only averaging 18 points a contest. Melo is also tied for third with Paul Millsap for most assists per game behind only James and Joe Johnson. There is not a player in the East who has better qualifications as a starter.

The All Star game is still almost a month away and the rosters will be much more scrutinized once the reserves are announced. The All Star game does not stand for much but being named All Star is validation of your accomplishments as a player. Based on the immense split of talent between the East and West maybe it is time for the Association to adoptteams that are not conference specific allowing for truly the best players to compete in the game. Keep an eye for a list of the biggest snubs next week when the rest of the rosters are announced.