The NBA's Top Forwards: Part One
What's good, basketball fans? It's been two days since the first list, and the comments and emails continue to flood in. So far I've learnt that the fans don't take a break even when the league is chilling, and that any ranking - no matter how ostensibly reasonable - has the potential to pit them against one another. I hope that if you learn anything from this series of articles, it's that there will always be someone who disagrees with your opinion. If you manage to keep that in mind, you'll have a better chance of coming to a sensible conclusion.
For those of you who missed the first two lists (find the links on the right), here's the question which determines these rankings:
“Which player would you take with your first pick if you had one season to win a championship?”
The NBA's Top Ten Forwards: Part One
How could it not be? T.D. may not be the smoothest cat on the court, but he doesn't need flash to look good; the platinum rings on his knuckles takes care of that. He doesn't talk but his game speaks volumes, and for the past few years nobody in the league has been able to shut it up. Whether tossing in a bent-arm hookshot, finishing right at the rim or banking it off the glass in inimitable fashion, Timmy always finds a way to get it done. Manu, Tony, Bruce and Bob played their parts, but without The Big Fundamental, they're in big trouble. To put it simply, there's not a single player on earth as fit to anchor a championship team as Tim Duncan. If he can turn this run of success into a full-blown dynasty, he'll confirm his place among the greatest ever to play the game.
2. Kevin Garnett
While Tim Duncan plays with an iceman front, K.G. isn't afraid to let the world know that he's all feelings on the floor. He sweats a little of his soul onto the court every time he plays, and it's that passion which turned a skinny high school phenomenon into one of the most versatile players in history. The Wolves' recent woes can't be attributed to him; Sammy and Spree deserve the blame for that one. With both of them out of town, The Big Ticket is set to put in another year of monster statlines and reclaim his spot among the MVP candidates. He's yet to have held the trophy himself, but I'd still find it difficult to pass up on his unparalleled talent if I were in possession of the second pick.
41 and 9
37 and 8
34 and 11
31 and 5
42 and 16
Those, folks, are the numbers Amaré put up against Tim Duncan in their conference finals series last year. Good grief. If he can manage that against San Antonio's usually watertight defence, what can't he do? Short of two broken legs, there's not much I could imagine stopping Stoudemire from doing exactly as he wishes next year.
4. Jermaine O'Neal
After a slow start to his career in Portland, J.O. has improved steadily to the point where he now looks to be in MVP contention for some time to come. Another substance-over-style player, O'Neal is the type to finish a game with thirty and twelve when you could have sworn he didn't have half of that. Having had a broken arm immobilized for several months as a youth, he's now capable of shooting with either hand, and at 6'11'' with a proportionate reach, he's lethal whenever he makes it into the paint. Many doubt him for the simple fact that he's yet to make any real noise when compared to those ahead of him in this list, but he and the Pacers plan to change that this coming season.
5. Dirk Nowitzki
While the seven-foot jumpshooter has a game that makes him a mismatch for just about anyone in the league, he's not going to move further up this list until he improves upon the knock-kneed defence that often gives up as many points as he puts on the board himself. What makes it all the more frustrating is that, being exceptionally mobile and coordinated for a player of his height, he has all the tools in place to shut down opponents. Whatever the reason he doesn't do so, it has forced him into the fifth spot despite averages of twenty-six and ten, numbers which should have earned him third position. The point has been made already, but defence wins championships, and until Dirk realizes that, he's always going to be a step behind the other big names.