For those of you just joining us, make sure to check out the previous articles in this series, links to which can be found on the right of your screen. Without an understanding of my ranking methodology, several of the picks may baffle you, so it's important that you read up on my thinking behind these lists before you dive in.
The rest of you know the drill already, so we'll waste no time in getting started with it. If you have any comments or questions, you can reach me via the box below this article or by emailing me directly at CY.Ellis@HoopsVibe.com.
The NBA's Top Forwards: Part Two
6. Ron Artest
At 6'7'', 246, Artest is one of the toughest defenders the league has ever seen, capable of shutting down point guards through power forwards with a combination of instinct, determination and sheer physical ability. At the other end of the floor, he has become one of the league's most efficient scorers, making him one of the most rounded players in the game.
That's not what you know him for, though.
You see, Ron-Ron is a little crazy, and I might be as well for listing him at number six. Put him on the floor and you never know which player you're going to get; one night it may be the all-round threat described above, but one another you might see the flagrant-fouling nutcase that looks as if he might let loose and feast on the opposing bench at any moment. If only there were a cure for whatever it is that prevents Ron from acting properly long enough to play as he should, the Pacers would have posed a real threat to the league last year.
7. Vince Carter
Oh no he didn't. Unfortunately, I did. Before you begin typing the inevitable hatemail set to fill my inbox following this pick, know this: I've made all the Vince Carter jokes you have. I've mocked him for being soft, heckled him when he shot jumpers when the lane was open, and criticized him for the constant injuries. I kicked up more of a fuss than anyone when he admitted he wasn't always trying his hardest in Toronto, and I questioned his value as loudly as the most hateful of haters when there were rumours that he had tipped off opponents as to the plays the Raptors would run.
However, someone or something slapped him in the face following his trade to New Jersey, and we once again saw the man known as “Vinsanity” rather than the sorry sight of “Wince” Carter. By the season's end, he was the eighth in the league in scoring and hitting forty-five percent of his threes. Perhaps more promisingly, the highlights were back, and he seemed to care about the game of basketball again.
Some of you will say that this is only a temporary change and that he'll be “Charmin” Carter once more. I can't guarantee that you're not right. However, given that he has already worked through about as much negative press as any player in the league to return to being one of the game's best, I wouldn't expect Vince to let himself slip again.
8. Carmelo Anthony
Another player whose attitude is considered an issue, Carmelo is going to have to show us all what he can do before we truly believe it. After a promising rookie outing, hopes were high that he'd have another great year. However, like so many before him, he fell prey to the dreaded sophomore slump and found himself averaging slightly less across the board than he had the previous season. That doesn't tell the whole story, though. Following George Karl's arrival in Denver, he managed to fix up and find his form once more, helping the Nuggets get back on track and make the playoffs despite a woeful start.
I had my doubts previously, but I'll lay it on the line right now and say what a lot of you don't want to hear: Carmelo will be a star next season. Don't expect him to reach the level of classmates LeBron and Dwyane just yet, but do count on a year that vaults him to All-Star status. With his newfound maturity and composure, ‘Melo will be more than capable of leading a team come next season. If you don't believe in him yet (as I didn't), you soon will.
9. Shawn Marion
Sure, he pulled a major choke job in the playoffs, but we can all be forgiven one mistake. Ignoring that minor stain on his escutcheon, we see a do-it-all forward who last year ranked second in the league in double-doubles. Although his shooting motion may make Celine Dion look pretty, he's nothing if not solid from the field, particularly when he finds himself open along the baseline for one his trademark leaners. While I found it difficult to let a twenty-ten player slip all the way to nine, I also couldn't see a man who has never been the go-to guy making it any higher. A great scorer and rebounder he may be, but his ability to take a team on his shoulders is yet to be tested. Until he demonstrates that, I won't be able to bring myself to push him any further up the list.
10. Elton Brand
Elton Brand chipped away at my arguments against him as steadily as he operates on the court. I wrote and underlined the word “boring” next to my player report, then replaced it with “reliable”. I scribbled “Unremarkable” beneath, but later added “(but that's a good thing)”. “Bland Brand” became “Steady Elton” in my mind, and with that he moved from the honourable mention pool to the final forward on the list. If it's not yet clear, I'll state plainly that my objections to E.B. were invalid, being based on the fact that I couldn't bring myself to appreciate a player with such a lack of presence. Now that I've learnt to love his game for what it is, I recognise that Brand would, if required, be able to step up and play the lead role in a decent team.
For now, however, he's in exile with the Clippers, a team that seems destined to show just enough promise to keep our interest before falling from grace once again. He may never have the chance to be part of a championship-calibre squad, but that's not to say that he couldn't play a big part in such a unit if traded.
Honourable mention: Andrei Kirilenko, Rashard Lewis, Chris Webber, Antawn Jamison, Paul Pierce, Grant Hill.
Stop by again tomorrow for my rankings of the top five big men in the league, which will be the final installment in this series. Until then, take it easy.