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The NBA’s Most Underrated Power Forwards

An in-depth look at some of the NBA’s most underrated power forwards, including Ryan Anderson of the New Orleans Pelicans.

John Zitzler



Even the most casual basketball fans would be able to tell you a little bit about some of the best power forwards in the game today. Players like Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge, Serge Ibaka and Anthony Davis have been dominant at the position in recent years. Veteran guys like Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki have put together Hall of Fame careers and even in the latter stages of their playing days have been very productive as well. Those guys represent some of most accomplished power forwards in the game today. However, there are a number productive four men who may get as much recognition as the players mentioned above but still play a key role to their respective team.

This list will take a look at five power forwards who are sometimes overlooked and may not be getting the attention they deserve.

Taj Gibson, Chicago Bulls

In his five years with the Bulls, Gibson has become one of the most consistent contributors on the team. His role throughout his career has been primarily as a sixth man, a role that he has embraced and excelled in. Despite coming off the bench for the most part, Gibson has still been one of the Bulls’ top scorers and rebounders. This past season, he averaged a career-best 13 points to go along with 6.8 rebounds. While he is certainly counted on for his scoring and rebounding, his defense is what makes Gibson such an important asset for the Bulls. He has great lateral quickness for a player of his size, allowing him to switch easily and hold his own against smaller players. Also, he is very active around the rim; this past season, he blocked 1.7 shots per game and has averaged two blocks per game throughout his career. The combination of Gibson and center Joakim Noah down low are the backbone behind the Bulls’ outstanding defense.

The Bulls will enter 2014-15 with one of the deepest frontcourts in the league, as the team added Pau Gasol through free agency and is bringing Nikola Mirotic over from Europe. Head coach Tom Thibodeau will have a number of different combinations he can use, allowing the Bulls to handle just about any frontcourt match up they face. Gibson will almost surely continue to come off the bench, but will remain an integral piece as the Bulls make the push toward a title.

Terrence Jones, Houston Rockets

When you think about the Rockets’ frontcourt, the first name that comes to mind is obviously Dwight Howard. While Howard might be the star of the team’s frontcourt, he is getting some great support from soon-to-be third-year player Terrence Jones. After playing in only 19 games as a rookie, Jones saw his role increase dramatically in his second season, starting in 71 games alongside Howard. Jones thrived in his new role and became a steady contributor on a nightly basis. He provides a nice contrast to what Howard does, as Jones is quick enough to take his man off the dribble and has the ability to knock down short-to-medium range shots. Jones had a great second season and quickly rewarded the Rockets’ confidence in him, thriving in his new role. He finished the year with the third-highest PER on the team (19.1) behind only Howard and James Harden. Still growing as a player, Jones has the chance to be even better this upcoming season and may not be underrated much longer.

Ryan Anderson, New Orleans Pelicans

Between the tragic loss of his girlfriend prior to the start of the season and a mid-season neck injury, Anderson had a rough year and played in just 22 games during the 2013-14 season for the Pelicans. However, when he was on the court, he showed just how valuable of a player he can be. As one of the top stretch-fours in the game, Anderson allows the Pelicans to space the floor like few other teams can. He has become a remarkably good three-point shooter. Even with shooting nearly eight threes a game last season, he still maintained an impressive three-point percentage of 40.9 percent.

The Pelicans acquired Omer Asik during the offseason, giving them a very solid frontcourt rotation of Asik, Anderson and Anthony Davis. With Asik in the fold, Anderson may not start but still figures to play big minutes. Anderson underwent successful surgery on his neck and has just recently been cleared for contact. All signs point to him being ready to go for the Pelicans’ season opener.

Markieff Morris, Phoenix Suns

Morris had a breakout year during the 2013-14 season for the Suns. He became one of the league leaders in scoring off the bench and developed into one of the Suns’ top offensive threats. He came off the bench for all 82 games, but like Taj Gibson, that doesn’t diminish his importance. The Suns relied heavily on Morris to provide a scoring punch for their second unit, especially when Eric Bledsoe was injured and Gerald Green was forced into the starting lineup. Morris managed to deliver all season long, and even had his name mentioned in the conversation for Sixth Man of the Year. With Channing Frye off to Orlando, Morris may have the chance to step into the starting rotation this upcoming season. After what he showed last season, more minutes for Morris certainly seems like a good idea.

Jordan Hill, Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers made it a top priority to bring back their young and talented big this offseason, signing Hill to a two-year, $18 million deal. Some might have thought this price was a little steep, but when you consider the type of production he has provided, especially when his minutes have been limited at times, it could prove to be a wise deal for the team.

Last year, Hill started in only 32 games for the Lakers and played, on average, just 20.8 minutes per game. But when he was on the court, outside of Pau Gasol, Hill was the Lakers’ most dynamic big. He averaged 9.7 points and 7.4 rebounds. This may not seem overly impressive, but if you take a look at his per 36 minutes numbers – 16.7 PPG and 12.8 RPG – there is no reason to think that Hill won’t be a major contributor if given more minutes. With Mike D’Antoni out of the picture in L.A. and Brian Shaw taking over, the Lakers will likely go with a much more traditional lineup this year. Expect Hill to play a much bigger role this upcoming season.

The power forward position appears to be in great hands with a number of talented, up-and-coming players throughout the league. These guys might not be at the level of some of the league’s best, but they certainly deserve some praise for their strong play.

This is John's second year with Basketball Insiders, after spending last season working as an intern. Based out of Milwaukee, he covers the NBA with a focus on the Milwaukee Bucks and the Central Division.


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NBA Daily: Raptors Look To Fine-Tune The Defense

The Toronto Raptors’ defense had a letdown against the Cavaliers, but has been outstanding overall.

Buddy Grizzard



The Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors engaged in an offensive shootout on Wednesday that could be a playoff preview. The Cavs protected home court with a single-possession, 132-129 victory. Afterward, the Raptors spoke about the types of defensive adjustments the team needs to make as the postseason rapidly approaches.

“That’s how a playoff game would be,” said DeMar DeRozan, who missed a three at the buzzer that could have forced overtime. “This is a team we’ve been playing against the last two years in the postseason. Understanding how we can tighten up things defensively, how to make things tougher for them [is key].

“[It’s] little small things that go a long way, and not just with them … with every team.”

Raptors coach Dwane Casey concurred with DeRozan that fine-tuning of the defense is needed. He also pointed out that, with young contributors such as center Jakob Poeltl and power forward Pascal Siakam on the roster, defensive experience against the league’s best player, LeBron James, is something they will have to gain on the fly.

“I don’t think Jakob Poeltl played against him that much, and Siakam,” said Casey. “This is their first time seeing it. I thought Jak and Pascal did an excellent job, but there are certain situations where they’ve got to read and understand what the other team is trying to do to them.”

Poeltl was outstanding, leading the bench with 17 points and tying for the team lead in rebounds with eight. Casey praised the diversity of his contributions.

“I thought he did an excellent job of rolling, finishing, finding people,” said Casey. “I thought defensively, he did a good job of protecting the paint, going vertical. So I liked what he was giving us, especially his defense against Kevin Love.”

Basketball Insiders previously noted how the Raptors have performed vastly better as a team this season when starting point guard Kyle Lowry is out of the game. Much of that is due to Fred VanVleet’s emergence as one of the NBA’s best reserve point guards. VanVleet scored 16 points with five assists and no turnovers against Cleveland. It’s also a reflection of how good Toronto’s perimeter defense has been up and down the roster.

According to ESPN’s defensive Real Plus-Minus statistic, three of the NBA’s top 15 defensive point guards play for the Raptors. VanVleet ranks seventh while Lowry is 12th and Delon Wright is 14th. Starting small forward OG Anunoby ranks 16th at his position.

The Raptors also rank in the top five in offensive efficiency (third) and defensive efficiency (fifth). Having established an identity as a defensive team, especially on the perimeter, it’s perhaps understandable that Lowry was the one player in the visiting locker room who took the sub-standard defensive showing personally.

“It was a disgraceful display of defense by us and we’ve got to be better than that,” said Lowry. “We’ve got to be more physical. They picked us apart and made a lot of threes. We’ve got to find a way to be a better defensive team.”

Lowry continued the theme of fine-tuning as the regular season winds down.

“I think we’ve just got to make adjustments on the fly as a team,” said Lowry. “We can score with the best of them, but they outscored us tonight. We got what we wanted offensively. We’re one of the top teams in scoring in the league, but we’re also a good defensive team.”

Lowry was clearly bothered by Toronto’s defensive showing, but Casey downplayed the importance of a single regular-season game.

“We’ve got to take these games and learn from them, and again learn from the situations where we have to be disciplined,” said Casey. “It’s not a huge thing. It’s situations where we are that we’ve got to learn from and be disciplined and not maybe take this step and over-help here. Because a team like that and a passer like James will make you pay.”

While the Raptors continue to gain experience and dial in the fine defensive details, Casey was insistent that his players should not hang their heads over falling short against Cleveland.

“Hopefully our guys understand that we’re right there,” said Casey.

The Raptors host the Brooklyn Nets tonight to open a three-game home stand that includes visits from the Clippers Sunday and the Nuggets Tuesday. After that, Toronto visits the Celtics March 31 followed by a return to Cleveland April 3 and a home game against Boston the next night. With three games in a row against the other two top-three teams in the East, the schedule presents plenty of opportunities for the Raptors to add defensive polish before the playoffs begin.

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NBA Daily: Jaylen Brown Set To Return For Celtics

The Celtics finally got some good news on Thursday. Jaylen Brown’s return is imminent.

Moke Hamilton



Finally, some good news for the Boston Celtics.

Jaylen Brown is set to return to action.

Brown has been M.I.A. since sustaining a concussion during the team’s 117-109 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves back on March 8, but has traveled with the team to Portland and is expecting to return to the lineup on Sunday when the Celtics do battle with the Sacramento Kings.

As the Celts gear up for a playoff run, which they hope will result in them ending LeBron James’ reign atop the Eastern Conference, they’ve picked the wrong time to run into injury issues. Along with Brown, both Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart have each been conspicuous by their absences, and the team could certainly use all of their pieces as they attempt to enter the postseason on a high note.

Fortunately for Boston, with the Toronto Raptors leading them by 4.5 games in the standings and the Celts ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers by a comfortable six games, Brad Stevens’ team is enjoying the rare situation of having a playoff seed that appears to be somewhat locked in.

Still, with the team only able to go as far as its young rotation will carry it, Brown addressed the media on Thursday.

“I’m feeling a lot better. I’m just trying to hurry up and get back,” Brown said, as quoted by

“I’m tired of not playing.”

Stevens is probably tired of him not playing, too.

As we head into the month of April, playoff-bound teams and conference contenders begin to think about playing into June, while the cellar-dwellers and pretenders begin to look toward the draft lottery and free agency.

What’s funny is that in the midst of the Raptors and their rise out East, the Celtics and their dominance has become a bit of a forgotten storyline. When Gordon Hayward went down on opening night, the neophytes from the Northeast were thought to be a decent team in the making whose ceiling probably wasn’t anywhere near that of the Cavs, the Raptors and perhaps even the Washington Wizards.

Yet through it all, with the impressive growth of Jaylen Brown, impressive rookie Jayson Tatum and the rise of Irving as a franchise’s lynchpin, the Celtics stormed out the games to the tune of a a 17-3 record. What made the strong start even more impressive was the fact that the team won 16 straight games after beginning the season 0-2.

Although they weren’t able to keep up that pace, they began the month of February having gone 37-15 and turned a great many into believers. With their spry legs, team-first playing style and capable leader in Irving, the Celtics, it was thought, were a true contender in the Eastern Conference — if not the favorite.

Since then, and after experiencing injuries to some of its key cogs, the team has gone just 11-8.

In the interim, it seems that many have forgotten about the team that tantalized the Eastern Conference in the early goings of the season.

Brown’s return, in one important respect, will signify a return to Boston’s prior self.

With Marcus Smart having recently undergone surgery to repair a torn tendon in his right thumb, he is expected to be out another five weeks or so, meaning that he’ll likely miss the beginning of the postseason.

As for Irving, although reports say that his ailing knee has no structural damage, everything the Celtics hope to accomplish begins and ends with him. FOX Sports 1’s Chris Broussard believes that it’s no slam dunk that Irving returns to action this season, but he’s in the minority. This team has simply come too far to not give themselves every opportunity to compete at the highest level, so long as doing so doesn’t jeopardize the long term health of any of the franchise’s cornerstones.

Make no mistake about it, the Celtics are far from a finished product. With their nucleus intact and flexibility preserved, they will have another offseason with which to tinker with their rotation pieces and plug away at building a champion.

But here and now, with what they’ve got, the Celtics are much closer than any of us thought they would be at this point.

And on Sunday, when Jaylen Brown rejoins his team in the lineup, to the delight of the Boston faithful, the Celtics will be that much closer.

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Winslow and the Miami HEAT Are “Believing in Each Other”

Justise Winslow discusses the all-around team effort of the Miami HEAT with Basketball Insiders.

Dennis Chambers



The days of LeBron James in Miami are over. Chris Bosh isn’t there anymore, either. No more Ray Allen or Shane Battier. Dwyane Wade is back, but he’s not “Flash” nowadays.

Actually, check the entire Miami HEAT roster; there’s no superstar. They have an All-Star in Goran Dragic, even if he was the third alternate. But during this most recent playoff push, the HEAT don’t have a worldwide household name to plaster all over billboards as a reason for their success.

With 10 games remaining until the playoffs, Miami doesn’t have a player averaging more than 33 minutes per game. Instead, they have 11 players who average at least 20 minutes a contest. Their approach is that of a deep rotation, and its led them to a 39-33 record and the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference. All while the rest of the league is star-driven.

One of those key cogs to the Miami machine is third-year wing, Justise Winslow. A former top-10 pick out of Duke, Winslow is enjoying most efficient season so far for the HEAT. To him, the fact that his squad isn’t littered with names like LeBron and Steph doesn’t make a difference.

“I think our team is extremely confident in each other,” Winslow said. “I think that’s a big thing is that we all believe in each other. We play to each other’s strengths, and most importantly we’re a defensive-minded team. We hang our hats on the defensive end, and that’s really what gets us going as a team.”

Winslow isn’t exaggerating. The HEAT is seventh in the NBA in defensive rating. Head coach Erik Spoelstra harps on the team’s defensive scheme and preparation. Without a go-to scorer capable of getting the team 30 any given night, Miami needs to do their job as a collective unit on the defensive end of the floor night in and night out.

“Each night the coaching staff preaching to us that we have enough, no matter who is in the lineup,” Winslow said. “So it’s just about going out there and executing and putting together a good game of 48-minute basketball. I think our belief in each other that we have enough to get the job done is key.”

In the current NBA landscape, a lot of the playoff contenders are centered around players with big resumes and bigger names. As a result, the HEAT get lost in the shuffle of the national conversation from time to time. Their culture of togetherness and slight from the media outside of their city could make for the perfect “chip on the shoulder” recipe. Or so you would think. Winslow doesn’t believe the chatter, or lack thereof, matters any to Miami.

“We don’t pay too much attention to that,” Winslow said. ‘We’re so focused, and locked in on our team, and each other, and trying to win each game. For us, it’s about having the respect of your peers, of the other team. I think every night no matter who we have or who’s healthy, I think teams know we’re going to be a tough, physical team. Guys in this league don’t want that, you don’t want to have to play against a Miami HEAT team that’s going to be physical, that’s going to get into your body, that’s going to make you play a hard, 48-minute basketball game.”

Because of the HEAT’s brand of basketball, an 82-game season can be grueling. For Winslow, keeping his body right throughout the grind is important to him. After dealing with a few injuries last season, and ultimately being shut down for the year last January to undergo right shoulder surgery for a torn labrum, Winslow was determined to make sure he kept his body in check throughout his comeback so he would be available for a long playoff run.

While his numbers aren’t flashy, Winslow is showing improvement. His 49.3 true shooting percentage is the highest of his career, along with shooting nearly 43 percent from beyond the arc, Winslow made strides in arguably the biggest knock against his game since coming out of college.

Because NBA players have the freedom to form partnerships with whichever companies they’d like, Winslow made the choice to strike up a partnership that he felt would not only help him off the court but more importantly, on it as well.

“My partnership with MET-Rx has been great,” Winslow said. “They’ve really helped take my game to the next level with all their nutritional supplements, and the Big 100 bar. So, for me, I’m always looking for ways to stay off my feet, but also get in the best shape possible and this was just a great way to help.”

The grind of the NBA season is also eased for playoff teams by a veteran presence. So, when the HEAT brought back franchise legend Wade at the trade deadline, their locker room suddenly had a face and feel of someone who’s been there before. A player who reached the pinnacle, with the very team that traded for him nonetheless.

Getting Wade back to Miami was crucial for the team’s playoff run down the stretch, and more importantly for Winslow, who benefited greatly from his time with the future Hall of Famer when he was fresh out of college.

“First and foremost, it was great to get him back,” Winslow said. “Just the role that he played in my career as a rookie, and everything I learned from him. But then also, just the energy and positivity that he brought to the locker room, and also the community of Miami, the city of Miami as a whole. It was a much-needed energy boost, and good vibes that he brought back for that post All-Star break push for playoffs. So, it’s just been great having him back, and it’s kind of rejuvenated the team and the locker room, and just the city in general.”

Wade is the MVP-caliber player he once was this time around, though. But that’s okay. This version of the Miami HEAT is charging toward the postseason with a team-first mentality.

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