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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.

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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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