The NBA is filled with talented power forwards. Some of the best power forwards around are LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Love and Tim Duncan. They each play a key part in their team’s success and have proven time and time again how great they are. Each year, several young players will elevate their game to the next level. Here are a few power forwards who could have a breakout season:
Kenneth Faried – Denver Nuggets
Kenneth Faried entered the league three years ago and has stayed under the radar for the most part. But this past summer, things changed. Faried received a lot of attention after playing a significant role in Team USA’s gold medal win at the FIBA World Cup. With Kevin Durant’s departure and Paul George’s injury, somebody needed to step up and Faried did just that. He was put in the starting lineup in all nine games and led his team with 7.8 rebounds per game while recording 12.4 points per game.
Last season, Faried played in 80 games and averaged 13.7 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.2 assists. Earlier this month, the Denver Nuggets gave Faried a four-year, $50 million extension, making it clear that they believe in Faried and his game. The Nuggets’ executives are not the only ones that see Faried as a valuable asset. The annual GM survey shows that executives around the league have high expectations for the 24-year-old, as Faried received the fifth most votes for player to break0ut this year and tied for first place with San Antonio Spurs forward Boris Diaw for the league’s best role player.
After a successful summer, expect big things for the young power forward this coming season.
Taj Gibson – Chicago Bulls
Taj Gibson will be a key player for the Chicago Bulls this coming season. During his five-year career with the Bulls, Gibson’s main role in Chicago has been to provide defense and energy off the bench. His role will not change this year, but they will expect more from the 29-year-old power forward.
The Bulls are one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference and are projected to make the playoffs as a top seed. With such high expectations, Gibson will play a crucial role as their sixth man. The addition of Pau Gasol to the team should help Gibson learn and improve. Gasol has a lot of experience and knowledge that he is passing on to Gibson, which can help him become a better player.
Last season, Gibson made several improvements to his game and ended up averaging a career-high 13 points per game. This season, Gibson has the “Sixth Man of the Year” award in his sights after finishing as the runner-up behind Los Angeles Clippers guard Jamal Crawford last season. Keep an eye out for Gibson this coming season; he is on the hunt for this award and will have to elevate his game to win it.
Markieff Morris – Phoenix Suns
The departure of Channing Frye from the Phoenix Suns opened the door for Markieff Morris to become the team’s starting power forward. Last season, Morris made a jump by improving his scoring average from 8.2 to 13.8. He also led the NBA with the most points off the bench (1,115 total).
Morris and his twin brother Marcus Morris, who also plays for the Suns, received multi-year extensions keeping them in Phoenix before training camp began. The team has seen significant improvement from both players and offered them a combined $52 million over four years. Markieff will earn $32 million, while Marcus will earn $20 million.
Morris was a legitimate Sixth Man of the Year candidate one year ago, and his new role will allow him to improve his numbers and potentially have a breakout year. Becoming a starter will help Morris take his game to the next level and become a key component in the Suns’ system.
Greg Monroe – Detroit Pistons
Greg Monroe has played for the Detroit Pistons for four years and has put up good numbers, averaging 14 points and nine rebounds throughout his career. It is now time for Monroe to take his game to the next level and that might be very possible with their new head coach Stan Van Gundy.
Monroe played well during the preseason in Van Gundy’s system. In the six games he played in, he scored 24 twice and recorded over 10 points the other four games.
During his time with the Pistons, Monroe has been a starter, but his new head coach has different plans for the big man. Van Gundy has committed to Josh Smith as the team’s starting power forward but will rely on Monroe to come off the bench and provide power. It might not be the ideal situation for Monroe, but if he comes off the bench and puts up 15 points per game and nine rebounds per game it creates great depth for the team. Monroe will be an unrestricted free agent next summer, so expect him to produce in this contract year no matter what role he’s playing in Detroit.
Julius Randle – Los Angeles Lakers
Julius Randle ended the preseason on a high note. The 19-year-old rookie shot 7-of-10 from the floor for 17 points and grabbed eight rebounds in 24 minutes against the Portland Trail Blazers. He might be a rookie, but he is already showing flashes of how good he can be.
After a bad season, the Lakers selected the Kentucky product as the No. 7 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. Randle will most likely come off of the bench behind Carlos Boozer this season, but he has the potential to be the next star of the Lakers (as long as he’s not an idiot, as Kobe Bryant has said).
Like all rookies, Randle has a lot to learn, but his performance during the Lakers’ last preseason game gives fans hope for a bright future. It still remains to be seen how Boozer will fit in the Lakers’ system and how the 32-year-old will play this season. During his time at Kentucky, Randle averaged 15 points and 10.4 rebounds, leading the team to the national championship game. Randle has the potential to develop into a very special player for L.A.
Tristan Thompson – Cleveland Cavaliers
For the past two seasons, Tristan Thompson has been the Cleveland Cavaliers’ starting power forward. Despite the team’s struggles, he has consistently produced and been an important part of their young core. He has started every game for the past two seasons; however, with several additions to the roster, Thompson will be coming off the bench now.
The Cavaliers made big moves this offseason by acquiring LeBron James, Kevin Love, Mike Miller and Shawn Marion among others. They also hired a new head coach in David Blatt, who wants to start Love and Anderson Varejao in the frontcourt and have Thompson be the first person off of the bench. Even as the team’s sixth man, Thompson should learn, grow and excel with James and Love around him.
Several reports indicate that the Cavaliers and Thompson’s camp have not discussed a contract extension, making the upcoming season critical for the 23-year-old. If a deal is not reached by Oct. 31, he will become a restricted free agent next summer. It is key for Thompson to perform at his best and put up big numbers in order to receive the type of contract he would like next offseason.
Thompson may be coming off of the bench, but don’t be surprised if the improved pieces around him propel the young forward to have a breakout year. He’ll have the opportunity to come off the bench behind Love, put up big numbers and potentially go on a championship run.
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