30. Dorian Finney-Smith — Dallas Mavericks
Dallas is a bit limited in its frontcourt. Luka Dončić is the team’s primary playmaker. He’s got the ball in his hands more often than not, and thus is essentially a point forward. Harrison Barnes (when healthy) can function as a small ball four. However, he’s more natural from a functionality standpoint at the three. As such, Dorian Finney-Smith has assumed the four spot for Dallas. While a fair athlete, Finney-Smith struggles immensely from the perimeter. It’ll only be a matter of time until he’s jettisoned out of the starting lineup.
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29. Jared Dudley — Brooklyn Nets
33-year-old Jared Dudley is still starting for an NBA team. Credit the San Diego native for continuing to “get those checks” (as Jalen Rose would say). Dudley has transformed himself into a small ball four. He can stretch the floor immensely well (a career .396 shooter from three). Duly, a lack of athleticism is mitigated by Dudley’s high basketball I.Q. He’s the true veteran presence for this young Nets’ team. Don’t be surprised if Dudley gets gobbled up by a contender later this season.
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28. Patrick Patterson — Oklahoma City Thunder
Patrick Patterson is extremely average. Despite appearing to be a bruiser in the paint, Patterson has never averaged more than five rebounds a game. He is a decent screener — and can somewhat stretch the floor for corner threes. However, Patterson doesn’t possess enough playmaking ability to help out OKC’s rather anemic offense. He’s a backup four masquerading as a starter on what should be a top-four seed in the Western Conference.
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27. Ryan Anderson — Phoenix Suns
Ryan Anderson is an exceptionally limited player. He’s listed a tick higher than the last spot due to his ability to shoot the basketball. Anderson is one of the better stretch four’s in the league today. The 6-foot-10 forward is a career 38.1-percent shooter from three. However, he can’t do much of else. He’s one of the worst defenders in the league. Anderson struggles (to put it mildly) whenever having to move laterally. His smallish frame also results in him offering no resistance when defending on the block. At this point in his career, Anderson would be best served as a shooting specialist off the bench.
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26. Jaren Jackson Jr. — Memphis Grizzlies
Jaren Jackson Jr.’s acclimation to the NBA was recently expedited with the serious jaw injury to JaMychal Green. Jackson Jr. — a first-year player from Michigan State — is the perfect big man for the modern NBA game. Not only can he protect the rim, but Jackson Jr.’s range extends beyond 20 feet. Those in Memphis should be wildly excited over the prospect of him developing into a very good player. Fortunately for Jackson Jr., he’ll be learning from a very accomplished post player in veteran Marc Gasol.
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25. Taj Gibson — Minnesota Timberwolves
Gibson is a rather solid player. He doesn’t play out of his comfort zone, and is actually quite good when it comes to rebounding and positional defense. Gibson is also capable when it comes to knocking down the mid-range jumper. At 33 years of age, he’s certainly not the athlete he once was. Much of his effectiveness stems from previously accrued experience — not to mention a proven acuity for how the game is played. In a perfect world, Gibson would be a very good reserve big man on a good team.
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24. Nemanja Bjelica — Sacramento Kings
After being a reserve in Minnesota, Nemanja Bjelica is now getting his chance as a starter with the Sacramento Kings. It comes as no surprise to see an uptick in his collective statistical output. Bjelica is a very good shooter from beyond the arc. He’s even showed the ability at times to create off the bounce in traffic. As long as he’s shooting the ball at nearly 40 percent from three, Bjelica will continue to see a fair amount of minutes in Sacramento.
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23. Al-Farouq Aminu — Portland Trail Blazers
Al-Farouq Aminu has traditionally shuttled between the three and the four positions — though he’s currently entrenched at the power forward spot for Portland. His ability to get out and run in transition makes him a nice fit for today’s explosion of pace. Aminu is only an average three-point shooter. However, his combination of length and athleticism allows for him to switch on any screen. Aminu can also guard multiple positions on the floor. As such, he offers the Trail Blazers nice value as a role player.
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22. P.J. Tucker — Houston Rockets
Tucker is playing out of position as a small ball four. However, this speaks to his adaptiveness as a player — as well as his versatility. Generously listed at 6-foot-6, Tucker has no qualms about competing with taller players in the painted area. Tucker is built like a fire hydrant — and has the tenacity of of a pit bull. His physical nature enables him to play bigger than his size indicates. He is the tone-setter for Houston when it comes to the defensive end of the floor. Though limited offensively, he can still step out and spot up for threes. While there are more talented players on this list, Tucker is wildly significant to Houston’s success.
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21. Kelly Olynyk — Miami Heat
The Miami rotation at the four is a bit wonky. A number of players have started there — including Derrick Jones Jr., Justise Winslow, and even Udonis Haslem. We’re opting to go with Olynyk at this spot, namely because he’s the best talent — as well as the best fit alongside Hassan Whiteside. At close to 7-feet tall, Olynyk presents a bit of a problem for opposing teams. He’s a much better athlete than given credit for. His range extends beyond the three-point line — though he can also score in the post. Feisty and aggressive, he at least gives decent effort defensively (though he’s far from great on this end of the floor). At the very worst, the Canadian is a serviceable player for Pat Riley’s squad.
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20. Derrick Favors — Utah Jazz
Favors is a bit of a throwback player. A traditional big man, Favors much prefers to stay close to the paint rather than enter the rarefied air of perimeter real estate. He’ll score a bit in the paint — though he’s not a pure post threat. Favors averages more than a block per game. His length — coupled with a burly frame — makes him a very valuable commodity in Utah. Favors is also an unselfish player. In short, he’s the quintessential Jazz player when it comes to unabated toughness.
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19. Marvin Williams — Charlotte Hornets
Marvin Williams would’ve been a three back in the ’90s/early 2000s. However as currently constituted, the hybrid wing out of Seattle is playing as a four man. Williams never quite lived up to the potential he came into the league with over a decade ago. We’ve seen flashes of a player with big-time talent. However in his current state, Williams is a solid yet unspectacular starting wing in today’s NBA. He’ll put up points in spurts, though is far from consistent in virtually any category.
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18. Markieff Morris — Washington Wizards
Markieff Morris is essentially a younger and better version of Williams. He’s far bouncier — and definitely has the potential to ‘go off’ at a higher clip on any given night. Morris is actually rather underrated when factoring in the attention drawn by others on his team. When looking at many of the best ‘jumbo hybrid wings’ in the NBA, Morris ranks among the best. He just doesn’t shine with the prolific backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal.
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17. Pascal Siakam — Toronto Raptors
We’re projecting a bit on Pascal Siakam. Since Nick Nurse took over the head coaching position with Toronto, he’s decided to insert the bouncy Cameroonian into the starting lineup. The 24-year-old is one of the best athletes at his position in the league. Siakam is a terrific rim-runner, and has also improved his rim-protecting skills. His greatest trait involves him moving laterally. Siakam is freaky enough athletically to defend both big men and guards. He’s only scratching the surface on his vast potential. If Siakam can develop a reliable jumper, look out.
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16. Thaddeus Young — Indiana Pacers
Thad Young was a large reason for Indiana’s emergence last year. The Georgia Tech product plays the game with tons of energy. He runs the floor well in transition, and also crashes the boards with reckless abandon. Defensively, Young can guard both forward spots. He’s got exceptionally quick hands — evidenced by the fact he has averaged more than a steal per game for his career. Young isn’t an all-star level player. However, he’s rock-solid in a number of areas.
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15. Paul Millsap — Denver Nuggets
Paul Millsap is starting to slow down. At 33 years of age, there are a lot of miles on his body. As opposed to exclusively banging in the post, the Louisiana native has began becoming more of a perimeter player. This evolution of his game — coupled with the emergence of Nikola Jokić — has made him less of a focal point offensively. He’s still a productive player, and can certainly get a double-double with ease. However, Millsap’s best days are certainly behind him at this stage in his career.
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14. Nikola Mirotic — New Orleans Pelicans
Nikola Mirotić is a perfect fit alongside Anthony Davis. He’s proven to be a real threat to score from behind the arc, and practically anywhere else on the floor. Mirotić’s silky-smooth game is punctuated by a firm understanding of spacing on the floor. With a lightning-quick release, Mirotić can score points in a hurry. The Montenegrin is a below-average defender. This aspect hinders his overall ceiling within the list.
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13. John Collins — Atlanta Hawks
While Trae Young garners plenty of the press clippings, John Collins might be the most promising player on the Hawks’ roster. The Wake Forest product has already shown an advanced post game. He can score over either shoulder, and has an array of drop-step/baby hooks in his arsenal. Collins is also excellent at using his body to carve out space for himself on the block. His sturdy frame is complemented by exceptionally long arms. As such, Collins has the ability to be a plus-rebounder in the upcoming years. There’s a lot to like about the 21-year-old.
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12. Dario Šarić — Philadelphia 76ers
Dario Šarić has quickly become a very important player for the Philadelphia 76ers. The Croatian is a highly versatile player — possessing the skills to rebound, defend, be a playmaker, and being a capable initiator of the offense. At 6-foot-10, there aren’t many players at his size with such a well-rounded game. Šarić must improve on his perimeter shooting. Once this aspect of his game gets better, he’ll be that much more difficult to defend against. We’d like to see him on a team with more of a lead role (as that doesn’t look like it’ll ever be the case alongside Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid).
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11. Tobias Harris — Los Angeles Clippers
Tobias Harris has developed quite nicely into a very productive hybrid forward. He’s very capable in bouncing back and forth between either forward spot. Harris has terrific footwork — which allows for him to score from virtually anywhere on the floor. At only 26 years of age, the New York native is just starting to hit his prime. It will be fascinating to see what his free agency interest will look like upon entering the market this upcoming summer.
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10. Aaron Gordon — Orlando Magic
The 23-year-old out of San Jose has considerable upside. At 6-foot-9, Aaron Gordon is a plus-athlete. His numbers have steadily improved each and every year he’s been in the league. Gordon’s versatility allows for him to score the basketball both in transition as well as in the half court. His perimeter shooting does need some adjusting, as does his ability to create for others. After just signing a massive four-year extension, Gordon will have to prove he can be the No. 1 option on a team in search of a playoff spot.
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9. Lauri Markkanen — Chicago Bulls
We’re rather bullish on Lauri Markkanen’s future in the NBA. There were questions over how he’d deal with the physicality in the NBA. So far, so good. The Finnish international has been feisty on the boards. While Markkanen won’t ever be a premier shot blocker, he’s still long enough to be a factor defensively. The 7-footer made over two threes per game, and will only continue to develop his post game as he gets physically stronger. Chicago certainly will build around Markkanen heading into the future.
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8. Jayson Tatum — Boston Celtics
Jayson Tatum is naturally more of a three. However, he plays the four with Boston’s rather small starting lineup. The second-year player is supremely skilled. Tatum is excellent at creating space for himself when positioned on the perimeter. He’s shown the ability to take players off the bounce, as well as creating for himself when put in compromised positions on the floor. Above all, Tatum hasn’t let the moment become too big for him. He has an even-keeled demeanor out on the floor. If he continues to progress at this rate, you’re looking at a perennial all-star.
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7. Kevin Love — Cleveland Cavaliers
Kevin Love helps your team in a number of ways. There’s not another player in the NBA with a better outlet pass. The former UCLA Bruin star is highly skilled in all facets of the game — particularly on the offensive end of the floor. Love’s passing ability is above-average for his position, and his touch extends to beyond the three-point arc. There are limitations to his game, especially when it comes to the defensive end of the floor. However, Love is still a productive player.
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6. Blake Griffin — Detroit Pistons
Blake Griffin is far from finished. Many were quick to write the Oklahoma native off. He’s continued to battle leg injuries, and hasn’t been able to consistently replicate the form he showed earlier in his career. However, that doesn’t mean Griffin isn’t still an excellent player. The springy power forward is still one of the league’s best athletes at the position. Griffin also might be the most underrated big man passer in the game today. As Griffin gets older, he relies more and more on his skill rather than athletic ability. As such, it’s helping to prolong his career — and thus making him one of the Eastern Conference’s better players.
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5. Kristaps Porzingis — New York Knicks
We get that Kristaps Porzingis is likely out for the entire 2018-19 season. He must prove he can come back from the knee injury. However, we’re confident in saying that Porzingis (when healthy) is a top-five power forward in today’s NBA. At 7-foot-3, Porzingis is a giant. But he’s not a plodder by any stretch of the imagination. The Latvian star has the freaky ability to take centers off the dribble. Even more mind-boggling, Porzingis has range upwards of 30 feet. With his length, very few — if any — have the capabilities of obstructing his shot from the perimeter. There’s so much talent to work with. Assuming he can fully recover from the knee injury, Porzingis has the look of a transcendent talent.
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4. LaMarcus Aldridge — San Antonio Spurs
L.A. is the epitome of consistency. On virtually every night, you know Aldridge will give you a double-double. A lethal mid-range shooter, Aldridge’s game has continued to expand into his later years. He’s a very efficient player that plays within himself. Aldridge has long been one of the best power forwards in the game. As long as he’s humming at this clip, he’ll continue to rank among the top at the position.
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3. Draymond Green — Golden State Warriors
Draymond’s numbers don’t completely illustrate how significant his impact is to the Warriors. Green is the quarterback of Golden State’s top-ranked defense. Not only is he the most vocal player on the floor, but he’s also a master at garnering steals, blocks, and deflections. While he struggles to shoot outside of five feet, Green can bring the ball up and initiate the offense from the high post. His immense basketball I.Q. shines when he’s dishing clever passes to the likes of Curry, Durant, and Thompson. Green is unequivocally one of the most unique yet polarizing players in today’s NBA.
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2. Giannis Antetokounmpo — Milwaukee Bucks
The Greek Freak is on the cusp of becoming a top-five player in the NBA. Though it’s early in the 2018-19 season, Antetokounmpo looks like a legitimate contender to win the MVP Award. He’s gobbling up rebounds at a high rate. With Mike Budenholzer instituting a faster tempo, Antetokounmpo has seen his assist totals increase dramatically. Assuming the 23-year-old can become a more credible outside shooter, Antetokounmpo should develop into one of the league’s most dominant players.
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1. LeBron James — Los Angeles Lakers
Until he shows signs of aging, LeBron will remain as the best ‘power forward’ in the league. There’s never been a player possessing James’ combination of power, speed, and skill. He’s also a master at controlling tempo. James knows exactly where he wants to go with the ball — whether than means scoring for himself or setting up a teammate. Now accompanied by a young Lakers’ team, it will be quite fascinating to see how James navigates the 2018-19 season versus arduous competition in the Western Conference.
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