- Chris Palmer, ESPN the Magazine
We're officially in the dog days of the lockout. Negotiations between the players and owners have stalled, and seemingly every day there's talk of another star jumping overseas. But not even the lockout is cause to stop evaluating the best players in the game and seeing how they stack up against their peers based on talent, skill and productivity. This week, I'll be ranking the top five players at each position and breaking down what makes them so special. Each day, I'll look at a different position, starting with point guards and finishing with centers. Today, we'll look at power forwards. We're tossing out postseason awards and career accomplishments and just finding out who's the best of the best.
Think it's too soon to anoint Griffin? His talent, skill and numbers say otherwise. Even in the raw, early stages of his development, Griffin possesses the most positive attributes of any power forward and he's far and away the best athlete at the position. He was the first rookie in 41 years to average 22 points, 12 rebounds and three assists. (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the previous player to do it.) How many other active power forwards have rung up a triple-double of 33 points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists? Hint: zero. Griffin is built for contact and thrives as the game becomes more physical. Griffin averaged 8.5 free throw attempts per game; only Dwight Howard got to the line more. Griffin's 3.8 assists per game lead all power forwards and his 12 boards were good for third. He seems to get better every time out and is bent on adding new phases to his game. By the middle of the season he was bringing the ball up court and surprising his coaches with his ability to not just go coast-to-coast for the dunk but by making positive decisions passing the basketball.