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Monday, June 25, 2012

Witnessing Greatness – Forwards

Prior to the start of the NBA Playoffs, the Hat Trick offered some thoughts on which NBA guards, currently active, will be in the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts after their careers are over. Today, we will look at forwards. The league is loaded with talented 3s and 4s. Sit back, take it in, and feel free to reply.


LeBron James, Small Forward, Miami Heat – Prior to the end of this NBA season, I was on the fence on whether The King already had his ticket to Springfield punched. By winning his first NBA Championship, I am ready to punch the ticket, without reservation.

After nine seasons in the NBA, James’ career accomplishments are staggering. Even more staggering is that he is only 27 years old and just getting warmed up. “Not one…not two…not three…,” was not a punchline; it was a threat!

James is third all-time (#1 among active players) in points per game among players with a minimum of 10,000 career points, averaging 27.6 per night. In addition to stratospheric scoring, James averages 7 rebounds, 7 assists, and 2 steals per game for his career. He has appeared in eight consecutive All-Star Games, won three league MVP awards and was the MVP of this year’s Finals.

James can retire after 20 seasons or can retire in 20 minutes. The vote on James on the Hall of Fame ballot is no more than a formality.

Can The King become the greatest of all time? 1

Paul Pierce, Small Forward, Boston Celtics – There has already been some debate on where Paul Pierce place is among the greatest Celtics of all time. What is not in dispute is that the 2008 NBA Finals MVP is among the greatest players of all time. Pierce’s ticket has been punched for quite some time.

The Truth is a 10 time NBA All-Star. Even after age 30, Pierce continues to average close to 20 points per game. He is in the top 10, all time, in NBA history for three point shots attempted and made. Pierce is second among active players for free throws made and attempted, a career 81% shooter at the foul line.

Simply put, Pierce has consistently played at the highest level over a 14 year career and is still among the best in the NBA at age 34. The up or down vote on Pierce Hall of Fame candidacy will require very little critical thinking.

Pierce is a slam dunk for the Hall. 2

Kevin Garnett, Power Forward, Boston Celtics – The Big Ticket has dominated the NBA during his 17 NBA seasons. The long, slender, imposing Garnett was drafted directly out of high school in 1995 because of his complete tool chest of abilities.

The 2008 NBA champion is a 14 time All-Star, a four time member of the Associated Press First All-NBA Team, and was the league MVP in 2004. Garnett is the career leader among active players in total rebounds and fourth all-time in total career defensive rebounds. With a 19 points per game career average, there had not been a more complete pure power forward (i.e. excluding Tim Duncan) to play over the span of Garnett’s career.

The Big Ticket 3
Dirk Nowitzki, Power Forward, Dallas Mavericks – Nowitzki will probably be the first European player to have spent the vast majority of his professional career in the NBA to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Nowitzki was the ninth overall pick in the 1998 NBA draft by the Dallas Mavericks. If you hadn’t heard of him then, you’d better recognize!

Nowitzki has an active streak of being on 11 consecutive All-Star teams. He is a four time First Team NBA member. He won the league MVP in 2007 and was the MVP of the 2011 NBA Finals.

For his career, he has averaged 23 points per game and 8 rebounds per game. He is in the top 5 among active players for career field goal attempts, field goals made, free throw attempts, free throws made, defensive rebounds, and points scored. He is a career 88% free throw shooter.

Nowitzki’s adaptation to American basketball required him to develop the more physical aspects of his game. While he presents the threat of a 7 foot tall forward able to bury an open jumper anywhere from 25 feet and in, Nowitzki spent much of his career being criticized for being “soft”, particularly on defense. During past two seasons, in spite of aging, Nowitzki’s post game and defensive aggressiveness and physicality have noticeably improved. Personally, I think Nowitzki’s improvement on D was the difference between the Mavs winning the NBA championship in 2011 and the Mavs being bridesmaids again.


Carmelo Anthony, Small Forward, New York Knicks – After nine years in the NBA, Anthony has emerged as one of the elite players in the game. Anthony can flat out score, averaging 25 points per game in his career. Anthony is fourth among active players in points per game average.

As stellar as Anthony has been offensively, his defensive game has been noticeably lacking. If the five time All-Star wants to further ensure that he will be in Springfield one day, he has to place more emphasis on his defensive game. Of course, if he plays another five years averaging over 20 points per game, which appears to be a certainty, barring injury, his defensive game may not be relevant to his Hall of Fame evaluation. Some post season success (Anthony has only advanced to the second round of the playoffs once in his career) would help his cause, too.

Chris Bosh, Power Forward, Miami Heat – While Bosh was not a household name prior to his acquisition by the Miami Heat in the 2010 offseason, Bosh dominated opponents north of the border with the Toronto Raptors for the first seven years of his career. The seven time All Star helped a Toronto franchise with few highlights be competitive and reach the playoffs multiple times, including an Atlantic Division title in 2007.

Bosh averages 20 points and 9 rebounds for his career and has a career 49% field goal percentage. Winning an NBA championship last week helped bolster Bosh’s already credible Hall of Fame credentials. Bosh has played for nine years in the NBA. Another championship and/or 3 to 5 more seasons of high level play will likely cement Bosh’s place in the Hall.

He may be the "Ringo Starr" of The Heatles, but he's in the group! 6


Vince Carter, Small Forward, Dallas Mavericks – Vinsanity took the NBA by storm when Carter first entered the NBA in 1998. The eight time All-Star is among the top 10 among active players in career points per game, total points, field goal attempts, and field goals made. He averages 21 points per game for his career.

Given the length of Carter’s career and the high level at which he has played, a Hall of Fame induction would appear to be a forgone conclusion. Carter has some factors that may delay or deny his induction. First, Carter’s defensive game has never stood out among his peers. Second, he only averages 5 rebounds and 4 assists for his career. That is not bad, but far from what one would expect of a Hall of Fame Player. Even the aforementioned Anthony averages more rebounds per night.

Last, Carter’s productivity has plummeted drastically in recent years. Carter has not averaged over 20 points per game in three years. His scoring average has dropped to 17, 14, and 10 points per game in 2010, 2011, and 2012, respectively. This could call the longevity of Carter’s Hall of Fame level play into question.

Father Time: still undefeated. 7

Amare Stoudemire, Power Forward, New York Knicks – Stoudemire is a baller, without question. The 10 year NBA veteran has averaged 22 points and 9 rebounds per game during his NBA career. Stoudemire is a six time All-Star and earned First Team All NBA honors in 2007. He is among the top ten active players in points per game, and field goal percentage.

The threats to Stoudemire’s chances at the Hall of Fame are his durability and declining play. Stoudemire’s points per game average plummeted from 25 points per game in 2011 to 18 points per game in 2012. Some have theorized that the addition of Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks roster in late 2011 cut in to Stoudemire’s scoring. However, Anthony has very little impact on the sharp decline Stoudemire experienced in assists and blocked shots (falling by roughly half in those categories). Stoudemire also experienced declines in minutes played, field goal percentage, free throw percentage and rebounds per game. He has also vanished in the playoffs since joining the Knicks, averaging less than 16 points per playoff game during the past two seasons.

In addition, Stoudemire has missed substantial playing time in his career. Stoudemire missed 25% or more of his team’s regular season games in four of his 10 years in the NBA, including missing almost the entire 2006 season. Injury prone plus a possible career decline with limited post season success makes a tougher sell to the Hall of Fame Committee.

Stoudemire did not help his cause by punching the glass on a fire extiguisher door. 8


Kevin Durant, Small Forward, Oklahoma City Thunder – The Durantula is one of the brightest stars in the game today. The three time NBA scoring champion, three time First Team All NBA member, and three time All-Star played in his first NBA Finals in 2012. If Durant’s next five years are like his first five years in the NBA, he will be a no brainer for a trip to Springfield.


Blake Griffin, Power Forward, Los Angeles Clippers – Having completed his second NBA season, Griffin is already a two time All-Star and has been among the league leaders in points per game and rebounds per game in each of his first two seasons. Averaging a double-double per night (22 PPG, 12 RPG) in his fledgling career, Griffin simply needs to continue to improve on his fundamentals, such as ball handling and jump shooting. Spread out over a full career, if Griffin’s performance continues to improve and peak, he will be an easy selection for the Hall.


LaMarcus Aldridge, Power Forward, Portland Trailblazers – The 26 year old Aldridge appears to be approaching his peak as he heads into his seventh NBA season, meaning he should be an unrestricted free agent after 2013. Aldridge will be THE big name in his free agent class.

Aldridge has averaged 22 points per game in each of the past two seasons, up from 18 points per game in the three years prior. He made the All-Star Game for the first time in 2012 and has consistently been among the better rebounders in the NBA. The second half of his career will dictate whether or not Aldridge can reach the Hall of Fame.

LaMarcus is about to get PAID! 11
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