Debating who the best NBA power forward is at the present time isn’t really a valid conversation due to the fact that one of the top candidates in Kevin Love has barely played this season, but to not have that conversation is to overlook the incredible campaign others have put together.
In particular, it would be a disservice to the league’s king of the double-double. No not that King, I’m talking about Golden State Warriors power forward David Lee. Over the course of this season, Lee has been nominated an All-Star whilst leading Golden State out of the basement of the Western Conference and into the No. 6 seed of the postseason.
With 48 double-doubles this year, Lee is sixth in the league in rebounding and 15th in scoring. His 18.6 points and 11 rebounds per game put him in an elite class and though LaMarcus Aldridge averages better scoring each night, few power forwards have the night in and night out impact of Lee.
His game has taken on a new dimension this season, grappling physically with every super star in the league including LeBron James and now Dwight Howard. Lee is no longer a nice story, a white boy from the University of Florida proving that he can roll with the big boys. He’s officially one of the big boys and is playing like it every day.
Without a healthy Love in the conversation, the debate over best power forward in the league comes down Lee vs Blake Griffin. Thanks to the decline of Amar’e Stoudemire and Dirk Nowitzki due to age, Griffin and Lee are the most watchable power forwards in the league.
If you asked most fans who is better, the answer would be Blake Griffin in most circles, but how much of that is due to his high flying dunks and the fact that he is a more recognizable face. He doesn’t even compare to Lee in the rebounding department and is surrounded by a cast of world class basketball players.
Lee on the other hand has been required to single handedly carry the Warriors through injuries to Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut. Griffin gets to play with Chris Paul and is blessed with a center alongside him in DeAndre Jordan that drives players out of the lane with his shot blocking ability and also helps out with the rebounding duties. Lee has put the Warriors in the postseason having played a good portion of the campaign with Festus Ezeli as his front court mate.
The argument goes deeper though. It has nothing to do with their skills as a power forward, but each has been the centerpiece of turning a failing franchise around. Griffin’s debut campaign in 2010-11 was the beginning of Los Angeles truly being a two team town and he has moved mountains in making that team one of the best in the Western Conference, but he has had plenty of help along the way.
The deal that brought Lee to the Warriors from the Knicks cost the team very little in the way of talent heading out and proved the building block the franchise needed to get back to the postseason. It’s a feat he has achieved with help, but no thanks to the glass ankles of Stephen Curry or Andrew Bogut’s back spasms. For a team that has only been to the postseason 11 times in its 41 year history in San Francisco, Lee is larger than life now having willed the team through every rough patch they’ve faced this season.
Who is the best power forward in basketball? Probably Kevin Love, but for today, I’m saying David Lee.