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2017-18 season preview: Top five NBA front courts

 

The NBA has shifted to a more perimeter-oriented league, yet strong, versatile front courts can be the engine to a good team. When the playoffs roll around, having a front court that can consistently score is vital.

Here is where the top five NBA front courts of the 2017-18 season will rank.

Number Five: New Orleans Pelicans

Anthony Davis: 28.0 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 2.1 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 27.6.
Demarcus Cousins: 24.4 ppg, 12.4 rpg, 3.9 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 23.3.
Solomon Hill: 7.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.8 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 9.1

Two tremendous big men with different playing styles teamed up mid-season and hit the ground running together. Solomon Hill has helped take pressure off both big men with solid wing contribution offensively and defensively.

Davis and Cousins get most of the attention here however. The numbers speak for themselves but Davis and Cousins will need to be the leaders in order for the Pelicans to be playoff bound this upcoming season.

Rondo and Holiday will provide a solid balance to give Davis and Cousins a lot of easy looks around the rim.

Number Four: Minnesota Timberwolves

NBA Frontcourts
Karl Anthony Towns guarded by Gorgui Dieng, Photo Courtesy of USA today.
Karl Anthony-Towns: 25.1 ppg, 12.3 rpg 2.7 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 26.0.
Gorgui Dieng: 10.0 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 1.9 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 14.2.
Jimmy Butler: 23.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 5.5 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 25.2.

The Timberwolves are obviously a team in question. Yes they have put together a great roster heading into the 2017-18 season, but games aren’t played on paper.

Butler is in the prime of his career, Towns is blossoming into one of the best young big men and Dieng is a double-double big man who plays great around the rim defense. If all three play great basketball, they would be higher on this list, but there is a lot of uncertainty with the new look T-wolves.

Dieng and Towns are both young enough that they could scuffle and pass first guard Ricky Rubio is no longer in town. The numbers of the three don’t lie, but Butler has never played a game with them, so we can’t get too ahead of ourselves.

Number Three: San Antonio Spurs

Lamarcus Aldridge: 17.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 1.9 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 18.7.
Pau Gasol: 12.4 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 3.8 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 20.2.
Kawhi Leonard: 25.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 3.5 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 27.6.

Possibly the best two-way player teamed up with two players who fit in the Spurs’ system and have provided solid output. Leonard has been an MVP-type player at almost all times for the Spurs and helps make Aldridge and Gasol better when he’s on the floor.

Kawhi is obviously the engine on this team and both Gasol and Aldridge provide a complementary role for him. With the back court pretty uncertain, the Spurs are going to lean on the front court for more production than normal.

Aldridge had one of his worst statistical years last year and some of that can be attributed to injuries of his teammates and just flat out Popovich’s system. He will be poised for a bounce back year that could help drive the Spurs deep into the playoffs.

Number Two: Cleveland Cavaliers

NBA Frontcourts
The Cavaliers front court, Photo Courtesy of NBA.com.
Tristan Thompson: 8.1 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 1.0 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 15.3.
Kevin Love: 19.0 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 1.9 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 21.2.
LeBron James: 26.4 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 8.7 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 27.1.

Seventeen All-Star appearances between this front court and they are still number two. The Cavaliers have gotten great return from these three, however Thompson and Love have struggled at times in the playoffs.

The Cavaliers are only as good as their front court output. Thompson is the x-factor in nearly every playoff series because if he plays the way that he has shown flashes of, the Cavaliers are nearly unstoppable.

LeBron is always going to stuff the stat sheet and Love has continued to prove his value as both a rebounder and streaky knock down shooter. However, more often than not, Tristan Thompson has gone missing when they need him most. If the Cavaliers want to beat the Warriors in the NBA Finals, the front court needs to be the catalyst.

Number One: Golden State Warriors

Zaza Pachulia: 6.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.9 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 16.1.
Draymond Green: 10.2 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 7.0 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 16.5.
Kevin Durant: 25.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 4.8 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 27.7.

The Kevin Durant experienced worked exactly as well as the Warriors would have hoped. Durant hit the ground running despite an injury mid-season and was the NBA Finals MVP. Durant proved his value as a two-way player in the Finals and came up clutch time after time.

Hate him or like him Draymond Green is a fantastic defender. He can guard all five positions and continues to stuff stat sheets. The Warriors are loaded and are the team to beat in the NBA, and the front court contributes heavily to that.

Realistically the Warriors should start Javale McGee, as he is a jolt of energy who provides much more both offensively and defensively than Pachulia. It ultimately doesn’t matter all that much when you have the best team in basketball.

Summary

Versatile wings are becoming increasingly more valuable in today’s NBA. Some of the best wings help contribute to the best front courts and it just so happens that some of the best wings find themselves on this list.

Each of the top five front courts are over 60.0 in player efficiency and contribute over 40 points and 20 rebounds at the very minimum.

Front court players are vital to postseason success, and we will see just how far the top five NBA front courts can take their teams in the 2017-2018 season.

 

Featured Photo Courtesy of NBA.com.

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