There was once a time that height was might in the NBA, with franchises needing a talented big man to anchor a successful run in the league. Nowadays, the thought seems like ancient history with the modern space and pace game of the NBA.
As the game leans toward being more positionless and guard-centric, the function of the modern frontcourt may be different, but their value remains as important as ever.
As teams stack up talent to prepare for the approaching season coming into training camp, here are the top 5 starting frontcourts in the NBA.
5. Utah Jazz
Center: Rudy Gobert/ Power Forward: Derrick Favors/ Small Forward: Joe Ingles
This may be an underwhelming bunch of names compared to the other star-studded frontcourts in the league. Moreover, this trio does not even look like the most promising offensive unit either. Despite that, this group provides the engine that drives the Utah Jazz machine, which is defense. This is a huge deal for this team, as there’s offensive assets awaiting in the backcourt, allowing the big guys to do just fine without scoring.
As awesome as Donovan Mitchell’s flashy scoring moves and dunks are, their defense-oriented frontcourt gets the dirty work done on the other end.
4. Milwaukee Bucks
Center: Brook Lopez/ Power Forward: Giannis Antetekounmpo/ Small Forward: Khris Middleton
With their starting center as John Henson last season, I would put that group in the top 10 right now just because of the amazing breakout season of Khris Middleton and the otherworldly talent of the Greek Freak, Giannis Antetekounmpo.
Now with Brook Lopez who is notches better than John Henson, this threesome has the range, the elite talent, and the needed defense to keep up with some of the best frontcourts in the league.
3. Toronto Raptors
Center: Jonas Valanciunas/ Power Forward: Serge Ibaka/ Small Forward: Kawhi Leonard
The addition of All-star small forward Kawhi Leonard to the Toronto franchise totally changed the landscape of power in the East. Not that they were not an elite team already, but having one of the best two-way players in the league gives them a player of a certain kind of caliber which they have never experienced before.
Coming from the Spurs stable, the championship experience, and elite production, Leonard will be the driving force of this Raptor trinity and ultimately the team.
Notably, Valanciunas’ evolution to the modern game has already begun. Showing a glimpse of a reliable three-point stroke, the notorious Lithuanian banger might get more touches from the outside this season. Serge Ibaka had a slight dip in his production and minutes due to the emergence of OG Anunuby and Pascal Siakam in the lineup. It is a possibility that he might not be a starter for long in the North.
Center: Al Horford/ Power Forward: Jayson Tatum/ Small Forward: Gordon Hayward
The potential backcourt is expected to be one of the deadliest in the league. I stress the descriptive word “potential” due to Hayward being out for last season with a freak leg injury on opening night; this triumvirate has not been together for a regular NBA season, but as expected from an All-star the likes of Hayward, the efficiency of Celtic big man Horford, and based from the excellent rookie season of Tatum, they will definitely give opposing teams headaches come next season.
Coming from an All-star 2016-17 season, Gordon Hayward was averaging 21.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1 steal per game while shooting nearly 40 percent from the three-point arc. Despite his absence throughout the season and fellow All-star Kyrie Irving’s in the playoffs, the resilient Celtics squad made it to the Eastern Conference Finals against a LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavalier squad.
Despite losing in seven games, there were times in the series where they almost took care of the former champions. A testament on how deep and talented this Boston team is.
We look forward to the full strength of this squad at the beginning of the season.
Center: DeMarcus Cousins/ Power Forward: Draymond Green/ Small Forward: Kevin Durant
Just like the Boston Celtics situation, this is an expected frontcourt look that will transpire sometime around this season. For a championship team that has drastically improved with the addition of Kevin Durant, it feels like the Warriors were already at their best. We spoke too soon, and they have now signed an All-star caliber center in goberDeMarcus Cousins.
Although his stay will most likely be a rental until he builds his stock up once again once he recovers from injury, it does not take away the fact that the collection of talent in their starting unit has gone even better than the season prior.
Before he was injured, Boogie Cousins was averaging 25.2 points, 12.9 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.6 steals, and 1.6 blocks while shooting 47 percent in the field. If he can manage to produce even just 50 percent of his previous production from last season, their frontcourt will still be better than most of the league. That is how good and talented the team and their frontcourt is.
However, this newly formed trio has not exactly played a season together, but if the history of the current Warriors will be the indicator of their future than this will definitely work out without any hitch.
Individually, it is the most decorated backcourt in the NBA. From multiple MVP awardee Kevin Durant, defensive ace Draymond Green, and two-time All-NBA DeMarcus Cousins, it would be hard to imagine coming up with a plan to stop these three. Nonetheless, their strength is not in their individual accomplishments and talents, but collectively they can be the best frontcourt in the history of the NBA.
If they get by, durability will be the lingering matter for the sustainability of this talented troika. With Durant and Green having their fair share of injuries, it will just be a matter of time when their bodies give out again from the rigorous and competitive nature of the sport.
In spite of the expected domination of the Warriors frontcourt, with relation to injuries and despite the high profile name, Cousins’ return may not be the most certain of things. Not that he will not be back on the court, but will we ever get to see the old Cousins? If we do not, what kind of version will we get to see?