The NBA has come a long way and has changed a lot over the last few decades, especially during the last few years. The average and old fashioned 7-footer with nice feet and low post offense, as well as those all-dominant rim protectors, seem to be a species in danger of extinction in the NBA, while the league’s way more oriented towards the three point line and the small ball.
Nevertheless, we’ve seen the surge of several versatile big men with great skills and handles, as well as perimeter shooting or just lockdown defense in the paint, becoming stellar players for their respective sides despite the changes in the game.
So, as the season is reaching its final stage, let’s take a look back and review the performances of the top 10 big men in the NBA during the course of the season.
Honorable Mention: Kristaps Porzingis, LaMarcus Aldridge and Paul Millsap
While the Latvian unicorn was completely outstanding during his rookie season, it seems like his development has kind of stalled, especially due to some nagging pains and injuries that have bothered him throughout the entire season.
On the other hand, both Aldridge and Millsap have taken a huge step back in their respective careers regarding their personal achievements, becoming an ultimate system and team players even if that means to sacrifice some shots and see their numbers take a major dip.
10. Brook Lopez
This guy definitely has to get the hell out of Brooklyn as soon as he can, as he’s the only valuable asset on a team that gave away their entire future to bring in Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and Kevin Garnett.
Despite his team’s horrendous season, where they had the worst record in the NBA, the “good” Lopez twin averaged 20.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.7 blocks, being a one man band for the Nets and owning a very respectable 20.3 PER, shooting 47.3% from the floor, 35.3% from three and most importantly, finally being able to stay healthy for a full season.
9. Blake Griffin
Another big man who’s having a nice bounce back season is the Clippers soon-to-be a free agent power forward, who led Doc River’s squad even when Chris Paul had to sit with a hand injury.
Blake’s set to opt out of the last year of his deal with the Clippers and test free agency, and there’s no doubt that the athletic big man is going to have a lot of suitors thanks to his averages of 21.7 points, 8.1 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1 steal per game while shooting almost 50% from the floor and 34.3% from downtown, improving his midrange and long range shot over the course of the year.
8. Marc Gasol
After 8 years in the league, Pau’s younger brother is no longer Pau’s younger brother, as the 32-year-old center keeps improving and making a name for himself as the main guy on offense and defense for the Memphis Grizzlies.
Marc Gasol had a strong bounce back season and led Memphis to the seventh seed in the playoffs even despite some key injuries from Chandler Parsons and Mike Conley, thanks to his season numbers of 19.6 points, 6.2 boards, and 4.6 helpers per contest while rejecting 1.4 balls per game and shooting 45.9% from the floor and 38.3% from three, improving a lot in this area.
7. Hassan Whiteside
Whiteside hasn’t slowed down a single bit since making his return to the NBA after playing overseas, as the big man is the current NBA rebounds per game leader with 14 boards per contest while also blocking 2.1 shots per game, second in the league behind Utah’s Rudy Gobert.
There’s no doubt that Hassan keeps improving his NBA 2K Rating, becoming the most important player in Spoelstra’s Heat rotation, even despite the presence of Goran Dragic. Over the year, Hassan has paired those 14 boards (3.8 of them on the offensive end) with 16.8 points on 55.6% shooting and 62.9% from the charity stripe.
6. Karl-Anthony Towns
Karl-Anthony Towns has been completely outstanding for Thibodeau’s Timberwolves, with one of his better performances coming just a couple of days ago against the Lakers, collecting 21 boards and 40 points. He’s actually improved in every single category after a very impressive rookie season, averaging 25.1 points, 12.2 total boards, 1.3 blocks while shooting 54.1% and 36.1% from three.
The sky seems to be the limit for the 21-year-old and there’s no doubt that he’ll be on next year’s list as well.
5. Nikola Jokic
Jokic’s another sophomore that keeps improving and blowing everybody away with his versatility, even making Jusuf Nurkic expendable to remain as the main big guy in Denver. The Joker is a nightly triple-double threat and is without a doubt the best passing big man in the league (as well as one of the best passers in the NBA overall).
The 22-year-old almost led the Nuggets back to the post-season with his averages of 16.7 points, 6.8 boards and 4.9 assists on 57.7% shooting and 32.4% from three, leading the highlights with his amazing passes.
4. Kevin Love
Love is the third scoring option for the Eastern Conference leaders Cleveland Cavaliers after being the go-to-guy in Minnesota through his entire career, but he’s adapted incredibly well to that position and his numbers have been quite impressive in his third season alongside LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.
Through the entire season, Love has put up nice averages of 18.9 points, 11 rebounds and a couple of helpers per contest in 42.6% shooting, 37.3% from three and earning a very respectable PER of 21.2 despite not being the most reliable defender in the NBA.
3. DeMarcus Cousins
Boogie Cousins was finally dealt, as Vlade Divac got sick of his attitude and tried to get something out of him.
Nevertheless, despite playing alongside another dominant big man that’s used to getting the ball in his hands most of the time, his numbers didn’t decrease a lot while playing in New Orleans. So far, Cousins is averaging 27 points, 11 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.3 swats, 1.4 steals and 3.9 turnovers per game in 45.2% from the floor and 36.1% from downtown.
2. Rudy Gobert
Gobert’s surge has been incredible and he just keeps getting better and better in pretty much everything, even improving his free throw shooting (his only clear liability) from 56.9% to 65%.
The defensive specialist is one of the leading candidates to earn the Defensive Player of the Year honors thanks to his averages of 14 points, 13 boards, 1.5 assists while shooting 66.6% from the floor and swatting 2.9 shots per game, which makes him the league leader in blocks per game this season.
1. Anthony Davis
The Brow was one of the early MVP candidates, but the Pelicans were a complete train wreck for most of the season due to the lack of supporting cast for the power forward. Finally, the Pelicans got Holiday back and acquired DeMarcus Cousins from the Kings, but that didn’t help their cause.
However, the 24-year-old still managed to put up some monstrous lines and season averages of 28 points, 11.8 boards, 2.1 assists, 2.2 blocks and 1.3 steals per game on 50% shooting.
All stats unless otherwise stated from Basketball Reference, 10 April 2017