Who would we pick if we were choosing up sides on the playground for a game today? Our midseason update of player rankings continues to address that question for the last time, as we finish with the power forwards.
In basketball analysis, when we mention a team's "frontcourt," we're typically referring to the traditional big man positions of center and power forward. This season, centers and power forwards are producing roughly the same value across the league, with the 4s just ahead of the 5s for second place, well behind point guards.
The general job description for centers has changed little over the decades, though back-to-the-basket post play is a rarer skill than it used to be. On the other hand, the power forward position has evolved dramatically and now boasts the most diversity of skill sets among the five traditional positions. In these rankings, there are natural small forwards like Carmelo Anthony, floor spacers like Ryan Anderson, defensive enforcers like Serge Ibaka and true centers like Greg Monroe. Whenever you want to know what kind of lineup is on the floor, just figure out who is playing the 4.
The summer's power forward rankings can be found here. Each player's "TrueWARP" calculation -- a blend of a player's preseason baseline forecast and his 2013-14 results -- is noted, along with his 2013-14 WARP and league-wide rank in WARP for the season to date.
Because we're extrapolating from a half-season of real results, the methodology was a little bit different from our forecast-based summer rankings. See the explainer at the end of the article for how these rankings were derived.
TrueWARP: 23.1 | 2013-14 WARP: 8.3 | Overall Rank: 4
With a handful of players threatening James' domain as the unchallenged MVP of the league, it will be fascinating to see how he responds over the next couple of months. You get the feeling that James is lying in the weeds. His usage rate (29.4 percent) is the lowest it's been in nine years. His efficiency is off the charts -- a league-high .671 true shooting percentage. Turnovers have been an issue for James, but you still get the feeling that if one among Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, Chris Paul or Paul George is really going to wrest the MVP crown, they'll have to fend off a big second half from the King. Then again, James might no longer care about such things and might be simply preparing himself for a run at championship No. 3.