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July 13, 2010
2010 Free Agency
Power Forwards

by Kevin Pelton

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If you're looking to go deep as the NBA enters free agency for the 2010 off-season, Basketball Prospectus is your place. Over the next several days, we will review the top 20 free agents at each position, looking not only at the stars but also at the role players who will help fill out benches across the league. Players have been arranged into tiers of similar players that generally reflect their overall value in a vacuum, regardless of team need.

Previous Positions:

  • Point Guards
  • Shooting Guards
  • Small Forwards

    Reading the player charts:

    • T is free agent type, either restricted (R) or unrestricted (U).
    • Age as of July 8, 2010.
    • WARP is Wins Above Replacement Player, while Win% is the estimated winning percentage of a team made up of the player and four average teammates.
    • TS% is True Shooting Percentage, the best measure of scoring efficiency.
    • Usg is the player's usage rate, or the percentage of his team's plays the player finished with a shot, trip to the free throw line or turnover.
    • Reb% is the percentage of available rebounds the player grabbed while on the floor.
    • Pass is a personal junk stat incorporating assists per minute and assist-to-turnover ratio.
    • BS% is the sum of blocks and steals per 100 plays.

    THE STAR

    Player                Tm   T    Age   WARP  Win%    TS%    Usg   Reb%   Pass   BS%
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Chris Bosh           tor   U   26.3  12.4   .652   .592   .288   17.5   0.21   2.9

    Hitching his star to those of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade should be considered a triumph for Chris Bosh, but instead his reputation has taken a serious hit in the past week because of criticism that he doesn't quite measure up to the rest of whatever you want to call Miami's new trio. That's true, but it's also beside the point, seeing as it's true of 99 percent of the NBA. Bosh is one of the league's top 10-15 players, he's just entering his prime, and he's arguably the best third option any NBA team has ever had. (You'll note from last week's Unfiltered post that few of the best threesomes in WARP history had a player nearly as valuable as Bosh was last season.) To suggest that the Raptors' struggles during his time in Toronto were Bosh's fault is a misguided case of blaming the star player for bigger organizational issues.

    THE VETERAN STARS

    Player                Tm   T    Age   WARP  Win%    TS%    Usg   Reb%   Pass   BS%
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Dirk Nowitzki        dal   U   32.1  10.7   .585   .578   .290   11.6   0.38   3.1
    Carlos Boozer        uta   U   28.6   9.5   .588   .599   .250   19.1   0.50   2.7

    To go green, I'm going to recycle the Paul Pierce paragraph I'm typing over at the moment. Heading into his age-33 season, PierceNowitzki probably has another couple of All-Star-caliber seasons left in him. As a scorer, Nowitzki has lost relatively little and figures to age well. The single biggest thing separating from his MVP prime is that he has slipped pretty considerably and become a liability on the glass.

    Boozer's peak can't compare to Nowitzki's, but at the moment he's a bit closer to it. SCHOENE does suggest that Nowitzki will age more gracefully over the coming seasons despite being three and a half years older. We'll see. For now, Boozer adds a dimension in terms of post scoring that the Bulls have long lacked. Joakim Noah and Tom Thibodeau should be able to help paper over some of Boozer's defensive weaknesses, and the pick-and-pop with Derrick Rose figures to be quite potent. Boozer to Chicago was one of the best fits of player and team need we've seen this summer.

    THE UPSIDE PLAYS

    Player                Tm   T    Age   WARP  Win%    TS%    Usg   Reb%   Pass   BS%
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Tyrus Thomas         cha   R   23.9   3.2   .541   .511   .222   15.7   0.06   8.1
    Amir Johnson         tor   U   23.2   3.5   .531   .639   .146   16.0   0.04   5.0

    During their young NBA careers, Thomas and Johnson have alternately tantalized fans with their potential and frustrated them with their inconsistency. Because of their youth, both players were intriguing free agents. Johnson, the very last of the preps-to-pros NBA early entrants, is precisely 19 days older than Golden State Warriors first-round pick Ekpe Udoh. Ultimately, there was enough interest that it's hard to claim either player was a bargain; Johnson got $34 million over five years and Thomas got $40 million over five years.

    Thomas has at least demonstrated that he can play heavy minutes, as he did for a playoff team two years ago in Chicago. Johnson's average of 17.7 minutes per game last season was a career high. Part of this has to do with foul trouble; Johnson has regularly fouled on at least eight percent of his teams' defensive plays. He should be able to reduce that in a larger role, but with that might come drops in his block, steal and rebound rates. On the plus side, Johnson has long been a plus-minus monster, and last year was no exception. His new contract surely came endorsed by the Raptors' analytics crew. As for Thomas, with Boris Diaw apparently on his way out (perhaps, barring Michael Jordan cold feet, to Toronto) he looks likely to inherit a starting position in Charlotte.

    THE VETERAN ROLE PLAYERS

    Player                Tm   T    Age   WARP  Win%    TS%    Usg   Reb%   Pass   BS%
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Luis Scola           hou   R   30.2   2.9   .468   .550   .228   15.4   0.21   1.9
    Al Harrington        nyk   U   30.4   4.6   .516   .546   .269   10.6   0.10   2.3

    It's hard to think of Harrington and Scola as the same age, since the former has been in the NBA seemingly forever (12 years, to be exact) while the latter only came stateside in 2007. Scola has been a very useful piece for the Rockets. Yao Ming's absence put a lot more stress on Scola as a help defender, and should he re-sign, Scola will surely be glad to have the All-Star center back alongside him.

    Harrington, who will not return to New York, will make a quality reserve for some team. He's still a good scorer, using more than a quarter of the Knicks' plays last season with respectable efficiency. Harrington's rebounding has suffered as he has spent more time on the perimeter, but the trade-off is his ability to space the floor with his shooting.

    THE SOLID RESERVES

    Player                Tm   T    Age   WARP  Win%    TS%    Usg   Reb%   Pass   BS%
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Matt Bonner          sas   U   30.3   4.0   .581   .581   .171   10.7   0.30   2.8
    Craig Smith          lac   U   26.7   1.7   .481   .599   .213   13.5   0.22   2.9
    Louis Amundson       phx   U   27.6   1.9   .493   .562   .147   16.5   0.02   5.4
    Anthony Tolliver     gsw   U   25.1   2.6   .504   .531   .167   12.6   0.35   2.7
    Udonis Haslem        mia   U   30.1   1.2   .442   .538   .173   16.9   0.02   1.6
    Drew Gooden          lac   U   28.8   3.3   .506   .547   .211   17.8   0.02   3.7

    A lot of different styles here. Bonner, who re-signed with the Spurs last week, and Tolliver are the shooters. San Antonio has typically played better with Bonner on the floor (+3.5 points per 100 possessions last season, per BasketballValue.com), which is not uncommon among stretch fours. His shooting ability really opens things up, and while he's not a rebounder Bonner is a better defender than you probably think.

    Tolliver had a nice run as part of the Warriors' D-League crew in the second half of the season, and I'm a bit baffled as to why the team failed to extend him a courtesy qualifying offer. Udoh's wrist surgery, which could sideline the rookie until the end of the calendar year, might open things up for Tolliver's return. Tolliver did not shoot the ball well from beyond the arc (32.9 percent), but was solid most everywhere else, including effective defensive rebounding.

    Smith's stall stature hasn't kept him from being a highly productive offensive player. His True Shooting Percentage ranks second to Amir Johnson among free-agent power forwards, and Smith uses plays at an above-average rate. He's more limited defensively and on the defensive glass, which is why Smith is doomed to a reserve role throughout his career, but he could be a bargain.

    If it's energy you desire off the bench, Amundson is your guy. A poor man's Chris Andersen, Amundson flies around the rim at both ends of the floor, blocking shots (only Thomas is better among free-agent fours) and finishing with dunks. Amundson's dirty work was key for the Suns last year, and could come cheap.

    Haslem has the most balanced skill set of the group. His lack of glaring weaknesses makes him an ideal complementary piece, so it was important that the Heat was able to re-sign him to play alongside the triumvirate of Bosh, James and Wade. He could stand to pick up his scoring efficiency, having last posted a True Shooting Percentage better than 55 percent when Miami won the championship in 2005-06.

    The best glass cleaner of the group is Gooden. If the Bucks see him as adding that dimension and some scoring to their frontcourt, he'll be a helpful addition if an overpaid one. The big caution is that Gooden demonstrated fairly conclusively the last two seasons that he is not a center. Especially in a system that demands a great deal of help, Gooden's poor instincts will be problematic if he's asked to back up Andrew Bogut.

    THE CURIOS

    Player                Tm   T    Age   WARP  Win%    TS%    Usg   Reb%   Pass   BS%
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Hakim Warrick        chi   U   28.0   0.6   .436   .547   .219   11.4   0.04   1.7
    Jon Brockman         sac   R   23.3   0.4   .447   .564   .104   18.7   0.05   1.7
    Tim Thomas           dal   U   33.4   0.5   .501   .579   .212    8.2   0.12   2.3
    Shelden Williams     bos   U   26.7   0.7   .476   .612   .154   14.9   0.04   3.9

    Four interesting odds and ends for teams who can't afford to shop above this group. Warrick is one of those guys people have been saying for years has been destined to play for the Suns, and finally got there. It should be a good marriage, though I question how much more he has to offer than Earl Clark--especially in a year or two. Tim Thomas is the other tweener of the group. He was giving Dallas effective, if very limited, minutes before leaving the team due to his wife's illness. It's unclear whether he's ready to return to the league. If so, Miami might be an interesting fit for the veteran minimum.

    A true specialist, Brockman demonstrated he belongs in the NBA during his rookie campaign in Sacramento, grabbing 18.2 percent of available offensive rebounds--tops in the league. Already a favorite of Kings fans, the "Brock Ness Monster" will likely return on a longer deal. Williams did well in replacing the injured Glen Davis early in the regular season, but that was overshadowed by his failure to provide any positive minutes during the NBA Finals. By the numbers, Williams is a good rebounder who shot a high percentage for the first time last season.

    THE THREE GUYS NEEDED TO ROUND OUT THE TOP 20

    Player                Tm   T    Age   WARP  Win%    TS%    Usg   Reb%   Pass   BS%
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Joe Smith            atl   U   35.0  -0.5   .379   .453   .185   15.5   0.06   3.0
    Josh Powell          lal   U   27.5  -1.7   .279   .407   .186   11.1   0.19   1.6
    Shavlik Randolph     mia   U   26.6  -0.2   .268   .371   .196   15.6   0.01   2.5

    Smith took a significant tumble last year and will turn 35 at the end of the month. On the plus side, his non-shooting stats were similar to his Cleveland performance the previous two years. The big difference was Smith shot just 40.9 percent on twos, so if that bounces back his value will as well. Powell too has to be better than he demonstrated last season, when he shot 36.0 percent on two-point attempts. Randolph has been trying unsuccessfully for years to convert good performance in garbage time to regular minutes. He'll get a chance to do so alongside the triumvirate in Miami this year, as he is expected to re-sign with the Heat.

    THE REST

    Malik Allen, Denver - Played fewer than 500 ineffective minutes despite Nuggets' injury issues in the frontcourt. A poor rebounder and inefficient scorer.

    Brian Cardinal, Minnesota - One of my favorite players, a great guy and a positive presence in the locker room. Has had a positive on-court impact in the past, but that was not the case last season and his NBA career is probably finished.

    Juwan Howard, Portland - Miscast as a starting center for much of last season due to the Blazers' injury woes, Howard showed he can still knock down the midrange jumper and be in the right place on defense. Unfortunately, he's undersized and his athleticism is all gone, so opponents still made plays even when he was in the right place. More valuable now for his leadership than his game, Howard appears to be headed to Miami.

    Sean Marks, New Orleans - A good fifth or sixth big man whose presence becomes more problematic when he's asked to play rotation minutes.

    Sean May, Sacramento - An optimist would point out that May was still coming back from microfracture knee surgery last season. A pessimist would point out he was two full years removed from the surgery and the skills that made him a lottery pick are probably gone for good.

    Oleksiy Pecherov, Minnesota - Perhaps best known for his resemblance to Stewie from Family Guy, Pecherov played just 447 minutes for the Timberwolves last season, which probably tells you all you need to know about how it went.

    Brian Skinner, L.A. Clippers - Skinner has been living team to team for some time now, and with his skills eroding in his mid-30s he's going to find it harder to find employment.

    Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kpelton.

    Kevin Pelton is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Kevin by clicking here or click here to see Kevin's other articles.

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