What is the most important position in basketball?
A case could be made for each position. Poor point guard play causes an offense to crumble. A good wing such as Wade, James, Bryant, Anthony, Durant can be a relentless scorer. A dominate power forward or center, your frontcourt, can be impossible to stop in the low post and get every board for your team. The short answer to this question is that there is no right answer. Every position is important. It's like arguing whether your car, the physical road or agasoline is most important to driving; you need all three.
While I won't state that PF/C is the most important position, I will point out the trend of champion teams having dominant frontcourts:
Boston Celtics: Bill Russell, McHale/Parish, Garnett
Los Angeles Lakers: George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain (took them to finals, no championships; won championship with Philly though) Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Shaquille O'Neal, Gasol/Odom/Bynum.
Miami Heat: Shaquille O'Neal
Houston Rockets: Hakeem Olajuwan
The trend is inescapable. Solid frontcourts win championships. There are many, many other factors ( for instance, those teams included the likes of Magic, Bird, Jordan, Bryant, Drexler). But the fact that a dominating player(s) in the low post is a hallmark of many of these teams can't be a coincidence.
So how do the Jazz stack up?
I believe the Jazz's frontcourt has the potential to be a championship caliber frontcourt. Now, before you call me crazy and stop reading, hear me out.
Note: For purposes of this article, I am including AK as a member of the frontcourt. Granted, he mostly plays SF, but his style of play and the fact he often plays PF (even C in pre-season) makes his inclusion in the discussion permissible.
Part One: The Ceiling
Against the Thunder, AK, Millsap and Al combined for 72 points and 30 rebounds. Against Toronto, 58 points and 15 rebounds. That is solid production, and while two games doesn't a habit make, I think it is a good indicator of what they are consistently capable of. I base this on the fact that Jefferson is still not 100% integrated and Millsap hasn't yet reached his personal ceiling. Once those two things occur, I believe the per game average for those three combined will be in the neighborhood of 50-55 points with around 25 boards. By December, I expect Jefferson to be mostly in sync; by March he will tear things up. 2004 AK is due for a resurgence. Millsap will only continue to see all aspects of his game improve. This trio should have better chemistry than when Boozer was here. For one the D will be better. For another, Jefferson has far better low post skills. And plantars warts won't keep these guys out of the lineup.
And let's not forget the 4rth guy. For now, that is Mehmet Okur. When he returns he will bring another scoring threat with the unique ability (for a center) to shoot outside shots. That ability will draw big defenders out of the post onto the wings. It remains to be seen how Okur will play once he returns, but I am confident that he will more than fill his role as our fourth frontcourt man.
Fesenko deserves mention. We've seen flashes of what he is capable of. As he continues to develop his game, he will provide much needed depth at center.
Ante Tomic. He may never come, but let's hope he does. I've heard him compared to Pau Gasol. I don't think he will be as good as Gasol. But he will be a scoring threat and grab rebounds. In his last game he ahd 14 boards in only 20 minutes. Scoring wise, he is a low post threat. From watching highlights, I gather he isn't real physical. His game is more about finesse and footwork. Watching him is like watching a ballet about basketball. Now, his defense may not be stellar and unless he gains weight he will get pushed around. A bigger issue--he may never want to come over. But he certainly has the potential to be a stellar player, and he gives us much needed height.
By the end of the season, expect the Jazz trio to be among the best frontcourts in the league. The potential is there. The chemistry is already coming (how many times did we see AK to MIllsap?) Okur will be returning. And their ages are only around 25, 25 and 30 (AK) Fesenko and Tomic are each 23, I believe.
So while none of these players will ever likely be mentioned in the same sentence as Chamberlain, Jabbar, O'Neal and Russell, the sum parts are capable of providing champion level frontcourt play. Especially in the current league. Think about what the Jazz really have. The 97-98 Jazz counterpart would've been Russel, Malone and Ostertag. Malone is the greatest PF ever (no, that is not an opinion)--but would you honestly take Russel and Ostertag over AK and Jefferson? The Jazz have something special here.
Part Two: The frontcourts of the Current League
What frontcourts are currently dominating? Here is a snapshot look.
Lakers. Odom/Gasol/Bynum. A most unholy trinity of basketball players. They are still bigger than our trio. But Jefferson gives us a much better chance of competing. The future outlook is better for us as Odom and Gasol are both over 30, while Bynum is frequently injured.
Miami Heat: Center is a weakness. I think Bosh is overrated. Haslem is a great rebounder and defender. But looking at sum parts....Jazz have the edge.
Boston Celtics: The O'Neals, Garnett., Davis, Perkins. Respectable, but aging.
Chicago Bulls: Noah is becoming elite and Boozer is Boozer. Our trio could handle them, especially since Boozer does not play tough D. Jefferson would eat him in the low post like Boris Diaw eats McDoubles.
Houston Rockets: Yao and Scola. Offensively and on the boards they are great. But Yao's health is always a concern. They are also at or near 30.
San Antonio Spurs: Duncan is aging. Splitter could turn into a great NBA player, but he would need help.
New Jersey Nets: Lopez, Murphy, Favors. They could become another elite trio in the league. But the team as a whole is far from being competitors.
I'm not going to go team by team. But suffice to say, the Jazz trio, when it all comes together and when everything is clicking, can go head to head with any frontcourt in the league.
And that is important, because championship teams often have great frontcourts.
What type of player do the Jazz need to add to be a truly elite frontcourt?
Low Post Scorer- Ex. Ante Tomic (1 vote)
Top Rebounder- Ex. Marcus Camby (4 votes)
Shot blocker- Ex. Emeka Okafor (4 votes)
Lock Down Defender- Ex. Udonis Haslem, Kendrick Perkins (4 votes)
Something else? (specify in comments) (0 votes)
The Jazz already have the pieces to be elite- just give it time (20 votes)
33 total votes