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Tiered NBA Rankings: The Big Men, Part 2

If you missed part one of the big men rankings, you can view them here.

With most of the big men that most fans have little knowledge of out of the way, the attention will focus to the top tiers of big men. Certain players will be omitted from the top tiers of true big men because they’ll be put into a different category in a later post.

Big Men 8

The Bulls signed Pau Gasol last summer, and although the majority of his stats look impressive, it feels like the stats are empty. The production he brought seemed to come at Joakim Noah‘s expense – Noah’s injury didn’t help things either – and the two Bulls weren’t effective when playing together. This probably isn’t Gasol’s fault, but considering he’s in the prime age for decline (35) and the new coach’s propensity to play fast and spread the floor, he’ll probably see a drop-off in minutes and production this season.

Marcin Gortat received a five-year extension at the beginning of last summer, and his first season making the money he did was a successful one. Although Randy Wittman preferred not to play him to close out games, he was an efficient scorer despite being used on less than 20 percent of his possessions. He isn’t known as a good defender, but his 7-foot-3 wingspan and large frame helps deter defenders.

As the leader of the John Henson fan club, I might look back at this a year from now and regret not having him higher on the list. Henson won’t ever be confused as a good offensive player, but he does have value as the big man in the pick-and-roll and his free throw shooting has improved to almost 57 percent. Where Henson excels is on the defensive end with his 7-foot-5 wingspan. In only his third season, Henson proved to be an above-average rim protector, but more importantly showed the ability to switch onto guards, if needed.

Brook Lopez is the player people talk about when discussing the “old NBA.” Unlike his brother, Brook is slow and plodding on defense, an average rebounder and demands the ball on the block to be effective on offense. While I strongly believe post players can be effective in today’s game, the player also needs to be a strong passer to counter double teams and overloading the strong side.

The only reason Henson may not receive the playing time this season that he deserves is Greg Monroe. Milwaukee desperately needed a player with the offensive capabilities as Monroe, and the remainders of a team that finished as one of the best defenses last season could be enough to offset his defensive deficiencies.

Tristan Thompson could be a highly coveted unrestricted free agent, if the news that he’s thinking about signing the qualifying offer is true. Thompson, like Henson, doesn’t contribute much when asked to create his own offense, but is one of the best offensive rebounders in the league and showed some flashes of guarding smaller players in last year’s playoffs.

Nikola Vucevic is another player difficult to peg after last season. After being used on 26 percent of his possessions, putting up an effective true shooting percentage and grabbing a high percentage of rebounds, he showed that he’s one of the best big men under 25 years old. His defensive limitations are real, however, as he didn’t protect the rim or show the ability to stay in front of smaller players. The maturation of Aaron Gordon into a possible elite defender would make Vucevic far more valuable. 

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