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Griffin, Millsap and the Intrigue of the NBA’s Power Forward Market

With the NBA Draft and its ramifications ‏coming to an end, the next step of the offseason is free agency. This class lacks the luster of classes prior. Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry are returning to Golden State and from there, the class goes. Gordon Hayward is the best free agency piece – an excellent offensive guard who can space the floor and create. Miami, Boston and his previous team, Utah will all look to land the veteran small forward.

The point guards come next. Chris Paul, already intriguing teams like San Antonio and Houston, is the rare top 10 player in the league. The Clippers added Jerry West to their front office and look to bring the band back together, but if San Antonio could create the cap space – a rather dubious exercise – the Spurs could land the best point guard since Magic Johnson to play alongside Kawhi Leonard.

Jrue Holiday is one of the middle classes point guards, but his combination of shooting and defense makes him an excellent fit for several teams. Does Holiday stay with DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis in New Orleans or opt for greener pastures? It makes sense for New Orleans to keep him, but if he leaves, someone like Denver makes sense for Holiday.

George Hill is four years older, but still has a bit in the tank and provides similar defense, creation and spacing to Holiday. Kyle Lowry, a top 15 player in the league, seems to be heading back to Toronto, but if he does truly explore free agency, he’ll be an upgrade for a good 70 percent of the league.

The most intriguing position class for free agents? Power forwards. The league has since devalued the traditional power forward, opting for more bigger small forwards who can defend on the perimeter, space the floor, and even provide some creation in spades. There are three power forward free agents that are intriguing to me.

Paul Millsap is the best of three. One of the more underrated players in the league, Millsap will have a specific buyer – a team that feels close to contention. The Atlanta Hawks are in an odd spot because he’s a max level player; the Hawks should probably pay him, but they’ll be in the same spot as they were in previous seasons. After grabbing two players in last year’s draft, the Hawks seems like they’re going in the direction of a soft rebuild.

Some teams seem to be entering that market. The Miami Heat, already interested in Gordon Hayward, would be intriguing as a combination with Hassan Whiteside. Denver seems to be the most intriguing to me. With Nikola Jokic in place, Millsap doesn’t have to be the main focal point on offense, while still creating havoc on the defensive end.

I’m curious if Washington can make a move on him. The combination of Wall, Beal and Millsap is an ideal core. They’ll still need help with the bench, but that’s a strong big three.

After Millsap comes Blake Griffin. Griffin is one of the most interesting players in the league to me. He’s an improved defender, he can shoot the ball, and he’s one of the more underrated creators in the league. Still, Griffin is an odd player in terms of value and hierarchy in the league. I’m honestly not sure if he’s one of the 20 best players in the league.

No matter, Griffin is going to bare a max contract with whoever he signs with. The Clippers would love to run it back with Blake as their power forward. If he declines that endeavor, the Miami Heat make sense, the aforementioned Wizards make sense if they can open up cap space, and the Boston Celtics are perhaps the most intriguing of the bunch. Neither Horford or Griffin are quality centers, but both are smart big men who can space the floor and create for others.

The last player is Danilo Gallinari. Underrated because he plays for the Denver Nuggets, Gallinari is a good player hitting unrestricted free agency for the first time in his career. He’s at best a third or fourth option, but he could truly thrive in that role. He’s an elite shooter, both in catch-and-shoot and off the dribble. At six-foot-10, he can get around most big, lumbering power forwards, while posting and making easy work of smaller wing players.

He’s also a good defender. He doesn’t have the numbers – steals + blocks – to show it, but he’s an improved on-ball defender and a smart team defender. The Nuggets will try to bring him back, but something tells me that he’ll move on. If that is indeed the case, several teams should be lining up for his services. There’s no perfect fit, but a team like Boston or Detroit could certainly use him to upgrade the power forward spot.

Despite the league’s best efforts, the power forward position has gone nowhere. Millsap, Griffin, and Gallinari are three of the more interesting players to watch in free agency.  There are several other interesting power forward options out there – Memphis’ Jamychal Green says hello – and as the dimensions of the floor change, these four forwards could be in for a good payday, due to their ability to make the plays needed from a power forward in today’s NBA.

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