The deepest position in the NBA today is...
Let’s take a look at all the positions, and some facts and figures, before making a final call.
First, what do I mean by “deep?” Here, the definition is twofold: 1) level of talent at the starting position and 2) preponderance of talent at the position in general.
It’s easy to pick off the position with the least amount of talent, relatively. That would be center, a role that barely exists in its true form anymore.
There was a time when one could argue that centers were dominating the league, and their pool was deep. I turned to Basketball-Reference.com’s play index and used a points query (not perfect, but reasonable) to see how the center position has fallen off in today’s game.
If you look at every time an NBA player over 6’10” scored at least 1,500 points, out of 224 occurrences, the following 16 “active” players make the list: Eddy Curry, Pau Gasol, Brook Lopez, Dirk Nowitzki, LaMarcus Aldridge, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard, Jermaine O’Neal, Chris Bosh, Blake Griffin, Al Jefferson, Rashard Lewis, Amar’e Stoudemire, Hedo Turkoglu and Rasheed Wallace.
Only Lopez, Garnett, Howard and Bosh are relevant today, and really only Lopez and Howard are true centers. In a recent New York Times piece, Shaquille O’Neal added Andrew Bynum to the list.
Power forwards are taking over center.
With more and more teams playing smaller than in the past, the definition of "center" was becoming increasingly difficult -- not to mention finding enough quality big men for whom to vote…For the first time, fans [will] vote for three undefined frontcourt players instead of having to vote for two forwards and a center.
That about sums it up.
But to slam the point home, and account some for defensive play, I reviewed CBSSports.com’s, NBA player rankings, a “player-rating system based on various offensive and defensive statistics.” Only 15 centers make the top 100, fewest of any position.
It’s pretty close on the bottom end of position ranking. If you count all those power forwards masquerading as centers then shooting guard might even come in as the meekest position.
The NBA’s current efficiency statistics account for just 14 shooting guards in the top 100, and only four in the top 50: Kobe Bryant, James Harden, O.J. Mayo and the temporarily sizzling sixth-man J.R. Smith.
ESPN’s John Hollinger gives shooting guards a little more credit, though. He ranks a healthy 20 shooters in his top 100 by PER. Ironically, the backup 2s are playing better than the starters right now. A full 12 of the 20 are coming off the bench, including Kevin Martin, Ray Allen, Jose Barea and Jamal Crawford. Then you have Jason Kidd, who is really a point guard, and Joe Johnson who started off slow.
The shooting guard position, league-wide, is deep off the bench. It’s the starters (relative to the other positions) where talent is wanting.
Still, Dwyane Wade, Monta Ellis, J.J. Redick and those top four shooting guards above make this class at least better than the centers.
Things get a little more interesting at the small forward position. These guys are good, and some of the best players in the game.
Now we’re talking the singular best all-around player in the NBA, LeBron James, Kevin Durant (points champ the past three years), and Hall of Famer Paul Pierce.
Then there’s Carmelo Anthony, but he’s playing power forward right now, and looking better at the 4.
Rudy Gay, Luol Deng, Al Horford, Arron Afflalo, Danilo Gallinari, Gerald Wallace and Andrei Kirilenko have established themselves over the past few years as consistent scorers, while the Portland Trail Blazers’ Nicolas Batum, the Indiana Pacers’ Paul George and the Houston Rockets’ Chandler Parsons are rising in the ranks.
But there's just not enough at small forward to compete with the top two deepest positions in the NBA.
Power Forwards are running rampant in the league, taking over the frontcourt. They may not have has much a reservoir of raw talent as small forward off the bench, but rule the starting lineups in comparison.
Tim Duncan, Zach Randolph, Pau Gasol, Blake Griffin, Josh Smith, Paul Millsap, Andrea Bargnani, David Lee and Amar’e Stoudemire and/or Carmelo Anthony are the focal points of their respective teams.
Meanwhile, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kris Humphries, Carlos Boozer, David Lee and Luis Scola make up a strong second-tier of power forwards.
There's tons of youth here, too, that bodes well for the future: Anthony Davis, Tristan Thompson and Kenneth Faried are the first examples that come to mind.
This was close, but there are just too many good point guards in what has become a point-guard league.
The most dazzling play in basketball comes from the 1. This position is the deepest of them all, by virtue of the spread of talent from capable to strong to superstar.
Rotoworld.com put an interesting spin on the point guard position from a fantasy perspective that translates to reality:
It feels like the position is extremely deep and the days of having starting point guards who produce almost nothing in fantasy (think Eric Snow, Derek Fisher, etc.) might be behind us. That means, in theory, there are potentially 30 solid point guard options out there.
How about Raymond Felton and Jeremy Lin, both having solid seasons.
Finally all three ranking metrics I employed agree on one thing in particular: CBS, the NBA and Hollinger all have more point guards than any other position in their top 100s.
Now, I didn't mention everybody. Add your opinions and your favorite talented players in the comments below.
Stats used in this article were accurate as of the end of November 17th's games.