Despite career and breakout seasons from some of the best big men in the game, guys like Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, Amar'e Stoudemire and Dwight Howard, the hottest topic of conversation when it comes to position players in 2010-11 is point guard play.
It makes sense that point guards have grabbed a lot of headlines this year. There is a new wave of young guys (i.e. Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose) trying to grab the torch from the veterans (the Jason Kidds and Steve Nashs) while Chris Paul and Deron Williams make dazzling plays night-in and night-out.
These guys have the ball in their hands a majority of the time so it's almost a given that a majority of the watchful eyes will be on them.
But the bigs who set screens for the guards, clean up the misses at the rim and provide legitimate scoring threats out of the post have quietly enjoyed a strong 2010 campaign and are looking to carry that momentum to 2011.
As mentioned above, Love and Griffin have taken the league by storm with their intense rebounding and awe-inspiring athleticism, respectively. Howard, Stoudemire and Luis Scola are averaging career-highs in points. And several forwards, including LaMarcus Aldridge and Al Horford, have been playing some of the best all-around games of their career.
Being strong or crafty enough to finish at the hoop is somewhat of a lost art in a lot of the younger big men in today's game. The following power forwards and centers are among the league's best when it comes to finishing inside and scoring in the paint.
As a Raptor, Bosh was known as a good-but-not-great back-to-the-basket scorer. He got a majority of his points on jump shots or driving off the dribble and was more of a finesse player inside than a bruising finisher.
In Miami, the number of chances he gets to operate one-on-one have been dramatically reduced. He's to adjust to playing without the ball in his hands and become more efficient with his scoring opportunities.
He's still more comfortable playing mid-range off pick-and-pops and spotting up for jumpers but he still has the ability to be a strong finisher inside, as evidenced on Christmas Day when he attacked the Lakers bigs and scored 14 points in the paint.
When he gets his inside game going, it frees up his jumper and makes him one of the more complete offensive forwards in the league.
Lopez has overcome somewhat of a bumpy patch in the middle of the season to score 16 or more points in 12 straight games to end December.
He's one of the few traditional centers who can operate in the low post and make opponents pay for trying to guard him one-on-one.
But he's been under attack this year in the media for not being more aggressive on the boards and becoming more of a jump shooter than an inside presence. He said as much in late-November: "I don't think I've been aggressive in certain facets of my game. Whether it be defensively, or when I get the ball in the post and they expect me to score, or rebounding."
He has the ability to be an elite scorer in the paint but he needs to develop more consistency and assertiveness.
One of the league's least discussed players, David West is undervalued when it comes to scoring. He's put up at least 17 points per game every season since 2005-06...including back-to-back 20-point campaigns in '08 and '09.
He's shooting a career-high 52.2 percent from the floor through 33 games in '10. While he's more known for being a mid-range shooter a la Chris Bosh, he's still making nearly 70 percent of his shots in the paint this year—good enough to be ranked No. 7 in the league in that department.
Grading Bynum in this category based on how he's looked in 10 games since returning from offseason knee injury is a bit unfair—he's only shooting 44.8 percent and scoring less than 10 points in a little over 20 minutes of action per night.
So we have to base this on his abilities now based on what he's done in the last few years when healthy. And when he's at full strength he's a load to handle inside.
He can use either block to gain position and is becoming more efficient at using his left hand. His hook shots are nearly impossible to block because of his long arms and he uses his body well to gain leverage in the post and on offensive rebounds.
Bogut may never be considered a prolific scorer, but his post game has improved wonders since when he first entered the league.
He establishes position on the low block and uses his frame to lean into defenders and keep them off-balance. He's ambidextrous and knows his limitations—rarely does he try to take long jump shots or force moves in the post.
He only averages 13.5 points per game, but nearly 80 percent of those come in the paint (second in the league).
Known primarily as a mid-range shooter and finesse player out of Texas, Aldridge's post game has progressed and improved every year he's been in the league.
He's had to assume more responsibility in the offense with Greg Oden being in and out of the lineup over the last few years. Now that Brandon Roy could miss significant time with a knee injury, the Trail Blazers will be even more reliant on him.
So far he's delivered, averaging a career-high 19.5 points and 8.5 rebounds.
He poses a match-up problem for a lot of teams and is among the top 20 players in points in the paint. His physicality and increased trust in using his left hand has led to him getting to the foul line more and creating more scoring opportunities for himself and the rest of the Blazers.
Jazz point guard Deron Williams has to be considered one of the two or three best at that position in the league. And for the first five years in his career, he had the luxury of playing pick-and-roll with one of the most skilled finishers in the league (Carlos Boozer).
When Boozer decided to sign with Chicago in the offseason, it left a gaping hole in the middle for Utah. Until they snagged Al Jefferson from the Timberwolves.
Jefferson is only scoring 16.5 points a game, his lowest average since he was a member of the Celtics. But in Utah's flex system he doesn't get as many opportunities to go one-on-one on the block as he did in Minnesota.
However, he's still one of the best back-to-the-basket forwards (or centers, for that matter) in the league. Having a significant low-post presence like Jefferson really frees things up for Williams and gives him and the Jazz another dynamic on offense.
Speaking of Williams, maybe the reason he's one of the best point guards in the league is the plethora of interior options he has at his disposal.
Paul Millsap has always been a tenacious rebounder but he's really thrived taking over Boozer's place as the primary on-ball screener for Williams.
He's averaging a career-high 17.6 points per game (more than four points higher than his previous season-best) and has put up double-digit scoring games all but one time this season. His 72.5 percent shooting in the paint is second-highest in the league and he's getting over 40 percent of his points within five to six feet of the hoop.
When the Nuggets are at their best, they get production in the middle early, which takes just a little less attention away from Carmelo Anthony. From there they can swing the ball inside and out and around the perimeter to their threatening three-point shooters.
Typically that inside success starts with Nene.
Like many other forwards and centers on this list, Nene is having his best season in terms of scoring (17.3 per game). Two-thirds of his shots come in the paint and he's converting a whopping 71 percent of those opportunities.
Horford has been more than accepting of his role as Atlanta's primary source of toughness and being the sole primary interior presence in year's past.
This year he's gotten an opportunity to showcase his offensive talents—Atlanta hasn't run as many isolation sets on offense and as a result he's gotten more looks in the paint.
He's still not quite adept at using both hands, but he has the ability to face up and drive past defenders using his left hand. His 16.5 points are second on Atlanta's roster and his emergence as an offensive threat has really opened the floor up for the Hawks.
Outside of Los Angeles, Lamar Odom doesn't get as much respect for both his overall talent and the sacrifices he's made to his game to adjust to what the Lakers need from him to win.
He has the ability to take over games and the offensive repertoire to take 15-20 shots a night. Few forwards around the league can match up with him in terms of athleticism, in-game intelligence/vision and passing ability.
But with Andrew Bynum out of the lineup early in the season, he stepped up his scoring to help fuel the Lakers to a fast start (they've struggled recently but I'm referring to the first month or so).
He's averaging his highest point-per-game total (15.6) since '07 and is doing so on just 11 attempts. And he's not doing it by making a lot of three's (though he is shooting over 35 percent from the perimeter)—he's getting to the hoop and finishing in the paint.
He's shooting 74 percent in the paint, best in the league, and his 57.5 percent shooting is the highest of his career.
Love has thrived since becoming Minnesota's featured low post player. Now that he's finally getting some consistent minutes, he's showcasing some of the inside moves that made him such a highly touted prospect in high school and college.
He's not a guy a team would play through every possession and at 6'10" he's a bit undersized to consistently play out of the post. His tenacity on the offensive boards, however, gets him plenty of second-chance opportunities and he's shown craftiness to finish in traffic and under the rim.
He's a little short, not all too athletic, it looks like he can barely get off the ground and he's usually operating around bigger players.
Yet Zach Randolph has put up over 17.5 points per game every season since 2004, has become one of the most active offensive rebounders and now has a variety of moves, inside and out, that led to him becoming an All-Star in Memphis last season.
He uses the drop and jab step as well as anyone. And this year nearly 50 percent of his points have come in the paint or offensive rebounds.
You'd be mistaken if you thought Yao Ming was Houston's most dominant and effective interior scorer.
Instead it's Luis Scola, who has used a dazzling array of spins, hooks, up-and-unders and scoop shots to become one of the most complete inside scorers in the league.
He showed his scoring ability in the FIBA Championships when he scored 37 points for Argentina, including several buckets down the stretch in a close game, and that success has carried over to the states where he's averaging a career-high 19.6 points.
When he's on his game it's truly a masterful sight to watch—his elusive ability and craftiness near the hoop is unrivaled.
The best way I can think to describe him is a 6'9" version of Manu Ginobili who does his damage off the block instead of off the dribble.
Forget the jaw-dropping alley-oops, the emphatic two-handed slams, the spin moves past helpless defenders that led to approximately 99 of the best 100 finishes at the rim so far this year.
Blake Griffin can post people up and use his soft touch at the glass to score one-on-one in halfcourt sets, not just in transition or off great set-up passes.
He's fourth in the league with 9.5 points in the paint per game and is converting 65 percent of his scoring chances in the paint. And be sure he's probably collecting some offensive rebounds on the 35 percent he's missing.
Any doubts whether or not Amar'e Stoudemire would struggle without Steve Nash have been answered with a resounding no.
He's been playing like an MVP candidate through the first two months of '10, shooting over 50 percent from the floor, nearly 70 percent in the paint and putting up a career-high 26.2 points per game.
When he gets a full head of steam heading toward the basket, defenses have no chance of stopping him. At times he still looks more comfortable facing up and shooting a jumper instead of posting up or driving off the dribble but all in all he's still one of the most complete inside scorers the game has to offer.
The best power forward of all time is scoring 13.6 points per game—the lowest of his career by over four points.
He's played in almost 1,200 career games, a milestone where players (typically interior players) start to decline.
He doesn't have the ability to consistently dominate games the way he used to.
But if a team is down by six with three minutes to go and needs to go inside to get a bucket, there is no more reliable player than Tim Duncan. When it matters most, he finds ways to score, whether it's out of the block, off the dribble or using the glass.
Boozer became Chicago's first feature big man in decades when he signed with the Bulls in the offseason. After missing the first month with a broken wrist, he's bounced back nicely in 17 games, nearly averaging a double-double and providing a nice interior contrast to Derrick Rose's dribble-drive attack.
Whether it's off a pick-and-roll or isolation post sets, Boozer is a handful for opposing defenses. He's third in the league in points in the paint (9.6 per game) and finishes very well near the rim, shooting 71.3 percent inside of five feet.
Gasol's incredibly unique skill set gives him the most interior moves of any big in the league and even draws comparisons to some of the best low-post scorers ever, such as Hakeem Olajuwon and Kevin McHale.
His footwork inside is incredible. He sets defenders up with the hook shot and leaves them on their heels with a deceptively quick spin move, which he can finish with either hand.
If he had the physical force or athletic ability of the next guy on this list, he'd be as close to unstoppable as we've seen in the post in a long time.
Pau is probably a more complete, well-rounded and polished offensive player, but when it comes to scoring near the hoop and in the paint, no one in the league can match Dwight Howard's aggressive and physical play.
Because of his size and build he's always going to be one of the game's better finishers inside. But his added post moves, namely his face-up six-to-eight foot jump shot, hook shots and spin moves, give him another element that other guys in the league simply can't match up against.