We hear cliches all the time in professional sports.
Defense wins championships.
Big men win championships.
Well, Eastern Conference teams have taken these to heart this year and spent all summer stacking their rosters with frontcourt help.
The Boston Celtics were praised at the beginning of the year for all of the frontcourt depth they acquired in the offseason. They added Shaquille O’Neal, Jermaine O’Neal and Luke Harangody. Pairing them with returnees Kevin Garnett and Glen Davis, along with Kendrick Perkins coming off his knee injury in the finals, was supposed to give them the best and deepest frontcourt in the league.
Two other teams have stepped up to challenge the throne—the Orlando Magic and the Chicago Bulls.
Everyone knows about the Magic frontcourt features Dwight Howard lurking in the paint, but they have underrated players and depth around him. Brandon Bass has been playing well all year and has been more than a solid start option next to Howard. Ryan Anderson has also played well in spurts at power forward, allowing them to space the floor, unlike most teams’ frontcourts.
Joakim Noah was playing at as high of a level as any center in the league, averaging 14 ppg and 11.7 rpg before injuring his wrist in December. As Noah went down, Carlos Boozer arrived. Boozer, the Bulls biggest free agent signing this summer, has stepped in Noah’s shoes and averaged 20.6 ppg and 10.1 rpg and has been even hotter as of late.
With Noah expected to return well before the playoffs and Boozer playing at an All-Star level again, the Bulls have one of the most intimidating frontcourts in the NBA set to roll into the playoffs with a top seed because of their command of the Eastern Conference Central Division.
Their depth is what really sets them apart from the rest of the crowd though.
With all of the injury problems the Bulls have seen, youngster Taj Gibson, who started much of the season last year, has become one of their most valuable assets. Veteran Kurt Thomas has also filled a role on the team by providing solid defense and rebounding all season. Even expected project Omer Asik has been playing a solid 10-15 minutes a game and looking like a seasoned NBA veteran.
This group provides them with more depth than both the Celtics and Magic, and without question possesses the most talented frontcourt top-to-bottom in the Eastern Conference.
This season we will see if big men can truly win championships.