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NBA Power Rankings: Dirk Nowitzki and the Best Big Man in Each Team's History

Andy BaileyFeatured ColumnistMay 23, 2011

NBA Power Rankings: Dirk Nowitzki and the Best Big Man in Each Team's History

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    OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 23:  Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks reacts in the second quarter while taking on the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Four of the Western Conference Finals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs at Oklahoma City Arena on May 23, 2011
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Dirk Nowitzki has been arguably the best player in this year's NBA playoffs.  He's led his Mavericks to a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference Finals while averaging 28 points and eight rebounds a game.

    For his career, he's averaging nearly 26 points and 11 rebounds a game in the playoffs.  He's currently 10th all-time in career playoff points per game.

    The only two players on that list above Dirk who also average double-figures in rebounding are Hakeem Olajuwon and Elgin Baylor.

    Nowitzki is one of the best big men in the history of the game and definitely the best in Dallas Mavericks history.

    Here is each team's all-time greatest big man...

     

    You can follow Andy Bailey on Twitter   @_Andy_Bailey

Atlanta Hawks: Bob Pettit

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    Bob Pettit played 11 seasons with the Milwaukee and St. Louis Hawks.  He was an NBA All-Star for each of those 11 years and won four All-Star MVP awards.

    He also won Rookie of the Year in 1955 and was a two-time league MVP.

    For his career, he averaged 26.4 points and 16.2 rebounds per game.

Boston Celtics: Bill Russell

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    Bill Russell is widely regarded as the greatest defensive player of all-time.  It was skill and determination on that end that helped him win an incredible 11 NBA championships as a player.

    He was a five-time league MVP, 12-time All-Star and averaged a whopping 22.5 rebounds a game for his career (the NBA's second-best career rebounding average).

Charlotte Bobcats: Emeka Okafor

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    LOS ANGELES - JANUARY 30:  Emeka Okafur #50 of the Charlotte Bobcats reacts to a foul call during the game agianst the Los Angeles Lakers on January 30, 2005 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agree
    Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

    Emeka Okafor averaged a double-double in each of his five seasons with the Charlotte Bobcats.

    In 2005, he was not only named to the NBA's All-Rookie team, but won Rookie of the Year as well.

    For three of his seasons as a Bobcat, Okafor was in the top 10 in total blocks.

Chicago Bulls: Dennis Rodman

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    26 Apr 1998:  Dennis Rodman #91 of the Chicago Bulls and Rony Seikaly #2 of the New Jersey Nets jump for the ball during a First Round Playoff Game at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Nets 96-91.
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Dennis Rodman is the best rebounder of all-time.  His contributions to the five championship teams on which he played are highly underrated.

    During his three years with the Chicago Bulls, Rodman's lowest rebounding average was 14.9 a game.

    As a player who didn't care one bit about scoring, he was a perfect complement to Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Zydrunas Ilgauskus

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    25 Apr 1998: Center Zydrunas Ilgauskas of the Cleveland Cavaliers in action against the Indiana Pacers during an NBA playoff game at the Market Square Arena in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Pacers defeated the Cavaliers 92-86.
    Vincent Laforet/Getty Images

    Zydrunas Ilgauskas was a double-figures scorer in each of his first 11 seasons in the NBA (all with Cleveland).

    He's always demonstrated great touch around the basket and from mid-range.  

    Plus, he's one of the most underrated offensive rebounders of this era.  He led the league in total offensive boards for the 2004-05 season and averages three a game for his career.

    He also made the Eastern Conference All-Star team in 2003 and 2005.

Dallas Mavericks: Dirk Nowitzki

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    7 Nov 1999:  Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks stands with the ball during the game against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers defeated the Mavericks 105-97.   Mandatory Credit: Donald Miralle  /All
    Donald Miralle/Getty Images

    I detailed Dirk's playoff dominance in the introduction slide for this article.  His regular-season numbers are remarkable as well.

    He's played all 13 seasons of his NBA career as a member of the Dallas Mavericks and is the franchise leader in games, minutes, field goals, threes, free throws, rebounds and points.

    He's a 10-time All-Star, 11-time All-NBA player and he won the league's MVP Award in 2007.

    He's averaged over 20 points a game in each of the last 11 seasons and has career averages of 23 points and 8.4 rebounds a game.

Denver Nuggets: Dikembe Mutombo

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    1991-1992:  Center Dikembe Mutombo of the Denver Nuggets moves the ball during a game at the McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, Colorado. Mandatory Credit: Tim DeFrisco  /Allsport Mandatory Credit: Tim DeFrisco  /Allsport
    Tim DeFrisco/Getty Images

    Dikembe Mutombo was one of the league's most dominant defensive players during his five years with the Denver Nuggets.  

    He led the league in blocked shots for three-straight seasons from 1994-96 and never averaged fewer than 11.8 rebounds for any of his seasons in Denver.

    As a member of the Nuggets, Mutombo averaged 12.3 rebounds and 3.8 blocks per game.

Detroit Pistons: Bob Lanier

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    Bob Lanier averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds a game for his career and had his best seasons as a member of the Detroit Pistons.

    He's the franchise leader in points per game, rebounds per game and is second in blocks per game.

    He also made seven All-Star teams as a member of the Pistons.

Golden State Warriors: Wilt Chamberlain

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    Despite being an extreme aberration for his era, some still argue that Wilt Chamberlain is the greatest player of all-time.

    As a member of the Philadelphia and San Francisco Warriors, Chamberlain averaged 41.5 points and 25.1 rebounds a game.

    Because he spent much more time in the organization, I could've easily gone with Nate Thurmond on this one.  However, the dominance of Chamberlain was just too much to ignore.

Houston Rockets: Hakeem Olajuwon

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    28 DEC 1993:  HOUSTON ROCKETS CENTER HAKEEM OLAJUWON PUTS A SHOT UP AGAINST THE LAKER''S VLADE DIVAC. Mandatory Credit: Glenn Cratty/ALLSPORT
    Glenn Cratty/Getty Images

    Hakeem Olajuwon played 17 of his 18 NBA seasons as a member of the Houston Rockets.  

    For his career, he averaged 22 points and 11 rebounds a game.  He was the league MVP in 1994, and the NBA Finals MVP in '94 and '95.  He made 12 All-Star and All-NBA teams.

    Much like Dirk Nowitzki with the Mavericks, Olajuwon dominates Rockets history.  He's the franchise leader in games, minutes, field goals, free throws, rebounds, steals, blocks and points.

Indiana Pacers: George McGinnis

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    George McGinnis spent his first four and last two-and-a-half seasons in the Pacers organization. He won two ABA titles with the team in 1972 and '73, and he won the ABA MVP Award in 1975.

    As a Pacer, he averaged 19.6 points and 10.7 rebounds a game.

Los Angeles Clippers: Elton Brand

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    LOS ANGELES - DECEMBER 6:   Elton Brand #42 of the Los Angeles Clippers controls the ball against the Charlotte Bobcats during the game on December 6, 2004 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.  The Clippers won 99-93 in overtime. NOTE TO USER: Us
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Elton Brand was a double-double machine during his seven seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers. 

    He made two All-Star teams and averaged 20.3 points and 10.3 rebounds a game as a member of the Clippers.  In 2006, he led the team on one of its best playoff runs of the last 25 years.

Los Angeles Lakers: Shaquille O'Neal

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    AUBURN HILLS, MI - JUNE 13:  Shaquille O'Neal #34 of the Los Angeles Lakers watches a freethrow in game four of the 2004 NBA Finals against the Detroit Pistons on June 13, 2004 at The Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, Michigan.  NOTE TO USER: User e
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    The Los Angeles Lakers have had plenty of all-time greats in their frontcourt.  

    For Shaquille O'Neal to dominate this era the way he did was incredible (just imagine what he would have done against competition from previous eras).

    As a Laker, he won three titles, made seven All-Star teams, eight All-NBA teams, he was named league MVP once and NBA Finals MVP three times.

    He's first in team history in Player Efficiency Rating, second in points and blocks per game, fifth in rebounds per game and second in field-goal percentage.

Memphis Grizzlies: Bryant Reeves

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    2 Nov 2000:  Bryant Reeves #50 of the Vancouver Grizzlies looks on during the game against the Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. The Grizzlies defeated the Clippers 99-91.  NOTE TO USER: It is expressly understood that
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Just joking...

Memphis Grizzlies: Zach Randolph

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    OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 15:  Forward Zach Randolph #50 of the Memphis Grizzlies reacts against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Seven of the Western Conference Semifinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 15, 2011 at Oklahoma City Arena in Oklahoma City, O
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Like the Bobcats, this is another young franchise.  That's why I can call Zach Randolph their best all-time big man despite the fact he's only played two seasons in Memphis.

    He's first in Grizzlies history in Player Efficiency Rating and rebounds per game and second in points per game.

    In these past two seasons, he's averaged nearly 22 points and 12 rebounds a game and just led the team on the best playoff run in team history.

Miami Heat: Alonzo Mourning

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    18 Oct 1999: Alonzo Mourning #33 of the Miami Heat looks on the court during a game against the Atlanta Hawks at the Miami Arena in Miami, Florida. The Heat defeated the Hawks 116-110.  Mandatory Credit: Eliot J. Schechter  /Allsport
    Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images

    During his first stint with the Miami Heat, Alonzo Mourning was one of the best big men in the NBA. He made five All-Star teams and was named NBA Defensive Player of the year twice.

    He led the league in blocks per game in 1999 and 2000.  He also averaged better than 20 points and 10 rebounds a game during his first five years with the Heat.

Milwaukee Bucks: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

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    The NBA's all-time leader in points scored did a great deal of his damage as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks.

    As a member of the Bucks, Abdul-Jabbar averaged 30.4 points, 15.3 rebounds and 3.4 blocks per game.  He's the franchise leader in points scored and total rebounds.

    He made the All-Star team for each of his six seasons with the Bucks, won the league MVP three times and won an NBA championship in his second season in 1971.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Kevin Garnett

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    15 Feb 1999:  Kevin Garnett #21 of the Minnesota Timberwolves in action during the game against the Golden State Warriors at the Oakland Arena in Oakland, California. The Warriors defeated the Timberwolves 101-99.  Mandatory Credit: Todd Warshaw  /Allspor
    Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

    Kevin Garnett dominates Timberwolves history the way Dirk Nowitzki and Hakeem Olajuwon dominate their teams' histories.

    He's second in the organization in career points and rebounds per game.  He's their all-time leader in games, minutes, field goals, free throws, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and points.

    As a member of the Timberwolves, he was a 10-time All-Star, eight-time All-NBA player and won the league MVP in 2004.

New Jersey Nets: Buck Williams

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    1989:  Buck Williams #52 of the New Jersey Nets stands on the court during an NBA game in 1989. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the G
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    Buck Williams played eight seasons in New Jersey and comfortably averaged a double-double during seven of them.

    He's the franchise leader in points scored, total rebounds and rebounds per game (11.9).

New Orleans Hornets: Alonzo Mourning

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    2 MAY 1995:  CHARLOTTE HORNET FORWARD ALONZO MOURNING #33 SLAMS TWO DOWN OVER CHICAGO BULLS WILL PERDUE DURING FIRST QUARTER ACTION OF THEIR FIRST ROUND NBA PLAYOFF GAME AT THE UNITED CENTER IN CHICAGO, ILLINOIS.  Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Daniel/ALLSPOR
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    For his work in the Hornets organization, Alonzo Mourning makes the list for the second time.  He played just three seasons for the team, but it's hard to place anyone else from Hornets history ahead of him.

    He averaged 21 points and 10 rebounds a game as a Hornet and he is the team's all-time leader in blocked shots despite only playing there for three years.

New York Knicks: Willis Reed

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    This one was really tough call.  It came down to Willis Reed and Patrick Ewing.

    Statistically, neither one was leaps and bounds ahead of the other.  Ewing was a little better scorer, while Reed was a little better rebounder.

    I went with Reed because of his two championships in 1970 and 1973.

    He spent his entire career as a Knick and averaged 18.7 points and 12.9 rebounds per game.  He made seven All-Star teams, five All-NBA teams, was named league MVP once and Finals MVP twice.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Jack Sikma

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    I know Sonics fans aren't too excited about having their history attached to the Thunder, but that's what happens when a franchise changes cities.

    Jack Sikma is the franchise leader in free throws and total rebounds, and is third in points and second in rebounds per game.

    He made seven All-Star teams as a member of the Sonics and won an NBA championship in 1979.

Orlando Magic: Shaquille O'Neal

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    Center Shaquille O'Neal of the Orlando Magic.
    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    This was another tough call.  Obviously, it comes down to Shaquille O'Neal (Superman I) and Dwight Howard (Superman II).

    Their careers as members of the Magic are very similar (and could be more similar as a whole if Howard joins the Lakers).

    In Orlando, Shaq averaged 27.2 points, 12.5 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game.  Howard's numbers with the team are 18.2, 12.9 and 2.2.

Philadelphia 76ers: Moses Malone

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    Moses Malone spent four seasons in the middle of his career with the Philadelphia 76ers.  

    During that time he made four All-Star teams, three All-NBA teams, won an NBA and Finals MVP and a championship in 1983.

    As a 76er, he averaged 21 points and 12 rebounds a game.

Phoenix Suns: Charles Barkley

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    30 Nov 1994:  Forward Charles Barkley of the Phoenix Suns moves the ball during a game against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.  The Bulls won the game, 118-105. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Daniel  /Allsport Mandatory Credit: Jo
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Charles Barkley only spent four years with the Suns, but for many of my generation, that's the team he's most readily identified with.

    During those four seasons, he made four All-Star teams, four All-NBA teams and won league MVP in 1993.

    As a member of the Suns, he averaged 23.4 points and 11.5 rebounds a game.  That's good for second in team history in both categories.

Portland Trail Blazers: Bill Walton

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    If LaMarcus Aldrige spends the majority of his career in Portland, he may end up being this organization's best big man.

    Right now, it's definitely Bill Walton.  He spent four injury-plagued seasons with the Blazers and averaged 17.1 points, 13.5 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game during that span.

    He led the Blazers to an NBA championship in 1977 and won league MVP in 1978.

Sacramento Kings: Jerry Lucas

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    Jerry Lucas is perhaps more known for his time with the New York Knicks, but he had some incredible seasons as a member of the Cincinnati Royals for over six years.

    During that span, he averaged 19.6 points and 19.1 rebounds per game.  He made six All-Star teams and five All-NBA teams.

San Antonio Spurs: Tim Duncan

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    9 Feb 2000: Tim Duncan #21 of the San Antonio Spurs reacts to a call during the game against the Denver Nuggets at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. The Spurs defeated the Nuggets 106-97.
    Rodolfo Gonzalez/Getty Images

    This one wasn't as much of a no-brainer as you might think.  I could make a great argument for David Robinson here.

    I'm going with Duncan because of his four championships (compared to Robinson's two, which he earned with the help of Duncan).

    Duncan has spent his whole career with the Spurs, averaging 20.6 points, 11.4 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game.

    He's first in team history in total rebounds and second in points and blocks.

Toronto Raptors: Chris Bosh

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    ATLANTA - DECEMBER 02:  Chris Bosh #4 of the Toronto Raptors against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on December 2, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Like the other young franchises on this slideshow, it was pretty easy to select the all-time best big man for the Raptors.

    Chris Bosh averaged 20.2 points and 9.4 rebounds a game in Toronto.  He made five All-Star teams and is Toronto's all-time leader in minutes, field goals, free throws, rebounds and points.

Utah Jazz: Karl Malone

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    f any kind may be made of Allsport photos. User acknowledges that it is aware that Allsport is an editorial sports agency and that NO RELEASES OF ANY TYPE ARE OBTAINED from the subjects contained in the photographs. Mandatory Credit: Tim DeFrisco  /Allspo
    Tim DeFrisco/Getty Images

    Karl Malone scored over 36,000 points as a member of the Utah Jazz.  He averaged 25.4 points and 10.2 rebounds a game during 18 seasons with the Jazz.

    He won the league MVP award in 1997 and '99 and was named to 14 All-Star teams and All-NBA teams.

    He led the Jazz to back-to-back NBA Finals against the Bulls, but never won that elusive title.

Washington Wizards: Elvin Hayes

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    Elvin Hayes made eight All-Star teams and six All-NBA teams as a member of the Bullets.  He won a title with the team in 1978.

    As a member of the Bullets, Hayes averaged 21.3 points and 12.7 rebounds per game.  He's the franchise leader in points and blocks, and he is second in total rebounds.

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