NBA Power Ranking: Pau Gasol, Tim Duncan & the Top 10 Most Fundamental Bigs Ever
It’s all fundamental, what makes the most complete players of all time on the offensive end. They have to excel in all aspects of the game.
Last week, I went with looking at the most fundamental perimeter players of all time. While it was highly debated, most everyone agreed to the list, not the order. Check that article out here.
But, the overwhelming cry that was repeated over and over again was this: where was The Big Fundamental?
Well, that article was about perimeter players who excelled in ALL aspects offensively. Bigs don’t shoot threes (well, except Duncan against Phoenix in the playoffs).
Now, here’s our chance to look at the most fundamental bigs of all time.
Let’s set the table first. This won’t be about defense, so don’t wank about your guy not being here when we’re only talking on the offensive side of things.
Here’s the criteria:
- Post game.
- Face up game and drive.
- Face up game and shoot mid-range jumper. We’ll call this one accuracy from inside, say, 18 feet.
- Offensive rebounding.
- Free Throws. (This will eliminate Shaq right out the gate, so no whining on that.)
And, just to clarify, just like my other article, this will NOT have any perimeter guys, no guards or guys who play the 3 spot. Don’t talk about MJ, Kobe, etc. Wrong list. (Check that article out here.)
In in today’s NBA, the players that excel in all four areas are a dying breed. We can count them on one hand. But, who in the past possessed all these?
Here's the Top 10 Most Fundamental Bigs of All Time.
10: Kevin Garnett
The Boston Celtics' Kevin Garnett can do it all but would be higher on this list if he could go left in the post more often.
Otherwise, he has all the fundamentals, including a deadly mid-range jumper. And, he’s a beast on the offensive glass.
9: James Worthy
The Los Angeles Laker James Worthy had all the fundamentals.
You don’t play for University of North Carolina head coach Dean Smith, win a NCAA title and not have all the skills. Worthy was deadly in the post.
Outside of Hakeem, no one was quicker, with spins moves in either direction. And, Worthy could hit outside jumpers. Lastly, he finished like no other, usually capping a Magic Johnson no-look pass. Worthy’s speed and footwork also helped him excel on offensive rebounding.
8: Charles Barkley
This guy dominated in the post. So, no wanking that he was a perimeter guy and shouldn't be on this list.
Charles Barkley is remembered more as a rebounder but he was fundamentally sound and could do it all on the offensive end.
Of course, he made his living in the post, using speed and quickness, with either hand. He could shoot from distance and, unlike many other Bigs on this list, Barkley could take guys off the dribble.
7: Pau Gasol
The Los Angeles Lakers’ Pau Gasol is the most fundamental international player to lace them up. Period.
He's over Dirk Nowitzki, who doesn’t play defense at the same level of Gasol. Gasol is incredibly balanced, using either hand to finish, in a array of shots that make defenders dizzy.
Gasol can also drain that 17-foot jumper and with his length, is as proficient on the boards.
6: Bill Walton
The only reason Walton gets this low on our list is his shortened NBA career due to foot injuries.
He came out of UCLA extremely polished. He could do it all and was nearly unstoppable. His footwork and speed never hurt.
5: Kevin McHale
There might not be anyone with better post footwork and skill that the Boston Celtics' Kevin McHale.
He literally had the best post moves in the paint. He was long and could use either hand. But he was so lean and long that he wasn’t the powerhouse offensive rebounder that some of the other guys on this list were, neither was his outside shot massively reliable.
But that wasn’t his role on the Celtics. His role was to post and go to work. His skill was amazing (giving a Celtic any kind of props always hurts!).
4: Karl Malone
Along with Charles Barkley, Malone is one of the true beasts on this list.
He was a bull in the post but had finesse to go along with his brut strength. His jumper from the elbow area was deadly. But the offensive glass was where he also made his mark.
Lastly, Malone could drive and finish on the break. His nickname was The Mailman and he really did deliver.
3: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
The Los Angeles Lakers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar probably was the most fundamental player to enter the league.
Out of UCLA, he was already super skilled and super polished. He only got better in the NBA.
He’s the league’s top scorer in most points ever and that only happens when you are fundamentally skilled (and he played a long time!) Kareem was nearly unstoppable in the post, using an assortment of shots including the deadly and famous, Sky Hook.
But Kareem also hit the glass hard and with his footwork and length, was hard to stop o the offensive boards.
The only reason why he isn’t in the top spot on this list is because his outside jumper was average. As a matter of fact, he didn’t take it that often, didn't have to on those Showtime Lakers. Everything was inside the free throw line with him.
2: Tim Duncan
The San Antonio Spurs Tim Duncan is known as The Big Fundamental for good reason.
He is proficient in the post, using both hands, great footwork. He hits the offensive boards with passion.
But his real claim to fame is his outside jumper. It’s a patented move. The bank shot from 18 feet. Unstoppable. And, the bank is always open with Duncan.
1: Hakeem Olajuwon
The Houston Rockets Hakeem Olajuwon takes this top spot because he is the most fundamental big on this list. The Dream, as he was called, is the most balanced and excelled in all areas of our criteria.
He was a thing of beauty to watch go to work in the post, his footwork incredible (he learned it playing soccer).
But his spin moves are what made him famous, and great. Spin right, spin left, spin fade. He had it all.
And, he had range. With his size, he was a rebounding machine. He is our No. 1 fundamentally sound Big.
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