Big men are asked to do more than ever in today’s NBA. Guys who can stretch the defense or pass out of the post or even put the ball on the floor have been instrumental to winning teams in recent years. That’s where this list comes in, where we measure the big men with the best guard skills. This isn’t a list based on past awards or titles, but simply a list of the big men with the best “little man” skills. Some of these big guys could play guard in the league and that is why they are some of the best in the business.
Without further ado, the list of the top 15 big men in the NBA who have the best little man skills…
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15. KEVIN GARNETT
Kevin Garnett’s offensive game is built around his midrange jumper, which he can get off from anywhere and against anyone. Garnett is a great passer (averaged at least 5.0 assists per game six times in his career) who looks to dish the rock even too much in the eyes of some critics, many of whom think he should have been more selfish over the course of his career. Garnett ignored the criticism and rode that jumper and unselfish play to a title in 2008 and is hoping to add another this upcoming season with the new-look Nets. Here’s five minutes of proof that the Big Ticket can stroke it.
14. PAU GASOL
Pau is one of the best European big men of all time. He is more of a traditional big man than, say, Dirk, but that doesn’t mean he can’t put the ball on the floor or shoot from deep. Pau has a feathery touch with both hands and can extend his range to almost the three-point arc. Like his brother Marc, Pau is a great passer who never hesitates to find his teammates (which must be difficult with Kobe yelling for the ball all game). Pau showed all these skills and more on the way to a triple-double last year against the Warriors.
13. CHRIS BOSH
Chris Bosh’s game never seems to get the respect it deserves. The guy can ball. He did a lot more in Toronto with a full arsenal of moves that he used on a nightly basis, but now he is asked to do different things. He has put his focus on his shooting and it has paid dividends â€“ he hits his midrange jumper at an elite level and has added three-point range as well. Last year Bosh showed his former team just how on point that jumper has become.
12. LaMARCUS ALDRIDGE
Aldridge is another one of the best shooting big men in the NBA today. He does go to a power game against smaller defenders, but he’s at his best hitting pick-and-pops and turnarounds. He can hit that turnaround fade off either shoulder and can face-up and shoot over almost anyone in the league with his high release. Aldridge’s shooting touch and ability to drive has made him one of the toughest big men to guard in the league. If the Bulls didn’t know already, they certainly found out after the 42 points the Texas standout dropped on them a couple years back.
11. KEVIN LOVE
If not for injuries we may be talking about Kevin Love as a top five NBA player right now. He still may be, but he needs to show he can get back to the same level he was at before his injury-plagued 2013 campaign. Love is a double-double machine who can do it all on the offensive end. He can face up for a jumper, pick-and-pop for a three, and put the ball on the floor and get to the rim. Love lost over 20 pounds before the lockout-shortened season and that has helped his quickness with the ball and also ability to get to a spot and knock down shots, as he showed over and over again in this 2012 tilt with the Thunder.
This ranking says nothing about the celebration at the 2:30 mark.
10. ERSAN ILYASOVA
Ilyasova is one of the most underrated players in the NBA. Much like Ryan Anderson, Ilyasova can stretch the floor with the best of them but can also put the ball on the deck and get to the rim. He doesn’t take close to the same number of attempts as Anderson, but he hits at a ridiculously high rate â€“ making 45 percent of his shots from distance over the last two seasons. Ilyasova is one of the best stretch 4s in the business and showed why in this game against the Raptors this past season.
9. ANDREA BARGNANI
A few years ago, Bargnani would have been much higher on this list. Although his three-point shot has abandoned him the past few years, he definitely does have the ability to hit from there (he shot over 40 percent from range in his third season in the league). He has a guard-like handle and can pull up from anywhere. Bargnani has all the tools and Knicks fans are hoping he can finally put them together and actually “do it all” this coming season as this video suggests.
Those who want to avoid a blank stare from Bargnani for 30 seconds should stop the video at the 3:22 mark.
8. FAB MELO
8. GREG MONROE
Monroe flies under the radar in Detroit but if he keeps up his current level of production, that will certainly change. The Georgetown product had a great showing at the Team USA mini-camp this summer and will find himself in the limelight a bit more this season with all of the headline moves the Pistons made this offseason. Monroe, like Love, is a walking double-double and does a lot of his damage from the high post where he can knock down the jumper or take the ball strong to the rack. Ask the Miami big men…
7. ANTHONY DAVIS
Anthony Davis is primed to breakout this season. Despite some injury issues, the ‘Brow has wowed not only with his length and athleticism but also his developing offensive game. Davis was a point guard in high school and that little man skill-set gives the almost seven-footer the full package on offense. He has a very nice shooting touch and can use his quickness to get around slower defenders. This coast-to-coast take in the Team USA scrimmage earlier this summer is just a glimpse into the talent this kid possesses.
6. AL HORFORD
Despite being in the league for six seasons, Horford is still a somewhat unknown and underrated player. The former Gator is great at getting out into the open court and although it is not the prettiest, he does have a solid jumper whether he is facing up or shooting off a pick-and-pop. He also has a solid dribble-drive game that he can use against bigger defenders. Here he shows a little bit of everything in a 34-point effort against the Jazz this past year.
5. RYAN ANDERSON
Anderson is the definition of a stretch 4. He took almost seven threes a game for the past two seasons and hit over 38 percent of them. He is an assassin from range and when surrounded by more weapons this year with the Pelicans, he will get even more open looks. The following is what some may refer to as “making it rain.”
4. MARC GASOL
Who would have guessed this guy would ever be on any list associated with the words “little man?” Gasol has lost the baby fat and evolved into one of the best bigs in the game. He is one of the only players in the Association who still takes set shots but he has great success with it. Ultimately, the real reason Gasol is on this list is for his passing. The Spaniard is one of the best passers in the league â€“ regardless of position. Half of the point guards in the NBA couldn’t make this pass.
3. DeMARCUS COUSINS
Demarcus Cousins is one of the greatest talents in the NBA but still hasn’t reached his true potential. The guy can handle like a point guard, has a great stroke and is a phenomenal passer â€“ all at 6-11 and 270 pounds! Cousins has the ability to be number one on this list but has yet to get his head on straight and put his fantastic skill-set together. Even after this monster effort against the Clippers, Cousins can’t help but get a technical in the waning seconds while the game was still undecided.
The Kings sure do have some excited fans â€“ is that the wave at 2:18?
2. JOSH SMITH
Josh Smith might have too much little man game for his own good. When Smith is attacking the rim he is one of the most dangerous players in the NBA â€“ but he doesn’t do it often enough. Sometimes he gets a little shot-happy on his (deep) midrange twos, but at the end of the day he does so many other things well. He probably has the best handle of any big and is one of the best passers in the entire league. When Smith’s shot is on though, like it was for this game in Orlando, he is a near impossible cover.
1. DIRK NOWITZKI
This list is made for Dirk. The German set the standard for the European 4 with a great three-point stroke, a good handle, a great midrange jumper, and the ability to put the ball on the floor. Dirk’s Mavs revolutionized the game, showing how effective a team’s offense could be with a big man stretching the floor. The four other Europeans on this list owe a lot to Dirk as he paved the way for their success in the NBA. The seven-footer has the skills to be in the league if he was any size, playing any position, and that is why he finishes at number one.
Which big men have the best perimeter skills?
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