Ranking 2015-16 NBA Frontcourts From Worst to Best
Ranking 2015-16 NBA Frontcourts From Worst to Best

by Ben Leibowitz

PointAfter ranked the NBA's starting frontcourts from the 2015-16 season. Seven of the top 10 teams reached the postseason, proving big men still matter.

Even though the NBA has slowly moved away from paint-bound big men in favor of versatile jackknives like Draymond Green and Paul Millsap -- who can handle the ball or step out and shoot the three -- frontcourts remain integral to success.

Perhaps it shouldn't be much of a surprise, but seven of the top 10 teams in this frontcourt ranking made it to the playoffs this year.

As PointAfter did for the 2015-16 backcourt tandems, the sports data visualization site ranked every team's frontcourt from worst to best.

To do this, we added together each frontcourt trio's collective win shares and box plus/minus figures from the latest campaign. This methodology aimed to account for both the amount of wins players contributed to, as well as their individual impacts on both offense and defense.

Note that playoff success is not included, because not every team makes it to the postseason. Also, injuries came into play quite a bit. Durability is part of the game, so frontcourts that saw their primary contributors miss ample time tumbled down the rankings as a result.

#30. Los Angeles Lakers

Frontcourt Trio: Kobe Bryant, Julius Randle, Roy Hibbert
Combined 2015-16 Win Shares: 3.4
Combined 2015-16 BPM: -7.4
Win Shares + BPM: -4.0

Kobe Bryant may have ended his basketball career with a majestic 60-point swan song performance, but the full package of his 20th year in the pros was ugly. His true shooting percentage of 46.9 percent ranked tied for No. 327 out of 350 qualified players.

The Black Mamba posted negative win shares and a negative BPM throughout his final campaign, but it was actually Julius Randle's heinous -3.6 BPM that bogged LA down most.

And say what you will about Roy Hibbert not having a positive impact following his All-Star days with Indiana, but the 7-foot-2 skyscraper started 81 of 82 regular season games this year and averaged 2.1 blocks per game. At least you can't knock his durability.

#29. Philadelphia 76ers

Frontcourt Trio: Jerami Grant, Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor
Combined 2015-16 Win Shares: 6.3
Combined 2015-16 BPM: -4.7
Win Shares + BPM: 1.6

Thanks to Kobe's overzealous offensive attitude in his final season -- and the growing pains experienced by Randle -- the Philadelphia 76ers somehow don't wind up last in a ranking against the other 29 NBA teams.

Philly's frontcourt was by no means solid, but Nerlens Noel held down the fort with stellar defense (despite extremely raw offensive capabilities). According to NBAMath.com, Noel finished 10th in the league by defensive points saved.

#28. Phoenix Suns

Frontcourt Trio: P.J. Tucker, Alex Len, Tyson Chandler
Combined 2015-16 Win Shares: 8.6
Combined 2015-16 BPM: -3.5
Win Shares + BPM: 5.1

Tyson Chandler was supposed to anchor Phoenix's defense after signing a four-year, $52 million contract prior to the season, but the 33-year-old merely looked washed up for the hapless Suns.

P.J. Tucker would make for a good role player coming off the bench, but doesn't move the needle much pegged as the team's starting small forward. As for Alex Len, he was projected to play more power forward this year and develop a three-point stroke, but that didn't happen. The 7-foot-1 22-year-old took only seven three-pointers all season and finished the year with a ghastly -4.4 offensive box plus/minus.

If nothing else, netting a first-round pick in exchange for ornery power forward Markieff Morris was a positive for Phoenix's 2015-16 frontcourt situation.

#27. New Orleans Pelicans

Frontcourt Trio: Dante Cunningham, Anthony Davis, Omer Asik
Combined 2015-16 Win Shares: 11.0
Combined 2015-16 BPM: -3.2
Win Shares + BPM: 7.8

In a league becoming increasingly tied to offensive spacing via the three-point shot, small forwards who can't shoot threes are a dying breed. The Pelicans certainly shouldn't have tasked Dante Cunningham (a career 26.9 percent outside shooter) to play that position throughout the latest campaign, but that's precisely what happened after injuries plagued the Pelicans all season long.

Anthony Davis was solid again before seeing his season cut short due to injury, but he was about the only piece that fit in this frontcourt. Omer Asik and head coach Alvin Gentry together is like peanut butter and tuna.

#26. Washington Wizards

Frontcourt Trio: Otto Porter Jr., Markieff Morris, Marcin Gortat
Combined 2015-16 Win Shares: 7.9
Combined 2015-16 BPM: 1.5
Win Shares + BPM: 9.4

Otto Porter Jr. had by far his best year in the pros throughout his third season. He averaged 11.6 points and 5.2 rebounds in 75 games (73 starts), along with a career-best effective field goal percentage of 54.1 percent.

Marcin Gortat was also solid, averaging near a double-double with 13.5 points and 9.9 rebounds on 56.7 percent shooting. You could argue the Wizards' frontcourt should (and could) have been higher with a full season of Morris, but he wasn't markedly better in D.C. than he had been in Phoenix. He made just 31.6 percent of his treys in a Wizards jersey, and his PER of 14.0 in a Wizards jersey was still below the league average of 15.0. The Wiz went 14-13 when he played.

#25. Minnesota Timberwolves

Frontcourt Trio: Tayshaun Prince, Kevin Garnett, Karl-Anthony Towns
Combined 2015-16 Win Shares: 9.8
Combined 2015-16 BPM: -0.3
Win Shares + BPM: 9.5

Minnesota's starting frontcourt was an interesting mix of veteran knowhow (Prince, Garnett) and youth (Rookie of the Year Karl-Anthony Towns).

Neither Prince nor KG moved the needle much in the box score, but the T-Wolves were a vastly superior defensive team when each of those guys was on the floor.

As for Towns, he put himself in some elite company with a stellar rookie campaign.

#24. Portland Trail Blazers

Frontcourt Trio: Al-Farouq Aminu, Noah Vonleh, Mason Plumlee
Combined 2015-16 Win Shares: 11.3
Combined 2015-16 BPM: -1.0
Win Shares + BPM: 10.3

Portland was pretty clearly better off playing small-ball with Maurice Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu locking down the forward spots, but head coach Terry Stotts let Vonleh start 56 games before making the change. Due to that, Vonleh gets the nod here and significantly docks the Trail Blazers' standing on this list.

Although Vonleh was a disappointment, Aminu was a revelation. The former No. 8 overall pick from 2010 maxed out as a 31.5 percent shooter from deep as a rookie. He never eclipsed even 30 percent shooting in four subsequent seasons. But after joining the Trail Blazers, he shot a career-best 36.1 percent. His evolution into a viable stretch 4, coupled with Mason Plumlee's consistency, carried Portland's frontcourt -- which is obviously the team's weakness compared to Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum in the backcourt.

Look for Portland's brass to target frontcourt upgrades in free agency this summer.

#23. Memphis Grizzlies

Frontcourt Trio: Matt Barnes, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol
Combined 2015-16 Win Shares: 10.6
Combined 2015-16 BPM: 0.6
Win Shares + BPM: 11.2

The 2015-16 season for the Memphis Grizzlies was absolutely ravaged by injuries. They suited up an astonishing 28 different players throughout the year. Randolph missed 14 games, while Gasol missed 30.

Offseason acquisition Matt Barnes was among the team's most durable guys -- playing 76 of 82 games -- but the injury troubles ultimately crushed Memphis' frontcourt standing.

#22. Toronto Raptors

Frontcourt Trio: DeMarre Carroll, Luis Scola, Jonas Valanciunas
Combined 2015-16 Win Shares: 11.4
Combined 2015-16 BPM: 0.1
Win Shares + BPM: 11.5

Luis Scola eventually fell out of favor during the 2016 postseason, but the veteran from Argentina started all 76 of the games he played for Toronto during the regular season. Jonas Valanciunas, on the other hand, didn't really blossom until the playoffs after another solid (but not spectacular) campaign. It's important to remember that Valanciunas is still just 23 years old, though.

Carroll, meanwhile, played just 26 games before undergoing knee surgery. His prolonged absence hurt Toronto in the frontcourt ranking.

#21. Brooklyn Nets

Frontcourt Trio: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Thaddeus Young, Brook Lopez
Combined 2015-16 Win Shares: 11.5
Combined 2015-16 BPM: 2.6
Win Shares + BPM: 14.1

It was a rather awkward process picking a starting small forward for the 2015-16 Brooklyn Nets. That spot was held down by veteran Joe Johnson for 57 games before he agreed to terms of a buyout, so we had to get a bit creative.

Since Rondae Hollis-Jefferson performed well in limited time before suffering a broken ankle that required surgery, he earned our nod as the first-round pick who could develop into a long-term piece for Brooklyn.

Otherwise, it was Thad Young and the underrated, quietly dependable Brook Lopez putting in work for a painfully mediocre franchise.

#20. Sacramento Kings

Frontcourt Trio: Rudy Gay, DeMarcus Cousins, Willie Cauley-Stein
Combined 2015-16 Win Shares: 13.3
Combined 2015-16 BPM: 3.2
Win Shares + BPM: 16.5

There's no doubting DeMarcus Cousins' immense talent on the basketball court. "Boogie" is a walking double-double, and he even expanded his repertoire to include the three-point shot in 2015-16. But the fact remains that Sacramento's mediocre 33-win total this season is the best a Cousins-led team has ever done.

Much like Kevin Love while he was in Minnesota, Cousins falls in line with the "good stats, bad team" narrative. To be fair, Cousins' supporting cast leaves something to be desired, but the big fella won't drag this frontcourt out of the bottom of these types of rankings until he can start winning more games.

#19. Chicago Bulls

Frontcourt Trio: Mike Dunleavy, Taj Gibson, Pau Gasol
Combined 2015-16 Win Shares: 13.4
Combined 2015-16 BPM: 3.5
Win Shares + BPM: 16.9

Gone are the days when Chicago's frontcourt included the likes of Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer (back when he was good) and Joakim Noah.

Longtime Bull Taj Gibson finally earned the right to start somewhat regularly under new head coach Fred Hoiberg. Tony Snell actually started more games at the 3 compared to Mike Dunleavy, but the latter started 30 of his 31 games played, while Snell lost his starting gig as the season wore on.

The older Gasol brother continues to play at an extremely high level, but his All-Star year (along with teammate Jimmy Butler) wasn't enough to get Chicago into the playoffs.

#18. Detroit Pistons

Frontcourt Trio: Marcus Morris, Tobias Harris, Andre Drummond
Combined 2015-16 Win Shares: 16.1
Combined 2015-16 BPM: 2.5
Win Shares + BPM: 18.6

Andre Drummond continues to garner praise for his elite rebounding abilities -- and rightly so -- but the 22-year-old big man remains a remarkably unpolished offensive player who could end his career as the worst free throw shooter in basketball history.

Marcus Morris and Tobias Harris both bring versatility and three-point shooting to the fold, so it will be interesting to see how this frontcourt trio develops team chemistry with more time spent together.

#17. Houston Rockets

Frontcourt Trio: Trevor Ariza, Clint Capela, Dwight Howard
Combined 2015-16 Win Shares: 16.4
Combined 2015-16 BPM: 2.6
Win Shares + BPM: 19

After charging to the Western Conference Finals a season ago due to a collective toughness, the Houston Rockets disappointed in 2015-16 amid team chemistry concerns. The power forward spot was a revolving door that included Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas and Clint Capela, but the latter started the most games of the three and played the most games overall out of that trio.

Capela didn't move the needle much on offense, but his -1.2 offensive box plus/minus was actually quite comparable to Dwight Howard's mark of -1.1. With the arrival of Mike D'Antoni in Houston, you can bet your bottom dollar D12 won't be back with the Rockets. This frontcourt should look much different next year.

#16. Milwaukee Bucks

Frontcourt Trio: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, Greg Monroe
Combined 2015-16 Win Shares: 18.2
Combined 2015-16 BPM: 1.5
Win Shares + BPM: 19.7

Milwaukee Bucks head coach Jason Kidd shifted Giannis Antetokounmpo to running the point toward the end of the season and saw great results. But while the "Greek Freak" may ultimately become the team's floor general, he spent 77 percent of his minutes at small forward last season, per Basketball Reference, so he's part of the frontcourt until further notice.

Greg Monroe started the year as a good fit with Milwaukee before sputtering down the stretch. Jabari Parker, meanwhile, experienced growing pains in his first full season following an ACL tear. There's a ton of upside here, but this group isn't quite there yet.

#15. Los Angeles Clippers

Frontcourt Trio: Paul Pierce, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan
Combined 2015-16 Win Shares: 16.2
Combined 2015-16 BPM: 3.9
Win Shares + BPM: 20.1

All-NBA First Team center DeAndre Jordan carried this unit into the top 15. His tremendous defensive impact outweighed lackluster offensive chops during a campaign that relied far to heavily on DJ and Chris Paul for wins.

Blake Griffin played just 35 games due to a barrage of injuries -- some brought on by his own poor decisions. Paul Pierce, meanwhile, was more washed up than a discarded sea shell -- averaging 6.1 points on 36.3 percent shooting.

Jordan is in his prime, but the Clips need to figure out the small forward position and keep Blake engaged if they're going to topple juggernauts in the Western Conference.

#14. New York Knicks

Frontcourt Trio: Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis, Robin Lopez
Combined 2015-16 Win Shares: 16.5
Combined 2015-16 BPM: 4.1
Win Shares + BPM: 20.6

Oh, hey, Knicks fans! No. 14, not too shabby!

Okay, so New York didn't have much to cheer about from a basketball standpoint other than the emergence of Kristaps Porzingis. The Knicks still only won 32 games, finishing 13th in the Eastern Conference, but the numbers suggest their frontcourt is actually above-average compared to the rest of the league.

Carmelo Anthony is on the wrong side of 30, but he can still be a go-to scorer. With the reliable Robin Lopez in the fold, it seems New York is a backcourt star away from reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2013. Can they find and lure him in free agency? Mike Conley, perhaps?

#13. Orlando Magic

Frontcourt Trio: Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic
Combined 2015-16 Win Shares: 16.3
Combined 2015-16 BPM: 4.3
Win Shares + BPM: 20.6

Along with the Bucks, the Orlando Magic boast some of the best young talent in the league. That didn't translate into many wins this season, but there's plenty to like about their youngsters.

Evan "Don't Google" Fournier (seriously, do not Google search his last name) experienced a roller coaster of a season. He averaged 17.8 points in November during a scorching-hot start before tumbling back down to earth by averaging 11.6 points in December. That mediocrity continued into January, though Fournier did finish strong, averaging 19.9 points, 3.7 assists and 3.4 rebounds in seven April games.

Aaron Gordon wowed in the Slam Dunk Contest, but he'll have to prove he's more than "just a dunker" in the coming years.

#12. Dallas Mavericks

Frontcourt Trio: Chandler Parsons, Dirk Nowitzki, Zaza Pachulia
Combined 2015-16 Win Shares: 17.1
Combined 2015-16 BPM: 4.2
Win Shares + BPM: 21.3

The Dallas Mavericks missed out on signing DeAndre Jordan when he reneged on his deal to join Mark Cuban's crew, but they found a pretty solid consolation prize in Zaza Pachulia. The veteran center notched 26 double-doubles throughout the season, which ranked tied for 23rd in the league with Brook Lopez and LaMarcus Aldridge.

Dirk Nowitzki, meanwhile, continued to play at a high level despite being 37 years old. Chandler Parsons missed time due to injury, but he was efficient as a scorer by knocking down 41.4 percent of his threes.

#11. Indiana Pacers

Frontcourt Trio: Paul George, Myles Turner, Ian Mahinmi
Combined 2015-16 Win Shares: 18.5
Combined 2015-16 BPM: 4.6
Win Shares + BPM: 23.1

Basketball remains a team sport, but Paul George was a one-man wrecking crew for Indiana. He finished the season with 9.2 win shares (three more than any of his teammates) and a BPM of 4.5 (next-closest was Ian Mahinmi at 2.4).

That shouldn't take away from contributions from Mahinmi -- who should see a big pay raise this summer as a free agent -- or Turner. Nevertheless, PG13 was the man once again.

#10. Charlotte Hornets

Frontcourt Trio: Nic Batum, Marvin Williams, Cody Zeller
Combined 2015-16 Win Shares: 19.1
Combined 2015-16 BPM: 5.7
Win Shares + BPM: 24.8

Though somewhat unassuming on paper, Charlotte's frontcourt managed to reach the top 10 despite the fact that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist played just seven games due to injury (and was thus excluded from these proceedings). The Hornets planned to play Batum at shooting guard, but he slid down to the 3 once Courtney Lee was acquired.

The length and versatility of Batum, coupled with arguably Marvin Williams' best season as a pro and the quietly effective Cody Zeller rounded out a truly underrated group.

#9. Boston Celtics

Frontcourt Trio: Jae Crowder, Amir Johnson, Jared Sullinger
Combined 2015-16 Win Shares: 18
Combined 2015-16 BPM: 6.9
Win Shares + BPM: 24.9

Were it not for C.J. McCollum, Jae Crowder probably would have received more recognition for the league's Most Improved Player award. The former second-round pick evolved into one of the game's most reliable two-way wing players during his first full season in Boston.

Amir Johnson's tremendous defensive acumen stilted up his 3.0 BPM. Jared Sullinger wasn't great offensively (shooting 43.5 percent), but his defense turned a corner and helped anchor a rock-solid group top to bottom.

#8. Denver Nuggets

Frontcourt Trio: Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried, Nikola Jokic
Combined 2015-16 Win Shares: 18.5
Combined 2015-16 BPM: 6.9
Win Shares + BPM: 25.4

The inexperience of Denver's backcourt ensured that the Nuggets were not going to compete for a playoff berth in 2016. Emmanuel Mudiay and Gary Harris simply aren't ready for the responsibility yet.

The frontcourt, however, included two steady veterans and the game's best rookie center behind Karl-Anthony Towns. Nikola Jokic became an analytics darling for his impact on the court, and members of the Nuggets organization couldn't be more complimentary of the youngster. He has a very bright future.

#7. Miami Heat

Frontcourt Trio: Luol Deng, Chris Bosh, Hassan Whiteside
Combined 2015-16 Win Shares: 23.1
Combined 2015-16 BPM: 6.5
Win Shares + BPM: 29.6

Chris Bosh's basketball future may be in jeopardy. The talented big man wanted to make a return to the court in the 2016 postseason, but the team didn't want to take any risks with the 11-time All-Star's health.

Bosh was limited to 53 games after playing 44 the season prior, but Miami's frontcourt was still good enough to fall comfortably within the top 10 of this ranking. Much of the credit should go to Hassan Whiteside. The shot-blocker extraordinaire led the league in swats at 3.7 per contest.

#6. Utah Jazz

Frontcourt Trio: Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert
Combined 2015-16 Win Shares: 22.4
Combined 2015-16 BPM: 8.9
Win Shares + BPM: 31.3

For anyone still sleeping on the Utah Jazz and their stellar frontcourt, it's past time to wake up.

Gordon Hayward continues to prove himself as an alpha dog and go-to offensive option. Derrick Favors remains one of the league's most underrated big men. And Rudy Gobert -- though he missed ample time with injury troubles -- should be a Defensive Player of the Year candidate for years to come.

#5. Golden State Warriors

Frontcourt Trio: Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, Andrew Bogut
Combined 2015-16 Win Shares: 21.4
Combined 2015-16 BPM: 10.1
Win Shares + BPM: 31.5

Harrison Barnes is unquestionably the weak link in Golden State's frontcourt. He's a solid role player, but it's fair to assume a team will overpay him in free agency this summer. His -0.2 BPM was by far the worst of the trio.

Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut used their immense defensive talents to compile BPMs of 5.8 and 4.5, respectively.

#4. Atlanta Hawks

Frontcourt Trio: Kent Bazemore, Paul Millsap, Al Horford
Combined 2015-16 Win Shares: 23.6
Combined 2015-16 BPM: 9.7
Win Shares + BPM: 33.3

The two-headed monster of Paul Millsap and Al Horford vaults Atlanta's frontcourt all the way up to No. 4 in our ranking. While neither player is an MVP-caliber contributor, they remain genuine stars anchoring the success of Mike Budenholzer's Hawks.

Kent Bazemore was certainly a step down from the departed DeMarre Carroll (now suiting up in Toronto), but Bazemore contributed enough to round out a top-five frontcourt.

#3. Oklahoma City Thunder

Frontcourt Trio: Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, Steven Adams
Combined 2015-16 Win Shares: 26.5
Combined 2015-16 BPM: 9.9
Win Shares + BPM: 36.4

OKC's frontcourt showed exactly how devastating it can be for opponents in the Western Conference Finals. The length, height and athletic ability of Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams frustrated the defending champion Warriors and eventually put them into a 3-1 series hole.

The Thunder were unable to close out the series as they resorted to hero-ball, but their ability to switch on screens and have guys like Ibaka and Adams hang tough with sharpshooters on the perimeter nearly led to a massive upset.

#2. San Antonio Spurs

Frontcourt Trio: Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Tim Duncan
Combined 2015-16 Win Shares: 29
Combined 2015-16 BPM: 14.2
Win Shares + BPM: 43.2

San Antonio upgraded its frontcourt in a big way during the offseason by winning the LaMarcus Aldridge sweepstakes. Behind two-time Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard, Aldridge was clearly the next-best player on the roster.

Of course, that does not mean fans should overlook the aging Tim Duncan. He wasn't very effective in the playoffs, but The Big Fundamental's DBPM of 4.97 was the best mark on the team by a wide margin, as well as the best mark in the league. TD remains an impactful defender even as he approaches his 40th birthday.

#1. Cleveland Cavaliers

Frontcourt Trio: LeBron James, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson
Combined 2015-16 Win Shares: 30.8
Combined 2015-16 BPM: 13.1
Win Shares + BPM: 43.9

Having a player as ludicrously gifted as LeBron James often acts as a trump card. The four-time MVP and two-time champion obviously continues to be one of the game's best players. His 13.6 win shares and 9.1 BPM are marvelous figures, but the Cavs' frontcourt wouldn't have landed at No. 1 without the exploits of the supporting cast.

K-Love is still a remarkably ineffective defender, but his offensive prowess and rebounding chops will continue to move the needle in a positive direction. Thompson's rebounding ability is just as valuable, and his defense adds a nice dynamic with Love. King James runs the show, but Love and Thompson ensure the No. 1 ranking.

Article: Courtesy Point After

NBA Basketball: "Ranking 2015-16 NBA Frontcourts From Worst to Best"