Given the lack of spacing in Memphis, it sometimes seems like a miracle the Grizzlies ever manage to put the ball in the basket. Gasol is one of the biggest reasons they do. He's excellent at running the pick-and-roll with point guard Mike Conley, as his screens create ample space and he's equally skilled knocking down a midrange jumper or catching the ball on the move. If he does get the ball at the free-throw line, he'll read the defense in an instant, find the right pass, and jog back on defense secure in the knowledge that he pocketed another assist. And if a defense does isolate Gasol, he's fantastic one-on-one and looking to score. There's not a more well-rounded center in the NBA.
LaMarcus Aldridge, PF, San Antonio Spurs
Some question Aldridge's impact on offense. How valuable can a big man who takes a bunch of long two-pointers from the same spot really be? Any such doubts should have been squashed by the Spurs' fevered interest in Aldridge during free agency. He drills shots that would be inefficient for the rest of the league, and he's a skilled passer, too. Portland's offense was designed to use him mostly on the left side. With San Antonio, he'll be encouraged to be in the right place at the right time every time. With Gregg Popovich as an ally, we could see a side of Aldridge we didn't know existed.
Anthony Davis, PF, New Orleans Pelicans
Remember three years ago, when Davis still had some work to do on his handle and needed to add bulk to outmuscle defenders? Or how about a couple of seasons ago, when he wasn't particularly accurate from midrange? Yeah, that's all way in the past. Davis has become one of the best pick-and-pop threats in the league headed into his fourth season, and he finds seams in defenses when he moves without the ball as if he were a shooting guard navigating a maze of screens. His arms go forever; no lob is out of reach when he rolls to the rim. He can beat you off the dribble. All he needs is a 3-point shot to become the pefect offensive player -- and he's working on that as you read this. Don't be surprised if he's the MVP at the end of 2015-16.
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DeMarcus Cousins, C, Sacramento Kings
Cousins is the most consisently effective low-post threat since Shaquille O'Neal. Defenses have to commit to a hard double-team of Cousins in a way that's almost unheard of in a league that now emphasizes zone-based schemes. If you do try to defend Cousins one-on-one, he has every move in the book at his disposal to get to the rim. Or, if he'd prefer, he can simply bulldoze his way through you. Meanwhile, he's become an effective passer, and he's one of the best ball-handling bigs in the league. And he's only 25 years old. Things are about to get scary for the rest of the NBA.
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Blake Griffin, PF, Los Angeles Clippers
Forget individual defenders -- most teams can't guard Griffin. Instead, they hope he'll let them off the hook by settling for an open midrange jumper instead of making his way to the rim. The problem? That jumper is probably going in. Outside of that, the options for stopping Griffin are scarce. He's very large, very strong, very fast and very smart, and he's streamlined his game to make the most of each of those attributes. His vision is unfair, and his handle will blow your mind. Just ask the teams who had to deal with him running point when Chris Paul rested last season. A player his size usually has at least one area in which he's less skilled than others, but Griffin's not your usual basketball star. He's a 26-year-old Transformer and living proof that life isn't fair.