NBA: Best Power Forwards All-Time and 2023
The power forward position is one that has evolved in a big way in recent years. Traditional power forwards are known for having their back towards the basket and playing around the rim But several of today's power forwards are able to stretch the floor and shoot long range shots at a consistent rate like that of most shooting guards and point guards. This revolution, which was pioneered by guys like Kevin Garnett and former Clippers star Blake Griffin, is a part of a larger shift to position-less basketball in the NBA.
With that being said, traditional power forwards dominate the list of the greatest power forwards in NBA history- largely in part due to their tremendous rebounding abilities, willingness to defend, and overall impact on the game itself.
Greatest Power Forwards in NBA History
1. Tim Duncan
Notable Accolades: 5x NBA Champion, 3x NBA Finals MVP, 2x NBA MVP, 15x NBA All-Star, 10x All-NBA First Team, 8x NBA All-Defensive First Team
Tim Duncan, also known as the Big Fundamental, was a cornerstone of a San Antonio Spurs team that won 5 championships during his career. While he was never the flashiest or most athletic player on the floor, he was by far the most consistent and unselfish all around big man that the game has ever seen, earning him No.1 on this list.
2. Karl Malone
Notable Accolades: 2x NBA MVP, 14x NBA All-Star, 11x All-NBA First Team, 3x All-Defensive First Team
Karl Malone was a dominant big man on both ends of the floor, but his ability to use his body to his advantage on defense is what separated him from the rest. He is known as one of the greatest players to never win a championship, having lost twice to Michael Jordan and the Bulls as a member of the Utah Jazz. He was one of the most consistent scorers of his era ranking third all time in points scored.
3. Kevin Garnett
Notable Accolades: 1x NBA Champion, 1x NBA MVP, 15x NBA All-Star, 4x All-NBA First Team, 1x NBA Defensive Player of the Year, 9x NBA All-Defensive First Team, 4x NBA Rebounding Champion
Kevin Garnett laid the foundation for the modern power forward by showing that he could do just about everything- he ranks in the top 20 all-time in career points, rebounds, blocks, steals, and career assist percentage. He put the Minnesota Timberwolves on the map as their first star since being founded in 1989. He would move to the Celtics and would win a championship with Boston before finishing out his career with the Brooklyn Nets.
4. Dirk Nowitzki
Notable Accolades: 1x NBA Champion, 1x NBA Finals MVP, 1x NBA MVP, 4x All-NBA First Team, NBA Three-Point Contest Champion
Dirk Nowitzki is widely regarded as the greatest international player to ever play in the NBA- and he has the numbers to back him up. Like Garnett, Nowitzki helped lay the foundation for today's big men by extending his range to be a deadly three-point shooter, including shooting 46% from three during the Mavericks' unlikely run to the 2011 NBA Title.
5. Giannis Antetokounmpo
Notable Accolades: 1x NBA Champion, 1x NBA Finals MVP, 2x NBA MVP, 6x NBA All-Star, 3x All-NBA First Team, 1x NBA Defensive Player of the Year, 3x NBA All-Defensive First Team
The Greek Freak is still a legend in the making, leaving no question that he very well could (and should) end up higher on this list when all is said and done. With such a strong, long frame, Giannis' dominance on the offensive end is paired with remarkable defensive instincts, making him one of the best two-way players in the NBA today. His versatility means he can sub in anywhere from center to small forward, even though he is listed as a power forward.
6. Charles Barkley
Notable Accolades: 1x NBA MVP, 11x NBA All-Star, 5x All-NBA First Team, NBA Rebounding Leader
Charles Barkley is one of the most analytically efficient players in NBA history- from the 1985-86 season through the 1996-97 season, the Round Mound of Rebound averaged 23.9 points, 12.0 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.7 steals, and 0.9 blocks, all with a 61.9 true shooting percentage.
7. Kevin McHale
Notable Accolades: 3x NBA Champion, 7x NBA All-Star, 3x NBA All-Defensive First Team, 2x NBA Sixth Man of the Year
Kevin McHale is known for being one of the more unselfish players the league has ever seen, as the former No. 3 overall pick accepted his role off the bench on a dominate Celtics team and ended up being a critical piece of their dominance in the 1980s, winning two Sixth Man of the Year awards in the process.
8. Bob Pettit
Notable Accolades: 1x NBA Champion, 2X NBA MVP, 11x NBA All-Star, 4x NBA All-Star Game MVP, 10x All-NBA First Team, 2x NBA Scoring Champion
Bob Pettit was the league's premiere big man for a period of time, being named the first ever NBA MVP and leading the league in player efficiency for four straight seasons. Over his 11-year career, Pettit averaged an incredible 26.4 points and 16.2 rebounds per game. He helped the St.Louis Hawks win their first and only NBA championship, and played a pivotal role in the now Atlanta Hawks success in the late 1950’s.
9. Elvin Hayes
Notable Accolades: 1x NBA Champion, 12x NBA All-Star, 3x All-NBA First Team, NBA Scoring Champion, 2x NBA Rebounding Champion
Elvin Hayes' career was extremely productive, but he is often more recognized for his off-the-court issues, including run-ins with coaches, teammates, and the media. Over the course of his career, he averaged 21.0 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks per game.
10. Dennis Rodman
Notable Accolades: 5x NBA Champion, 2x NBA All-Star, 2x NBA Defensive Player of the Year, 7x NBA All-Defensive First Team, 7x NBA Rebounding Champion
Dennis Rodman is arguably the greatest rebounder the game has ever seen, leading the league in rebounding a remarkable seven times over the course of his career. Like Hayes, Rodman's career is highlighted by several off-the-court incidents, but no one could deny his ability and willingness to do his job and be a key part of several NBA championship teams like the “Bad Boy” Detroit Pistons. He would also be a key part of the Chicago Bulls dynasty before bouncing around to teams like the Dallas Mavericks and an ill fated try out with the Denver Nuggets.
Best Power Forwards of the 2022-23 NBA Season
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
2021-22 Stats: 29.9PTS, 11.6REB, 5.8AST, 1.1STL, 1.4BLK
Giannis Antetokounmpo continued to dominate the league this season, putting together another MVP-caliber season and leading the Bucks to the No. 3 seed in the playoffs, with a legitimate chance to make some noise coming out of the Eastern Conference.
2. Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers
2021-22 Stats: 23.2PTS, 9.8REB, 3.0AST, 1.2STL, 2.2BLK
Anthony Davis was never able to consistently stay healthy this season, but when he did, he put up efficient numbers. Playing over half the season without their star Power Forward, the Lakers failed to make the playoffs two seasons removed from their 2020 NBA Championship, and a large part of that is due to Davis' absence.
3. Domantas Sabonis, Indiana Pacers/Sacramento Kings
2021-22 Stats: 18.9PTS, 12.1REB, 5.0 AST
Domantas Sabonis had another very productive year both for the Pacers and the Kings, and the Kings will now look to add pieces around him as they build for the future.
4. Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
2021-22 Stats: 7.5PTS, 7.3REB, 7.0AST, 1.3STL, 1.1BLK
Draymond Green is one of the most consistent players in the league, but what he does for the Warriors doesn't always show up in the stat sheet. His ability to facilitate the offense and create shots for his teammates is among the best in the NBA, making him a tremendous reason for Golden State's success when he is on the floor. He played a pivotal role in the NBA finals locking down Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.
5. Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors
2021-22 Stats: 22.8PTS, 8.5REB, 5.3AST, 1.2STL
Pascal Siakam continues to grow each year, and this one was no different. 'Spicy P' averaged the most rebounds and assists that he has his entire career, and led a young Raptors team to the No. 5 seed in a tight Eastern Conference.
6. Jaren Jackson Jr. Memphis Grizzlies
2021-22 Stats: 16.3 PTS, 5.8 REB, 1.1 AST, 2.3 BLK
Triple J has become not only the Grizzlies #2 scoring option but one of the best defensive forwards in the leagues. In 2021, he led the NBA in blocks per game with a jaw-dropping 2.3 blocks. Jackson’s defensive improvement was one of the many reasons why the Grizzlies had the NBA’s second best record and he will look to parlay that into a championship in 2022.
7. Evan Mobley Cleveland Cavaliers
2021-2022 Stats: 15 PTS, 8.3 REB, 2.5 AST, 1.7 BLK
When Lebron James came back to the Cavs from the Miami Heat, it was an incredible moment for the franchise. When he left for greener pastures in LA, Cavs fans would only have to wait three years for the next big moment when they drafted Mobley third overall. With veteran help from Kevin Love, Mobley flourished last season and was one of the NBA’s premier rookies after taking the starting spot from Lauri Markkanen.
8. Zion Williamson New Orleans Pelicans
2021-2022 Stats: N/A
It was a rough year for the former first overall pick as a foot injury kept him off the court for the entire season. However, there is much optimism over the young PF especially with the new 200+ million dollar contract he signed in the offseason.
9. Julius Randle New York Knicks
2021-2022 Stats: 20.1 PTS, 9.9 REB, 5.1 AST
Randle can do it all and has improved in so many ways since his humble beginnings with the Lakers. His highlight reel dunks in Madison Square Garden are reminiscent of Charles Oakley and he is the new star of the struggling franchise. It’ll only be a matter of time before he goes on a deep playoff run
10. Aaron Gordon Denver Nuggets
2021-2022 Stats: 15 PTS, 5.9 REB, 2,5 AST
The former Orlando Magic star made waves when he was traded to the Nuggets. He’s not the best player on the team but his play will be pivotal next to two-time MVP Nikola Jokic. He can stretch the floor and will be good whether he’s in the line up or on the bench.