Top 10 NBA Power Forwards of All Time

05/14/2019

As promised, this week we will bringing you our top 10 players for each position. Yesterday, we gave you our top 10 centers and today we give you our top 10 power forwards. Where do Karl Malone, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki stand in the top 10? Which current NBA players make the list? How is defensive contribution accounted for?

We have some answers but we disagreed on some so we made two separate list. 

Ryan's rankings, which are based on how players from the older generations would perform in the NBA today, are in Red

Victor's rankings, which ignore everything before the NBA-ABA merger of 1976 are in Blue.


10. Dennis Rodman

Rodman is an eerily similar player to Ben Wallace: an all-world defender (2 DPOY awards, 8 All-Defense selections), incredible rebounder (Rodman is considered by many to be the greatest rebounder ever, despite standing at only 6'7''), and a horrifically bad offensive player. While he could not score to save his life, The Worm's unbelievable defense made him the third-most important player in the Chicago Bulls dynasty during the 90's. 


9. Bob Pettit

Much like Chamberlain and Russell in the all-time center rankings, the weak era (1955-1965) in which Pettit played hurts his standing. That being said, the man averaged a terrific 26.4 PPG and 16.2 RPG during his time with the St. Louis Hawks (previously the Milwaukee Hawks.) He was also a 2-time MVP, 11-time All-NBA choice, and 1-time NBA champion.


8. Elvin Hayes

The Big E is not the most famous of power forwards, but his quiet production throughout the 70's and 80's cannot be ignored. He won an NBA championship as a member of the Washington Bullets and was remarkably the NBA's scoring champion during his ROOKIE SEASON, averaging 28.4 PPG that year. Hayes was just a rock-solid big man that went out and got 20 points and 10 rebounds on a nightly basis.


7. Anthony Davis

Unlike the rest of this list, Davis is still playing in the league today - and he is just now entering his prime. His lack of playoff success is more because of his team's overall lack of talent than it is an indictment on AD. With career averages of 23.7 PPG, 10.5 RPG, and 2.4 BPG (with those averages likely to improve), Davis has the numbers to make him an easy choice for this list. The Unibrow is likely to get a Defensive Player of the Year award at some point in his career as well, and he already has 3 All-Defensive selections in only 7 years.


6. Kevin McHale

McHale does not have the biggest numbers, but that was more of a product of the fantastic Boston Celtics teams on which he played. He proved his willingness to sacrifice for the benefit for his team by taking a role off the bench, leading to two 6th Man of the Year awards. A 3-time NBA champion and 6-time All-Defense selection, McHale also had some of the most polished post moves ever seen.


5. Charles Barkley

The Round Mound of Rebound was undersized for his position, but that did not stop him from becoming one of the better rebounders in the league, and probably the best ever at his size. He was also a dominant scorer and willing passer, culminating with an MVP season in 1992. Barkley would be a good fit for today's NBA, with his ability to play a small- ball center and shoot from the outside.


4. Karl Malone

The second-leading scorer in NBA history is not being slighted by his placement on this list; it's more of a commendation of the players that are ahead of him. The Mailman put up monstrous numbers throughout his career with the Utah Jazz, averaging 25.4 PPG, 10.1 RPG, and 3.6 APG with the team. He's also a winner of 2 MVP awards, although an argument could be made that Michael Jordan should have won in those years. He was also a solid defender, earning All-Defense honors 4 times in his career. His inability to lead his team to a championship is ultimately what makes him fall to number 4.


3. Dirk Nowitzki

The sweetest shooting big man in NBA history, Dirk is one of only 8 players to join the 50-40-90 club (referring to field goal percentage, 3-point percentage, and free throw percentage), and he joined Steve Nash as the only player to win an MVP award the same year he joined the club. What separates Nowitzki from Karl Malone, who is number 4 on my list, is a championship. While winning championships isn't the only barometer for success in the NBA, Nowitzki put his team on his back and dragged them to a surprising championship victory over LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and the Miami Heat.


2. Kevin Garnett

No player has ever played with more passion and stronger leadership than Garnett. The Big Ticket has a deep love for the game, and it showed whenever he out-hustled the opposing team to snatch a loose ball or grab an offensive rebound. Garnett is one of the best and most versatile defenders in NBA history, boasting 12 All-Defensive team selections and 1 Defensive Player of the Year award. He also leads the Timberwolves in just about every career category: games, minutes, free throws, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, and points.


1. Tim Duncan

The Big Fundamental has everything you could hope for in a top-10 all-time player: 5 NBA championships (3 NBA Finals MVPs), 2 regular season MVP awards, 15 All-Defensive team nominations, and 15 All-NBA selections. Duncan was simply built to win, and he was the foundation of one of the most successful and unprecedented runs for any sports team ever. Duncan isn't the most exciting power forward of all-time, but he's certainly the greatest.


10. Pau Gasol

Kicking off the top 10 is two-time champion, Pau Gasol. Pau didn't offer much defensively but offensively he helped kick off a wave of the now popular stretch 4s. Some may disagree with Pau's inclusion on this list but I give him the nod because of his longevity. Gasol averaged 17 points a game in 14 of his first 15 seasons.


9. Dennis Rodman

Number nine for me is one of the greatest championship "glue" guys the NBA has ever seen. Whether it was through his defensive dominance that saw him win defensive player of the year on two occasions or his dominance on the glass that saw him lead the NBA in rebounds on 7 different occasions topped off by the 92 season where he averaged 19 rebounds a game. Rodman finished his career with 5 championships, two with Detroit and three with Chicago. Whatever his faults may be off the court, Rodman found a way to play winning basketball over his entire career. Would have been higher if not for the fact that Rodman offered little offensively but it could be argued that his offensive rebounding offered a different offensive output.


8. Chris Webber

Arguably the most underrated player in NBA history. Webber is currently struggling to enter the hall of fame despite a career that saw him make the all-NBA teams on five occasions along nine straight seasons of at least 20 points a game. At his peak, Webber was the leader of many dominant Sacramento teams including a season where he put up 27 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists a game. Chris Webber was Kevin Garnett before it was cool to run your offense through your power forward.


7. Anthony Davis

Yes. Anthony Davis is already a top 10 player in his position just 7 years into his career. Few power forwards have ever been this dominant on both sides of the ball. A 7 foot player who shoots over 30% from 3, 80% from the line, and 50% from the field, is how you get averages of 28 points, 11 rebounds to go along with elite defensive contribution. If Anthony Davis gets his trade to LA or somehow turns a partnership with Zion Williamson into championships, he will go down as arguably the best power forward of all time.


6. Kevin McHale

McHale is in the rare class of Manu Ginobli. Someone who gave up a lucrative career as a starter to take on a sixth man role for a championship team. McHale would eventually become a starter but by that point he already had 3 rings and 2 Sixth Man of the Year trophies to his name. McHale was also an elite defender and a vital part to the dominant Celtic teams of the 80s.


5. Charles Barkley

Present day Charles Barkley is one of the most contradictory analysts in the NBA, interestingly enough NBA star Charles Barkley was just as contradictory although in a different light, Barkley was notorious for his bad weight management but yet he was still arguably the most physically dominant player of his era outside of Michael Jordan. 11 all-NBA teams and 1 Regular season MVP, Barkley would have been higher on the list if had he won a championship but settling for career averages of 22 points and 12 rebounds over 16 seasons is a really nice consolation.


4. Kevin Garnett

The next four stars were hard to separate but Garnett takes the back seat. Garnett, the 2004 NBA MVP was the leader of a generation that saw teams run their offense through the power forward position. That 2004 MVP season saw Garnett put up 24 points, 14 rebounds, and 5 assists a game on the offensive side of the ball while also been named to the all-defensive first team. Garnett took his dominance up one more notch with a Defensive Player of the Year trophy in 2008 and an NBA Championship to go along with it. Choosing between Garnett and the top three was a difficult choice and I reserve my right to change the order based on my feelings on the particular day.


3. Dirk Nowitzki

I'll start with the obvious, Dirk didn't do too much defending but his finals performance in the 2011 NBA Finals makes up for all of that. Dirk took down a Miami Heat super team with 26 points and 10 rebounds a game. Dirk's teams also won 60 games on three different occasion, topped up by the 2007 season that saw him lead the Mavs to 67 wins. The Mavs were dominant for the better part of a decade and Dirk was at the helm of this. Not to mention Dirk's shooting prowess despite his size paved the way for stars like Anthony Davis and Kevin Durant in the years to follow.


2. Karl Malone

Yes, Malone never won a ring but if we go by the NBA-ABA merger of 76, Karl Malone is the NBA's leading scorer of all time. What am I supposed to do about the two regular season MVPs, 8 seasons of at least 27 points a game, 4 seasons of at least 28 points a game, 31 points and 11 rebounds over an entire season and career averages of 25 points and 10 rebounds? Malone was a stat monster and oh by the way, he adds 4 all-NBA defense nominations to his resume. Even with one ring, I would have considered placing Malone over Duncan but unfortunately he never won one.


1. Tim Duncan

2 regular season MVPS, 3 NBA Final MVPs and 5 rings. Tim Duncan, not Kobe Bryant was the best player of his era. Duncan was just simply unguardable because of the intelligence he brought to the court every night. Duncan's numbers don't jump out especially in comparison to the likes of Garnett and Malone but the 5 rings, 15 All-NBA Teams, 15 All-NBA Defense and 71% career win percentage tell a story of their own.


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