We continue our positional power rankings in the NBA with the top ten power forwards:
10. Kenneth Faried – Denver Nuggets
At 6′ 8″, Faried has the build of a small forward, but he is considered one of the fiercest power forwards in the game due to his physicality and tenacity on defense. “Manimal” posted nearly a double-double in his second NBA season with 11.5 points per game and 9.2 rebounds per game. He registered one steal and one block per game as well and provides the Nuggets with an energy that arguably no one in the NBA can measure up to. Improvements on his shooting touch from the field and at the line will turn Faried into one of the most well rounded players at the position.
9. David West – Indiana Pacers
The 33-year-old West has always been a respected big man in the game, but since his move from New Orleans to Indiana two seasons ago, he has established himself as one of the smartest and most difficult to defend power forwards the game offers. With career averages of 16.1 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 1.0 steals and 0.9 blocks, West isn’t regarded as one of the best stat producers at the position. But make no mistake — he is a team player who puts defense first and has the awareness on both ends of the court that significantly elevates the play of his teammates around him. The most important things West does on the court do not show up on the stat sheet.
8. Josh Smith – Detroit Pistons
The nine-year veteran is changing teams for the first time in his career after spending the past decade with the Atlanta Hawks. Smith is still only 27, having been drafted out of high school, and it’s crazy to think he could still continue developing parts of his game. Perhaps his biggest adjustment will be his maturity. Never has anyone questioned his talent, but he is difficult to coach and makes bad decisions on the court at times, showing a lack of focus. He is durable, missing more than ten games in a season just once, and he is perhaps the most tenacious defender in the game. His career average of 2.1 blocks and 1.3 steals are what make Smith one of the most coveted forwards in the game, but finding his place in the offense has always been interesting to watch. If Smith eliminates the long-range shot from his game (a career .283 shooter from downtown), he might find that his scoring numbers would go up significantly due to a new-found efficiency. More importantly, his team’s offense would benefit greatly from him sticking around the rim.
7. Kevin Love – Minnesota Timberwolves
The 25-year-old Kevin Love hasn’t officially been slapped with the “injury-prone” label, yet, but he needs to play the entire season this year if he’s going to avoid it. Love is one of the best shooting big men in the game and the best rebounder in the game, with a career average of 12.2 RPG and a career .352 shooter from downtown. Outside of staying healthy, which will be a tough battle for Love, he could improve his game by working on his defense. He has the potential to become the best power forward in the game, but right now he has a couple big question marks holding him out of even cracking the top five.
6. Chris Bosh – Miami Heat
Bosh plays third fiddle in Miami with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade taking the spotlight, but he has proved in his time there that he is more than just a scorer. When he played for a bad Toronto Raptors team to begin his career, Bosh averaged anywhere from 22-24 points a game. Last season with Miami, he averaged 16.6 PPG and a career low 6.8 RPG. However, last season was arguably his finest of his career. He shot a career high .535 from the field and expanded his game to the perimeter, which allowed James and Wade to tear up the paint. He has become a more complete player playing in Miami, and should he ever find himself playing without James and Wade, the 29-year-old will likely get back to his stat-dominating days he had with Toronto while having become better on both ends of the court.
5. Serge Ibaka – Oklahoma City Thunder
Serge Ibaka is the games modern day Dikembe Mutombo, in that he is notorious for his shot-blocking prowess. The last three seasons Ibaka has averaged 2.4, 3.7 and 3.0 blocks per game, leading the league for three straight seasons. Last season, Ibaka became more than just a shot blocker when he improved his offensive game, he tallied 13.2 PPG with a career high .573 FG% and .351 3PT%. He is only 24 and has no weak spots in his game; if he continues to become a more versatile option on offense, Ibaka could easily jump up on this list while helping the Thunder to a title.
4. LaMarcus Aldridge – Portland Trail Blazers
LaMarcus Aldridge is your prototypical NBA power forward. At 6′ 11″ and 240 pounds, wielding an offensive skill set that leaves little to be desired, he has all the tools necessary to dominate in the NBA. What distances him from becoming mentioned in the same light as someone like Tim Duncan is that he is at best an average defender. His career average of 1.0 BPG isn’t terrible, but at nearly seven feet, you’re bound to get the occasional block. At 28, he isn’t likely to suddenly improve drastically in one specific area of his game. But very few big men are as durable and efficient on the offensive end as Aldridge. Additionally, for two straight seasons Aldridge has shot over 80 percent from the free throw line. Not many big men in the game can say that.
3. Blake Griffin – Los Angeles Clippers
Blake Griffin’s career started with a gruesome injury that resulted in a broken kneecap. The injury kept him from competing in a single game in his first year in the NBA. Since then, he has missed just two games in three seasons. With concerns about his knee no longer an issue, Griffin can strictly be evaluated by what he does on the court. What he does on the court is a lot of dunking, and a lot of rebounding. Career averages of 20.4 PPG and 10.4 RPG are great, but he is below average on defense and only picks up a block about every other game or so. But there’s hope. He is only 24 and has shown he is capable of improving weaknesses in his game. In 2012, he finished the season with a .521 free throw percentage. Last year, he shot a career high .660 — an impressive improvement. Playing on the playoff-bound Clippers, Griffin’s minutes have been reduced significantly over the past three seasons to ensure he is healthy when it matters most. Lastly, Griffin led all NBA power forwards last season with a 14.1 estimated wins added over a replacement player.
2. Dirk Nowitzki – Dallas Mavericks
The 35-year-old German revolutionized the power forward position. At seven feet tall, Nowitzki has what might be the sweetest jumpshot in the game — at any position. His style of play, which produced superstar-level numbers, was always questioned for whether or not it would translate into winning an NBA title. In 2011, Nowitzki carried the Mavs on his back to beat the Miami Heat in the finals. He is on a fast decline, especially after missing 29 games last season, but there are still very few players in the game you would want playing on your side in a Game 7. It might be a long time before we see another player like Nowitzki, so enjoy watching him while you can.
1. Tim Duncan – San Antonio Spurs
With so many young big men emerging in the game, it’s incredible that Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan continue to hold on to the top honors. The 37-year-old Tim Duncan had a tremendous season last year after two years of decline (17.8 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 2.7 BPG and a career high .817 FT%). No one expects him to continue visiting the fountain of youth, but when the Spurs inevitably reach the playoffs, there is no big man they’d rather have pounding down low than Duncan. He will go down as one of the greatest power forwards the game has ever seen — and he has four rings to back that up.