In lieu of the recent article, “NBA’s Top Five Centers”, it’s appropriate to continue the discussion by assessing the NBA’s top five power forwards. As explained in the former article, it can be tricky making such assessments, because many players play outside of their true positions due to team needs. For example, though Amare Stoudemire of the Phoenix Suns often plays center, his size and style of play more resembles that of a power forward. Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs, on the other hand, is listed as a forward, but plays more like a center. For these reasons, Stoudemire will be considered a power forward and Duncan a center for the purpose of the discussion. Keep in mind that other players might also fall into these gray areas.
The competition at power forward is great in the NBA, with many rising stars paving their own new paths. As opposed to the typical post forward in the 1980s and ’90s, many players who currently play the four position in the NBA prefer a face up game down near the basket.
Because of his versatility and dominance on the court, Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Garnett is the best power forward in the NBA. He has received criticism for not being able to consistently lead his team to the playoffs and for rarely being able to lead them deep into the playoffs, but that’s an unfair criticism. Garnett has generally played with horrific teams in his career. Yet, he’s made the most of it with stellar numbers year after year. In addition, he has the largest contract of any player. Listed at 6-11, Garnett is really closer to 7-1. He’s an excellent post player on the low block, but can handle the ball on the perimeter and is excellent at finding open teammates. In addition, he’s a top-flight rebounder and protects the paint well.
Second on the short list of NBA’s best power forwards is Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks. He led the Mavs to the NBA Championship series in 2006 and won the regular season MVP award in 2007. Not known for his versatility, he’s a terrific scorer from all areas on the court and has improved his passing ability and defense. He’s also a solid rebounder at 7-0, nearly averaging double digits each season. Though Nowitzki was most recently criticized for his poor performance in the 2007 NBA Playoffs, when the Mavs lost to the eight-seeded Golden State Warriors, he’s still one of the most dominant performers in the league.
Some might make an argument for why Phoenix Suns’ forward Amare Stoudemire should rank higher on this list. After all, he has shown exceptional scoring ability and dominates near the basket. Still, injuries have slowed his progress a bit during his career and he hasn’t shown the complete game that Kevin Garnett has. Stoudemire is a solid rebounder and an extreme athlete. He should only improve, as he’s still very young, and may be the league’s top power forward one day.
Carlos Boozer of the Utah Jazz has moved up the list of the NBA’s top power forwards after an outstanding season and (so far) an exceptional post season performance. Boozer’s rugged style of play is a perfect complement to the sharp-shooting Jazz center, Mehmet Okur. Though Boozer isn’t known for versatility, his on-court effectiveness is without question. A major scoring threat and exceptional rebounder, Boozer is the fourth best power forward in the NBA.
Here’s where it gets tricky. Stars like Jermaine O’Neal of the Indiana Pacers, Elton Brand of the Los Angeles Clippers and Pau Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies could certainly make a case. One year ago, Brand probably would have been on the list, but after a slight dip in numbers and missing the playoffs, he gets edged out by Toronto Raptors’ rising star Chris Bosh. Bosh is an excellent double-double man and is a versatile scorer. He does need to improve his passing and shot blocking, as well as gain playoff experience, but he has really shown that he belongs among the NBA’s elites.