20 greatest power forwards ever: The HoopsHype list

20 greatest power forwards ever: The HoopsHype list

Ranking

20 greatest power forwards ever: The HoopsHype list

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We have taken our HoopsHype 75 list and split it into five positions: point guardsshooting guards, small forwards, power forwards and centers. Through these rankings, so you can see who nearly made the cut for our Top 75 list.

Today, we keep it going with who we consider being the best power forwards who ever played basketball, led off by the legendary Tim Duncan.

Let’s get into it.

1
Tim Duncan

Top accolades: Five NBA titles, three Finals MVPs, two MVPs, 10 All-NBA 1st Team selections, eight All-Defensive 1st Team selections

NBA rank: 5th in blocks, 6th in rebounds, 15th in scoring, 102nd in assists, 162nd in steals

The rare low-maintenance superstar, Tim Duncan was impactful and successful team-wise from the get-go through the end of his career. Duncan anchored the winningest team of the century and did so in a low-key manner, without enough acclaim for his greatness or accomplishments. Don’t believe us? How about the fact that he never won Defensive Player of the Year despite making eight 1st Team All-Defenses, making that slight a major travesty, one that shows how underrated he was even in his prime. There’s even a chance Duncan would be ranked higher in many GOAT lists with a more entertaining off-court persona, but either way, he’s the greatest power forward ever.

2
Karl Malone

Karl Malone

Top accolades: Two MVPs, 11 All-NBA 1st Team selections, 14 All-Stars, three All-Defensive 1st Team selections

NBA rank: 2nd in scoring, 7th in rebounds, 11th in steals, 58th in assists, 69th in blocks

A model of consistency through the years, Karl Malone had a 17-year stretch, just discounting his first and last seasons, where he averaged at least 20 points per game. In that span, he put up 26.0 points and 10.3 rebounds, numbers that most players would love to average for one season, let alone 17. Malone did have some shortcomings in the playoffs, however, at least compared to fellow megastars, and that put him a little lower on the totem pole than he could have been with a ring or two on his resume.

3
Kevin Garnett

Top accolades: One NBA title, one MVP, nine All-NBA Teams, 15 All-Stars, one Defensive Player of the Year award, nine All-Defensive 1st Team selections

NBA rank: 9th in rebounds, 18th in scoring, blocks and steals, 52nd in assists

One of the first unicorns in the NBA, Kevin Garnett had the size of the center and all-around skills of a guard, even bringing the ball down before big men were really allowed to do that. Garnett took a run-of-the-mill Wolves teams to the playoffs consistently while scoring, rebounding, distributing and defending at an elite level. One could even argue Garnett sacrificed offensive numbers to put all-out effort on defense. Fun fact (except if you’re a Wolves fan): Minnesota made the playoffs in eight of 14 Garnett seasons and only once in the 18 years without him. That’s the kind of impact he had. His championship ring with the Celtics came late, but it was beyond deserved.

4
Dirk Nowitzki 🇩🇪

Top accolades: One NBA title, one Finals MVP, one MVP, 12 All-NBA selections, 14 All-Stars

NBA rank: No. 6 in scoring, No. 26 in rebounds, No. 52 in blocks, No. 89 in steals, No. 150 in assists

Dirk Nowitzki was another revolutionary player thanks to his three-point and off-the-dribble prowess in a 7-foot-tall body. Nowitzki’s elite skill level made the common thinking go from being that big men need to stay in the paint to: If your big men don’t space the floor, you’re at a disadvantage. Nowitzki made a contender, and eventually a champion, out of the Mavericks without star sidekicks for the most part of his career, hoisting the trophy in 2011 and winning Finals MVP for his efforts.

5
Giannis Antetokounmpo 🇬🇷

2020-21 nba finals giannis record setting performance why the bucks won the championship

Top accolades: One NBA title, one Finals MVP, two MVPs, three All-NBA 1st Team selections, five All-Stars, one Defensive Player of the Year award, three All-Defensive 1st Team selections

NBA rank: No. 150 in blocks, No. 217 in rebounds, No. 232 in scoring

A rags to riches story if there ever was one, Giannis Antetokounmpo went from playing in a semi-professional league to being a 15th-overall pick in the draft to winning multiple league MVP awards and a ring before turning 27. Antetokounmpo is a player who will likely finish far higher on this list if we re-do the exercise in a decade. The Greek forward boasts freakish length and athleticism plus massive work ethic and motor, which help him absolutely dominate despite lacking an outside jumper.

6
Charles Barkley

Charles Barkley, Phoenix Suns

Top accolades: One MVP, 11 All-NBA selections, 11 All-Stars

NBA rank: No. 19 in rebounds, No. 26 in steals, No. 27 in scoring, No. 103 in assists, No. 126th in blocks

The Round Mound of Rebound, Charles Barkley was extremely unique not just for his outspoken personality but for his dominance down low despite being generously listed at 6-foot-6. He was a beast on the glass and as a scorer thanks to his absurd strength and explosiveness in his prime. Barkley never got the ever-elusive ring, but he’s still one of the all-time greats at power forward.

7
Bob Pettit

Bob Pettit

Top accolades: One NBA title, two MVPs, 10 All-NBA 1st Team selections, 11 All-Stars

NBA rank: 18th in rebounds, 40th in scoring

The first player to reach 20,000 career points, Bob Pettit was a smooth power forward, especially for his era, who would do a ton of damage in transition and as a mid-range scorer. He won Finals MVP in 1958 after exploding for 50 points and 25 rebounds in the deciding game.

8
Elvin Hayes

Elvin Hayes

Top accolades: One NBA title, six All-NBA selections, 12 All-Stars, two All-Defensive 2nd Team selections

NBA rank: 4th in rebounds, 11th in scoring, 24th in blocks

An old-fashioned big man who was really strong and aggressive, especially on defense. Elvin Hayes also had a masterful post game with a trademark turnaround jumper that he’d go to when he was defended by taller players. Hayes was called the Bionic Man because he was relentless, rarely missing a game until he was 38.

9
Anthony Davis

Anthony Davis, LA Lakers

Top accolades: One NBA title, four All-NBA 1st Team selections, eight All-Stars, four All-Defensive selections

NBA rank: 46th in blocks, 182nd in scoring, 185th in rebounds

A player who could move up this list in a major way as his career progresses, Anthony Davis already has Hall-of-Fame credentials despite having a lot of his prime still to go. Davis is extremely skilled for his size, able to shoot and dribble, as well as being ridiculously mobile, which, coupled with his otherworldly length, make him an elite defender.

10
Kevin McHale

Kevin McHale

Top accolades: Three NBA titles, one All-NBA 1st Team selection, seven All-Stars, six All-Defensive selections, two Sixth Man of the Year awards

NBA rank: 29th in blocks, 90th in scoring, 105th in rebounds

Celtics legend Kevin McHale was known for putting opponents in something called the torture chamber, which basically meant when McHale would post up, it was torture for foes to defend due to his sharp elbows, long arms and ridiculous array of moves in the paint. Few historically can match McHale’s mix of post-up moves, including up-and-unders, step-throughs and drop-steps galore.

11
Pau Gasol 🇪🇸

Top accolades: Two NBA titles, four All-NBA selections, six All-Stars

NBA rank: 21st in blocks, 28th in rebounds, 39th in scoring, 124th in assists

One of the greatest international NBA players of all time, Pau Gasol was a menace in his heyday, a supremely skilled big man who could shoot, dribble a bit, pass and create for teammates, and use his long limbs well when tasked with protecting the rim.

12
Dolph Schayes

Dolph Schayes

Top accolades: One NBA title, six All-NBA 1st Team selections, 12 All-Stars

NBA rank: 29th in rebounds, 69th in scoring, 211th in assists

A big man far ahead of his time, Dolph Schayes was one of the first power forwards who would space the floor and shoot jumpers from the deep mid-range, something he did quite well in the late ’40s, ’50s and early ’60s. Schayes could also dribble past opponents and drive to the hoop on hard closeouts. Schayes paved the way for the modern stretch-4.

13
Dennis Rodman

Dennis Rodman

Top accolades: Five NBA titles, two All-NBA 3rd Team selections, two All-Stars, two Defensive Player of the Year awards, seven All-Defensive 1st Team selections

NBA rank: 24th in rebounds

One of the greatest rebounders in NBA history, Dennis Rodman didn’t just have a great nose for knowing where a ball was going to go after hitting the rim, he was also absolutely relentless, refusing to let anyone get in his way to secure a board. Rodman was also an elite defender of multiple positions using absurd strength to bully opponents trying to body him. An underrated passer, his mind games destabilized many a team… including his own sometimes.

14
Draymond Green

Draymond Green

Top accolades: Three NBA titles, two All-NBA Team selections, three All-Stars, one Defensive Player of the Year, four All-Defensive 1st Team selections

NBA rank: 161st in assists, 225th in steals

His raw numbers historically won’t blow anyone away, but Draymond Green is likely headed to a Hall-of-Fame selection thanks to his unreal defensive impact to three (and counting) Warriors championships and unique playmaking abilities at the power-forward spot. One of the most versatile defenders of all time.

15
Chris Webber

Chris Webber, All-Star Game

Top accolades: Five All-NBA Team selections, five All-Star Year

NBA rank: 69th in rebounds, 96th in points, 163rd in assists

An explosive, skilled scorer and rebounder in his prime, Chris Webber was an absolute force at the power-forward position in his heyday, a big man capable of facing up and shooting from the midrange or bullying foes down low. Was also known for throwing down monster dunks in transition – just ask Charles Barkley.

16
Jerry Lucas

Jerry Lucas

Top accolades: One NBA title, three 1st Team All-NBA selections, two 2nd Team All-NBA selections, seven All-Stars, Rookie of the Year

NBA rank: 17th in rebounds, 172nd in points

One of the most tenacious and energetic rebounders in NBA history, Jerry Lucas had two career seasons where he averaged over 20 rebounds and two more where he averaged over 19. Excelled as a scorer on mostly put-backs, though he was a solid finisher in general around the rim. 

17
Bobby Jones

Top accolades: One NBA title, four All-Stars, eight All-Defensive 1st Team selections, one Sixth Man of the Year award

One of the first multi-positional wing/big defenders which have become so popular in today’s game, Bobby Jones could legitimately defend any position on the floor at a high level, from guards to fellow bigs. Not much of a scorer, but did well as a slasher and as a garbageman around the basket.

18
Dave DeBusschere

Dave DeBusschere

Top accolades: Two NBA titles, one All-NBA 2nd Team selection, eight All-Stars, six All-Defensive 1st Team selections

NBA rank: 45th in rebounds, 172nd in points

A steady, reliable presence at the power-forward spot for years, Dave DeBusschere was a double-double machine throughout his career, averaging at least 10-plus points and 10-plus rebounds in 10 of his 12 career NBA campaigns. 

19
Rasheed Wallace

Top accolades: One NBA title, four All-Stars

NBA rank: 41st in blocks, 90th in rebounds, 113th in points, 132nd in steaks

The originator of the legendary “both teams played hard” quote, Rasheed Wallace was an immensely talented power forward, one so talented that it could be argued he didn’t live up to his potential. A big man far ahead of his time, Wallace thrived as a three-point shooter at the 4-spot while also being a plus-shot blocker on the other end.

20
LaMarcus Aldridge

LaMarcus Aldridge, Brooklyn Nets

Top accolades: Five All-NBA Team selections, seven All-Stars

NBA rank: 46th in points, 62nd in rebounds, 65th in blocks

The model of consistency for many years, LaMarcus Aldridge could roll out of his bed in his heyday and give you 20 points and nine rebounds without breaking a sweat. His specialty was his face-up game, as the former Texas standout was capable of using his size to knock down jumpers over smaller defenders and his savvy post-up game to get buckets down low.

Image: Coley Cleary / USA TODAY Sports Media Group illustration

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