With the NBA off-season in full swing, we’ll be breaking down the top 10 players at each position in league history. Today, it’s time to dive into one of the NBA’s premier positions: the Power Forwards.
Before we start, I want to be clear that I count ABA and BAA/NBL accomplishments because those leagues merged into the NBA.
No top ten list is complete without some healthy debate, so let us know your thoughts by tweeting @hoop_social. How does our list differ from yours?
With that being said, here are the top 10 NBA Power Forwards of all time.
1. Tim Duncan
6’11 Hall of Fame, Spurs (#5 Overall on Jordan’s Rankings)
5x Champion, 3x Finals MVP, 2x MVP, 15x All-Star, 15x All NBA, 15x All Defense, ROY, 75th Anniversary Team.
The Big Fundamental has the same amount of All-NBA awards as seasons MJ played, (even Wizards counts for this.)
Duncan is the reason Kobe was never the best player in the league, and the reason Dirk, KG, T-Mac, and Nash have such little playoff success.
In all my years watching the NBA nothing was more apparent than that Tim Duncan was the best teammate to ever play in the NBA.
His perfect bank shot, masterful post moves, defensive play that should have earned him 3 DPOYs, the clutch rebounding, the crisp passing, the little things like picks, and directing the defense. Tim Duncan was not flashy, he showed very little emotion, except for that goofy surprise face when called for a foul. Yet, TD showed up to play, sacrifice for the team, and to win.
Timmy should have more MVPs, (Nash and AI, and 2 more FMVPs), Parker was good but not better than Timmy and Kawhi only got it for “Holding” LeBron to 28-8-4. Even with all the Hall of Famers Duncan played with, Robinson, Manu, Parker, Kawhi, McGrady, and Aldridge, it was always his team.
Tim Duncan is A GOAT.
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo
6’11 Bucks. (#17 Overall on Jordan’s Rankings)
Champion, FMVP, 2x MVP, 6x All-Star, 6x All NBA, DPOY, 5x All-Defense, MIP, 75th Anniversary Team.
The Greek Freak is the one who sparked my Idea that the traditional 5 positions don’t work. He even stretched my definition of frontcourt by also playing both guard positions.
Born to Nigerian refugees in Greece, “The Alphabet” first caught my attention on grainy cell phone videos. I grew up in Nigeria, and Giannis is the second-best Nigerian player ever— if Greece wants him I don’t care he’s Nigerian, ask anyone who I talked hoops within College and they will tell you I was convinced he was going to be Magic Johnson and Scottie Pippen at the same time… turns out I was underselling how good Giannis could become.
Yes, it’s a little early to have him this high. I am ok with that because I know I’m going to have to move him up eventually. Giannis Sina Ugo Antetokounmpo is the best player in the world right now, and several players ahead of him on this list can never claim that they were ever top dogs.
3. Dirk Nowitzki
7’0 Hall of Fame, Mavericks (#18 Overall on Jordan’s Rankings)
Champion, FMVP, MVP, 14x All-Star, 12x All NBA, 75th Anniversary Team, Jordan’s Favorite Player All Time.
Dirty Dirk was one of the single best offensive engines in NBA history.
If David Stern didn’t force the refs to keep Cuban from getting his first championship Dirk would have 2 rings and 2 Finals MVPs. If Avery Johnson was a competent coach he would have more. Dirk’s playoff battles are awesome, he was the best midrange player ever.
His defense, while not good, wasn’t nearly as bad in his prime as some people say.
Dirk could hit any shot at any time, he was a decent rebounder but not elite, a good passer, a great teammate, and a passionate leader.
Dirk’s Playoff run in 2011 is the single greatest run in history; The fantastic Blazers team, the OKC big 3, championship defending Lakers, and the Heatles.
Dirk is the best shooting big ever. His one-legged fade-away, a move that will be a statue soon, was un-guardable.
I grew up in Africa as the only white guy and was the tallest of my age group. Dirk was who I wanted to be. I didn’t ever learn to shoot well, but I tried. Dirk was the second-best power forward of the 00s. He and Curry are the ones who invented the 3 heavy NBA.
Without Dirk, the NBA looks very, very different in 2020. Anyone who has KG over Dirk can take that dumb take somewhere else.
4. Kevin Garnett
6’11 Hall of Fame, Wolves, Celtics (Nets) (#19 Overall on Jordan’s Rankings)
Champion, MVP, 15x All-Star, 9x All NBA, 12x All Defense, DPOY.
The Big Ticket is extremely overrated from a “Tough Guy” aspect. No player in history was better at starting fights, running away then pretending he won. However, he is probably underrated as a player at this point.
He was the best player and heart and soul of the worst Celtics Big 3. Honestly, he probably deserved the FMVP over Pierce.
One of the most versatile defenders ever, he should have won more in Minnesota, but it’s Minnesota and they apparently sent all the good championship vibes to LA. The best player KG played with in Minnesota? Marbury? Szcerbiak? Sprewell? Cassell? That’s a GIANT problem.
He, Dirk, Robinson, Kobe, and Kareem all could have been better if they had better teammates.
KG’s overall and especially offensive impact is greatly overrated in Minnesota but he somehow got lost that he was the best player on those Celtic teams.
5. Bob Pettit
6’9 Hall of Fame, Hawks (#31 Overall on Jordan’s Rankings)
Champion, 2x MVP, 11x All-Star, 11x All NBA, ROY, 2X Scoring Title, Rebound Title, 50th Anniversary Team, 75th Anniversary Team.
The Bombardier from Baton Rouge was doubted when he first came into the league. At 200 lbs it was laughable to think he could stand up to the pounding of the NBA. Bob Pettit wouldn’t quit. He kept going even when he would miss he would have a putback. He was tenacious on the boards and had a nice outside shot. After deciding to lift weights between his rookie and sophomore seasons, something his team trainers told him would make him a worse player because he would slow down and not be able to jump, he won the MVP. The next year the Hawks added 4 Hall of Famers, Ed McCauley, Cliff Hagan, Slater Martin, and player/coach Alex Hannum. They beat Bill Russell’s Celtics in the Finals.
Pettit has been greatly overlooked when talking about the best power forwards of all time and I hope to remind people he was really, really good. He has the same amount of MVPs as Karl Malone and also won a ring.
6. Charles Barkley
6’6 (Liar!) Hall of Fame, 76ers, Suns, Rockets (#25 Overall on Jordan’s Rankings)
MVP, 11x All-Star, 11x All NBA, Rebound Title, 50th Anniversary Team, 75th Anniversary Team.
Sir Charles, The Round Mound of Rebound, The Chuckster, The Chuck Wagon, The Prince of Pizza, The Incredible Bulk, The Leaning Tower of Pizza, Bread Truck, Boy Gorge.
Barkley is the only Non-MJ/Hakeem/Shaq MVP that should have happened in the 90s.
His athletic ability was incredible for someone his size, his size was incredible for someone his size. His dunks are awesome his passing is fun and he’s the master of the one-man fast break. You can’t watch him and not think “I really, really hope Zion is like him!” Because nothing. No. Thing. Compared to how fun prime Barkley is fun to watch.
His off-court personality is notable, but his on-court impact was greatly felt. He should have won a ring. He should have beaten Jordan.
The 93 finals are probably Jordan’s greatest accomplishment because he beat Charles when he had no business beating him.
7. Karl Malone
6’9 Hall of Fame, Jazz (Lakers) (#27 Overall on Jordan’s Rankings)
2x MVP, 14x All-Star, 14x All NBA, 4x All-Defense, 50th Anniversary Team, 75th Anniversary Team.
I’m going to start with a story. My wife’s cousin lives in Louisiana. His church was needing to sell land and his dad had a friend interested in the land. That friend came to the church to meet the pastor about the sale and the pastor looked at him saying, “Wow, you sure are tall, you should’ve played basketball.” Now, this pastor probably didn’t know he was talking to the second all-time scoring leader in NBA history so maybe we should give him a pass.
Malone was really good at screening then rolling or popping. He was the perfect partner for John Stockton, the better player.
A lot has been made about the terrible allegations of what Malone did off the court. I’m not going to touch on that. On the court, Malone was a legend and worthy of his spot on this list.
8. Dolph Schayes
6’8 Hall of Fame, Nationals/Sixers (#36 Overall on Jordan’s Rankings)
Champion, 12x All-Star, 12x All NBA, Rebound Title, 25th Anniversary Team, 50th Anniversary Team, 75th Anniversary Team.
Jumping into the collective conscious as a 16-year-old playing for New York University in an MSG game, Schayes became a Star in the NBL at just 18.
Playing across the entire beginning of the NBA, he was the only Superstar to successfully translate from the beginning till after the shot clock era. His inside hook and deep range set shots made him a great offensive weapon and his interior defense and bruising style made him age into a tough-nosed defender.
Schayes and Mikan had the premier rivalry of the 40s-50s.
Schayes was one of the best players to ever play the game. He was a fantastic free-throw shooter in an era where everyone was hacked all the time.
Schayes transitioned from the slow plodding style of Mikan and Larry Foust into the faster offenses of Bob Pettit and Wilt Chamberlain. Mastering both styles.
Dolph Schayes was a legend and needs to be remembered as such.
9. Elvin Hayes
6’9 Hall of Fame, Rockets, Bullets (#50 Overall on Jordan’s Rankings)
Champion, 12x All-Star, 6x All NBA, 2x All-Defense, Scoring Title, 2x Rebounding Title, 50th Anniversary Team, 75th Anniversary Team.
The Big E was a walking bucket. Known for his abrasive personality he needed a team-first partner like Unseld to help keep him in check.
Hayes had a beautiful fade-away jumper. But his honesty with himself and his teammates wore thin and Hayes contemplated suicide early in his very individually successful career. When he made it to the Bullets he was known as one of the top players in the league but also a perpetual coach killer.
Moving to forward helped unlock Hayes by giving him less defensive responsibility and letting him roam and save his energy for offense.
His career arc is so matched with Wes Unseld that it’s crazy they were drafted right after each other. The 2 of them made the best frontcourt duo before the merger of the NBA/ABA and it really could have had multiple rings together.
10. Connie Hawkins
6’8 Hall of Fame, Pipers, Suns, (Lakers, Hawks) (#57 Overall on Jordan’s Rankings)
Champion, MVP, 5x All Star, 3x All ABA, ABA All Time Team.
In 1960 Cornelius Lance Hawkins was the #1 recruit in the nation. An absolute legend for Boys High School in NYC, the next year he was preparing for his Freshman Season at Iowa his coach. The man who should have protected him told him he needed a lawyer, and sent him with FBI agents back to New York. The Agents, starved and basically tortured a confession out of Connie, that he fixed games in high school, a confession proven false in a court of law later. The NBA decided to blackball Hawkins Because they were afraid of him throwing games, even though the courts proved he didn’t.
Connie played 2 years for the Pittsburgh Rens of the NBL, a minor league that folded. Hawkins played four years as the star of the Harlem Globetrotters, and two years as the best player in the ABA for the Pittsburgh (and later) Minnesota Pipers. Before finally at the age of 27 he was able to play in the NBA, most of his otherworldly athleticism was taken away by the multiple knee surgeries he had because of the subpar courts the Globetrotters had him playing on.
Still, he made 4 All-star teams and one All-NBA team (Beating out Hall of Famers John Havlicek and Gus Johnson).
Hawk remains the biggest what-if in NBA history. He was going to be in the GOAT conversation and you can’t convince me otherwise.
RELATED: Check out our NBA top 10 all-time lists at each position!