NBA Power Ranking: Top 7 NBA Power Forwards by Legacy They'll Leave Behind
First of all, let's get a few things straight about this list.
This is not a list of the best power forwards in the game. This is not a list predicting who will be the best power forward in 2012. This is not even a list about which power forward has won the most or posted the best stats for their careers.
This is a list about picking from the current crop of NBA power forwards—young and old—to see who are going to leave behind the most impressive legacies.
There is no formula I created, there is not any particular way I picked these players other than using my basketball knowledge and looking at what each player has done and will likely do in their careers.
Some may have already won multiple championships; some may never. That's not the point.
Power forward is an incredibly difficult position to play. Men at the four must be rare physical specimens. Tall (typically at least 6'9"), lengthy, powerful, physical and talented, power forwards must be able to score in all manners, open lanes for other players, be responsible for beating oftentimes larger centers for rebounds, and in many cases, they must shoulder their teams.
Most will argue—myself included—that the court general is the point guard. I would argue, however, that the power forward is the most important position on the floor.
Let's take a look at some of the best in the game, ranking them by potential or already well-established legacies they're going to leave behind.
7. Blake Griffin
Boy, I can already hear the complaints.
Blake Griffin is one of the most polarizing players in basketball: He's a showoff, he's an entertainer, he dominates to the point of embarrassment for many players, and he is responsible for a lot of teams losing.
But there is no denying what this kid has already done and what he is capable of doing.
Here are Griffin's current career statistics after only two seasons: 21.7 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 3.5 APG, 0.6 BPG, 0.8 SPG, and a FG% of .524. Not to mention a ridiculous number of posterizing dunks that embarrassed many of the best players in the league on a regular basis.
Griffin was the runaway Rookie of the Year in 2010-11, and while the Los Angeles Clippers weren't great in his first year, they were unbelievably exciting to watch.
This year, with a better team and more options around Griffin, the Clips showed they have what it takes to turn the tides of Los Angeles basketball culture, as long as he stays there.
Regardless of what you feel about him or how upset you are that he's on a list of men I consider all-time greats, you simply can't deny the sheer dominance of Griffin, and if you do, you're ridiculous. Sure, his defense could be better, but he's only 23, and it will improve with age.
Griffin will almost undoubtedly rack up hardware throughout his career to set beside his ROTY trophy. He's only been in the league for two years, but he's already made a colossal impact on the sport.
6. Kevin Love
Kevin Love is the best PF in the game right now.
There, I said it. Probably something else that's going to get some fury, but it is almost indisputably true.
Love's current career stats are pretty good: 17.3 PPG, 12.0 RPG, 1.9 APG, 0.5 BPG, 0.6 SPG, and a .457 FG%. He's also been good from three-point land, owning a career .357 3P%.
Like I said, those stats are pretty good. But they hardly show the true dominance of K-Love, especially in the past two years. His stats page on ESPN tracks Love's year-to-year improvement. Take a particularly long look at his ridiculous 2011-12 campaign, when he averaged 26.2 points and 13.3 rebounds per game.
He is a force everywhere on the paint, and he has gotten better every single year he's played. Four seasons into his career, he's still only 23 and probably not even in his prime yet. We might see Love get even better.
Love isn't higher on this list due to his age and relative lack of experience compared to the later names on this list, but also because he plays on a bad team. He hasn't been able to take the Minnesota Timberwolves to the playoffs yet, but it's hardly something you can expect him to do on his own, especially with the stats he posted last year.
The T-Wolves are getting better, and with the help of a top-notch passer like Ricky Rubio, Love and the state of Minnesota are looking at brighter times.
If his team had won more last year, Love would have been the unquestioned MVP. Sure, LeBron James and Kevin Durant obviously deserve to be in the conversation, but Love is seriously dominant and will leave behind an unbelievable legacy.
Whether he does that with Minnesota, or goes the way of another player on this list and leaves the city, he will greatly influence this sport.
5. Chris Bosh
Okay, let me say this: I do not think Bosh is a better player than Love, but Bosh has already done a lot more in terms of, well, winning.
As unfair as it is, if Love or Griffin never win a championship, Bosh will be remembered more.
That's not to say Bosh is a bad player. Bosh is a great player, more than deserving to be on this list, with career averages of 19.8 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.1 BPG, 0.8 SPG, and a FG% of .492.
He averaged more than 22 PPG for five years in a row while in Toronto and has three times averaged a double-double.
Once arriving in Miami, his numbers declined, though that is not due to his talent but rather the extraordinary talent that is around him. The fact that Bosh is still good for almost 20 PPG and 8 RPG amongst the likes of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade is testament to his greatness.
In many ways, Bosh was in a similar position to the man on the previous slide. In his seven seasons with the Toronto Raptors, he only went to the playoffs twice and never made it past the first round. In two seasons with the Miami Heat, Bosh has already been to the NBA Championship round twice, winning it once.
And make no mistake about it, people who believe the Heat are run by James and Wade are kidding themselves. Sure, they'd both be on this list for their respective positions, and yes, they're two of the best players this planet has ever seen, but Bosh's role as a big man in Miami is paramount to their success, and he makes James and Wade better just by being on the court.
Bosh and the Heat will continue to win. A lot. He'll probably never approach his career high of 24 points per game (achieved in 2009-10 with Toronto), but he will win more championships. That's for certain.
4. Pau Gasol
Pau Gasol has helped the Lakers win two World Championships, and on top of that, has helped partially reinvent the power forward position.
In many ways, Gasol is a traditional power forward. He plays a solid post game, can get physical in the paint for points and rebounds, and guards big men effectively.
But he is also taller. Gasol is as tall as a center but has the shooting abilities of a small forward. It's an interesting combination that has landed him in the middle of both of those positions but has made him a deadly offensive weapon who is difficult to guard no matter what anyone does.
A lot like Dirk Nowitzki.
Gasol's tenure with the Los Angeles Lakers has been full of success, and he and Kobe Bryant have long formed the core of one of the best teams in basketball. Gasol is 32, though, and the Lakers as a team are beginning to show signs of aging and are in the primary stages of reinventing themselves to continue to be competitive.
While Gasol posted good stats last year—17.4 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 3.7 APG, 1.4 BPG, .06 SPG and a .501 FG%—there is no denying that he is starting to show his age, and that many teams in the west (most notably, the significantly younger Oklahoma City Thunder) have surpassed the Lakers. Trading him away from the team where he has paved his legacy may be the best thing for them as a team.
Whoever gets Gasol will still be getting a player with outstanding career stats, a winning pedigree, a leader and someone who will still be able to essentially do it all at the power forward position for several more years.
Gasol's two championship years with the Lakers make him a legend, as he was a vital part of that team. There is no doubt that without his versatile style of play, Kobe Bryant would not have been quite as effective during those years, and while Kobe will always be remembered first, Gasol made just as much of an impact.
3. Dirk Nowitzki
Remember when I said that Chris Bosh has made it to the finals twice, only winning once? Remember in the previous slide when I talked about reinventing the power forward position for taller, longer shooting power forwards?
Enter Dirk Nowitzki.
The Dallas Mavericks were huge underdogs against the juggernaut of a team that the Miami Heat was, yet somehow they pulled out a series win. It was their first-ever NBA Championship, and it was due significantly to Nowitzki's dominance on the court.
Nowitzki is a seven-footer just like Gasol. Here's a look at his major career statistics: 22.9 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.0 BPG, 0.9 SPG, .475 FG% and a shockingly high .380 3P%. Nowitzki is taller than anyone else (same height as Gasol) in this slideshow, so it stands to reason that he should be the best rebounder, but there's a reason his numbers are lower than others.
Nowitzki is known to be a wide-ranging power forward, even more extensively than Gasol, and he doesn't like sitting in the post.
As his three-point percentage indicates, not only is he afraid of shooting a three, he makes them quite frequently. Sometimes Nowitzki simply isn't at the post to collect a rebound. Not that over 8 RPG in a career is anything to thumb your nose at or anything.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Nowitzki is his agelessness. He has only averaged below 20 PPG twice in his career, both coming in his first two seasons with limited playing time back in the late '90s. Since then, Dirk has shown no signs of slowing down, regularly being the most reliable scorer for the Mavs and becoming the face of their franchise for the past decade, all culminating in that long-sought championship in 2011.
The Mavs lost a lot of key pieces this offseason, and many have to wonder when Nowitzki will finally start showing aging fatigue, especially without talent around him. I wouldn't be surprised if he averages 25 points per game this season due to the increased slack he'll have to pick up. He might never retire.
His legacy is already cemented in history, and it stands to get more impressive.
Even while the Mavs wallow after a terrible offseason, and as they try to rebuild towards the team they were during the 2011 championships, Nowitzki is still king. For at least a little while they can build around him because he's not slowing down yet.
Nowitzki and Gasol have altered the position forever, and while their championships are impressive to show off, their legacies are made because of their contributions to the progress of the NBA.
2. Kevin Garnett
"Anything is possible."
Kevin Garnett is a love-him-or-hate-him player, and while I tend to lean towards the side of "hate-him," mostly because of his rampant tenacity, I think it's only because I'm jealous he's not on my team.
I think, at the end of the day, that's the only reason anyone could ever hate KG.
He is famed for his ferocity on the court, his unmatchable trash talk and his ability to get under the skin of virtually everyone he plays against. This, along with his size, length and pure, God-given talent, has made him one of the best power forwards to ever play the game.
His career stats are unbelievable. Over the course of his 17-year career, KG has posted stats of 19.3 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 4.0 APG, 1.5 BPG, 1.3 SPG and a FG% of .499. He's done it all for both of the teams he's played for, and similarly to the other older guys on this list (KG is even older at 36), he has only just began to show the signs of aging.
The Timberwolves made the difficult decision of trading Kevin Garnett after the 2006/2007 season, and while it might be unfair to compare the two teams, I'm going to anyway. Look at the direction both teams have headed in the previous years. In his first year with the Boston Celtics, KG (along with the new "big three" partners of Ray Allen and Paul Pierce) led the Celtics to their first championship in over two decades.
Meanwhile, the Timberwolves have been just plain bad, and while things are finally looking up for them (look back at the Kevin Love slide), it's only because they have finally found someone who can adequately replace Garnett's statistical presence.
Garnett has embodied the word "tenacity" over his career. He did not reinvent the position like Gasol and Nowitzki, but he did become one of the greatest, most intense players to ever grace the hardwood. There may never be another player in the NBA that incorporates the sheer emotion and talent of Kevin Garnett.
1. Tim Duncan
I don't know how this could have been a surprise if it was. My knee-jerk decision when I started writing this article was that Kevin Garnett is currently No. 1 in terms of legacy, but when I really thought about it, Tim Duncan sits upon a pedestal all to himself.
First of all, his statistics.
I know that isn't what this slideshow is about, but they're a thing of beauty when you really take them in. 20.3 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 2.2 BPG, 3.1 APG, 0.7 SPG and a .507 FG%. He has been an offensive wonder over his career, and his defense has been equally as good. He has been selected to the NBA All-Defensive first team eight times and the second team an additional five.
On top of that, he has two season MVP awards to his name, coming back-to-back in 2002 and 2003. He has been the NBA Finals MVP three times, in 1999, 2003 and 2005, and he has won the NBA championship four times in '99, '03, '05 and 2007. And to kick it off, he was the NBA ROTY in 1998.
He, along with the other aging stars of the San Antonio Spurs, were on a miracle run through the 2012 playoffs where they were undefeated until they firmly hit the brick wall of the Oklahoma City Thunder. But this is still considered one of the best teams in the NBA because of Duncan and guys like Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker.
When you really think about it, no one even comes close to what Duncan has done at the power forward position. He has been a truly unique blend of statistical output and quiet leadership. He is currently ranked seventh all-time on NBA Basketball Reference's fan ratings, and his combination of statistical output and hardware defends that position.
He is the polar opposite of KG in terms of personality on the floor. He is quiet, often referred to as a "gentle giant," and he doesn't rely on intimidation to score and rebound. He just does it because he's better than everyone, and he doesn't have to get into anyone's heads.
He is a living legend, and he's not even done yet. The Spurs proved they still have some serious gas in the tank after last year's playoff run, and Duncan might not be done adding to his trophy case.
No one currently playing is even close to him, and he might just be the best power forward to ever play the game.
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