NBA Player Power Rankings: B/R's Top 30 Power Forwards at the Halfway Point
The NBA's power forwards, they are a-changin'.
No longer does the Association feature back-to-the-basket bullies who torture their matchups with precision footwork and touch around the hoop. Those still exist, but stretch 4s are all the rage, as are players who can rack up triple-doubles while defending a variety of positions.
With Kristaps Porzingis, Julius Randle, Jabari Parker and other youngsters on the rise, the power forward slot is in great shape. And we can't forget about established studs such as Kevin Love, Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge.
By analyzing the work these players have done in 2016-17, as well as their reputations from previous seasons and the expectations going forward, we're putting the top 30 power forwards in order. The goal is to identify the players we'd most want to build around for the remainder of the campaign, so long-term upside and prowess in the distant past are irrelevant.
30. Ersan Ilyasova, Philadelphia 76ers
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 14.2 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.3 blocks
Ever since Ersan Ilyasova made his early-season transition from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Philadelphia 76ers, he's justified the stretch 4 label. Knocking down 38.1 percent of his three-point attempts while taking 5.7 per game, he's added a new element to the Philly offense—one it desperately needed while playing so many young contributors with shooting limitations.
Ilyasova's defense has been atrocious, and he fails to contribute much when the outside shot isn't falling. But his presence alone has taken the Sixers to a new level on the scoring end.
Without the 29-year-old, Philadelphia has earned an embarrassing 96.1 offensive rating, which would trail every other team by at least 4.4 points per 100 possessions. It's still bad when he plays, but at least the 101.9 offensive rating would top the marks earned by five other squads.
Honorable Mentions: Sam Dekker, Jared Dudley, Wesley Johnson, Nikola Mirotic, Marvin Williams
29. David Lee, San Antonio Spurs
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 6.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.4 blocks
David Lee is far from washed up.
The former All-Star looked like his career was coming to a close during the end of his Golden State Warriors tenure and his brief stint with the Boston Celtics. Now, he's proving the way he closed 2015-16 with the Dallas Mavericks was no fluke.
Lee's positional defense has been stellar in a limited run for head coach Gregg Popovich, and he remains quite good at cleaning the glass to prevent second-chance opportunities. But it's even more important that his finesse offense has returned, allowing him to thrive with touch finishes around the rim and knock down plenty of shorter jumpers.
Thrusting Lee into a large role would be a mistake, but he's proved he can be an exemplary reserve on a top-tier squad.
28. James Johnson, Miami Heat
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 11.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.9 blocks
The 29-year-old has contributed across the board for his new organization. If the Heat need him to buckle down on defense, he's capable of doing so while playing a number of different positions. If they need him to become a high-quality rebounder while Hassan Whiteside rests, he can do that. If they need him to make plays for his teammates, that's doable.
And though he couldn't hit triples in prior seasons, he's finding nylon at a 38.2 percent clip while taking 3.5 attempts per game (his previous career high was 1.7) for Miami.
"I knew I had a three-point shot. But it also comes with confidence—confidence within, confidence from your coach and confidence from your team. I feel like everyone on this team and everybody on this staff has confidence that I work on my game enough that I can take those shots," he told Manny Navarro of the Miami Herald.
27. Taj Gibson, Chicago Bulls
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 11.8 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.6 steals, 1.1 blocks
Taj Gibson still doesn't offer much on offense outside of easy finishes around the bucket and putback opportunities. He's recording more turnovers than assists yet again (last year was the only season of his career in which he didn't do so) and connecting on just 40.7 percent of his shots from outside 10 feet.
The Chicago Bulls need floor-spacing for their plethora of guards who thrive inside the arc, but Gibson just can't provide it. And yet head coach Fred Hoiberg continues to play the veteran 4 because he's so good on the defensive end.
Gibson has long been a strong-bodied defender willing to bang in the paint with other bigs, and that hasn't changed as he moves further from his 30th birthday. He's a physical presence on the interior, but he's also capable of sliding out to ice pick-and-rolls or defend spot-up shooters.
26. Trevor Booker, Brooklyn Nets
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 10.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.5 blocks
Trevor Booker labors away in relative anonymity. After filling a reserve role with the Utah Jazz for the last two years and then signing with the Brooklyn Nets this past offseason, his name doesn't exactly resonate on a national level.
But a lack of coverage doesn't equate to a lack of value.
Booker is having the best season of his career, thriving as a tremendous per-minute rebounder and mid-range sniper while playing even better defense. It's not advisable to leave him alone around the rim as the last safeguard, but his versatility and athleticism have allowed him to take on a number of tough matchups.
The veteran's assignments typically shoot 46.4 percent from the field elsewhere, but their field-goal percentage drops to 44.2 when he's covering them.
25. Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 12.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.5 blocks
Dirk Nowitzki should start playing better as he finds his rhythm, and that's why he finds himself ranked at all. He has not, thus far, performed like one of the NBA's 30 best power forwards, even if we can reasonably assume we haven't seen the best from this 38-year-old future Hall of Famer.
But it's also quite clear Nowitzki's days of making a superstar impact are long gone.
His defense is so limited, he requires adjustments from teammates and to the rotation. His rebounding necessitates a strong board-crashing presence next to him. And even his offense is starting to decline as he's forced to rely more on contested jumpers from inefficient zones.
Nowitzki's mere presence continues to warp the opposition and draw off-ball defenders closer to him, but he has to start converting soon.
Father Time eventually comes for everyone.
24. JaMychal Green, Memphis Grizzlies
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 9.0 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.6 blocks
JaMychal Green has been a defensive revelation for the Memphis Grizzlies—so good, in fact, Bleacher Report's Dan Favale made him December's Defensive Player of the Month:
The Grizzlies treat Green like an underdeveloped Draymond Green. He dances between protecting the paint, switching onto ball-handlers and closing out perimeter snipers. Just two players have matched the number of pick-and-roll ball-handler (19) and roll-men (29) possessions that Green has defended: LaMarcus Aldridge and Paul Millsap. Where Green ranks in the 79th percentile or better in both categories, neither Aldridge nor Millsap reaches the 60th percentile.
Volume matters, and Green has guarded fewer sets than his statistical partners. But the point stands: He is one of the NBA's most versatile defenders—one who is more than worthy of his December distinction.
While it would be nice if Green could develop into a stronger interior finisher and improve his mid-range game, the Grizzlies can't complain with the production they're getting from this third-year big.
23. Tobias Harris, Detroit Pistons
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 16.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.6 blocks
Tobias Harris is a solid player in a number of different areas, but he must improve two facets of his game to become invaluable to the Detroit Pistons.
First, his defense.
The 24-year-old can hold his own in situations that allow him to use his size and physicality, but his positioning hampers the Pistons. He cheats off his man too often, which is part of the reason he ranks in the 43.2 percentile for spot-up defense. And if you ask him to guard a roll man, he falls to the 31st percentile.
On the other end, Harris has to fix his three-point stroke in order to become a viable option in head coach Stan Van Gundy's four-out, one-in system. He does plenty else that's positive, but his 34.6 percent shooting from downtown is problematic.
22. Larry Nance Jr., Los Angeles Lakers
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 7.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.6 blocks
Somehow, this feels like the floor for 24-year-old Larry Nance Jr.
Before a bone bruise in his left knee—and the concussion that came prior to that injury—knocked him out of the lineup, he was on his way toward asserting himself as a key part of the Los Angeles Lakers' rotation.
Using his dazzling athleticism and aggression, Nance was quickly becoming one of the few standout defenders under head coach Luke Walton. He could protect the rim like he'd grown a few inches, display lateral quickness while staying with smaller players and position himself properly on the interior of Los Angeles' schemes.
Nance will need to develop some semblance of a jumper to truly fit in with the NBA's general direction, but his defense alone guarantees him a future as an important rotation piece.
21. Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 9.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.9 blocks
Kenneth Faried's role has been variable throughout the Denver Nuggets' 2016-17 campaign.
He began the season in the starting five, then came off the bench to provide energy to the second unit. Once he returned to the opening quintet, he expressed just how much he preferred that role:
"That's my spot. I don't like people taking my spot. I didn't take kindly to that. Coach knew that. My teammates knew that. I was outspoken about it. I was really upset. But I wanted it, and I worked for it. That’s why I wanted to get back. When I came out of that starting spot, it kind of gave me a wakeup call like 'Hey, you need to get back to who you are.'"
Since then, Faried has moved back to the bench, but he's remained one of the positives in Denver. His defense has been better than in previous seasons, and he's been able to dedicate his incredible energy reserves to fewer minutes, thereby increasing his momentary effectiveness. Whether he's cool with it or not remains to be seen, but both he and the Nuggets are benefitting at the moment.
20. Kyle O'Quinn, New York Knicks
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 6.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.4 steals, 1.2 blocks
If only the New York Knicks could give Kyle O'Quinn more run...
Take a peek at the full list of qualified players who are averaging at least 14 points, 12 rebounds, two assists and two blocks per 36 minutes while shooting no worse than 50 percent from the field: Kyle O'Quinn
Seriously. That's it.
O'Quinn may not be able to maintain these levels if he played 25 minutes per game, but his combination of skills is unique and highly impactful. New York should recognize that before too long if it continues to drop games and is forced to look at new lineup combinations.
19. Julius Randle, Los Angeles Lakers
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 13.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.5 blocks
Julius Randle still isn't particularly comfortable driving to his right and using his weak hand to finish plays, but he's found a new way to keep defenders honest. Instead of diversifying his offensive game, he's working on his passing skills, to the point he's been able to rack up a pair of triple-doubles during his second full NBA season.
You don't have to watch the Los Angeles Lakers for long to realize just how talented Randle has become.
He's capable of contributing in myriad ways and looks more comfortable than ever handling the rock. It's also been key that he's upgraded his shooting efficiency from beyond 10 feet, thereby preventing opponents from sagging off and waiting for the inevitable assaults on the rim.
Randle's 2015-16 campaign sunk his stock to the point that it appeared he was on a bust trajectory. But he's rebounded nicely and now seems to be tracking toward the top 10 at his position. Once he cuts back on the turnovers and expands his range, he could get there.
18. Jon Leuer, Detroit Pistons
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 10.9 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.3 blocks
Even without a reliable three-point stroke, Jon Leuer has made the Detroit Pistons far better when he's on the floor:
|Offensive Rating (Rank)||Defensive Rating (Rank)||Net Rating (Rank)|
|With Leuer||104.0 (No. 21)||100.9 (No. 1)||4.9 (No. 7)|
|Without Leuer||102.6 (No. 22)||108.3 (No. 26)||Minus-5.7 (No. 29)|
The big difference comes on the defensive end, which is (surprisingly) where Leuer has feasted.
He's forcing opponents to shoot 1.5 percent worse than normal against him, and his work in the Detroit schemes has been even better. You'll rarely find Leuer out of position, which is one reason why some of the advanced metrics sell his work on defense short. He might not finish the plays, but he prevents his mark from doing anything with the ball.
Leuer isn't getting much hype in the Sixth Man of the Year race, but perhaps he should. He's been that valuable even without scoring much.
17. Amir Johnson, Boston Celtics
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 6.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.7 blocks
Amir Johnson is posting the worst field-goal percentage of his career, and he's still making 53.2 percent of his attempts. But fear not, because he's making up for the difference with an increased willingness to loft shots from beyond the arc, where he's hitting at a 38.7 percent clip.
Add everything together and his 59.1 true shooting percentage is only slightly lower than his career mark (60.2).
This is important, but Johnson's primary value will never come from his scoring. Instead, his worth is dependent on his high-quality interior defense and rebounding in traffic. He's doing exactly that, even holding opponents to 49.5 percent shooting at the rim while guarding 9.1 attempts per 36 minutes.
Johnson's name doesn't carry much weight, especially when it's viewed in conjunction with his positional peers who provide similar value.
But that doesn't negate his effectiveness.
16. Thaddeus Young, Indiana Pacers
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 11.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.4 blocks
Thaddeus Young at No. 16 is emblematic of the NBA's power forward talent and depth today.
Just as he's been for years, the 28-year-old is a solid player who falls short of stardom. His defensive intensity and improving three-point stroke (career-high 43 percent) push him to the cusp of that elusive status, but he's a bit too inconsistent and passive as he plays next to the Indiana Pacers' bigger names.
To his credit, Young's had an incredible impact on the team's fortunes, helping the net rating improve from minus-6.0 to 2.8 when he's on the floor. But it can be hard to separate his impact from that of the standouts with whom he often shares the court. For example, the net rating sinks to 1.0, per nbawowy.com, when he plays without Paul George.
Until he displays more of a takeover gene, he'll be stuck outside the top 15—if only barely.
15. Harrison Barnes, Dallas Mavericks
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 20.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.2 blocks
There's no denying Harrison Barnes has developed into a frightening scorer.
He's adept at breaking down opponents in isolation or out of the post, thriving when he can go to work as a featured option putting up shots in volume. One year removed from serving as a quaternary option for the Golden State Warriors, he's averaging 20.8 points for the Dallas Mavericks while shooting 47.6 percent from the field, 36.2 percent from downtown and 86.5 percent from the charity stripe.
But outside of the points he provides, he doesn't do much else.
He's not capable of thriving on the glass and often produces more turnovers than assists. He's been a significant defensive liability, regardless of whether he's lining up at the 3 (48 percent of his minutes) or the 4 (52 percent). The Dallas Mavericks are stretching him too thin, unable to provide the necessary help that would ease his scoring burden and allow him to contribute elsewhere.
And until that changes, he's just about reached his peak.
14. Danilo Gallinari, Denver Nuggets
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 17.1 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.3 blocks
Danilo Gallinari served as the Denver Nuggets' featured scorer at the lowest points of the team's rebuild, and he was always miscast in that role. He didn't have the ability to stave off double-teams and maintain his efficiency while taking so many shots per game.
The 28-year-old remains the team's most dangerous scorer, but the increasing depth in the Mile High City and Nikola Jokic's facilitating ability have made his life easier. Gallinari's true shooting percentage has risen from 58.2 in 2016-17 to 59.7 this year, leaving him as one of just 14 qualified players to clear 59 while scoring at least 17 points per game.
Gallinari is a liability on defense, especially when tasked with guarding opposing 5s. He's not much of a facilitator, either.
But so long as he can get to the free-throw stripe so effectively, he'll remain a deadly offensive threat.
13. Ryan Anderson, Houston Rockets
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 14.0 points, 5.2 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.3 blocks
Ryan Anderson was born to play under head coach Mike D'Antoni and alongside James Harden.
Does it matter that he struggles immensely on defense and should never be asked to serve as the last line between an opponent and the rim? Nope.
Is it relevant that he has difficulty finishing around the hoop and prefers to avoid taking mid-range shots? Not really.
Do the Houston Rockets worry that he's not a facilitator and shouldn't have the ball in his hands unless he's shooting? Absolutely not.
Anderson can fire away from the perimeter, regardless of whether he's spotting up in one of the corners or preparing himself on the wings from five feet beyond the arc. The 28-year-old is taking 6.8 triples per game and hitting 41.1 percent of them. Not only are just three other qualified players hitting those marks in 2016-17, but only five have completed such a campaign throughout NBA history.
12. Patrick Patterson, Toronto Raptors
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 7.1 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.4 blocks
Over the last few years, the Toronto Raptors have constantly been linked to power forwards floating around the trade market. That's always the position they need to upgrade in their quest to become title contenders.
Turns out, they have a pretty good one already.
Patrick Patterson may not be enough of a rim protector to fix the defense around Jonas Valanciunas, and he can't space the court like Kevin Love or Ryan Anderson. But he does all the little things and contributes well enough in those areas that he's still a valuable piece.
Without Patterson, the Raptors outscore their opponents by one meager point per 100 possessions. When he's on the court, that net rating skyrockets to 13.6.
11. Derrick Favors, Utah Jazz
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 8.8 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.8 steals, 1.0 blocks
Derrick Favors has not been himself this season.
He's appeared in just 25 of the Utah Jazz's first 40 contests, and he hasn't looked 100 percent even while on the floor. His defense has regressed noticeably in all areas of the half-court set, and he's struggling to make even half of his shots after shooting 51.5 percent or better in each of the three previous campaigns.
But we're willing to give Favors the benefit of the doubt as he deals with a troublesome left knee that just won't heal quickly enough. Once he's fully healthy, he should resume his status as one of the league's more dangerous up-and-comers at the position.
There's no reason to believe his fall to No. 69 has staying power.
10. Jabari Parker, Milwaukee Bucks
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 20.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.3 blocks
Jabari Parker has arrived.
It's impossible to watch the Milwaukee Bucks without noticing his incredible combination of spring and finesse. Whether he's creating his own looks via silky jumpers or scoring in transition with a thunderous dunk—somehow, he seems to have gained athleticism in the recovery from the ACL tear that ended his 2014-15 rookie campaign—he's putting up big totals.
But it's also impossible to watch the Bucks and avoid taking note of his porous defense.
For all the good Parker adds on the scoring end, he's been nearly as bad defensively. Unfortunately, that prevents him from rising any higher during a season that should end with some serious love in the Most Improved Player race.
9. Serge Ibaka, Orlando Magic
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 15.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.5 steals, 1.7 blocks
According to NBA Math's total points added, Serge Ibaka joins Elfrid Payton as one of only two members of the Orlando Magic to add value on each end of the court. He hasn't been a game-changing presence on either side, but his solid two-way ability has prevented his team from devolving into a total disaster after last offseason's questionable moves.
Ibaka remains one of the league's elite shot-blocking threats, though his defensive dominance hasn't translated to the painted area. NBA.com's SportVU data shows he's allowing opponents to shoot 51.3 percent at the basket, and that's far from an elite mark.
But he's also proved quite adept at knocking down three-point jumpers (37.8 percent), though his inability to pass prevents him from getting as involved as head coach Frank Vogel might like.
The good comes with drawbacks which prevent Ibaka from surging any higher in this discussion.
8. Gorgui Dieng, Minnesota Timberwolves
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 10.6 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.2 blocks
Don't be fooled by Gorgui Dieng's lack of scoring. He plays on a team that features three players capable of regularly going for at least 20 points, and his other box-score contributions are quite valuable to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Besides Dieng, only Giannis Antetokounmpo, DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green are averaging at least seven rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block. If we look throughout all of NBA history, just 88 different qualified players have ever provided that line—an average of fewer than three per season since blocks and steals were first recorded.
But Dieng is more than a statistical anomaly.
He's also a strong interior defender (one of the few bright spots on Minnesota's lackluster defense) and a deadly mid-range shooter who can open up driving lanes for Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins. He might not be the Timberwolves' most glamorous player, but he's pretty darn important.
7. LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 17.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.7 steals, 1.0 blocks
LaMarcus Aldridge may rank just one spot ahead of Gorgui Dieng, but we've undergone a tier shift as we move between the two. The 31-year-old San Antonio Spur leads off the class of seven elite power forwards—though the No. 1 finisher may admittedly be in a realm of his own.
Adjusting to the Spurs has taken some time and required a few sacrifices: Aldridge can't hold onto the ball so frequently as he seeks out mid-range looks, and he's asked to be a bit more mobile on defense than he was with the Portland Trail Blazers. He also isn't the No. 1 option, deferring to Kawhi Leonard and taking on Robin responsibilities more than he ever did with Damian Lillard next to him.
But the alterations are working.
Especially now that he's knocking down threes and working as a facilitator, Aldridge is having one of the most efficient offensive seasons of his impressive career.
6. Kristaps Porzingis, New York Knicks
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 19.8 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.7 steals, 2.0 blocks
Kristaps Porzingis can do everything, but it's his willingness to block shots and knock down attempts from long range that makes him so unique. Those two elements of his game have already allowed him to surpass Carmelo Anthony as the New York Knicks' best player, even if he's far from reaching his sky-high ceiling.
Not only is Porzingis blocking two shots per game, but he's also allowing opponents to shoot just 42 percent at the rim. Among the 75 players guarding no fewer than four shots at the hoop per contest (he's defending 7.5), no one is stingier.
And on offense, he's doing more than averaging 5.2 three-point attempts; He's hitting them at a 41 percent clip and has even created a handful off the dribble this season, which would be scary if it becomes a real part of his game.
Porzingis is the only player in the league averaging a pair of blocks and a pair of triples. In fact, he's the only player in NBA history to do so. Now, just imagine what would happen if the Knicks committed to playing him at the 5 (his stronger position) rather than drawing him away from the basket on defense.
5. Paul Millsap, Atlanta Hawks
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 17.6 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.9 blocks
We could wax poetic about Paul Millsap's ability to contribute in every area imaginable, whether he's using his devastating pump fake or finding open teammates with his improved passing chops. We could talk about his defense, which leaves him on the cusp of earning Defensive Player of the Year consideration despite standing "only" 6'8".
But instead, let's just show you how the Atlanta Hawks fall apart without him:
|Offensive Rating (Rank)||Defensive Rating (Rank)||Net Rating (Rank)|
|With Millsap||104.1 (No. 20)||98.9 (No. 1)||5.2 (No. 7)|
|Without Millsap||99.1 (No. 29)||107.6 (No. 24)||Minus-8.5 (No. 30)|
Millsap remains one of the league's more under-the-radar superstars. He gained prominence when the Hawks put him on the trading block for a few days, but he'll settle back into relative anonymity if he's never moved.
Perhaps he likes it that way; His game certainly hasn't suffered for it.
4. Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 21.2 points, 8.8 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.5 blocks
Before Blake Griffin went under the knife for arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, he was playing like he was finally healthy.
Rather than settling for as many mid-range jumpers as he had in previous seasons, he'd attacked the basket furiously, showing off his ridiculous athleticism and burgeoning touch around the hoop. His post-up moves may not look pretty, but they still get the ball to fall through the twine quite frequently.
But will that change when he returns to the court?
The Los Angeles Clippers are best when Griffin is in attack mode, keeping defenses on their heels with his athleticism and then either scoring or picking apart schemes with his impressive passing.
If he's settling for jumpers, he's playing into their hands.
That uncertainty is all that keeps him from ascending even higher.
3. Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 21.5 points, 10.9 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.4 blocks
This is the Kevin Love that the Cleveland Cavaliers wanted.
He's learned every nuance of the defensive system and always positions himself well, making up for his lack of vertical ability with strength and quick hands. ESPN.com's DRPM actually ranks him as the No. 8 defensive power forward after he finished No. 14 and No. 25 in 2015-16 and 2014-15, respectively.
He's also thriving as a spot-up shooter.
Waiting patiently on the wings for his opportunities, he's capitalized on the attention opponents invest in Kyrie Irving and LeBron James. Though his scoring in the post has helped, his biggest offensive plus is the ability to shoot 39.3 percent from downtown while taking 6.9 treys per game.
Love still plays third fiddle to the superstars, but that just gives Cleveland a luxury for which most front offices would sell their souls.
2. Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 10.9 points, 8.5 rebounds, 7.5 assists, 2.1 steals, 1.2 blocks
"That's something that I want to win," Draymond Green told ESPN.com's Chris Haynes in mid-November, referring to the Defensive Player of the Year trophy. "And if there’s anything I've ever been selfish about, it's that award. Like, I want that award."
Even with Rudy Gobert serving as stiff competition, he deserves it.
ESPN.com's DRPM ranks Green as the league's most impactful defender by a wide margin, regardless of position. NBA Math's defensive points saved concurs, and he'd have a larger lead if not for the boost provided by Russell Westbrook's jaw-dropping numbers on the defensive glass.
Green's also helped spark a Golden State Warriors unit that's starting to find itself among the league leaders in defensive rating. Not only does he depress his matchups' field-goal percentages by 4 percent, but his presence has coincided with the Dubs reaching even loftier point-preventing territory.
And it's not like he's a one-way player.
Green might not score many points, but he doesn't need to. It's far more important that he help space the floor and distribute the ball effectively.
1. Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 26.0 points, 8.7 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.1 steals, 1.7 blocks
It may seem strange to view Kevin Durant as a power forward when he opens games next to Draymond Green and Zaza Pachulia. But the Golden State Warriors have trotted out smaller lineups enough that Basketball-Reference.com has 57 percent of KD's minutes coming at the 4.
That gives the Dubs a monopoly at the 4—as good as Green is on defense, Durant is that strong on the other end.
It's taken the former MVP virtually no time to adjust. He's averaged 26 points while shooting a staggering 53.4 percent from the field, 38.7 percent from downtown and 86.1 percent from the charity stripe. And though he may not get to create his own looks as often, he's thrived as a spot-up threat and reallocated his energy to other areas.
Durant has always been a strong passer, but he's elevated his game by averaging 4.6 dimes and just 2.3 turnovers. Plus, he's playing the best defense of his career, thriving as he protects the rim in small lineups and guarding overmatched opponents on the wings.
This is the most complete we've ever seen Durant, terrifying as that may be for the rest of the league.
Adam Fromal covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @fromal09.
Unless otherwise indicated, all stats from Basketball-Reference.com, NBA.com, ESPN.com or NBA Math and accurate heading into games on Jan. 11. Positional designations determined by Basketball-Reference.com's minute splits at the end of 2016. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.