NBA Power Rankings: Tim Duncan and The 10 Greatest Power Forwards in NBA History

Dan SchultzContributor IDecember 23, 2010

NBA Power Rankings: Tim Duncan and The 10 Greatest Power Forwards In NBA History

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Nowadays in the NBA, if one has a dominant power forward who covets good position the low block offensively and pounds the glass for rebounds and blocks defensively, a title is never out of reach. Usually power forwards are expected to have good footwork and provide good defense down low. Once in a while, a very special force will come into the league and send shockwaves through the rest of the NBA. Here is a list of ten individuals at the power forward spot who made the biggest impact in the NBA:

No. 10: Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas Mavericks)

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    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    [Years Played – 1998–present]

    There will undoubtedly be some screaming at their computers that this is too low. I hear you, I understand that this might be a little low, but nonetheless, here he is. While Dirk is unquestionably one of the most unique players to ever play the game, a championship has somehow avoided him during his thirteen year NBA career. He came closest in 2006 before the Mavericks somehow gave away a 2-0 NBA Finals series lead and lost four straight to the Miami Heat.

    Dirk, a 7-foot tall menace inside and out offensively, has proven to be one of the most difficult matchups in the league. He is virtually unguardable, seeing how he shoots the ball and the length he has over opposing defenders. One has to think his time is running out, given his age (32) as well as the fact that his patience has to be dwindling as each championship-less season comes to a close.

    Will this be the year Dallas finally breaks through and beats the powerhouse San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers in the playoffs and potentially gets that rematch with the Heat? Anything can happen in the NBA, so it is definitely not out of the question, especially seeing how the Mavericks have started this season.

No. 9: Dennis Rodman (Retired From Los Angeles Lakers)

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    [Years Played – 1986-2000]

    In addition to having a personality that could best be described as “colorful”, Rodman was an absolute beast of an NBA player. No, he did not have the best post offensive game and his attitude would get him in to trouble both on and off the court, but Rodman absolutely deserves a spot on this list due to his sheer will to get rebounds both on the offensive and defensive sides of the court.

    He was also a phenomenal defender, you could always count on him giving the opposition’s best post play fits on both sides. The reason he belongs on this list is due to his tenacity on the glass and craftiness on defense. Even though he never became a phenomenal offensive player, he knew his role was to be a rebounder and defender, and he fulfilled that role incredibly well.

No. 8: Pau Gasol (Los Angeles Lakers)

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    [Years Played – 2001-present]

    Although he came to LA under unusual circumstances (a horrific trade that shifted the balance of power in the West), Gasol is arguably the best power forward in the league at this point in time. He has the ability to play both the power forward and center positions, and his long arms have always caused problems for teams seeing he is a 7-footer who no one wants to face up against due to his European style of play that catches a lot of defenders off guard.

    Whether it is a sweeping hook shot in the lane or a power swat of an opposing player’s shot, Gasol has mastered the paint. Throw in the fact that he has a nice mid-range jumper in his arsenal; he’s just as tough a cover as Dirk is. He already has two titles, and the Lakers appear ready to go for a three-peat, and we still have another half-decade or so to go with this guy as a premier player. Look out.

No. 7: Kevin McHale (Retired From Boston Celtics)

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    [Years Played – 1980-1993]

    Not many players get the opportunity to start and finish on the same team. Especially in this day and age when players are shipped left and right and no one can ever really call any city “home,” Kevin McHale was a Celtic for all his life. Celtic fans came to love his interior toughness and array of post moves that left defenders looking stupid. The fire he played with not only ignited those fans, but his teammates as well, and this in turn made McHale a 3-time NBA champion.

    Although he declined significantly in the later stages of his career, he averaged five straight seasons of over 20 ppg on one of the best teams in the league. Perhaps most importantly, he set a great example for everyone on his team, as he showed he could come off the bench, winning the “Sixth Man of the Year” award back-to-back (1983-84,1984-85). If you need any more clarification that this guy was one of the best to play the position, check out the Hall of Fame out sometime. He’s in there.

No. 6: Bob Pettit (Retired From St. Louis Hawks)

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    [Years Played – 1954-1965]

    Pettit was irrefutably the best player at his position for a little over a decade. In addition to being a wrecking ball in the post, he was impossible to keep off the glass as well. Possessing career averages of 26.4 ppg and 16.2 rpg and being inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame in 1971 also indicate that he was a force who simply could not be stopped in the post.

    Sure, the level of competition is not the same then as it is today, but Pettit’s stats and decorated career still prove that he was a formidable presence on both sides of the court who mastered his position and one that could not be handled on either side of the court.

No. 5: Elvin Hayes (Retired From Houston Rockets)

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    [Years Played – 1968-1984]

    Positioned in a league with increasing competition, Hayes was the total package at the power forward position. In addition to possessing a lethal inside game and having a body that was hard to keep off the glass, the “Big E” was also a legitimate shot-blocker, averaging 2.0 a game for his career.

    Being a 12-time consecutive NBA All-Star is never easy, nor is winning a title (1973 with the Washington Bullets) in the league. Hayes had the perfect frame for a power forward, that being 6’9 and 235 pounds. His accomplishments on the court are some of the most impressive ever recorded, and this is primarily why he deserves a spot in the first-half of the “Greatest Power Forwards Ever” discussion.

No. 4: Kevin Garnett (Boston Celtics)

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    [Years Played – 1995-present]

    Although he does look scrawny at his position from time to time, KG’s sheer will to beat everyone to the ball is what has made him one of the league’s best. The man is downright insane, as seen by his pregame rituals and constant profanity spewing tirades after a big play. What he lacks in size he makes up for in heart, and this has earned him a ton of respect around the league.

    He finally won a title in 2008 with the Boston Celtics after a big trade the previous summer saw him finally leave Minnesota. His defensive tenacity especially has made him a premier player in the NBA, and he has not slowed down that much even in his elder age. The Celtics have started the season hot and if they can get another title, this serves well for KG when “Best Power Forward Ever” discussions occur in the future.

No. 3: Charles Barkley (Retired From Houston Rockets)

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    Mike Powell/Getty Images

    [Years Played – 1984-2000]

    Think of Barkley as the reverse of KG. Chuck could never be considered scrawny, instead he could be looked at as undersized at the power forward position (in this case, severely undersized, only at 6’6). However, much like KG, Barkley made up for his deficiencies at the position by his insane personality that arguably made him play better because he truly believed he could do the things any power forward could, when the majority might have argued the opposite.

    Although he never won a title, he had career averages of 22.1 ppg, 11.7 rpg, and 1.5 spg, which is stifling when you consider how short he was at his position. You can see Charles saying stupid things on TNT nowadays that are always hilarious. In addition to being a tremendous basketball player, the man is also hugely entertaining off the court (as well as on the golf course).

     

No. 2: Karl Malone (Retired From Los Angeles Lakers)

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    [Years Played – 1985-2004]

    Malone was the beneficiary of the most lethal pick-and-roll in NBA history. Pairing up with John Stockton for nearly two decades made Utah a very good basketball team, one that sniffed a title briefly in the late 90’s, but unfortunately ran into Jordan’s Bulls both times in the NBA Finals. Not only did Malone have biceps bigger than most human heads, he also had one of the softest, yet most effective mid-range jump shots ever seen in the league.

    “The Mailman” never took a game off, and his thirst for an NBA title never died, even at the age of 41 when he signed with the Lakers in hopes of catching that elusive trophy. It never happened. Although he retired from the Lakers, he will always be remember as the best player to ever don a Jazz uniform, and one whose competitive nature and “never back down” attitude never faded even into his early forties.

No. 1: Tim Duncan (San Antonio Spurs)

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    [Years Played – 1997-present]

    Four NBA titles. Back to back MVP awards. A twelve time All-Star. Tim Duncan is the best power forward in NBA history whose calm demeanor, deadly bank shot, never-ending wingspan, and inhumanly good footwork has guided him to one of the most decorated careers in NBA history.

    Now in the later stages of career, Duncan has also shown that he is the ultimate leader, one who does not have a problem becoming a complementary piece if it means the team will succeed (and it has worked, the Spurs are 25-3 right now). He is a winner, a champion, and one that desires to end his career with a one last hurrah.

    One has to think the Spurs are as good a title pick as any right now in the early parts of the NBA season, and if Duncan wins one for the thumb, he will undoubtedly be thrown into “Top Ten Players Ever” debates once his career has concluded.