NBA Power Rankings: LeBron James and the 15 Greatest Point Forwards of All Time

Shane DePutronCorrespondent IMay 25, 2011

NBA Power Rankings: LeBron James and the 15 Greatest Point Forwards of All Time

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    MIAMI, FL - MAY 22:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat looks on against the Chicago Bulls in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 22, 2011 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida.  NOTE TO USER: User express
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    After posting another amazing line in the Miami Heat's Game 4 victory over the Chicago Bulls, LeBron James has once again proven how dangerous an extremely versatile player can be.

    However, that's not all, as his repeatedly impressive performances have helped to seal a spot for him as one of the greatest point forwards in NBA history.

    But where, exactly, does LeBron rank among the all-time greats?

    Well, this slideshow will seek to answer that question, ranking the top 15 point forwards of all time.

No. 15: Marques Johnson

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    Marques Johnson of the Los Angeles Clippers goes up for two.
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    Marques Johnson entered the NBA in 1977, joining the Milwaukee Bucks and head coach Don Nelson—who has become infamous for his nontraditional coaching methods.

    And as it turns out, the combination of those two may have very well resulted in the birth of the term "point forward."

    In fact, Johnson tells it like this: "It was the early '80s and we had all our point guards hurt with the Bucks. Nellie came up with a way to have me initiate the offense in all our sets. My response was, 'so instead of being the point guard, I'll be the point forward.' Nellie liked the label and has used it ever since."

    In the end, Johnson only managed a career average of 3.6 assists per game, but his innovation is what truly earns him a place on this list.

No. 14: John Johnson

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    photo from blog.oregonlive.com
    photo from blog.oregonlive.com

    Before Marques Johnson, there was John Johnson.

    As a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets and Seattle Supersonics from 1970-82, the 6'7", 200-pound Johnson was a pioneer of the point forward position.

    Johnson served as the primary distributor for a few of his teams, racking up some decent assist totals and even earning a few All-Star berths in the process.

    And while he may not have been responsible for coining the term point forward, he certainly would have fit the bill.

No. 13: Hedo Turkoglu

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    CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 28: Hedo Turkoglu #15 of the Orlando Magic moves against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on January 28, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Magic 99-90. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that,
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Standing 6'10" and weighing in at 220 pounds, Hedo Turkoglu is one of the purest point forwards in the NBA today.

    The Turkish forward has thrived as an essential ball-distributor and playmaker on the Orlando Magic, handling the ball with ease and creating tons of mismatches due to his size.

    Moreover, when allowed to play in this role, Turkoglu has put up some solid numbers, with averages of 5.0, 4.9 and 5.1 assists per game during his last three seasons with Orlando.

    And while the 32-year-old has seen his scoring totals drop lately, his versatility and skill level should allow him to play for a few more years, and possibly earn a higher place on this list.

No. 12: Anthony Mason

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    ATLANTA - DECEMBER 5:  Anthony Mason #17 of the Milwaukee Bucks drives the ball up court during the NBA game against the Atlanta Hawks at Phillips Arena on December 5, 2002 in Atlanta, Georgia.  The Hawks won 98-80.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowled
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Throughout his 13-year NBA career, Anthony Mason certainly looked the part of a pure interior player.

    Moreover, standing 6'7" and weighing about 250 pounds, he became known for his toughness and tenacity on the boards and on defense.

    However, Mason possessed the ball-handling and passing skills of a much smaller man, a fact which allowed him to thrive as a point forward.

    In fact, after he left the offensively inept New York Knicks of the early 1990s, he immediately turned in a 5.7 assist-per-game campaign for the Charlotte Hornets.

    And even though he was aging at that point, Mason was still able to dish out his fair share of assists before his eventual retirement, sealing his place among the best point forwards of all time.

No. 11: Tracy McGrady

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    AUBURN HILLS, MI - FEBRUARY 11:  Tracy McGrady #1 of the Detroit Pistons controls the ball while playing the Miami Heat at The Palace of Auburn Hills on February 11, 2011 in Auburn Hills, Michigan. Miami won the game 106-92.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Gett
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    After entering the NBA straight out of high school, Tracy McGrady needed a few years to develop, however, it soon became evident that he was destined to become one of the league's best playmakers.

    And while he was largely known for his scoring, the 6'8", 223-pound forward also possessed a fantastic ability to set up his teammates.

    In fact, McGrady averaged over five assists per game seven times, with a single-season high of 6.5 APG.

    Moreover, in his most recent campaign, he even logged some time actually playing at point guard for the Detroit Pistons.

    So in all, McGrady has been able to post a career average of 4.6 assists per game over his 14 seasons in the NBA, earning him a place among the NBA's best point forwards ever.

No. 10: Lamar Odom

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    NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 11: Lamar Odum #7 of the Los Angeles Lakers dribbles against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on February 11, 2011 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    Shortly after debuting in the NBA, Lamar Odom was already putting his point forward skills on display.

    As a matter of fact, the 6'11", 220-pound forward racked up 4.2 assists per game as a rookie, followed by 5.2 and 5.9 assists-per-game seasons.

    However, he hasn't managed to maintain that level of production throughout his career, due to his playing alongside other players who serve as primary ball-handlers, and more recently, due to his limited playing time in a sixth-man role.

    Nevertheless, whenever Odom is on the court his playmaking skills are apparent, so as he continues his career he will certainly end up among the top point forwards ever. 

No. 9: Chris Webber

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    SACRAMENTO, CA - OCTOBER 16:  Chris Webber #4 of the Sacramento Kings drives upcourt during a preseason game against the New York Knicks on October 16, 2002 at Arco Arena in Sacramento, California.  The Knicks won 87-84.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly ackn
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    After an enormously successful career in which he was named to five All-Star teams, Chris Webber was certainly one of the more successful NBA players of his era.

    What's more, the 6'9", 245-pound power forward was able to thrive as a focal point of his team's offense, setting up his teammates regularly with his solid ball-handling and passing.

    As a result, Webber managed to average 4.2 assists per game throughout the entirety of his career, allowing him to go down as one of the best point forwards of all time. 

No. 8: Paul Pressey

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    1989:  Paul Pressey of the Milwaukee Bucks dribbles the ball down the court during a game at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Daniel  /Allsport
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    While Don Nelson utilized Marques Johnson as his first, experimental point forward, he really took the position to another level with Paul Pressey.

    Pressey actually played alongside Johnson on the Milwaukee Bucks, and Nelson immediately shifted the responsibility of running the offense onto the shoulders of Pressey.

    For his part, Pressey thrived as the team's ball-handler, distributor and playmaker, averaging upwards of seven assists per game during a five-year span.

    In the end, he finished with a per-game career average of 5.1 assists, making him one of the first highly successful point forwards in NBA history. 

No. 7: Kevin Garnett

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    LOS ANGELES- MAY 25:  Kevin Garnett #21 of the Minnesota Timberwolves signals a play as he dribbles the ball against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game three of the Western Conference Finals during the 2004 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on May 25, 2004 in Lo
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Before joining the Boston Celtics, Kevin Garnett was the do-it-all force powering the Minnesota Timberwolves.

    And while his scoring, rebounding and defense got much of the attention, the 6'11", 220-pound forward also proved himself as an outstanding distributor.

    As a matter of fact, he logged six consecutive seasons with an average of five or more assists per game, and 10 seasons with four or more.

    So despite his increasing age and decreasing amount of time spent as his team's playmaker, KG has still posted a career average of 4.1 assists per contest, making him one of the NBA's all-time great point forwards.

No. 6: Rick Barry

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    photo from blogtalkradio.com
    photo from blogtalkradio.com

    Rick Barry may have been the NBA's first highly effective point forward.

    In fact, former NBA Coach of the Year Del Harris once said of Barry, "He would sort it out. He would make the plays. He was really the first guy to be utilized in that role very heavily. But there was no name attached to it."

    Moreover, in his 10-year NBA career (Barry also played in the ABA for four seasons), the 6'7", 205-pound forward managed to average a full 5.1 assists per game, including five campaigns with six or more assists per contest.

    Therefore, there is no doubt that the eight-time NBA All-Star was one of the best point forwards of all time.

No. 5: Grant Hill

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    24 Mar 1999: Grant Hill #33 of the Detroit Pistons dribbles the ball during a game against the New Jersey Nets at the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Piston defeated the Nets 84-71.
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    While Grant Hill just finished up his 16th season in the NBA as a solid, if somewhat underwhelming player, it's easy to forget just how dominant he was early in his career.

    During his early years with the Detroit Pistons, the 6'8", 225-pound small forward did it all on the court.

    And he was a fantastic point forward early on, as he managed to average over 6.25 assists per game throughout his first seven NBA seasons.

    So although his career was severely hindered by repeated injuries, Hill has still earned a place among the top point forwards in history. 

No. 4: Scottie Pippen

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    20 May 1997:  Chicago Bulls forward Scottie Pippen dribbles up the court during playoff game against the Miami Heat at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.  The Bulls won the game 84-77. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Daniel  /Allsport
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Scottie Pippen may be one of the most underrated players in NBA history—which is at least partially due to his role as a point forward.

    Playing alongside Michael Jordan, Pippen did not need to shoulder too much of the scoring load, but instead, he was called upon to defend and run the offense.

    And run the offense he did, racking up a 5.2 assist-per-game average over the course of his 17-year NBA career.

    So seeing as though the 6'8", 210-pound Pippen helped to lead his team to six NBA titles and was named to seven All-Star teams, he is certainly one of the best point forwards ever to grace the court. 

No. 3: Larry Bird

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    1988:  Forward Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics in action versus the Los Angeles Lakers at the Forum in Inglewood, California. Mandatory Credit: Rick Stewart  /Allsport
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    Larry Bird was one of the greatest players of all time.

    However, much of the focus often goes to Bird's scoring abilities, leaving his playmaking to be overlooked.

    Yet that is a big mistake, as the 6'9", 220-pound forward managed to dish out an amazing 6.3 assists per game throughout his 13-year career.

    Moreover, he only averaged below five assists per game twice—once in his rookie season (4.5) and again in his injury-plagued 1988-89 campaign (4.8).

    Consequently, he is within the NBA's top 35 all-time in total assists, a 12-time All-Star, a three-time MVP, a three-time NBA champion and definitely one of the best point forwards in NBA history.

No. 2: LeBron James

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    NEWARK, NJ - APRIL 03:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat dribbles the ball upcourt against the New Jersey Nets at the Prudential Center on April 3, 2011 in Newark, New Jersey.The Heat defeated the Nets 108-94.NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Sure, LeBron James is only in his eighth NBA season—but with what he has accomplished so far, he has certainly earned a spot next to the best point forwards in the NBA.

    Currently, he is maintaining a career average of 7.0 assists per game, and he has posted a single-season average as high as 8.6.

    Moreover, LeBron is cognizant of his role as an all-time great point forward, as he has stated, "I play it on the court every night, being the point forward. I bring the ball up a lot for this team. I initiate a lot of the offense. At the same time, I can create for myself also. Just like Pippen did. People look at Grant Hill in his heyday when he did a lot of those things too."

    So with the talent, skills, track record and confidence, the two-time MVP James is clearly one of the best point forwards ever.

No. 1: Magic Johnson

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    26 Mar 1996:  Guard Magic Johnson of the Los Angeles Lakers moves the ball against the Orlando Magic during a game played at the Orlando Arena in Orlando, Florida.  The Lakers won the game, 113-91. Mandatory Credit: ALLSPORT USA  /Allsport
    Getty Images/Getty Images

    Yes, Magic Johnson did play point guard, not forward, for the majority of his career.

    However, that wasn't always the case, seeing as though Norm Nixon was the Los Angeles Lakers' point guard during Magic's first four seasons.

    And also, even when he was the point guard, Magic still occasionally shifted to play other positions.

    After all, who can forget his filling in for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at center during the 1980 NBA Finals.

    But perhaps most important is the fact that he was, simply, a point guard in a forward's body, which should in and of itself make him a point forward.

    So after qualifying him for contention as a point forward, little argument is need to show that he was the best.

    With an average of 11.2 assists per game during his 13-year career, Magic leads the NBA by a long shot.

    What's more, his career assist total ranks fourth all-time.

    And when one factors in that he stands 6'8", weighed 220 pounds and was a 12-time All-Star, five-time NBA champion and three-time MVP, it's clear that Magic was the best point forward ever.