B/R NBA Legends 100: Ranking the Greatest Power Forwards of All Time

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistMarch 30, 2015

B/R NBA Legends 100: Ranking the Greatest Power Forwards of All Time

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    Throughout all the years of NBA history, there's been no shortage of dominant power forwards, even if the position's overall role has changed over the course of time. 

    During the early seasons of the Association, they were bruising ones who dominated on the boards and bumped bodies with other bigs. But over the decades, they evolved into more versatile players, culminating in today's idea of a stretch 4—a power forward who can step out to the perimeter and knock down jumpers. 

    In between—and even today—there's been every variety imaginable. Some power forwards have impressed with their mid-range games while others can't be stopped with their backs to the basket. Others still thrive as defensive stalwarts, focusing their energy on protecting the rim at all costs. 

    Nowadays, we're moving into a new era of power forwards, as Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki get closer to the end of their careers. Fortunately, there's no shortage of up-and-coming studs between Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin and Kevin Love, among others. 

    But how does everyone stack up throughout NBA history? 

    This is about more than those few standouts who still suit up in the Association. We're interested in how the legends of the power forward position compare to one another, from Bob Pettit's excellence for the St. Louis Hawks in the 1950s all the way through to those making a name for themselves right now. 

    We're not just concerned with the best peaks, and it's also not only about the longest careers. Instead, we looked at the strength of an entire career, evaluated largely by using numbers. But the prominence of metrics and advanced statistics doesn't mean context can be thrown out the window, either. 

    Everything matters. 

    Note: All stats come from Basketball-Reference.com and are current through March 21 unless otherwise indicated. That's also the source of positional decisions throughout this series of articles. Whichever position a player is listed at for the majority of the seasons in his career is where he'll be placed in the series. 

Important: Glossary of New Metrics That Factor into Evaluation

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    Though this article will rely heavily on established advanced metrics like win shares, player efficiency rating, true shooting percentage and more, I've also developed a new set of performance metrics that can be used to compare players across eras. 

    As you'll soon see, these metrics will be displayed for every featured man, and they'll be discussed quite often throughout the descriptions of the players in question. Therefore, it's best to familiarize yourself with them now. 

    Understanding the exact calculations is unnecessary for these purposes, but do take the time to understand the principles and purposes, as that will allow you to fully grasp the justifications for the order of this countdown. 

    With traditional metrics, we can gauge how well a player performed during the regular season throughout his career. But with these new ones, we have insight into his playoff performances as well as how valuable he was to his team and throughout the league in general. 

    Playoff Performance (PP)

    Derived by multiplying game score by the number of playoff appearances, this simply shows the strength of a player's statistical production during the postseason. It rewards both quality of play and longevity, as the top scores are only achieved by maintaining excellent performances over the course of multiple deep playoff runs. 

    Advancement Share (AS)

    This shows how deep a player advanced into the playoffs. Different rounds are weighted differently—250 possible points for a title, 100 for an unsuccessful appearance in the NBA finals and 50 for a conference finals exit—but not every player earns all the possible points. 

    To recognize that some players are bigger contributors than others, the advancement scores are weighted by how much time a player spends on the court. Someone who wins a title but only plays 20 minutes per game will receive a lower percentage of the possible points than a teammate who played 35 minutes per contest. 

    As a result, this shows both playoff success and relative importance during the run of the player in question. 

    Career Contributions (CC)

    Win shares are supposed to be an approximation of how many wins a player provided to his team during a given season, so dividing win shares by team wins should give an estimate of the percentage of value that player was responsible for. Multiplying that by how successful a team was that year (based on TeamRtng+, a combination of adjusted defensive rating—DRtng+—and adjusted offensive rating—ORtng+) accounts for both a player's value and the strength of the team he was contributing to. 

    Career Contributions sums a player's scores for every season of his career, showing how much value he provided during his NBA life. 

    Career Contributions per Season (CC/Season)

    This shows the number of Career Contributions that a player earned during an average season. It's no more complicated than that. 

    Literal MVPs (LMVPs)

    MVP literally stands for "Most Valuable Player," though the award is usually given to the best player on one of the best teams depending on the narrative, the glamorous play of the candidate and other factors. A literal MVP, or LMVP, is given instead to the player with the top Career Contributions value during the season in question. 

    An LMVP can go to a player on the best team in the league, but it can also be handed to a player who was essentially a one-man wrecking crew on one of the bottom feeders. The strength of the team doesn't matter, save for the Career Contributions calculation. 

    Literal MVP Shares (LMVP Shares)

    Rather than only rewarding the LMVP, we're giving credit to every player who was the top contributor for his team during a given season. Team-leading win-share producers were sorted by Career Contributions, then they were handed LMVP shares according to their finish on that leaderboard. 

    The LMVP himself gets a full LMVP share. Second place receives 0.5 LMVP shares. Third place gets 0.33 LMVP shares, and so on and so forth. 

    Ultimate Season

    This appears in the information of each slide, and it's a method of representing a player's peak. Rather than arbitrarily selecting his best season, we're meshing together the best performances of his career for each per-game stat. 

    That means his points per game could come from his rookie year while his rebounds per game could be drawn from a season five years down the road. The only qualifier is that he must have played in at least 30 games during the season in question, thereby avoiding small-sample-size effects. 

Honorable Mentions

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    Blake Griffin

    If only Blake Griffin had spent more time in the NBA. Sadly, that's just not possible, as he had to play out at least some of his basketball life at Oklahoma before declaring for the NBA draft, being selected by the Los Angeles Clippers at No. 1 and sitting out a year with a knee injury. 

    The 26-year-old Griffin is on pace to be one of the most productive power forwards of all time, boasting ridiculous numbers in virtually every category. What he's done at this age is just phenomenal even if his resume is still too thin to move any higher than the honorable mentions. With only 308 games under his belt heading into the 2014-15 season, making it this far in and of itself is a huge achievement. 

    Spencer Haywood

    Spencer Haywood is at a slight disadvantage because he spent the first year of his professional career in the ABA, which doesn't count for these purposes. During that 1969-70 season with the Denver Rockets, though, he was absolutely phenomenal. 

    Not only did he lead the league in scoring and rebounding with an ABA-high 28.0 player efficiency rating, but he steered the Rockets into the Western Division Finals, where they lost in five games to the Los Angeles Stars. Haywood thrived in the NBA, but he never came close to matching the exploits of his sole ABA campaign. 

    Maurice Lucas

    These honorable mentions are presented in alphabetical order by last name, but Maurice Lucas is still tops among them for all intents and purposes. He was closest to earning one of the coveted ranked spots on this power forward list, missing out largely because he was never ultra-valuable to his teams. 

    Lucas' Career Contributions per season are only 11.82, which was better than only a handful of the power forwards analyzed for these rankings. Among the 25 featured players and the four other honorable mentions, no other player earned fewer than 12 Career Contributions during the average season of his career. As good as Lucas was, he was just never that important to his team. 

    Rasheed Wallace

    Unfortunately for Rasheed Wallace, numbers—just like the ball—don't lie. 

    "Rasheed Wallace excelled at two basketball things. The first: He was an elite one-on-one post defender who could match up against Tim Duncan or Kevin Garnett or Tracy McGrady without needing a double-team," Jay Caspian Kang wrote in an excellent profile of Wallace for Grantland. The other was simply his understanding of the game even if that didn't always manifest itself in tangible results for his teams. 

    Buck Williams

    If Maurice Lucas was the most honorable of the five mentions on this slide, Buck Williams would fall on the opposite end of the spectrum. He's dangerously close to ceding his spot to Kevin Love, Zach Randolph and LaMarcus Aldridge though all three must continue operating at high levels to make their cases stronger.

    Williams, though he possessed little ability to make an offensive impact, was a stellar defender. In fact, he was strong enough on that end of the court to earn four All-Defensive selections throughout his nearly two-decade-long career. It just wasn't quite enough to cover up all his flaws. 

25. Terry Cummings

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    Dick Raphael/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1982-2000

    Teams: San Diego Clippers, Milwaukee Bucks, San Antonio Spurs, Seattle SuperSonics, Philadelphia 76ers, New York Knicks, Golden State Warriors

    Career Per-Game Stats: 16.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.5 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 23.7 points, 10.6 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.8 steals, 1.0 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 18.3 PER, .520 TS%, 108 ORtg, 105 DRtg, 91.1 WS, 0.129 WS/48, 0.203 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 1254 PP, 46.34 AS, 225.74 CC, 12.54 CC/Season, 1 LMVP, 1.11 LMVP Shares

    While much of Terry Cummings' career was quite impressive, he was never better (or at least more valuable) than he was during the 1982-83 season with the San Diego Clippers. That just happened to be his rookie year, and he averaged 23.7 points, 10.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.8 steals per game during his first go-round out of DePaul. 

    It was enough for him to earn 8.7 win shares, an impressive total in a vacuum but one that becomes even more stellar when it comes on a 25-win Clippers squad. That allowed Cummings to earn 31.96 Career Contributions, giving him the LMVP for the 1982-83 season, an unofficial award he narrowly earned over Clark Kellogg of the Indiana Pacers and the Milwaukee Bucks' Sidney Moncrief. 

    Cummings remained quite valuable during the first half of his career, but his overall placement is downgraded based on what happened in the hottest months of 1992. While playing in a pickup game, he suffered a devastating knee injury, sapping him of his explosiveness and keeping him out of the lineup for the ensuing season's first 74 games. 

    He would never be the same, and he played out the final seven years of his career as a reserve forward, which severely drops his overall non-counting numbers. Lest we forget, Cummings averaged 21.3 and 8.7 during his first decade in the league, earning a 19.6 PER in the process.  


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

24. Harry Gallatin

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    NBA Photos/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1948-58

    Teams: New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons

    Career Per-Game Stats: 13.0 points, 11.9 rebounds, 1.8 assists

    Ultimate Season: 15.0 points, 15.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists

    Career Advanced Stats: 21.5 PER, .497 TS%, 78.4 WS, 0.182 WS/48, 0.012 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 730.24 PP, 287.11 AS, 177.66 CC, 22.21 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.89 LMVP Shares

    Placing players from this era is always a difficult endeavor, as the game was remarkably different back then. To prove that, you need only look at Harry Gallatin's true shooting percentage. 

    If you're a student of today's game and today's game alone, you probably aren't impressed by a .497 percent true shooting percentage. After all, that's the same mark Norris Cole produced in 2013-14, which placed him at No. 223 among the 259 qualified scorers in the NBA, per Basketball-Reference.com.

    But in 1948-49, the first year of Gallatin's career, the same true shooting percentage would have finished at No. 5. In the final season of this power forward's NBA tenure, which happened to come with the Detroit Pistons, it would have been the top 10's caboose

    The NBA has changed. Obviously. 

    But during that early stage, Gallatin was a dominant player, one who provided plenty of value to the New York Knicks despite not truly thriving as a scorer. While standing only 6'6" tall and often still operating as the biggest player on the court for his teams, he was one of the best rebounders in the game, a man who could turn his impressive strength into all-around production. 

    Among every player in NBA history who stood 6'6" or shorter, only Elgin Baylor and Gus Johnson have averaged more rebounds per game than Gallatin's 15.3 during the 1953-54 season. 


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

23. Horace Grant

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    Rocky Widner/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1987-2004

    Teams: Chicago Bulls, Orlando Magic, Seattle SuperSonics, Los Angeles Lakers

    Career Per-Game Stats: 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.0 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 15.1 points, 11.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.5 steals, 1.6 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 16.0 PER, .540 TS%, 117 ORtg, 104 DRtg, 118.2 WS, 0.147 WS/48, 0 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 2006 PP, 883.44 AS, 244.2 CC, 14.36 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0 LMVP Shares

    Horace Grant was never his team's most valuable player. Not even once—though that's pretty understandable when you consider who he played with. 

    During his tenure with the Chicago Bulls, he suited up alongside Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Then he made his way to the Orlando Magic, where he was joined by Shaquille O'Neal and Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway.

    He was destined to be a third wheel, and it's a role he excelled in throughout his impressive career. In fact, the largest quantity of Career Contributions he earned during any one season was 25.72 during the 1991-92 season with the Bulls. 

    That's an excellent total, but it doesn't fall in line with the career-best efforts of most guys you'll see on this list. In fact, two players who have yet to appear actually averaged more throughout their NBA lives. 

    Grant was just never one for glamorous production. Instead, he was all in favor of putting on those trademark goggles every night and doing the dirty work, allowing the marquee players to produce points while he anchored the interior of the defense. It paid off in the form of four All-Defensive selections during the prime years of his career, and his consistent contributions have allowed him to earn one of the featured spots here.  


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

22. Shawn Kemp

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    Lou Capozzola/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1989-2003

    Teams: Seattle SuperSonics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Portland Trail Blazers, Orlando Magic

    Career Per-Game Stats: 14.6 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.1 steals, 1.2 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 20.5 points, 11.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.8 steals, 2.1 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 19.1 PER, .555 TS%, 106 ORtg, 100 DRtg, 89.5 WS, 0.147 WS/48, 0.088 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 1279.52 PP, 111.94 AS, 204.65 CC, 14.62 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.24 LMVP Shares

    For a 10-year stretch, Shawn Kemp was great. Great enough that you're probably surprised you're seeing him show up so soon. 

    Not only did he fill up highlight reels with his thunderous in-game dunks, ones that still resonate to this day, but he put up big numbers for both the Seattle SuperSonics and Cleveland Cavaliers. It may be hard to picture him in anything other than a green uniform, but his three seasons in Cleveland still saw him play fantastic basketball even if the efficiency numbers were slipping. 

    That said, Kemp's true prime really only lasted for a handful of seasons, when he was destroying defenses without missing more than half of his shots and simultaneously dominating on the glass. From 1993-94 through 1996-97, he earned double-digit win shares each campaign, topping out at 11.7 in the opening year of that stretch. 

    It's just not enough. 

    Kemp was a highlight machine and an incredibly popular player, sure. But he flamed out far too quickly, and a short-lived prime isn't enough to work any higher in this countdown toward No. 1. Had there been more finesse to his game, he would have been able to carve out a larger role once his athleticism declined, but that just wasn't the case. 


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

21. Otis Thorpe

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    Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1984-2001

    Teams: Kansas City/Sacramento Kings, Houston Rockets, Portland Trail Blazers, Detroit Pistons, Vancouver Grizzlies, Washington Wizards, Miami Heat, Charlotte Hornets

    Career Per-Game Stats: 14.0 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.4 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 20.8 points, 10.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.7 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 16.0 PER, .584 TS%, 112 ORtg, 107 DRtg, 106.4 WS, 0.128 WS/48, 0 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 677.04 PP, 193.23 AS, 276.73 CC, 16.28 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.48 LMVP Shares

    For a player with such a lengthy career, Otis Thorpe had an awfully difficult time achieving any sort of success in the playoffs. His regular-season resume isn't as impressive as that of others directly around him, either, but the longevity gives him a nice boost. After all, it wasn't until the final two seasons of his career that he devolved into a role player.

    Thorpe did manage to win a ring in his prime, though. It came in 1993-94, when he—averaging a double-double—teamed up with Hakeem Olajuwon to take advantage of the Michael Jordan-less league. But other than that season, which stands out as an aberration, his resume contains an endless string of early flame-outs. 

    Other than that campaign and the one just prior, the only time Thorpe played in at least 10 postseason games came in 1999-00 with the Miami Heat, when he was on the court for just 13.6 minutes per game. That and the ensuing season with the Charlotte Hornets represented the only other two times he was on a squad that won a single playoff series. 

    Of the 25 featured players in this article, only seven have a lower Advancement Share, which is problematic given the length of Thorpe's career. Additionally, his Playoff Performance ranks No. 24 among that same group of power forwards.  


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

20. Elton Brand

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    Noah Graham/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1999-Current

    Teams: Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Clippers, Philadelphia 76ers, Dallas Mavericks, Atlanta Hawks

    Career Per-Game Stats: 16.2 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.9 steals, 1.8 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 24.7 points, 11.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.1 steals, 2.5 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 20.6 PER, .549 TS%, 110 ORtg, 104 DRtg, 109.4 WS, 0.152 WS/48, 0.041 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 452.14 PP, 0 AS, 326.93 CC, 21.8 CC/Season, 2 LMVPs, 3.47 LMVP Shares

    Elton Brand is the only featured player who fares worse than Otis Thorpe in both playoff categories. Not only does he have a limited amount of experience in the postseason, but he's never been on a team that advanced to even the conference finals. Brand has been a part of four playoff runs, but only the 2005-06 Los Angeles Clippers and the 2011-12 Philadelphia 76ers got out of the first round. 

    Nonetheless, he's asserted himself as a dominant regular-season player though he's clearly only a shell of his former self now that he's playing out his twilight years with the Atlanta Hawks. Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski must have done a great job with him because he emerged from college ready to compete from day one. 

    As a rookie, Brand averaged 20.1 points and 10.0 rebounds per game for the Chicago Bulls, who were still reeling from the loss of Michael Jordan to his second of three retirements. Despite playing on that team, which went just 17-65, he earned 7.5 win shares. It was enough to earn him the LMVP during a season in which he'd also take home Rookie of the Year honors. 

    Brand wasn't done. He defended his LMVP title as a sophomore, narrowly edging out Shareef Abdur-Rahim for the second consecutive season before losing by an equally slim margin to Tim Duncan during Brand's first year with the Los Angeles Clippers. 

    He'd become less valuable as his teams improved, but it's impossible to overlook just how well he fared as a featured, albeit inexperienced, player. Earning 3.47 LMVP Shares actually puts him in the all-time top 10 regardless of position.  


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

19. Amar'e Stoudemire

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    Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    Years Played: 2002-Current

    Teams: Phoenix Suns, New York Knicks, Dallas Mavericks

    Career Per-Game Stats: 19.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.8 steals, 1.3 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 26.0 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.2 steals, 2.1 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 21.9 PER, .596 TS%, 113 ORtg, 106 DRtg, 89.4 WS, 0.169 WS/48, 0.067 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 1045.12 PP, 41.77 AS, 188.66 CC, 15.72 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.474 LMVP Shares

    Rarely has there been a better combination of skill set and system than the one Amar'e Stoudemire enjoyed during his days with the Phoenix Suns. Operating in Mike D'Antoni's "seven seconds or less" offense and playing alongside Steve Nash and Shawn Marion, Stoudemire was given free rein to attack the hoop and use his devastating athleticism. 

    It paid off for everyone involved though the crew could never make a truly deep run into the playoffs, tapping out in the Western Conference Finals. But peak Stoudemire was just a brilliant player on the offensive end, averaging 25.2 points per game on 59 percent shooting from the field during the 2007-08 campaign. 

    Of course, there are a number of factors holding him back as well. 

    First, it's tough to withstand such a beating when you have that much size, and the constant jumping took a toll on Stoudemire's knees. Now with the Dallas Mavericks after he and the New York Knicks agreed to part ways, he's quite obviously not the same player, and he has an inordinate amount of difficulty staying healthy for prolonged stretches. 

    Even more importantly, he also hasn't been the most stellar defender throughout his career, focusing his energy on his scoring efforts. According to Basketball-Reference.com, his teams have allowed an additional 2.6 points per 100 possessions when he plays during the regular season, and that number jumps to a massive 9.4 when we're discussing the postseason. 


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

18. Vern Mikkelsen

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    Matty Zimmerman/Associated Press

    Years Played: 1949-59

    Teams: Minneapolis Lakers

    Career Per-Game Stats: 14.4 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists

    Ultimate Season: 18.7 points, 11.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists

    Career Advanced Stats: 18.6 PER, .478 TS%, 83.4 WS, 0.170 WS/48, 0.007 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 846.6 PP, 862.67 AS, 211.42 CC, 23.49 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.45 LMVP Shares

    That jaw-dropping Advancement Shares number of 826.67 stems from Vern Mikkelsen's championship-winning seasons with the Minneapolis Lakers. Though there were a few other stars on those rosters—George Mikan, Slater Martin and Jim Pollard made the teams rather stacked—he was nonetheless a central figure on one of the NBA's earliest dynasties. 

    From 1950 through 1954, Minneapolis won four titles, only failing to come out on top in 1951 when it lost to Arnie Risen and the Rochester Royals in the Western Division Finals. And throughout the run, Mikkelsen was close to being the heart of the team even if he wasn't the most dynamic scorer.

    He was just a tough player, one who was willing to make any type of contribution possible. During his sophomore season, he even managed to average 2.8 assists per game. 

    If you're thinking to yourself, "Wow, that's not a very impressive figure even for a power forward," then you need to put yourself back in that early era. Shooting percentages were low, players struggled to score, offenses weren't particularly sophisticated, and scorers were much more stringent when handing out dimes. 

    In 1950-51, Mikkelsen's 2.8 assists per game were better than all but 24 players throughout the Association.

    Not too shabby for a 4, right?


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

17. Chris Webber

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    Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1993-2008

    Teams: Golden State Warriors, Washington Bullets, Sacramento Kings, Philadelphia 76ers, Detroit Pistons

    Career Per-Game Stats: 20.7 points, 9.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.4 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 27.1 points, 13.0 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.8 steals, 2.2 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 20.9 PER, .513 TS%, 104 ORtg, 101 DRtg, 84.7 WS, 0.132 WS/48, 0.588 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 1114.4 PP, 69.73 AS, 199.45 CC, 13.3 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.23 LMVP Shares

    Some of the seasons that Chris Webber put together were just unbelievable. 

    How about the 1998-99 campaign, one in which he averaged 20 points and a league-best 13 rebounds per game for the Sacramento Kings? What about the very next season, when he earned 25.72 Career Contributions, giving him the most LMVP Shares he'd ever earn in a single year? 

    All of those numbers are quite impressive, but Webber was always a gambler on defense, and he cared more about flashiness than playing the most productive basketball possible. As Jason Whitlock once argued for ESPN, Chris Webber was better than "C-Webb," but we ended up watching the latter far more often:

    Chris Webber had the potential to become the best power forward the game has ever seen. He could've been as reliable in the low post as Kevin McHale, as consistent and relentless as The Mailman, as immovable as Wes Unseld. He could've been a terrific last line of defense.

    Instead, C-Webb focused on redefining the position. C-Webb wanted to do a little bit of everything -- shoot the 3, lead the break, dish the ball behind his back and avoid the daily bump and grind of typical low-post play.

    As a result, Webber's efficiency slipped throughout his career, leading to that career true shooting percentage of just .513. No other solely post-merger power forward in these rankings posted such a low number.

    Webber's legacy, rather than focusing on his immense talent and what he actually did on the basketball court, will always center around how much better he could have been. He could have been one of the true historical elites at the position rather than a player who squeezed his way into the top 20. He could have won championships rather than experience one early postseason exit after another.

    As Whitlock would argue, he could've been Chris Webber rather than C-Webb.  


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

16. Larry Nance

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    Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1981-94

    Teams: Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers

    Career Per-Game Stats: 17.1 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.9 steals, 2.2 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 22.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.4 steals, 3.0 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 19.9 PER, .586 TS%, 116 ORtg, 104 DRtg, 109.6 WS, 0.171 WS/48, 0.004 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 994.16 PP, 80.51 AS, 264.93 CC, 20.38 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.76 LMVP Shares

    As Pro Hoops History explains, Larry Nance's game was basically all about his work at the rim:

    Larry Nance was a ferocious, dynamic, and unstoppable finisher at the rim. You'd have to be brave, insane, or both, to try and stop his forays to the basket. On the fast break he'd catch Mark Price's lobs or dimes and finish them off right with swooping one-handed sledgehammers and two-handed pile drivers. It's as if a whirlwind of fury was released on the hardwood of the NBA.

    And that fury applied on the defensive end as well. In fact, maybe even more so. Nance prided himself on brazenly protecting the rim. He allowed few shots to go up undetected and undisturbed. He toiled on the Phoenix Suns for most of the 1980s, which likely prejudiced voters against him, so Nance made only three All-Defensive teams. All of those selections came after he joined a winning ball club in Cleveland. His defense there was just as nasty as it was in the Arizona desert, though.

    Also working in his favor was consistency, as Nance enjoyed over a decade of high-quality basketball from 1982 until 1993. His rookie season out of Clemson and his final year, which came with the Cleveland Cavaliers, weren't up to the standards set by the rest of his career, but everything else was spectacular. 

    Only holding Nance back from even higher placement is the lack of a ridiculous prime—his PER only fluctuated from 18.7 to 21.4 during that aforementioned decade—and his inability to go deep into the postseason. Though his teams made the conference finals on two separate occasions, the majority of his tenure in the Association was filled with exits that came either at the conclusion of the regular season or after the first round of the postseason experience. 

    Among the top 20 power forwards in these rankings, Elton Brand, Vern Mikkelsen, Nance and one player yet to come are the only ones without a four-digit Playoff Performance score. Brand, Amar'e Stoudemire and Chris Webber are the only players with lower Advancement Shares. 

    As good as Nance was during the regular season, that's a nasty combination. 


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

15. Dave DeBusschere

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    Ken Regan/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1962-74

    Teams: Detroit Pistons, New York Knicks

    Career Per-Game Stats: 16.1 points, 11.0 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.5 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 18.2 points, 13.5 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.5 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 15.5 PER, .472 TS%, 60.8 WS, 0.093 WS/Season, 0.014 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 1372.8 PP, 579.53 AS, 151.35 CC, 12.61 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.1 LMVP Shares

    Defense matters just as much as offense does. 

    Dave DeBusschere wasn't much of a scorer, never averaging more than the 18.2 points per game he produced in 1966-67 for the Detroit Pistons. But he did everything else well, especially when it came to rebounding and playing hard-nosed defense. During the dozen seasons he spent in the NBA, he averaged double figures in the rebounding column 10 times. 

    Plus, he was named to the All-Defensive squad on six separate occasions, which is made all the more impressive when you realize the inaugural group of selections coming in 1968-69 gave him only six opportunities to gain entry. 

    Had DeBusschere stuck around just one season longer rather than retiring at 33 after his final go-round with the New York Knicks, he would have had a chance to join Walt Frazier as the only player in NBA history to make each of the first seven All-Defensive First Teams. That, more than anything else, is a true testament to his unabashed excellence on the less glamorous end. 

    Because defense doesn't always show up in the box score, DeBusschere's performance metrics aren't particularly kind to him. He didn't rack up that many Career Contributions, and that means the LMVP Shares are tough to come by. But he played well for a dozen years on competitive teams, and even during the tail end of his career, he was one of the very best defenders in the league. 

    That has to count for a lot. 


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

14. Chris Bosh

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Years Played: 2003-Current

    Teams: Toronto Raptors, Miami Heat

    Career Per-Game Stats: 19.3 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.8 steals, 1.1 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 24.0 points, 10.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.4 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 20.6 PER, .571 TS% 113 ORtg, 105 DRtg, 99.7 WS, 0.159 WS/48 

    Performance Metrics: 1143.65 PP, 480 AS, 239.94 CC, 21.81 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.66 LMVP Shares

    Chris Bosh has now thrived in two vastly different roles. 

    Early in his career, he was "the man" for the Toronto Raptors, putting up remarkable numbers and serving as the featured option while carrying his team into the playoffs. That's reflected in his Career Contributions, as his seasonal total was higher than 17 each and every season of his Canada-based tenure.

    In fact, Bosh managed to earn 9.8 win shares during the 2005-06 season, his third out of Georgia Tech. It was the first time he'd be named an All-Star, thanks largely to his per-game averages of 22.5 points, 9.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists on 50.5 percent shooting, and those win shares came despite the Raptors winning just 27 games all year. The result was a career-best 34.4 Career Contributions, which left him trailing only Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant in the LMVP hunt.

    But in 2010, Bosh signed with the Miami Heat, and he completely changed his game. Often serving as the second or third wheel, he became more of a stretch 4 than ever before, and his shooting efforts and underrated defensive skills were key in South Beach. Without Bosh, that team wouldn't have won two titles or advanced to the NBA Finals four times in four years.

    No matter what his role has been, he's been valuable. Now, he has a chance to continue honing that resume as an even more key player in the post-LeBron James portion of Miami history. It's one he was adjusting to nicely this year, and one he'll continue on in after he fully recovers from the blood clots in his lungs that knocked him out of action for the rest of the 2014-15 season.  


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

13. Bobby Jones

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    Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1974-86

    Teams: Denver Nuggets (ABA and NBA), Philadelphia 76ers

    Career Per-Game Stats: 11.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.3 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 15.1 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 2.3 steals, 2.0 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 17.9 PER, .604 TS%, 115 ORtg, 99 DRtg, 73.7 WS, 0.175 WS/48, 0.004 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 1303.75 PP, 305.32 AS, 146.2 CC, 14.62 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.125 LMVP Shares

    If we're going to give Dave DeBusschere so much untempered praise for his defensive chops, we have to do the exact same for Bobby Jones, who made the All-Defensive squad nine times in only 10 tries. His only miss came in the final season of his career, and he added two more selections during his two years in the ABA though that doesn't technically matter here. 

    The difference between DeBusschere and Jones—who made plenty of sacrifices throughout his career, including an unrelenting acceptance of his role off the bench—comes on the offensive end. 

    Though he lags behind the older player in the scoring column and on the glass, his efficiency made him slightly more valuable. DeBusschere's .472 true shooting percentage falls well behind Jones' mark, and the same is true when it comes to PER, win shares, win shares per 48 minutes and Career Contributions per season. 

    Jones' worst field-goal percentage during his NBA life was 52.3 percent, and he led the league during the 1977-78 campaign. Again, this doesn't technically matter, but he also paced the ABA in each of his first two professional seasons. 

    Even without factoring in that ABA work, Jones has one of the 15 best career true shooting percentages in NBA history. DeBusschere, meanwhile, is significantly outside the top 250, which is as far down as Basketball-Reference.com's leaderboards go.  


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

12. Tom Heinsohn

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    Dick Raphael/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1956-65

    Teams: Boston Celtics

    Career Per-Game Stats: 18.6 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists

    Ultimate Season: 22.1 points, 10.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists

    Career Advanced Stats: 17.8 PER, .460 TS%, 60.0 WS, 0.15 WS/48, 0.053 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 1367.6 PP, 1352.22 AS, 124.29 CC, 13.81 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0 LMVP Shares

    Tom Heinsohn is an interesting case. 

    Of the 25 featured players and the five honorable mentions, only he and Horace Grant went through their entire careers without ever pacing their team in win shares for a given season, which you can ascertain by that zero value in the LMVP Shares category. 

    So why does Grant come in so far behind Heinsohn? Well, not just because the Boston Celtics forward was a much better player, capable of dominating both in the scoring column and on the glass, but also because his career was filled with nothing but success. 

    Much like Grant was kept out of the LMVP competition by Michael Jordan and Shaquille O'Neal, Heinsohn's entire career overlapped with Bill Russell's. It prevented him from ever standing out as an individual, but it did allow him to win eight titles in nine years of action. 

    Think about that. He won a ring in 88.9 percent of his professional seasons, and he did so while serving as a heavily used player for those Celtics, who ran at a fast pace and prioritized defense far more than they did offense. 

    Heinsohn may have zero LMVP shares, but of the 53 power forwards I broke down in detail while researching for this article, only 14 had a higher Playoff Performance score, which is even more impressive because Heinsohn played only nine seasons. 

    And it gets better still. 

    Not a single player had a higher Advancement Share, which is a true testament to Heinsohn playing a large role throughout those championship-winning campaigns, not just riding on the coattails of Russell and the other Celtics legends. 


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

11. Jerry Lucas

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    Associated Press

    Years Played: 1963-74

    Teams: Cincinnati Royals, San Francisco Warriors, New York Knicks

    Career Per-Game Stats: 17.0 points, 15.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.3 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 21.5 points, 21.1 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.3 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 18.9 PER, .544 TS%, 98.4 WS, 0.147 WS/48, 0.027 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 935.28 PP, 243.6 AS, 229.05 CC, 20.82 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.2 LMVP Shares

    Ah, the good ol' territorial selections. 

    Because Jerry Lucas went to Ohio State to play his college ball, the Cincinnati Royals were able to pluck him straight out of Columbus following a 1962-63 season in which they'd gone to the Eastern Division Finals. It just made their squad all the more loaded though the franchise did not win a championship until Lucas had already departed. 

    Would that have been different if he hadn't been injured against the Philadelphia 76ers during his first venture into the playoffs? We'll never know. 

    Nonetheless, the power forward had a ridiculously good freshman season, averaging 17.7 points, 17.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game while shooting a league-best 52.7 percent from the field.

    "His offensive repertoire included an accurate one-hand push shot that he launched from 20 to 25 feet and that went in with such regularity that one sportswriter dubbed it 'the Lucas Layup,'" wrote NBA.com while profiling the big man. "His formidable passing skills rounded out the package."

    Lucas earned a career-high 12.7 win shares that year, but Oscar Robertson's presence prevented him from earning any LMVP shares. 

    In fact, it wasn't until the 1970s that Lucas would lead his team in win shares, doing so during his only full season with the San Francisco Warriors and also during his first go-round with the New York Knicks. But after that, a 32-year-old Lucas entered into a sharp decline, which cut his career short and prevented him from achieving the longevity enjoyed by most of the remaining players. It was caused both by his bad knees and the ridiculous number of minutes he'd already logged.

    Hard as it is to fathom, Lucas also could have been better if he'd focused more on basketball. Though his off-court pursuits—primarily magic, brain-teasing puzzles and restaurants—allowed him to make plenty of money, they also distracted him from the task at hand. Those distractions led to his retirement and possibly prevented him from living up to the immense popularity he enjoyed while with the Buckeyes and directly after leaving Ohio State behind. 


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

10. Dennis Rodman

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    Bill Baptist/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1986-2000

    Teams: Detroit Pistons, San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks

    Career Per-Game Stats: 7.3 points, 13.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.6 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 11.6 points, 18.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.9 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 14.6 PER, .546 TS%, 114 ORtg, 100 DRtg, 89.8 WS, 0.150 WS/48, 0.040 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 1210.04 PP, 935.28 AS, 180.27 CC, 12.88 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.143 LMVP Shares

    Thanks to the relatively recent news about North Korea and the enduring memory of his zany hairstyles, Dennis Rodman has developed a bit of reputation in the modern day as a goofball. But that's distracted fans from remembering just how much of a passionate competitor he was, which Cameron Stauth describes in The Franchise, a great read about the Bad Boy Detroit Pistons: 

    Rodman's team was losing, and Rodman hated to lose. It didn't matter that this was just practice, a tune-up before the next Chicago game. The Killer B-Team often beat the starters in practice, and they'd had a chance to win this scrimmage. But they'd been too tight—a carryover from the Chicago loss. Detroit was suffering from its first case of nerves in a long time. Passes were going into the seats, a sign of trying too hard. So when it became apparent to Rodman that the B-Team was going to lose, he delicately let go of the ball about waist-high, and—bam!—drop-kicked it as hard as he could. With his phone-pole thighs, he launched it on a tremendous rising curve, over the first section of seats, over the lower deck of suites, into the upper level. 

    "Damn, Dennis!" yelled [coach Jack] McCloskey from the sidelines, "we don't need that crap! Cut it out!" McCloskey took Rodman aside and said a few words to him. The subject was maturity. McCloskey loved Rodman's furious enthusiasm—it was the quality Trader Jack was constantly searching for—but there had to be a needle-sharp focus to it. 

    When Rodman was focused, he was an incredibly driven competitor. He was a player who would go to work on his cardio after playing a full game knowing that his contributions were almost entirely dependent on energy and effort.

    It's what allowed him to become one of the greatest defenders of all time, making eight All-Defensive teams and winning Defensive Player of the Year twice. It's also what allowed him to post a jaw-dropping 23.4 total rebounding percentage over the course of his career. Of all the power forwards analyzed for these rankings, only he and Kevin Love broke past 20 there, and Rodman's mark leaves even Love in the dust. 

    Basically, that effort is what allowed him to assert himself as one of the 10 greatest 4s of all time despite boasting a career average of just 7.3 points per game and topping out at 11.6 during his sophomore season. 

    Rodman's career is one of two distinct portions—one winning titles with the "Jordan Rules" Pistons and establishing himself as a wing defender, and another racking up titles with the Chicago Bulls as a ridiculous rebounder and an even more versatile defender. The transition began with the San Antonio Spurs, but both the pre-morph version and the post-morph one were dominant entities.  


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

9. Elvin Hayes

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    Dick Raphael/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1968-84

    Teams: San Diego/Houston Rockets, Baltimore/Capital/Washington Bullets

    Career Per-Game Stats: 21.0 points, 12.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.0 steals, 2.0 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 28.7 points, 18.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.9 steals, 3.0 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 17.7 PER, .491 TS%, 101 ORtg, 97 DRtg, 120.8 WS, 0.116 WS/48, 0.571 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 1746.24 PP, 390.91 AS, 268.5 CC, 16.78 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.86 LMVP Shares

    Elvin Hayes spent a lot of time lining up at both power forward and center, but we're listing him as the former here, seeing as that was his primary position in all but four of his 16 NBA seasons. Regardless of the position, though, he was still a game-changing player on both ends of the floor. 

    Hayes wasn't a particularly efficient big man, but he did everything in volume. He led the league in scoring during his rookie season, added two rebounding titles to his resume by the time he had six years of experience in the Association and managed to average double-doubles in each of his first dozen go-rounds.

    Speaking of double-doubles, he recorded one in 55 consecutive games during the early 1970s. During the post-Wilt Chamberlain era of NBA basketball, Kevin Love has come closest to matching that remarkable stretch of utter dominance on the glass and in the scoring column, putting up 53 such games in a row during the 2010-11 season. 

    All the while, Hayes was a rim-protecting force, one who racked up the blocks while earning two All-Defensive nods. He might have been a tough presence to deal with in the locker room, but he was a relentless worker who added new elements to his game whenever the need arose, such as a turnaround jumper early in his career when he was suddenly dealing with taller players than he faced at the University of Houston. 

    Though he never established himself as a big-time LMVP candidate, a rarity among the top players in this countdown, his consistent excellence and tenacious efforts must be admired. 


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

8. Kevin McHale

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    Dick Raphael/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1980-93

    Teams: Boston Celtics

    Career Per-Game Stats: 17.9 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.4 steals, 1.7 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 26.1 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 0.5 steals, 2.3 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 20.0 PER, .605 TS%, 118 ORtg, 106 DRtg, 113 WS, 0.180 WS/48, 0.339 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 2514.72 PP, 673.84 AS, 220.9 CC, 16.99 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.06 LMVP Shares

    Kevin McHale was so good with his back to the basket that even his post moves seemed to have post moves of their own. Bill Simmons, noted Boston Celtics fan that he is, was predictably effusive with his praise in The Book of Basketball

    John Salley once described the experience of guarding McHale down low as "being in the man's chamber." Nobody could score more ways down low; not even Hakeem. McHale feasted on defenders with the following three moves: the jump hook (he could do it with either hand, although he never missed the righty one and could shoot it from a variety of angles), the turnaround fall-away (he could do it from both sides and from either direction; completely unblockable), and the step-back jumper from 12-15 feet (which always went in, forcing defenders to play up on him). 

    Simmons goes on to describe all his countermoves for roughly a full page. That's not an exaggeration. 

    McHale was just an unbelievably efficient scorer, one who managed to record a true shooting percentage over .600 while averaging a boatload of points and rarely dunking the ball. Basketball-Reference.com actually reveals that among players who have scored at least 20 points per game in a season, McHale's true shooting percentage in 1987-88 trails only that of Charles Barkley and Adrian Dantley. 

    Though this skilled 4 doesn't have the Career Contributions or LMVPs of the other elite power forwards, that's largely due to the presence of a certain Larry Bird. McHale was just part of the Big Three in Boston, and that trio wouldn't have been nearly as successful without his post moves and severely underrated defense. 


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

7. Dolph Schayes

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    Charles T. Higgins/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1949-64

    Teams: Syracuse Nationals, Philadelphia 76ers

    Career Per-Game Stats: 18.5 points, 12.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists

    Ultimate Season: 24.9 points, 16.4 rebounds, 4.0 assists

    Career Advanced Stats: 22.0 PER, .488 TS%, 142.4 WS, 0.192 WS/48, 0.690 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 1641.24 PP, 522.06 AS, 343.26 CC, 24.52 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 2.801 LMVP Shares

    Dolph Schayes could just do it all, carrying the load for the Syracuse Nationals early in his career and racking up massive Career Contributions all the while. Though he never led the league in that category, which prevented him from earning an LMVP, his LMVP shares are undoubtedly elite. 

    With 2.801 LMVP Shares, he ranks No. 17 all time, regardless of position. Only six power forwards are ahead of him on that leaderboard, and four of them have yet to appear in this countdown. Schayes was the Nationals during the opening salvo of his career, and it worked, given his incredible scoring ability, tenacious work on the boards and proclivity for finding open teammates. 

    In a recent interview with Max Rappaport of NBA.com, Schayes even revealed part of what made him such a gifted scorer: 

    It was an incomplete fracture of a small bone in the wrist, so they were able to put a lightweight cast on it and seal it with a rubberized cover that allowed me to play. My game, I was a scorer and had a good outside shot. I would hit a few shots on the outside and then drive to the basket, but that was all mostly righty. When I broke my wrist, which was my shooting hand, I decided I would become a lefty, and played left-handed for six weeks while the thing healed.

    When the cast was taken off I was able to be ambidextrous, and that increased my efficiency 1000%. I guess you could say that when I broke my wrist, it was a good break for me because of what it added to my game.

    Much like George Mikan playing on a broken leg, that's not the type of story you would hear about a player today. Not because the current stars aren't tough enough, but because defenders are just too good to allow for success with such hefty limitations. 

    The game has changed a lot since Schayes played, and that's one of the things that keeps him from rising any higher up the leaderboard, even if all his performance metrics are quite impressive. 


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

6. Bob Pettit

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    NBA Photos/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1954-65

    Teams: Milwaukee/St. Louis Hawks

    Career Per-Game Stats: 26.4 points, 16.2 rebounds, 3.0 assists

    Ultimate Season: 31.1 points, 20.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists

    Career Advanced Stats: 25.3 PER, .511 TS%, 136 WS, 0.213 WS/48, 2.628 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 1892.88 PP, 635.8 AS, 350.15 CC, 31.83 CC/Season, 1 LMVP, 3.19 LMVP Shares

    It wasn't easy to win a championship when Bill Russell was still playing for the Boston Celtics, but Bob Pettit managed to do so in 1958. Though a severe ankle sprain admittedly limited the great Boston defender, it was Pettit who deserves credit for doing just about everything for the St. Louis Hawks. 

    In Game 6 against a clearly injured Russell, Pettit exploded for a 50-spot, scoring 18 of St. Louis' final 21 points. It didn't matter how many defenders the C's threw at him, he was just unstoppable on that night. He was determined to prevent the series from returning to Beantown for a Game 7 that probably would have added to Russell's growing ring collection. 

    That's the most famous game of this power forward's career, but it wasn't all he did. Just look at those Career Contributions. 

    As successful as the Hawks were during those early years, they were still virtually a one-man team. Averaging 31.83 Career Contributions per season is just ridiculous, and it's rather easily the top number boasted by any player either featured or in the honorable mentions for these rankings. 

    Pettit even earned himself an LMVP, granted for his efforts during the 1955-56 season, which was his second year in the Association. Playing for the 33-39 Hawks, who outperformed their regular-season record and advanced to the Western Division Finals, the 6'9" big man earned 13.8 win shares, allowing him to put up 40.65 Career Contributions in a single season. 

    The biggest problem on his resume is simply that he didn't play enough. Though he and Alex Groza are the only players in NBA history to average more than 20 points per game each and every season of their career (Michael Jordan literally needed one more point during his final year with the Washington Wizards to qualify), he only suited up for 11 campaigns before calling it quits at 32 years old. 

    With only 792 games to his credit, he's easily played the least of anyone in the top 10. To put things in a current perspective, Chris Bosh passed him during the 2013-14 campaign, and Amar'e Stoudemire will do the same this year if he stays healthy. 


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

5. Dirk Nowitzki

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    Danny Bollinger/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1998-Current

    Teams: Dallas Mavericks

    Career Per-Game Stats: 22.3 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.9 blocks

    Ultimate Season26.6 points, 9.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.5 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 23.3 PER, .581 TS%, 117 ORtg, 104 DRtg, 191.1 WS, 0.206 WS/48, 1.81 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 2821.5 PP, 333.56 AS, 379.64 CC, 23.73 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 1.74 LMVP Shares

    Dirk Nowitzki has steadily been more than excellent for well over a decade, almost single-handedly sparking a title run a few years ago and bouncing back from an injury-caused decline in 2012-13 to reassert himself as a dominant force in 2013-14. He's one of the best shooters this sport has ever seen, whether he's spotting up from all areas of the court or going to work with his one-legged flamingo fadeaway. 

    Few players have ever put together this combination of volume and efficiency while getting the majority of their points from the outside. Among the 12 qualified 50/40/90 seasons in NBA history, for example, only four have seen the individual in question average at least 20 points per game. 

    Larry Bird has done so twice (29.9 points per game in 1987-88 and 28.1 in 1986-87). Kevin Durant is part of the club too (28.1 in 2012-13). But the only other member is Nowitzki, who averaged 24.6 points per game in 2006-07. 

    His offense has just been incredible for so long now, and that's why he's been able to fare so well in nearly every metric you can see up above. Among the 25 featured players, only three of the four players yet to appear have higher career PERs. His win shares per 48 minutes trail only two members of the same group. 

    But let's expand the parameters to include all 53 players who were broken down in detail while researching these rankings. Among the performance metrics, Nowitzki ranks No. 3 in Playoff Performance, No. 16 in Advancement Share, No. 5 in Career Contributions and No. 7 in Career Contributions per season. Plus, his LMVP Shares put him at No. 30 all time, regardless of position. 

    It's a hell of a resume, and somehow, it's only getting better. Most players pull down their career numbers at the end of their NBA lives, but Nowitzki is still going strong while sacrificing a portion of his possible paycheck in order to enhance the success of his Dallas Mavericks. 

    Basically, what can't Dirk Nowitzki do? Well, maybe rebound and play defense, which are the two elements of his game that almost prevented him from rising into the top five here.


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

4. Charles Barkley

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    Brian Drake/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1984-2000

    Teams: Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Houston Rockets

    Career Per-Game Stats: 22.1 points, 11.7 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.8 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 28.3 points, 14.6 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 2.2 steals, 1.6 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 24.6 PER, .612 TS%, 119 ORtg, 105 DRtg, 177.2 WS, 0.216 WS/48, 2.438 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 2621.13 PP, 169.32 AS, 398.83 CC, 24.93 CC/Season, 1 LMVP, 3.32 LMVP Shares

    During the early stage of his career, Charles Barkley was the do-everything stud for the Philadelphia 76ers, racking up massive piles of Career Contributions while competing for the LMVP year in and year out. At one point, it was a two-man battle between him and Michael Jordan for the title almost every season. 

    As a result, Barkley not only has the LMVP he earned in 1991-92, but he also has 3.32 LMVP shares, which leaves him behind only 10 players throughout all of NBA history. But playing on those stars-and-scrubs teams also hurt his resume, as it prevented him from having much playoff success. 

    While Barkley was great as an individual, earning a stellar Postseason Performance score that ranks behind only three power forwards in these rankings, his Advancement Share lags well behind. In fact, he and Larry Nance are the only players in the top 15 at this position who failed to break past 200 in that category. 

    It wasn't until he joined the Phoenix Suns in 1992-93 that he advanced to the NBA Finals, and his team lost to Jordan's Chicago Bulls in six games. He'd never go back, though the 1996-97 Houston Rockets at least made things interesting before falling to the Utah Jazz, again in six games. 

    Nonetheless, Barkley was an underrated distributor, an incredibly efficient scorer and an absolute monster on the glass, where he managed to average a league-best 14.6 rebounds per game during his 1986-87 season with the Sixers. He remains one of the most entertaining fast-break shows of all time, and it's truly a shame that injuries made for a lackluster ending to his stellar career. 

    If we're splitting power forwards into tiers, Barkley is the class of the second tier, one also occupied by Pettit, Nowitzki and Schayes. Impressive as his tenure in the Association may have been, he's still a class below the three remaining 4s. 


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

3. Karl Malone

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    Brian Drake/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1985-2004

    Teams: Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Lakers

    Career Per-Game Stats: 25.0 points, 10.1 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.8 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 31.0 points, 12.0 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.9 steals, 1.5 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 23.9 PER, .577 TS%, 113 ORtg, 101 DRtg, 234.6 WS, 0.205 WS/48, 4.296 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 3657.35 PP, 374.22 AS, 493.13 CC, 25.95 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 3.03 LMVP Shares

    When you look at Karl Malone's ranks among the 53 power forwards broken down during the research for this countdown, it's hard not to be impressed. He's first in Career Contributions, games played, usage percentage, win shares, All-NBA selections, MVPs and MVP shares; top three in Playoff Performance, Career Contributions per season, points per game, steals per game and All-Star selections.

    Well, technically he was top three in Defensive Player of the Year awards as well, but only because just two power forwards have been granted such an honor. 

    The resume is incredible, and it's the result of a lengthy career playing at a remarkably high level. Few players have ever kept themselves in such great shape, and it's why Malone could probably find a role as a bench player in his 50s if he so desired a return to professional basketball. 

    Widely viewed as a dominant scorer, rebounder and pick-and-roll player, this power forward possessed a game that might not actually get enough credit. We often overlook just how good he was at anchoring a defense, and his passing chops are historically underrated as well. Only three of the analyzed 4s had a higher assist percentage. 

    But there are two glaring flaws in Malone's resume, one of which isn't even his fault. He was in the perfect system for all but one season of his incredible career. Coached by Jerry Sloan, he was fed assist after assist from John Stockton, whose playing style meshed perfectly with his year in and year out. 

    Plus, there's the lack of postseason success. His Playoff Performance score is fantastic, but his Advancement Share isn't anything special, as he's one of the greatest players of all time without a single title. Malone just couldn't get over the hump, which so often involved beating Jordan and those pesky Chicago Bulls. 


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

2. Kevin Garnett

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    Barry Gossage/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1995-Current

    Teams: Minnesota Timberwolves, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets

    Career Per-Game Stats: 18.2 points, 10.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.4 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 24.2 points, 13.9 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 1.7 steals, 2.2 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 22.8 PER, .546 TS%, 110 ORtg, 99 DRtg, 190.4 WS, 0.183 WS/48, 2.753 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 2310.88 PP, 330.04 AS, 439.58 CC, 23.14 CC/Season, 4 LMVPs, 5.003 LMVP Shares

    Having Kevin Garnett slightly ahead of Karl Malone—and trust me when I say slightly, as these two are separated by such a small margin that I flip-flopped on the order far too many times—isn't exactly the most orthodox decision. 

    Malone might have Garnett beat in terms of sustained excellence, but the more recent player was just better, controversial as that may be. Not only did he win a ring as a central figure with the Boston Celtics, but he was an ultra-valuable member of the Minnesota Timberwolves, winning MVP despite operating almost as a one-man team. 

    Garnett is the proud owner of four LMVPs, a number that leaves him trailing only four players throughout all of NBA history. Malone is not one of them. His 5.003 LMVP shares have him in the same place; Malone is back at No. 15. 

    And how about some other metrics that you can't see listed up above? Garnett actually surpasses Malone in total rebounding percentage, assist percentage (where only Chris Webber is better) and block percentage. The Utah Jazz star was a better scorer, but that may also be due to a higher usage rate. Plus, scoring alone isn't enough to account for Garnett's vast superiority on defense. 

    Among all the featured players at this position, only Garnett and Dennis Rodman have been named Defensive Player of the Year. And while Malone was made an All-Defensive player four times (three of which were First Team nods), Garnett has 12 such selections (eight of which saw him on the First Team).

    In his prime, it was hard to tell when Garnett was better at protecting the rim—in the course of live action or after a whistle blew and he was allowed to goaltend. He was that good at anchoring the interior of a defense while simultaneously sliding out to cover perimeter-oriented players.

    Back in 2009, Yahoo Sports' Kelly Dwyer even ranked Garnett as the best defender of the last decade:

    KG stands alone because he pitches nearly as many perfect games, while combining Tim Duncan's length and frame with a guard's ability to move his feet. Garnett has become a bit more showy about things after getting traded to the Boston Celtics, but his time spent toiling for those awful Minnesota teams prior to that -- and his years spent dominating on some solid-to-great Timberwolves teams prior to that -- were the work of a defensive genius. He just guarded everyone, every play, every feint, every drive, everything. And then he'd get the rebound. Pity that nobody seemed to be paying attention.

    Despite his old age, he's remained impactful, replacing his athleticism with a keen understanding of angles and timing. 

    Defense is what gives him the edge over Malone, however slight it may be. The 38-year-old might not have the glamorous resume boasted by the ringless power forward, but his production should still speak for itself. 


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

1. Tim Duncan

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    David Liam Kyle/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1997-Current

    Teams: San Antonio Spurs

    Career Per-Game Stats: 19.6 points, 11.0 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 0.7 steals, 2.2 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 25.5 points, 12.9 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 0.9 steals, 2.9 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 24.5 PER, .551 TS%, 109 ORtg, 96 DRtg, 198.7 WS, 0.210 WS/48, 4.278 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 4429.62 PP, 1197.53 AS, 392.99 CC, 23.12 CC/Season, 1 LMVP, 2.17 LMVP Shares

    If there was any doubt that Tim Duncan was the greatest power forward of all time (and there shouldn't have been), he basically erased all of it by leading the San Antonio Spurs to yet another title in 2014, the fifth he's won since entering the league and teaming up with David Robinson, who, sadly, was only around for the first two championships. 

    I honestly have no idea where to start when describing Duncan's sheer excellence, and that might be the biggest compliment I can possibly give him. 

    Do we talk about his remarkable statistical production in the scoring and rebounding categories, as he's remained a fantastic player in those areas for so long? It's just as easy to discuss his passing, which has allowed him to consistently serve as an offensive hub for the Spurs. Then again, his defensive ability is a large part of what's made him such a great interior stopper in San Antonio year after year.

    However, Duncan's eerie levels of consistency are the primary reason he's emerged as one of the all-time legends. If you take playing time out of the equation, it's virtually impossible to tell whether you're looking at stats from one of his first years in the league or the numbers he produced during his twilight seasons. 

    He was a dominant rookie, and he hasn't declined since. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has had to limit his playing time during the last few seasons, but he's just become more efficient to make up for the lost minutes. 

    Among all 53 researched power forwards, Duncan is No. 1 in Playoff Performance and trails only Tom Heinsohn in Advancement Share. He's in the top five for Career Contributions and the top 10 for Career Contributions per season. Though he's been surrounded by plenty of talent throughout his career, he's still managed to earn 2.17 LMVP Shares. 

    Only Pettit has a higher career PER among the 4s. Rodman and Kevin Love are the lone players with a higher total rebounding percentage, and Duncan has the No. 6 assist percentage. Thanks to his longevity and sustained excellence, he trails only Malone in career win shares and is No. 3 in win shares per 48 minutes, behind just Pettit and Barkley. 

    No power forward has made more All-NBA teams. Not a single one has been selected to the All-Defensive squad more often. Nary a 4 has more MVPs than the two he's earned during his time with the Spurs. 

    But above all else, no player at this position has a more complete resume. Frankly, it's no longer even that close. 


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year)