Basketball Insiders continues its ranking of the league’s top 10 players by position with a look at the power forward spot. In an ever-changing league, the power forward position has arguably undergone the greatest shift over the past few seasons. Our list has plenty of the newer guys, but may surprise you with some much-deserved respect for an elder statesman or two.
1. Anthony Davis – New Orleans Pelicans
After reportedly missing out on as much as $25 million of potential earnings that would have kicked in had he been named an All-Star starter, won the regular season MVP award or been selected to any of the three All-NBA teams, Davis will undoubtedly be back with a vengeance in 2016-17. We don’t predict this just because of his loss in earnings, but also because he remains the league’s best power forward and his team finished 22 games below the .500 mark last season after qualifying for the postseason the year prior. Davis’ base numbers (24.3 PPG, 10.3 RPG and two BPG in 2015-16) were still impressive for today’s big men, especially when you take into account that he looked uncomfortable at times throughout the year as he adjusted to his new role in Alvin Gentry’s system. The roster still remains a work in progress, but look for Davis to return to form in year two under Coach Gentry.
2. Draymond Green – Golden State Warriors
Some people may have grown a bit weary of Green’s “act” and play for that matter, but a majority of those folks tend to be fans of opposing teams. While history has shown us some of his antics can result in a negative outcome for his team, Green’s ability to play both sides of the court while generally being the team’s chemistry lifeblood makes him a huge part of Golden State’s success. In fact, Green and his new teammate Kevin Durant might just represent one of the league’s more versatile forward combos in quite some time. Beyond the obvious production (14 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 7.4 APG, 1.5 SPG, 1.4 BPG in 2015-16), Green is an absolute defensive menace (99.4 Defensive Rating last year) who can effectively switch and legitimately defend guards, forwards and bigs. That isn’t likely to change anytime soon, regardless of how much talent this team continues to stockpile.
3. Blake Griffin – Los Angeles Clippers
This footage of a recently retired Kevin Garnett working with the Los Angeles Clippers’ frontcourt is exactly what fans of Griffin and the Clippers want to see. First of all, it’s great to see Griffin healthy and back out on the court. But this is also great because Garnett was a master of playing with exactly the type of grit and guile in the post (on both sides of the court) that the Clippers could use more of moving forward. Griffin is already one of the game’s best power forwards, but the 27-year-old could be in store for his strongest season yet. He wants to have a strong bounce-back campaign, and he’s actually in a potential contract year since he can become an unrestricted free agent next summer by exercising his early-termination option. Griffin is reportedly working on extending his range even farther out this season. He averaged 21.4 points last season (and 24.1 points in 2013-14), but he could be an even greater offensive weapon for this group if he’s able to consistently knock down threes while continuing to get more comfortable operating in and around the post.
4. Paul Millsap – Atlanta Hawks
It may surprise some to see Millsap this high on the list, but opposing big men who have to face off against him likely wouldn’t be shocked. The former 47th overall pick has absolutely worked himself into this discussion by steadily improving throughout his 10-year career. Last year, Millsap had the fourth-highest Defensive Rating among all players, made 70+ three-pointers for the third straight year, set career-highs in rebounds (nine per game), assists (3.3 per game), blocks (1.7 per game) and tied his previous high with 1.8 steals per game. His production may be decrease a bit to start this year depending on how long it takes him to recover from what was described as a “preventative knee procedure” he recently underwent, but Millsap could ultimately have another phenomenal season if the chemistry alongside new teammate Dwight Howard is as strong as has been reported.
5. LaMarcus Aldridge – San Antonio Spurs
Aldridge is coming off another strong offensive year (in which he averaged 18 points on 51.3 percent shooting from the field), but now he will likely be asked to pick up some of the defensive slack left by a retiring Tim Duncan. Neither Aldridge nor his new teammate Pau Gasol are considered great defenders at this stage (although last year Aldridge wasn’t bad statistically), but the Spurs have to hope the two of them can develop the type of chemistry that can lead to an eventual sum that is greater than its parts. Aldridge’s 30.6 minutes per game in 2015-16 was his lowest total since his rookie season (22.1 MPG in 2006-07), but head coach Gregg Popovich could be in a position where he needs to lean on Aldridge a bit more this year. His offensive numbers could improve, but San Antonio absolutely needs Aldridge at his best across the board in order for them to have a shot at contending with the likes of the Golden State Warriors next postseason.
6. Derrick Favors – Utah Jazz
If you don’t watch the Utah Jazz play regularly (and you should!), you may not appreciate Favors’ effectiveness. The underrated 25-year-old averaged 16.4 PPG and 8.1 RPG last year, is a bit of a throwback to the more traditional “power” players at the position and is a key part of one of the league’s better defensive frontcourts alongside center Rudy Gobert. Gobert may deservedly get a ton of credit for being the team’s primary rim protector, but Favors winds up doing a good deal of the dirty work in the paint, is generally great at utilizing his body and strength beneath the rim on both sides of the court and has continued to round out his offensive game over the years. Trey Lyles may be a bit of a fan favorite since his ability to stretch the floor is certainly appealing, but Favors doesn’t appear ready to have the second-year player usurp him in the lineup without a fight.
7. Kevin Love – Cleveland Cavaliers
Remember him? You know, the oft-mocked “third-wheel” who actually played better than you might think (16 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 36 percent from three-point range last year) if you listen to sports radio or accept the general consensus about him on social media. The truth of the matter is, it’s extremely difficult for players accustomed to being the focal point to make huge individual sacrifices for the good of the team at times, but Love has done exactly that. Relegated to catch-and-shoot duties early in his tenure with the Cavaliers, Love did whatever it took to help his team win a title in last year’s historic run. He knows the criticism and rampant trade speculation is likely here to stay, though it really does appear as though Love couldn’t care less. And that remains a good thing for Cleveland.
8. Serge Ibaka – Orlando Magic
The recent knock on Ibaka’s game is that his overall productivity appears to have trailed off over the last couple seasons. In reality, much of that can probably be attributed to the combination of his role shifting and decreasing a bit, along with the fact that Ibaka seemed to have fallen in love with the idea of being a big who can shoot from distance. In fact, he shot considerably more threes over the past two seasons than his previous five combined (389 compared to 123). Couple that with the fact that opposing teams are pulling him away from the basket with deep-shooting bigs on the other end and much of the decline makes sense. The Magic are counting on Ibaka to not only return to his dominant form in head coach Frank Vogel’s defensive schemes, but also play a pivotal role on the offensive end as well. Look for a “happy” Ibaka to have his most productive season in years for Orlando in 2016-17. It’s also worth noting that he’s in a contract year, so the timing of this move to Orlando may work out very well for him.
9. Dirk Nowitzki – Dallas Mavericks
After taking the “hometown discount” a few years back, Nowitzki got paid this summer with a one-year, $25 million deal that includes a team option at the same rate the following year. The salary is steep, but the 38-year-old former MVP is still able to score at a high level. Kobe Bryant and Bob Pettit may be the only players to score at least 40 points against every single NBA team, but Nowitzki joined Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan and Karl Malone as the only players (at the time) to score that much in a single game at the age of 37.
10. Kristaps Porzingis – New York Knicks
It may seem a bit premature to some, but get used to seeing Porzingis on lists of this nature. He averaged 14.3 PPG, 7.3 RPG and 1.9 BPG in only 28.4 minutes per contest as a rookie and has reportedly added some bulk and lower body strength that should come in handy when he ventures into the post this season. With Robin Lopez in Chicago and Joakim Noah coming off a season in which he attempted just 4.6 shots per contest, the opportunities to score will be there for Porzingis in spades whether he chooses to attack from the post or from distance. With all due respect to the excitement over the prospect of Derrick Rose and the other additions playing with Carmelo Anthony, Porzingis remains the future in New York.
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