Has the torch been passed?
The new crop of elite power forwards has officially arrived. The young superstars at the position are beginning to push the aging vets out of the top spots and are cementing their status as the best in the game. While some of these changes can be attributed to new frontcourt rotations, others are a direct reflection of just how good the new crop has played, and are expected to play this season. Two of the best power forwards of all-time don’t play the position anymore (no, you won’t see Duncan or Garnett on this list). Amazingly, all position shifting aside, the average age of the top three power forwards in the game is only 24. There is not another position in basketball that has this many young studs completely setting the tone for the rest of the league.
Rewind six years ago to the 2006-2007 season. Of the top ten scorers in the league, only one was a power forward and he barely made the list (Dirk was tied with Tracy McGrady for the tenth spot). Last season? Four of the top 10 scorers in the league were power forwards – and that ratio could be even higher this year. We haven’t seen power forwards producing like this for a long time, and it looks like these guys are here to stay.
While we saw unprecedented numbers from the four spot last season, some of the most memorable moments were the ridiculous displays of athleticism from the new era of the position. These guys can run like wings and finish in ways we’ve never seen before. They also can step back and nail the three like no other crop of power forwards in the history of the league. It’s an exciting time for power forwards in the NBA, so let’s look at the best 20 at the position going into this season…
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20. NENE, Washington Wizards
The addition of Emeka Okafor in Washington allows Nene to slide to the power forward spot, which is clearly his more natural position. If Nene can stay on the court (he has a history of missing games for what some consider to be less-than-serious injuries), he’s a lock to be productive on offense and a force on defense. In his 11 games with the Wizards last season, he posted an excellent 24.2 PER and per-36 numbers of 20 points and 10.5 rebounds. And he shot over 60 percent from the field. Not too shabby for the big man.
19. LUIS SCOLA, Phoenix Suns
He’s not flashy, but he gets the job done. Yes, Phoenix Suns power forward Luis Scola fell victim to the amnesty clause this offseason, but it doesn’t mean he can’t produce. He’s one of the more crafty players in the post and has the ability to make a defender look absolutely stupid as he lays the ball in on a slick up-and-under. He’s not an elite rebounder or defender, but he’ll get the Suns 15 points a night.
18. KENNETH FARIED, Denver Nuggets
Kenneth Faried may be the most fun player to watch in the league. He makes up for his lack of size by playing unbelievably hard. Next time you catch a Nuggets game, keep your eyes on him for five or six straight plays. It will completely exhaust you. His rebounding numbers are way above average for power forwards and he’s good for at least one highlight reel dunk a game. It’s looking like Denver snagged the steal of the 2011 Draft when they took him at No. 22.
17. KRIS HUMPHRIES, Brooklyn Nets
Kris Humphries is statistically one of the best rebounders in the league. His 11 boards per game was the second-best clip among power forwards last season, and his 18.8 total rebounding rate was fourth. Last season was the first time Humphries averaged more than 30 minutes a game and he responded well by being one of only eight players to average a double-double in points and rebounds. The Nets will rely heavily on his rebounding prowess this season as he will have to make up for his frontcourt mate Brook Lopez, who is one of the few centers in the league that is allergic to crashing the boards.
16. DAVID WEST, Indiana Pacers
Once a back-to-back All-Star, David West’s 20 points per game seasons are clearly behind him. That doesn’t mean he’s not a solid starting four in the league, though. West is a perfect combination of toughness and intelligence. He’s a great pick-and-pop player and was among the best power forwards in the game last season from 16-23 feet out. He’s asked to do much less on the court in Indy than he was in New Orleans, but his veteran presence and leadership is crucial to this young and talented Pacers squad.