The power forward position is without a doubt the most reliable position in the NBA. Most teams are going to struggle without a quality power forward to rely on when the going gets tough. When shots aren’t falling for the guards, power forwards are the guys to turn to. While centers primary focuses are rebounding and blocking shots, power forwards are relied on to do those things, and score in addition to that. Guys like Reggie Evans and Kenneth Faried prove that you don’t have to be a great scorer to be a great power forward, but with the way guard play has taken over the NBA, having a quality power forward to get high percentage shots is a necessity.
Kevin Love has been the best power forward in the league for the past few seasons, but he missed the majority of the season this year with multiple injuries. It’s time for a new standard to be set at the four-spot. Read on to find out who I think has set the bar. Here are my top 10 power forwards in the NBA this season.
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[RELATED: The NBA’s Top 10 Centers Of The Season]
Paul Millsap: 14.6 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 1.0 bpg
Kenneth Faried: 11.5 ppg, 9.2 rpg. 1.0 apg
Jeff Green: 12.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.6 apg
10. TRISTAN THOMPSON: 11.7 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 0.9 bpg
Tristan Thompson is growing into a nice young player for the Cavaliers. If he keeps improving at the rate he is now, it won’t be long before he becomes one of the best power forwards in the East. Thompson has what you call the complete package for a traditional power forward. He has the back-to-the-basket game, he has the face-up game, and he has the range out to 15 feet. Most importantly, he’s becoming a great rebounder as well.
It was an unfortunate season for the Cavaliers this year. First they lost Anderson Varejao, and then after that it seemed like they could never get all their key players healthy at the same time. Dion Waiters and Kyrie Irving both suffered injuries, but Thompson was solid for them all year long. He’s becoming a nice complement to Irving and they’ll continue to grow together. If the Cavs can stay healthy and continue to build around those two guys, they’ll be a playoff team next season, especially if they can get a coach who can build a system and help Thompson take his game to the next level. Playing alongside Varejao and Kyrie Irving is going to do a lot for him as well.
9. RYAN ANDERSON: 16.2 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.2 apg
Anderson is the best shooter in the league at his position. Nobody at this spot has the kind of range that Anderson has on his shot. He’s proven in the past that when he gets hot there’s no stopping him. Between his height and his lightning-quick release, it’s hard to defend Anderson when he finds his groove. The problem is he doesn’t find that groove often enough. To his defense, he only started 22 of the 81 games he played in this season, with Anthony Davis and Robin Lopez as the starting frontcourt, so he never really had a chance to get in the groove he’s capable of getting in.
Ryan Anderson’s biggest knock thus far has been his rebounding ability, a huge part of any power forward’s responsibility. That’s the one facet of his game that holds him back. He doesn’t have the aggressive mentality you need to be a premier rebounder in the league. For Anderson to fulfill his potential and get back to getting those starters minutes, he’ll either have to become a more physical rebounder or get better guard skills and find a way to start at that small forward position over Al-Farouq Aminu. Right now he’s too much of a tweener to start for the Pelicans next year.
8. REGGIE EVANS: 4.5 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 0.2 bpg
The modern day Dennis Rodman. He built his reputation over the years, and last season while playing behind Blake Griffin with the Clippers, Evans brought an unmatched level of energy any time he stepped on the floor. That’s all the Brooklyn Nets expected from Reggie Evans this year. They won’t admit it, but the Nets had high hopes for Kris Humphries going into this season. Last year, Humphries was one of the best rebounders in the league and was growing into a pretty nice offensive player. He averaged about 14 points and 11 rebounds last season and came into training camp as the starter. What the Nets didn’t expect was for Reggie Evans to come in and completely outplay him.
It wasn’t long before Evans’ energy and balls-out recklessness would earn him the starting position. Evans started 56 games to Humphries’ 21 this season and became a really nice complement to Brook Lopez (who isn’t exactly the most aggressive rebounder in the league).
What impresses people most about Reggie Evans is his ability to play his role. Few players in the league know their lane as well as he does. He knows what he’s out there to do, and that’s exactly what he does every night. He doesn’t try to force his offense, he doesn’t try to take shots outside of his range, he doesn’t try to block a ton of shots on defense. All he does is box out and get rebounds. For the Nets to have Lopez out on the floor all the time, they had to pair him with an excellent rebounder. Lucky for them, they found that in Reggie Evans.
7. DAVID WEST: 17.1 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 2.9 apg
West continues to be one of the league’s most solid power forwards. He’s been so consistent for so long that he’s beginning to fly under the radar. A lot of people don’t even realize what David West brings to that Pacers team. So much of what he does goes unnoticed because of all the other pieces the Pacers have in place. With Paul George, George Hill and Roy Hibbert as the main attractions, David West is sort of the team’s unsung hero.
At 17.1 points a night, West was just a hair under George (17.4) as the second-leading scorer on the team. He was also just a hair under Roy Hibbert (8.3 rebounds a game) as the second-leading rebounder on the team. It’s about time this man gets some credit. The Pacers were 49-32 this season, good enough for third in the East. They had one of the best seasons they’ve had in recent memory and leaned on West all season long.
6. CARLOS BOOZER: 16.2 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 2.3 apg
Carlos Boozer can’t get enough credit for what he was able to do in Chicago this season. With Rose being out for the year it was going to take a hell of a season from Boozer and the rest of the team to put the Bulls in solid playoff standing. It’s safe to say that they exceeded expectations. Boozer spearheaded that push all season long. When times got hard for the Bulls offensively, it was Boozer who they turned to. When the Miami Heat came into Chicago on a 27-game winning streak, it was Boozer that sealed the game for them. Every time they need him, he shows up. He hasn’t come up small for them all season long.
With the style of basketball Boozer plays, he’s a sure bet to get you 15 and 10 almost every night. He’s the security blanket for the Bulls, and can close possessions on the glass. Going forward, Boozer is one of the players the Bulls will need to keep in place if they plan on making a championship run when Derrick Rose returns. He’s a handful for the Heat and if the Bulls want that championship anytime soon, all roads lead through Miami.
5. SERGE IBAKA: 13.2 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 3.0 bpg
Among the league’s best power forwards, Ibaka is by far the best defensive player, and arguably one of the best defensive bigs in the league now that he’s beginning to understand defense is more than just blocking shots. What he brings to the table offensively is just a bonus. Defensively he’s been a force all season, averaging three blocks per contest. There’s a reason why the Thunder chose Ibaka over James Harden this off-season. They knew what kind of player Harden was capable of being, but they also know that if they want to win a championship, it must start on the defensive end. Playing next to Kevin Durant and Russsell Westbrook, James Harden would’ve never become what he is now with Houston. I’m sure the Thunder would’ve loved to keep him but they already have two great perimeter scorers. Holding James Harden hostage in that situation would’ve continued to stunt his growth. But giving up Ibaka would’ve stunted the growth of the entire team over the long haul. Holding on to their primary shotblocker and rebounder was more important to them.
The decision to keep Ibaka over Harden has proven to be the right one so far. The Thunder are currently matched up against the Memphis Grizzlies in the second round of the playoffs and they would be in a heap of trouble if they didn’t have Ibaka to matchup against Zach Randolph or Marc Gasol. Sure they miss James Harden, especially with Westbrook out for the rest of the playoffs, but moving forward, they’ll be glad Ibaka is with them for the long haul.
4. BLAKE GRIFFIN: 18.0 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 3.7 apg
Blake Griffin has been the most exciting and electrifying player at the position for the past three years, but his numbers are continuing to decline. In his defense, the Clippers didn’t have anywhere near the talent they have now three years ago. Now with Chris Paul, Jamal Crawford and all the other great perimeter players they’ve acquired, touches and field goal attempts have dropped significantly for Blake. However, he’s part of the reason for that also. Griffin still doesn’t have a back-to-the-basket game or even a go-to offensive move. How can he demand more touches if he’s not even being productive enough with the ones he’s getting already?
BG must develop his game in the offseason if he wants to become the best power forward in the league. NBA fans everywhere would love to see him transcend to that next level. He has the highlights and the star quality, but he doesn’t have the consistency needed to become a superstar player.
If the Clippers can bring Chris Paul back, Blake Griffin’s development becomes even more crucial. It’s so important for him to gain that go-to post-up aspect as a security blanket for the Clippers because that’s exactly what they lack. The Clippers showed just how good a team they can be many different times this season, including that 17-game win streak at the end of the calendar year. But the reason they fell short in the end is because they revert to forcing shots and playing one-on-one basketball too often. They are forced to do that because they don’t have a player they can dump it down to for high-percentage shots. Blake has to become that guy for them if the Clippers want to make it to the Finals.
3. ZACH RANDOLPH: 15.4 ppg, 11.2 rpg, 1.4 apg
Zach Randolph is delivering yet another monster season. He’s grown to be such a mentally intimidating and physically demoralizing player, and he takes advantage of it every chance he gets. In the first round of the playoffs, he used all of those tactics against Blake Griffin and was able to take him completely out of his game. Very few players can matchup against Z-Bo and play up to their capabilities because of the matchup nightmare that he is.
Z-Bo is another one of those power forwards that has the complete package offensively. He has the back-to-the-basket game. He has the jump shot, and he has the physique to impose his will under the basket. A lot of power forwards in today’s game lack at least one of those qualities. Z-Bo has them all.
If Z-Bo took 17 shots a game like LaMarcus Aldridge does, he’d be averaging on the plus side of 25 points per game. Unfortunately, he can’t do that because he sees more double-teams than any other power forward in the league. Randolph is one of the few players on this list that doesn’t have many improvements left to make. His potential has pretty much been fulfilled and he has his game at the level it needs to be for the Grizzlies to make a championship run. All he has to do is get there.
2. LaMARCUS ALDRIDGE: 21.1 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 1.2 bpg
Aldridge is the most talented offensive player at the power forward position in the league. He has the most complete offensive package and the best array of shots we’ve seen from a power forward in a long time. He’s the only player on this list to have averaged at least 20 points a night in the past three seasons. Aldridge is one of the few power forwards in the game today that is his team’s first option offensively. Usually power forwards have to get in where they fit in, but the Blazers are confident enough in his abilities to rely on his scoring to carry the team.
Unfortunately, the Blazers weren’t able to make the playoffs this year. Still, they must be excited about what they have brewing. With Aldridge as the centerpiece and Damian Lillard and company as the supporting cast, the Blazers have a very bright future, especially if Aldridge averages 20 points a game every season for the rest of his career. I mean who does he think he is? Tim Duncan?
1. DAVID LEE: 18.5 ppg, 11.2 rpg, 3.5 apg
The award for best power forward in the NBA this season goes to David Lee. Lee may not have played better than every other power forward on the list this year, but there’s no question that he made the biggest impact. The fact that Lee made the All-Star team over his teammate Steph Curry shows you just how important he was to the Warriors. Look at the improvement and quick turnaround the Golden State Warriors made. They were 23-43 last season. This year, they posted a record of 47-35 and earned their first playoff birth since 2007. Throughout the year, they leaned on David Lee’s consistency. For a team that is comprised of long-range gunners and high-volume shooters, the former Gator provides them with that security blanket. He’s the guy that gets them the easy baskets they need in critical junctures of the game. He’s the guy that will get the game-sealing rebound or the game-sealing basket. He’s the guy that frees up Curry and Klay Thompson for all those open threes. He’s the guy that’s propelled the Warriors into a winning team.
What other power forwards on this list have to take from David Lee is his consistency, the way he strings together double-doubles on a regular basis. Lee took the Warriors to new heights this season and that’s why he’s number one on my list of the NBA’s best power forwards this season.
What do you think?
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