In today’s game, it is hard to find power forwards who resemble those types of players. Led by superstars LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, James Harden and a plethora of other young stars, the NBA has transformed into a guard-dominant league. Forwards who mainly operate in the paint and score consistently with their back to the basket are not as dominant compared to previous generations. Unfortunately for fans, some of the best power forwards in history (Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki) are approaching the end of their careers.
Instead, the league’s power forwards are more athletic than they have ever been. At the prototypical 6’10”, there are a lot of stretch 4s who can really shoot the ball. The true power forwards who bang down low are few and far between.
Here’s a look at the top five power forwards heading into the 2013-14 campaign.
1. Blake Griffin- Los Angeles Clippers
Griffin is the reason why there is Lob City in Los Angeles. If the Clippers had not drafted him with the first pick in the 2009 draft, Chris Paul would not be with the team right now. Griffin has brought life into the franchise that has played second fiddle to the Lakers for all these years. With the moves the Clippers made this summer, they may be the best team in Los Angeles now.
The type of athleticism and plays that Griffin displays are quite phenomenal. With the way he takes off and explodes to the rim, there have been comparisons to a young Shawn Kemp. Outside of Kemp, there’s never been an athlete like Griffin at power forward. He’s an extremely gifted athlete whose leaping ability allows him to finish above the rim and on top of defenders. He’ll continue to be box office and provide the nightly highlights on SportsCenter for years to come.
Since being drafted in 2009, Griffin has made slight improvements to his overall game but he is still extremely raw in the post. That includes his decision making, when to settle for the jumper and when to attack the rim. There were reports last season of Griffin being labeled soft by teammates and by other players around the league because of how he flops, but with the acquisition of Doc Rivers, it is safe to say we have seen the end of his softness.
2. Kevin Love- Minnesota Timberwolves
The only reason Love is no. 2 on this list is because of injury. Though he is returning from a fractured hand that caused him to miss 64 games last season, there is little doubt that he has lost his touch from the outside. He was the league’s best rebounder at 15.2 per game for the 2010-11 season. Two years ago, he averaged 26 points and a second-best 13.3 rebounds per game, all while shooting 37 percent from the 3.
The two-time All Star is the best power forward in the game when healthy and that seems to be the issue. He played in 18 games last season and only 55 the year before. That is why Griffin gets the nod in the rankings here.
3. Tim Duncan- San Antonio Spurs
Duncan enters what will most likely be his last season before retiring, as he is a free agent after the year. He was rejuvenated last season, averaging 17.8 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.7 blocks a game, and his 24.45 PER was highest among all power forwards.
He’s been labeled “The Big Fundamental” his whole career because he is a technician in the post. At 37, he’s still got the footwork, the intelligence and the post moves that have made him a four-time NBA champion and arguably the best power forward of all-time. Do Duncan and the Spurs have one final playoff run in them? That will be one of the storylines to follow come next April.
4. LaMarcus Aldridge- Portland Trail Blazers
For the past three seasons averaging 21.8, 21.7, and 21.1 points per game, Aldridge has gone under the radar in Portland, largely due to the lack of playoff success (or appearances). He had to play center at times last season, but that will change with the addition of Robin Lopez from New Orleans. Aldridge will slide back to his natural position, where he can score in the post but settles for the jumper far too frequently. The thing about him, though, is that he shot around 50 percent last season and is one of the game’s top jump-shooting big men. He is also a two-time All-Star and the Trail Blazers will be expected to compete for one of the last two playoff spots in the Western Conference.
5. Zach Randolph- Memphis Grizzlies
This guy is a walking double-double every night, averaging 15.4 points and 11.2 rebounds a game last year. They call Randolph “Z-Bo” in Memphis, as he resembles Deebo’s physically imposing presence from the movie “Friday.” He is a bully who is rough, rugged and nasty at 6’9” and 260 pounds. The 32-year-old really made his mark on the league in the 2010-11 playoffs against the Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder, averaging 21.5 and 22.9 points per game, respectively.
The Grizzlies made it to the Western Conference Finals against the Spurs last year and teamed with reigning Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol, Randolph hopes to lead them back there in a tough conference where many teams improved in the offseason.