The power forward position has undergone a ton of transformation over the years. Older power forwards loved to dominate the post, be defensive specialists, and do all the dirty work to help the team win. Even the greatest power forwards ever have dominated the game in the post, but times are slowly changing. And not for the worse, as modern power forwards bring an exciting mix of athleticism and even shooting to open up the game.
No matter what power forward style you like most, it is time to rank the greatest power forwards ever. Here are all the greatest power forwards ever ranked into tiers.
Harry Gallatin, Terry Cummings, Elton Brand, Larry Nance, Vern Mikkelsen
The Tier 5 power forwards are all Hall of Fame worthy but do not possess the natural ability and skillsets of the higher players. In their primes, they were still All-Star performers and very dominant scoring big men who have made their place in history.
Harry Gallatin was a hard worker who put himself in the Hall of Fame through pure determination and effort. AS a 6’6” power forward, Gallatin played with pure strength and durability en route to a then-record 682 consecutive games played. Mainly known for his rebounding, Gallatin used his strength and raw power to outhustle and outmuscle most defenders on the boards.
Terry Cummings is a former ROY winner and two-time All-Star who averaged 16.4 PPG and 7.3 RPG in an astonishing 18-year career. While Cummings did not make the Hall Of Fame, his consistency as a scorer early in his career earned him a spot on this tier. Cummings averaged over 20 PPG for 7 out of his first 8 seasons in the league.
Elton Brand managed a pretty great career as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers and later with the Philadelphia 76ers. He had good stats, made a couple of All-Star teams, won the Rookie of the Year in 1999-2000, and was a monster in his prime. His best season came in 2005-2006 when he averaged 24.7 PPG and 10.8 RPG for the Los Angeles Clippers.
Larry Nance was the full package at the power forward spot, with the ability to score the ball and Laos provide a strong rebounding and inside presence. Nance was a 3-time All-Star and All-NBA performer who averaged 17.1 PPG and 8.0 RPG over his career.
Vern Mikkelsen is a Hall of Famer, having made 6 All-Star teams and winning 4 NBA championships. Mikkelsen had a 10-year career dating throughout the ’50s, and clearly had a ton of success as a power forward putting up 14.4 PPG and 9.4 RPG.
Anthony Davis, Tom Heinsohn, Dave DeBusschere, Bobby Jones, Chris Bosh, Chris Webber, Pau Gasol, Amare Stoudemire, Shawn Kemp
The Tier 4 power forwards are great scorers, defenders, and impactful players that are perfect as sidekicks to another superstar player. They never won an NBA title as the man, but that does not take away from their greatness. They are still HOF worthy players with exceptional careers.
Anthony Davis is the most current NBA superstar that is already in Tier 4. Perhaps no PF in history had the skillset of AD, who plays like a guard and stands 7 feet tall. AD simply has zero weakness in his game, besides his rather slim frame and injury history. When he is healthy, AD is unstoppable. He might have a chance to win multiple NBA rings in Los Angeles with LeBron James, so he might climb the Tier rankings.
Tom Heinsohn, aka Tommy Gun, stood only 6’7” yet was a very successful power forward and Hall of Famer who deserves his Tier 4 spot. Heinsohn averaged 18.6 PPG and 8.8 RPG for his career, but he is mainly in this Tier because he won an astonishing 8 NBA titles with the Boston Celtics. He also won the ROY but winning 8 rings is just unbelievable since he was a part of an all-time great Celtics Dynasty.
Dave DeBusschere was a 6’6” power forward who averaged a double-double over his career, 16.1 PPG and 11.0 RPG, and made 8 All-Star teams and 6 All-Defensive teams. DeBusschere lasted 12 seasons, with the Detroit Pistons and New York Knicks, and will be forever known as one of the best players in their history.
Bobby Jones was a Hall of Famer who managed to make an unbelievable 11 All-Defensive teams and also won an NBA title with Philadelphia in 1982-1983. Jones averaged 12.1 PPG and 6.1 RPG for his career, but his value came in his defense where he would make an impact every night. Jones worked hard to get where he was and is a valued member of Tier 4.
Chris Bosh was a superstar with the Toronto Raptors, as he was the main man who did all the scoring and rebounding. He was later a part of the Miami Heat with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and had a great career as a third option. He could defend the post, could make clutch shots, and relied on every night en route to 2 NBA titles.
Chris Webber might have the most talent, along with AD, who can make a claim for Tier 3. Everywhere C-Webb went, his team won. He could score, had amazing handles and passing ability, and could dominate the post with his defense. He was also the leader of a very good Sacramento Kings team that probably should have won an NBA title if it wasn’t for the Kobe-Shaq Lakers (and possibly some ref help). Webber is a Hall of Famer and possibly a top-50 player of all time.
Pau Gasol was the perfect sidekick to Kobe Bryant since he was a dominant inside presence that complemented Kobe’s gunning style perfectly. Gasol was an exceptional rebounder and post defender and could score 20 PPG in his sleep. The Lakers won two straight NBA titles with Gasol, who meant as much to Kobe’s career as anyone in history. Pau is also a legend in the Spain National Team and an all-time great big man.
Perhaps the most exciting player to watch in Tier 4, Amare was the perfect pick-n-roll partner for Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns. Amare in his prime was a beast, a man who can average 25 PPG and be the leading scorer for his team. He was also a sensational dunker who could throw it on anybody in his way. Some injuries slightly derailed his career, but Amare was still a dominant scorer when he returned from his injuries. Amare had a great career and will forever be one of the most popular players ever.
Much like Amare, Kemp was a sensational athlete and dunker. Kemp and Gary Payton had an incredible duo that fell to MJ and the Bulls in the Finals but probably should have an NBA title in any other era. Kemp was a beast inside, using a mix of strength and vertical to dominate the opposition. Kemp made 6 All-Star teams and 3 All-NBA teams as part of a very famed SuperSonics team.
Elvin Hayes, Dolph Schayes, Kevin McHale, Dennis Rodman, Jerry Lucas
Tier 3 power forwards are easily superstar players who are among the very best to ever do it. They impact the floor at an extremely high level and have phenomenal individual skillsets that allowed their teams to win NBA championships and achieve tremendous success. As a matter of fact, many of these guys have a claim to be in Tier 2.
Dolph Schayes could play both the power forward and center position and ended his career as a 12-time All-Star and 12-time All-NBA performer. Schayes also managed to win an NBA title in 1954-1955, in the season where he averaged 18.5 PPG and 12.3 RPG. Over his career, Schayes averaged 18.5 PPG and 12.1 RPG over a Hall of Fame 15-year career. His consistency and dominance at the position make him a Tier 3 performer.
Kevin McHale is probably the closest to being in Tier 2, as one of the most unstoppable post players to ever play the game. Charles Barkley often states how McHale was the best player he ever played against, while many NBA legends rave about McHale’s ability to score anytime he ever wanted inside. McHale won 3 NBA titles, 6 All-Defensive Teams, and won the 6th Man of the Year Award twice. At 6’10”, McHale simply could not be contained in the post.
Dennis Rodman might be the least offensively inclined Hall of Famer ever, but that does not matter because he was a beast on defense. Rodman could guard any position, had the most hustle out of any superstar ever and was one of the best rebounders ever. The Bulls Dynasty led by Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen also included Dennis Rodman, a fantastic defender and one of the most polarizing and iconic players ever. Rodman’s 5 NBA rings and 2 DPOY Awards make him an all-time great.
Jerry Lucas won an NBA title, made 7 All-Star teams, 5 All-NBA teams, and also the ROY Award in 1963-1964. Lucas was simply a beast inside, averaging 17.0 PPG and 15.6 RPG in a Hall of Fame career that spanned 11 seasons. Lucas had the consistency, stats, and awards to back his standing as a Tier 3 player.
Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki, Bob Pettit
This next tier contains the very best power forwards in NBA history. When mentioning the greats, their names often come first. All of these players have the right to fight for the title as the best PF ever, but just miss out. Still, these players have spectacular talents at the power forward position including dominant scoring and defensive prowess.
Karl Malone is probably the cream of the crop in Tier 2 because nobody could score like him at the PF spot. He is currently the second-leading scorer in NBA history, with 36,928 points scored, and had a career that spanned nearly two decades. Malone had a career average of 25.0 PPG a game and is probably the most unlucky player ever to not have an NBA ring. Still, he is a first-ballot HOF and an all-time great player.
Charles Barkley was a very dominant force in his prime, with the ability to be the best player on a championship team. Barkley was a sensational scorer and rebounder and had the mentality and talent to be a leader at the highest level. Charles also never won an NBA ring, thanks to Michael Jordan, but is still easily a Tier 2 PF and probably a top-3 PF ever.
KG was the epitome of intensity and leadership because he can single-handedly transform a team’s defense with his awareness and pure passion for the game. Very few players, if ever, had KG’s passion and intensity, but he was also a very talented and skilled performer on the court. KG was a former MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, and NBA champion who accomplished everything in the NBA.
Perhaps the most unique and sensational player in Tier 2, Dirk Nowitzki managed to win an NBA title and be Finals MVP by leading the Mavericks over a superteam Miami Heat team in 2010-2011 season. Dirk had one of the all-time great Playoff runs in history, completing dominating every team in his path. Besides his incredible championship, Dirk was a pure shooter from the PF spot and one of the greatest scorers ever. A top-50 player with ease, Dirk is a first-ballot HOF and legend.
Bob Pettit had crazy numbers over his career, including averages of 26.4 PPG and 16.2 RPG while playing over 38 MPG. Pettit was the definition of consistent dominance, never averaging less than 20 PPG over a career that spanned 11 years. Pettit made the All-Star team every year, 11 All-NBA teams, and was an NBA champion. His stats and accomplishments speak for themselves, Pettit is a Tier 2 performer.
Best of the Best: Tim Duncan
No doubt, Tim Duncan is the best PF ever. He was the best defender at this position ever, the most consistent winner with 5 NBA rings, and one of the most fundamentally sound players we have ever seen regardless of position.
The Spurs won five titles with Greg Popovich as the head coach, but it was Tim Duncan that was the consistent force on an incredible Dynasty. He was the man who took the blame, the one who took the credit, and the most impactful player in Spurs history. His success and dominance make Duncan the best PF ever, and 5 rings simply do not lie.
Many regard Duncan as a top-10 player of all-time, because he was one of the greatest defensive players ever and yet had the offensive awareness to have an offense run through him completely. Duncan’s play wasn’t the prettiest, but he was certainly the most impactful PF to ever play.