The power forward position might not be the flashiest position throughout NBA history, but it has still had some of the greatest players ever play the position. All-time greats like Tim Duncan won 5 NBA rings by completely dominating the position, while players like Karl Malone and Charles Barkley were the best players on their teams throughout their careers despite not winning NBA titles.
Not to be outdone, modern legends like Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Garnett also revolutionized the power forward position by stepping out and being strong perimeter players with a finesse offensive game. Old-school guys like Dolph Schayes preferred to do their damage down low and were very effective scorers on the inside. But where do all of these great players rank all-time at the PF position?
It is time to rank the 25 greatest power forwards until we narrow it down to the very best PF of all time.
25. Vern Mikkelsen
Players Stats: 14.4 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 2.2 APG
Honors: 6x All-Star, 4x All-NBA Selection
Vern Mikkelsen weighed a strong 230 lbs, using his strength and hard-nosed style of play to score and rebound well in the post. Mikkelsen loved the challenge of defending opposing bigs, but also scored the ball at a very strong rate. He was only the 6th player in NBA history to record over 10,000 points at the time, showcasing his skill set as a two-way player and a top-25 PF of all-time.
24. Larry Nance
Players Stats: 17.1 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 2.6 APG, 0.9 SPG, 2.2 BPG
Honors: 3x All-Star, 3x All-NBA Defensive Team Selection
Larry Nance, the father of current NBA player Larry Nance Jr, was a great power forward. He had strong size at 6’10” and weighing 205 lbs, but was also a strong scorer and rebounder over his 13-year career. Nance played his whole career with the Cavaliers and Suns, making 3 All-Star teams and remaining a constant professional throughout his whole career.
23. Elton Brand
Players Stats: 15.9 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 2.1 APG, 0.9 SPG, 1.7 BPG
Honors: 2x All-Star, 1x All-NBA Selection, 2000 Rookie of the Year
Brand is one of the greatest players in Clippers’ history and a very effective big man in the post in his prime. Elton Brand had his best season in 2005-2006 by averaging 24.7 PPG and 10.0 RPG while shooting 52.7% from the field. Brand had the ability to average a double-double every season in his prime and had the personality of a leader and winner.
22. Terry Cummings
Players Stats: 16.4 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.5 BPG
Honors: 2x All-Star, 2x All-NBA Selection, 1983 Rookie of the Year
Cummings played an amazing 18 seasons in the NBA, using a mix of aggressiveness and scoring ability to have a fantastic rookie season. Cummings averaged 23.7 points and 10.4 rebounds per game as a rookie, his best season over his long career. A true professional and dedicated PF, Cummings is a top-25 PF ever.
21. Harry Gallatin
Players Stats: 13.0 PPG, 11.9 RPG, 1.8 APG
Honors: 7x All-Star, 2x All-NBA Selection
Gallatin stood only 6’6” as an undersized power forward, but had tremendous strength and aggressiveness in his play. Gallatin was also extremely durable, breaking a record of 682 consecutive games played in a row. Gallatin used his defense and rebounding to be a Hall of Famer and the 21st greatest PF ever.
20. Shawn Kemp
Players Stats: 14.6 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.1 SPG, 1.2 BPG
Honors: 6x All-Star, 3x All-NBA Selection
Shawn Kemp had an amazing partnership with Gary Payton and was the recipient of countless lobs for alley-oop finishes. Kemp was a beast inside, using his athleticism to score the ball at will. While he lacked the ability to be the number one option on a contending team, he formed part of an all-time great SuperSonics team that reached an NBA Finals in 1996. For his inside presence, he deserves credit for that.
19. Amar’e Stoudemire
Players Stats: 18.9 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.2 APG, 0.8 SPG, 1.2 BPG
Honors: 6x All-Star, 5x All-NBA Selection, 2003 Rookie of the Year
Amar’e was a fantastic athlete in his prime, flushing the ball over any defender with force. Amar’e also had an amazing mid-range game and had the ability to lead a potential contending team in scoring when he has a great point guard like Steve Nash to get him the ball. Stoudemire had a great career, and 6 All-Star teams and ROY Award is a clear testament to his impact as a top-20 PF of all-time.
18. Pau Gasol
Players Stats: 17.0 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 3.2 APG, 0.5 SPG, 1.6 BPG
Honors: 6x All-Star, 4x All-NBA Selection, 2002 Rookie of the Year
Pau won two straight NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers led by Kobe Bryant and had an amazing career with the Spanish National Team, but many forget he is one of the best players in Memphis Grizzlies history. Pau was a great big man, using a mix of finesse and his height to dominant the post and had the exceptional passing ability for a big man. Gasol is a Hall of Famer and top-20 PF ever.
17. Chris Webber
Players Stats: 20.7 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.4 SPG, 1.4 BPG
Honors: 5x All-Star, 5x All-NBA Selection, 1994 Rookie of the Year
Webber was one of the pioneers of the power forward who could dribble and pass because he had the skills of a guard despite standing 6’9”. Webber was a great player with the Kings and Wizards, transforming both teams and making them far more formidable as playoff contenders. Webber might not have an NBA ring, but was a great player at the PF position.
16. Bobby Jones
Players Stats: 12.1 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.5 SPG, 1.4 BPG
Honors: 5x All-Star, 1x All-NBA Team Selection, 11x All-Defensive Team Selection, 1983 Sixth Man of the Year
Jones was defined as a tough and hard-nosed defender who was a winner. Plain and simple, Jones did everything in his power to impact the game despite his relatively average stats for a Hall of Famer. Jones loved the block shot, patiently waiting for the opportunity to swat shots away and help his team win games. His defense gets him into the Hall of Fame.
15. Chris Bosh
Players Stats: 19.2 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 2.0 APG, 0.8 SPG, 1.0 BPG
Honors: 11x All-Star, 1x All-NBA Team Selection
Chris Bosh has two rings as the third option of a Miami Heat superteam led by LeBron James, and he also had a great career with the Toronto Raptors as the number one option. While he would be the third option and take two rings any day, Bosh averaged his career-best 24.0 PPG and 10.8 RPG in his final season with the Raptors, making it clear that he had sensational talent and is a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
14. Dave DeBusschere
Players Stats: 16.1 PPG, 11.0 RPG, 2.9 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.5 BPG
Honors: 8x All-Star, 1x All-NBA Selection, 6x All-Defensive Team Selection
Dave DeBusschere is one of the greatest defenders of all-time, using his aggressive and no-nonsense defensive style to make 6 All-Defensive teams despite standing only 6’6”. Big-D basically fought and clawed his way onto this list, making him one of the most feared defenders at his position.
13. Tom Heinsohn
Players Stats: 18.6 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 2.0 APG
Honors: 6x All-Star, 4x All-NBA Selection, 1957 Rookie of the Year
Heinsohn helped the Boston Celtics win an amazing 8 NBA titles, as a rugged and hard-nosed big man who was the former ROY in 1957. Heinsohn was a versatile scorer, as his scoring average suggests, but he did not receive the credit he deserves mainly thanks to his other Hall of Fame teammates like Bill Russell and Bob Cousy. Still, Heinsohn is a Hall of Famer and an all-time great PF.
12. Anthony Davis
Players Stats: 24.0 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.4 SPG, 2.4 BPG
Honors: 7x All-Star, 3x All-NBA Selection, 3x All-Defensive Team Selection
Anthony Davis is a unique player because he has all the tools to become the greatest PF of all-time. He has the stats, has already made 7 All-Star teams, and gets it done on both ends as a superstar player. Clearly, his potential is unlimited. But he has had negligible postseason success, but he hopes he can change this and start itching into the top ten PF ever.
11. Dennis Rodman
Players Stats: 7.3 PPG, 13.1 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.6 BPG
Honors: 2x All-Star, 2x All-NBA Selection, 8x All-Defensive Team Selection, 2x Defensive Player of the Year
Rodman had success with both the Pistons and Bulls, winning a total of 5 NBA rings as the defensive stopper for both teams. Rodman had the most hustle of any player ever, fighting for every loose ball and doing the things that do not show up on the stat sheet. The little things often help contending teams win, and Rodman did them the best. Rodman might very well be the best defensive player ever, so he’s standing at 11th place is amazing.
10. Jerry Lucas
Players Stats: 17.0 PPG, 15.6 RPG, 3.3 APG, 0.4 SPG, 0.3 BPG
Honors: 7x All-Star, 5x All-NBA Selection, 1964 Rookie of the Year
Lucas was a monster on the boards, currently tanked 4th all-time in total rebounds over a career. Lucas averaged a whopping 15.6 RPG and amassed 12,942 rebounds in a Hall of Fame career, the latter number trailing only Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, and Bob Pettit. Lucas scored most of his points from the perimeter, so his skill set makes him a top-10 PF ever.
9. Kevin McHale
Players Stats: 17.9 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.7 APG, 0.4 SPG, 1.7 BPG
Honors: 7x All-Star, 1x All-NBA Selection, 6x All-Defensive Team Selection, 2x Sixth Man of the Year
McHale was one of the best post scorers of all-time and had arguably the most unstoppable inside game in history. He got it done on both ends of the floor because he was extremely long and very skilled with his scoring and awareness of the game. McHale was also surprisingly explosive with his moves, making him unguardable in every sense of the world. McHale is easily a top-ten PF ever.
8. Dolph Schayes
Players Stats: 18.5 PPG, 12.1 RPG, 3.1 APG
Honors: 12x All-Star, 12x All-NBA Selection
Dolph Schayes was an All-Star big man who not only made the Hall of Fame but also ended his career as a 12-time All-Star and 12-time All-NBA performer. Over his career, Schayes averaged 18.5 PPG and 12.1 RPG over 15 years, using his patented turnaround jumper and defensive aggression to dominate the opposition. Capturing an NBA title in 1977-1978, Schayes cracked the top ten list of PF.
7. Elvin Hayes
Players Stats: 21.0 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.0 SPG, 2.0 BPG
Honors: 12x All-Star, 6x All-NBA Selection, 2x All-Defensive Team Selection, 1x Scoring Champion
Elvin Hayes was truly one of the most talented power forwards ever to play the game. Hayes had the ability to drain shots with his turnaround jumper and also use his aggressive defense to shut down opposing bigs. Fifth on the all-time list in games (1,303), third in minutes played (50,000), and top-10 in scoring, Hayes had a sensational career. Over a span of his first 12 seasons, he made the All-Star game every year and only missed 9 games in his 16 years in the league. There is no more to be said, Hayes is easily a top-10 PF ever.
6. Bob Pettit
Players Stats: 26.4 PPG, 16.2 RPG, 3.0 APG
Honors: 2x MVP, 11x All-Star, 11x All-NBA Selection, 1955 Rookie of the Year
Pettit has the accolades and stats to put himself among the best power forwards ever, and that is why he is the 6th greatest PF ever. Pettit had a legendary Hall of Fame career, never averaging less than 20 PPG over a career that spanned 11 years. Perhaps most importantly, Pettit made the All-Star team every year, made 11 All-NBA teams, and was an NBA champion. Pettit was simply a beast in the ’50s and just missed out on the top five.
5. Kevin Garnett
Players Stats: 17.8 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 3.7 APG, 1.3 SPG, 1.4 BPG
Honors: 1x MVP, 15x All-Star, 9x All-NBA Selection, 12x All-Defense Team Selection, 2008 Defensive Player of the Year
KG had the most intensity of any PF ever and was one of the most competitive forces of all time. While many remember KG for his title-winning stint with the Boston Celtics as the defensive leader of the team, he was the MVP of the league and unbelievable player for the Minnesota Timberwolves that had a perfect overall game. KG could pass, defend, rebound, and score among the best ever. Easily a top-five PF ever, KG is a first-ballot HOF and a pivotal player in NBA history.
4. Dirk Nowitzki
Players Stats: 20.7 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 2.4 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.8 BPG
Honors: 1x MVP, 1x Finals MVP, 14x All-Star, 12x All-NBA Selection
Dirk had an amazing career that lasted 2 decades, but his highlight moment was his NBA ring he earned by knocking off a Miami Heat superteam in 2010-2011. Dirk is probably the best shooting PF ever, who was a 50-40-90 threat every night. Dirk mastered the art of the one-legged fadeaway, a move that still makes defenders shiver to this day. Dirk is a HOF player and legend who is a top-five PF ever.
3. Charles Barkley
Players Stats: 22.1 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.8 BPG
Honors: 1x MVP, 11x All-Star, 11x All-NBA Selection
Charles does not have an NBA ring but accomplished everything else. He won an MVP Award and had an unbelievable impact on the game in terms of his post scoring and rebounding. He was a leader of a team that made the NBA Finals against the Chicago Bulls and had the personality and skillset to dominate the game. Barkley is also one of the most popular players ever and might be number one in terms of likeability.
2. Karl Malone
Players Stats: 25.0 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.8 BPG
Honors: 2x MVP, 14x All-Star, 14x All-NBA Selection, 4x All-Defensive Team Selection
The Mailman is currently the second-highest scoring player of all-time and had a sensational career which included two Finals appearances and a scoring record that is unbelievable. He was the perfect post player who could step out to mid-range and was the driving force for an all-time great Utah Jazz team that shockingly does not have an NBA title. Malone sits at number two, which is no embarrassment considering how great the player at number 1 is.
1. Tim Duncan
Players Stats: 19.0 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 3.0 APG, 0.7, 2.2 BPG
Honors: 2x MVP, 3x Finals MVP, 15x All-Star, 15x All-NBA Selection, 15x All-Defensive Team Selection, 1998 Rookie of the Year
In terms of accolades, Duncan can probably make an argument for a top-five player ever. He won everything there is to win on an individual level and on a team level and was the best player on the Spurs since he entered the league in his rookie season. No player at the PF spot had Duncan’s I.Q, and he can run an offense and dominate the game defensively single-handedly.
Duncan is the best PF of all time and it isn’t very close, no matter how great Karl Malone and Charles Barkley were