Power forwards are playing a crucial part of the NBA game these days, because they can do multiple things on the court at a high level including playing defense and scoring. As bigs who have the capabilities to play on the wings, power forwards are essentially small forwards with extra muscle. More so than in any other era, power forwards are basically small forwards with defensive capabilities.
We have seen over the past decade how elite power forwards control the game on both ends of the floor and are mainly responsible for their team’s successes. Thanks to the new wave of incredible athletes and skilled players at the power forward spot, some of the best offensive players play in stretch-four roles or occupy that position. These players include the likes of Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo, who both occupy that position for their teams.
Looking back at the last 40 years, here are the leading scorers in the power forward position from 1982 until the 2022 season. Some names will appear more than once, and some other players managed to take offense to an entirely different level by dominating the scoring charts every year. Without further ado, here are the last 40 scoring champions at the power forward spot in the NBA.
1982-83 - Kiki Vandeweghe - 26.7 PPG (Denver Nuggets)
The Denver Nuggets squads during the 1980s were an offensive juggernaut, and All-Star forward Kiki Vandeweghe was one of the main reasons why. The star player averaged 26.7 PPG in his first All-Star season, while fellow star Alex English (league-leading 28.4 PPG) also helped out the 3rd ranked offense in the league.
1983-84 - Kiki Vandeweghe - 29.4 PPG (Denver Nuggets)
The Denver Nuggets once again had the 2nd ranked offense in the league thanks to the spectacular offensive displays from Kiki Vandeweghe and Alex English. Kiki averaged his career-high 29.4 PPG for the Nuggets, while fellow star English chipped in 26.4 PPG. Together, Denver was one heck of a team to stop. The 1984 season was also the second when Kiki made the All-Star Team.
1984-85 - Terry Cummings - 23.6 PPG (Milwaukee Bucks)
Power forward Terry Cummings had a great start to his career, averaging at least 20 PPG 7 times in 8 years. Cummings was a solid inside scorer and had a knack for going off on opponents, a reason why he led all players in his position in 1985. Averaging 23.6 PPG on 49.5% shooting, Cummings was on a tear during his first of two All-Star selections.
1985-86 - Kevin McHale - 21.3 PPG (Boston Celtics)
One of the most unstoppable players in the paint, Kevin McHale was truly unguardable when he had position down low. As the great Charles Barkley said on multiple occasions, McHale was the best player he ever played against. In 1986, McHale was fresh off two straight DPOY awards and averaged 21.3 PPG on 57.4% shooting while making his second All-Star Team.
1986-87 - Kevin McHale - 26.1 PPG (Boston Celtics)
The following year, Kevin McHale once again led all power forwards in scoring and finished with a very solid scoring average of 26.1 PPG on 60.4% shooting. McHale made a living from the post and around the basket. Making his third All-Star Team, Kevin’s season in 1987 was one of his best ever. Quite frankly, there have been only a handful of unstoppable post scorers in the NBA and McHale ranks among the very top.
1987-88 - Charles Barkley - 28.3 PPG (Philadelphia 76ers)
Charles Barkley is one of the greatest players in the 1990s and of all time, and his 1988 season saw him average 28.3 PPG on 58.7% shooting which ended up being his career-high. Barkley was a monster in the paint, and even though he was undersized, he was unstoppable when he had positions down low.
1988-89 - Karl Malone - 29.1 PPG (Utah Jazz)
It was time for Karl Malone to dominate the scoring charts at the power forward position. The Mailman went ballistic during the season, averaging 29.1 PPG on 51.9% shooting for the Utah Jazz. Get used to seeing Malone’s name appear on this list because he will appear many more times in the 1990s.
1989-90 - Karl Malone - 31.0 PPG (Utah Jazz)
Once again, Karl Malone led all power forwards in scoring by averaging 31.0 PPG for the Utah Jazz. There was truly no comparison to him at his position because his elite power and consistency as a scorer made him stand out from everybody else at his position when it came to purely getting buckets with his point guard feeding him the ball.
1990-91 - Karl Malone - 29.0 PPG (Utah Jazz)
In his fourth All-Star season at age 27 for the Utah Jazz, Karl Malone averaged 29.0 PPG on 52.7% shooting from the field. These are certainly elite numbers for a player that had relied on efficiency and pinpoint passes from his All-Star point guard, John Stockton. Malone also managed to finish 2nd in the NBA in scoring behind Michael Jordan, a shooting guard who did not let anyone win scoring titles during the 1990s.
1991-92 - Karl Malone - 28.0 PPG (Utah Jazz)
The Mailman continued to put up ridiculous scoring numbers for the Utah Jazz, posting 28.0 PPG on 52.6% from the field and 77.8% from the free-throw line. His partnership with John Stockton formed an all-time great duo, and we continued to witness the Jazz building a title-contending squad that would soon make a couple of NBA Finals appearances.
1992-93 - Karl Malone - 27.0 PPG (Utah Jazz)
Guess who? Karl Malone led all power forwards in scoring again, this time he did it by posting 27.0 PPG on 55.2% shooting and finished 3rd overall in the NBA in scoring behind Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins. It is amazing how Jordan did not allow any all-time great player to have any glory, but Karl Malone was undeniably the best-scoring big man in NBA history.
1993-94 - Karl Malone - 25.2 PPG (Utah Jazz)
At age 30, Karl Malone continued his dominance from mid-range and on the block for the Utah Jazz. He posted 25.2 PPG with Utah through 82 games and finished off the 1994 season by averaging 49.7% shooting. Interestingly, Karl Malone only shot 69.4% from the free-throw line and finished behind big men David Robinson, Shaquille O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, and perimeter scorer Dominique Wilkins in the league scoring.
1994-95 - Karl Malone - 26.7 PPG (Utah Jazz)
The era of elite big men continued, as Karl Malone finished behind Shaquille O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, and David Robinson in league scoring. But none competed in the power forward position, and Karl Malone was the single-best scorer at his position. The Mailman put up an impressive 26.7 PPG on 53.6% shooting, efficiency which came as a result of John Stockton’s pinpoint passing.
1995-96 - Karl Malone - 25.7 PPG (Utah Jazz)
One of the greatest scorers ever, Karl Malone continued his tear during the 1996 season by posting 25.7 PPG on 51.9% shooting from the field and 72.3% from the free-throw line. The Mailman continued to be an elite spot-up scorer and could also create his offense when needed in the post, a reason why he made his 8th straight All-Star Team for the Utah Jazz.
1996-97 - Karl Malone - 27.4 PPG (Utah Jazz)
The 1997 season marked yet another time when Karl Malone finished behind Michael Jordan in the scoring race. The Mailman was impressive during the year, posting 27.4 PPG on 55.0% shooting from the field and 75.5% from the free-throw line. Very few big men could score like Malone, and he made it obvious when John Stockton unselfishly fed him the ball on almost every possession.
1997-98 - Karl Malone - 27.0 PPG (Utah Jazz)
Karl Malone is easily one of the greatest scorers in Utah Jazz and even NBA history because he was a premier All-Star at the forward position, and could get buckers from inside and outside. The forward averaged 27.0 PPG on 53.0% shooting from the field, strong numbers for a player that appeared in 81 games and averaged 37.4 MPG.
1998-99 - Karl Malone - 23.8 PPG (Utah Jazz)
For yet another year, Karl Malone led all power forwards in scoring thanks to his mix of mid-range jump shooting and inside scoring. The forward was well-built at 6’9” and 250 lbs, which made him a capable option to punish opposing power forwards as well. The Mailman averaged 23.8 PPG during the lockout-shortened season and even won MVP over the dominant Michael Jordan during the year.
1999-00 - Karl Malone - 25.5 PPG (Utah Jazz)
The 2000 season was the start of Shaquille O’Neal’s dominance in the league, but Karl Malone was not done scoring the ball at a high level from the mid-range and inside the post. The Mailman posted 25.5 PPG on 50.9% from the field and 79.7% from the free-throw line in all 82 games in the season. It is extremely rare and impressive for a player to dominate his position for so long and score the ball at an elite level for so long. After all, there is a reason why the all-time great Jazz superstar is currently 3rd all-time in total points scored. We might never see a player as dominant in one position as Karl Malone has been in terms of scoring the ball.
2000-01 - Chris Webber - 27.1 PPG (Sacramento Kings)
Chris Webber helped put Sacramento on the map, and he did it mainly through the 2001 season. He was already one of the best athletes and all-around power forwards in the NBA, but he was a dominant scorer as well. Armed with versatility, explosiveness, and a solid jumper, Webber made headlines every week for his offensive prowess. He finished 6th in the league in scoring and led all power forwards at 27.1 PPG.
2001-02 - Tim Duncan - 25.5 PPG (San Antonio Spurs)
Not known as an elite scorer and more of a consistent scorer, Tim “The Big Fundamental” Duncan averaged an impressive 25.5 PPG during the 2002 season with the San Antonio Spurs. Duncan shot 50.8% from the field and was mainly a force by posting up on the block and also focusing on his infamous bank shot for an easy two points. While Timmy was a defensive monster, his offense was on another level in 2002.
2002-03 - Dirk Nowitzki - 25.1 PPG (Dallas Mavericks)
Dirk Nowitzki was one of the early players who could stretch the court from deep and also score inside at a truly elite level. Arriving as a bonafide All-Star and superstar, Dirk Nowitzki was a unique scorer due to his outside shooter and also his ability to score anytime he wanted in one-on-one situations. His one-legged jumper was nice to watch, and his efficiency was also on point (46.3% FG, 37.9% 3-PT FG, 88.1% FT).
2003-04 - Kevin Garnett - 24.2 PPG (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Kevin Garnett was the best player in the world in 2004 because he was doing everything for the Minnesota Timberwolves including being the primary rebounder, passer, defender, and scorer. KG averaged 24.2 PPG on 49.9% shooting from the field, and his scoring average was good enough for second in the league behind Tracy McGrady. Carrying Minnesota to the first seed in the West, KG was the man.
2004-05 - Dirk Nowitzki - 26.1 PPG (Dallas Mavericks)
The 2005 season continued with the emergence of Dirk Nowitzki as the most dominant scoring power forward in the world. He put up 26.1 PPG for the Dallas Mavericks, doing it through his unstoppable ability to score from the perimeter. The big German was truly a unique scorer, and he had the length and shooting touch to really wreak havoc on the court against most defenders.
2005-06 - Dirk Nowitzki - 26.6 PPG (Dallas Mavericks)
Yet again, Dirk Nowitzki led all power forwards in scoring. The German looked very comfortable carrying the Mavericks on his back, and he managed to lead the league in win shares and finished 7th in the league in scoring at 26.6 PPG. Nowitzki was efficient and was normally double-teamed to prevent him from taking over games singlehandedly.
2006-07 - Dirk Nowitzki - 24.6 PPG (Dallas Mavericks)
A clutch shot-maker and talented offensive star, Dirk Nowitzki averaged 24.6 PPG on 50.2% from the field and 41.6% from three for the Mavericks. The power forward had every offensive trick in the book from jump shooting to fadeaway jumpers, and there was not much any defender could do against him in 2007. Of course, Dirk captured league MVP and led the Dallas Mavericks to the best record in the NBA although they lost in the first round of the playoffs.
2007-08 - Dirk Nowitzki - 23.6 PPG (Dallas Mavericks)
Dirk Nowitzki’s name appears yet again, as he finished 1st among all power forwards with 23.6 PPG on 47.9% shooting from the field, 35.9% from three, and 87.9% from the free-throw line. The big German started his journey by recovering from the disappointing 2007 campaign, and he answered the bell by finishing 4th in the West and also continuing his reign as the most spectacular scoring power forward in the NBA.
2008-09 - Dirk Nowitzki - 25.9 PPG (Dallas Mavericks)
Despite playing in a league filled with elite scoring superstars such as Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade (who won the scoring title), no big men were as effective as Dirk when it came to getting buckets. The Mavericks’ superstar put up 25.9 PPG on 47.9% from the field, 35.9% from three, and 89.0% from the free-throw line.
2009-10 - Dirk Nowitzki - 25.0 PPG (Dallas Mavericks)
Dirk was competing at a superstar level, and he would soon get the success he truly deserved just one year later. The superstar power forward continued his scoring reign at his position by putting up 25.0 PPG on 48.1% from the field, 42.1% from three, and 91.5% from the free-throw line. One year later, Dirk would achieve his greatest success.
2010-11 - Dirk Nowitzki - 23.0 PPG (Dallas Mavericks)
The 2011 season should have never belonged to 32-year-old power forward Dirk Nowitzki. The big man was not very explosive, aged a little, and did not have a superteam behind him as the Maimi Heat had with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. But Dirk was still the best scoring power forward in the NBA during the regular season, and he capped off his year with the elusive NBA championship.
2011-12 - Kevin Love - 26.0 PPG (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Kevin Love was a superstar in 2012, and that is a very hard thing for a young power forward to do. A unique scorer, Love was a force on the block but also possessed one of the best three-point shots in the game. Before stretch bigs became normal, Love was truly one-of-a-kind. He averaged 26.0 PPG on 44.8% from the field and 37.2% from three.
2012-13 - Carmelo Anthony - 28.7 PPG (New York Knicks)
Capturing the scoring title with the New York Knicks, Carmelo Anthony had one of his best seasons ever in 2013 by posting 28.7 PPG on 44.9% from the field, 37.9% from three, and 83.0% from the free-throw line. Anthony was tasked with helping bring New York basketball back to the fun days, and he certainly achieved that.
2013-14 - Carmelo Anthony - 27.4 PPG (New York Knicks)
Finishing second in the NBA in scoring behind Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony went on a tear during the 2014 season by posting 27.4 PPG for the New York Knicks. Carmelo occupied the power forward spot for the majority of the season and did a great job by finishing the year on 45.2% from the field and 40.2% from three which were both impressive numbers for a high-volume scorer.
2014-15 - Anthony Davis - 24.4 PPG (New Orleans Pelicans)
At age 21, Anthony Davis finished 4th in the NBA in scoring with 24.4 PPG behind two guards and LeBron James. Davis was already considered one of the most talented scorers in the game by his third NBA season and went on to make his second-straight All-Star Team. AD was not quite competing for a championship with the Pelicans, but he was still an elite offensive player with the ball in his hands.
2015-16 - Dirk Nowitzki - 18.3 PPG (Dallas Mavericks)
Dirk’s name appears after a brief hiatus, and he managed to lead all power forwards in scoring at 18.3 PPG at the ripe age of 37 years old. Nowitzki was still an elite shooter, and he averaged 36.8% from three, 44.8% from the field, and 89.3% from the line. Even if he was limited in playing time, Dirk was the man when it came to making shots.
2016-17 - Kevin Durant - 25.1 PPG (Golden State Warriors)
In his first season with Golden State, it was not surprising to see Kevin Durant occupy the power forward position due to the team’s tendency to go smallball. KD has to be unguardable at the power forward position, especially considering the fact he had Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson running beside him. Averaging a cool 25.1 PPG, he could have averaged more if he really wanted to.
2017-18 - Anthony Davis - 28.1 PPG (New Orleans Pelicans)
Anthony Davis is now an NBA champion after the 2020 season with the Los Angeles Lakers, but there is no denying his prime came with the New Orleans Pelicans. Davis handled the ball well, beat opposing bigs off the dribble, and also nailed outside shots. Averaging 28.1 PPG, Davis was simply unstoppable when he had the ball at the post or at the perimeter when he had space to go one-on-one.
2018-19 - Giannis Antetokounmpo - 27.7 PPG (Milwaukee Bucks)
By capturing his first MVP award and averaging 27.7 PPG which ranked 3rd in the NBA, Giannis was one of the top scorers in the game despite the fact he shot 25.6% from three and 72.9% from the free-throw line. The Greek Freak showcased an inconsistent jumper, but he could still score at the rim anytime he wanted and won the MVP over James Harden who averaged 36.1 PPG.
2019-20 - Giannis Antetokounmpo - 29.5 PPG (Milwaukee Bucks)
Capturing his second straight MVP award, The Greek Freak finished 5th in the NBA in scoring at 29.5 PPG on 55.3% shooting from the field. Armed with the best athleticism in the game, there was no stopping Giannis from completely dominating the floor during the NBA season before and during “The Bubble”. Get used to it, because Giannis will be the best scorer at the power forward position going forward.
2020-21 - Giannis Antetokounmpo - 28.1 PPG (Milwaukee Bucks)
Giannis Antetokounmpo was certainly one of the contenders for the scoring title in 2021 because he finished 5th in the league in scoring at the age of 26 years old. The Bucks forward has the best years of his career ahead of him, because he is continuing to improve his playmaking and shooting ability and he was on a tear in 2021 by putting up 28.1 PPG for the Bucks.
2021-22 - Giannis Antetokounmpo - 29.9 PPG (Milwaukee Bucks)
This season, Giannis Antetokounmpo finished 2nd in the NBA in scoring by putting up 29.9 PPG on 55.3% from the field, and 72.2% from the stripe. The Greek Freak is arguably the best player in the game today because he is unstoppable around the rim and can score anytime he wants to. This marks the 4th straight season Giannis led the NBA in scoring at the power forward spot.