The versatility of today’s game has made differentiating between positions extremely difficult, and there isn’t a position better indicating the positionless nature of modern basketball than the power forward position.
The power forward of the past used to be the team enforcer – think Charles Oakley – or used to do the dirty work in and around the paint – think Laker legend AC Green. Now the power forward has become a hybrid position that can unlock a team’s versatility. If you want to play big, you would move your 4 man to the small forward spot like the Cavaliers do with Lauri Markkanen because he’s a good shooter with guard skills. Or you can go small and create a death lineup the way the Warriors do when they move Draymond Green to the center position.
The 4 spot has become one of the most diverse positions in the NBA. Whether you’re looking for a pick-and-pop or pick-and-roll player, or a player that can get you a bucket in isolation using guard-like handles or even one that can get the defensive rebound and take the ball coast-to-coast and finish with a surplus of moves, you’ll find that player on my list.
Having said that, I present to you my list of the best power forwards heading into next season.
5. Jaren Jackson, Jr., Memphis Grizzlies
2021-22 season averages: 16.3 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 2.3 BPG
Jackson played only 27.3 minutes per game last season, yet led the NBA in total blocks and was second in blocks per game. With a 7’5” wingspan, Jackson flies all over the court, thoroughly forcing teams to think twice about their offensive approach. He’s already a known 3-point threat and a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. With the game slowing down for him next season, he will be climbing higher on my list very soon.
4. Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors
2021-22 season averages: 22.8 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 5.3 APG
Siakam is already an NBA champion, a Most Improved Player award winner, and a two-time All-NBA member. But he is still so underrated, possibly even by me since I’ve placed him outside my top three, even after he led the Raptors to a surprising playoff appearance last season. Spicy P is a disruptive defender and a force in transition. In the half-court, he just overwhelms smaller defenders, or drives right past the bigger ones. Building off a successful campaign last year, I expect him to take a huge leap this season.
3. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves
2021-22 season averages: 24.6 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 3.6 APG
Towns comes in at the third spot on my list. He predominantly played the center last season, leading the Timberwolves to their first winning season and playoff appearance since 2018.
Last season was a season of firsts for KAT as we saw him set a Timberwolves franchise record with a 60-point game, becoming only the sixth center to hit that mark. In another win over the Thunder, Towns recorded 36 points, 15 rebounds, five assists, three blocks, and no turnovers, becoming the first player to record such a stat line while shooting at least 75 percent from the field. Towns became the first player in franchise history with multiple 50-plus point, 10-plus rebound games. Lastly, he became the first center in NBA history to win the Three-Point Contest.
Critics either feel the pairing of Towns and Rudy Gobert will work fantastically, or it will fail miserably. I’m giving the pairing the benefit of the doubt, because theoretically they complement each other so well. Gobert has so much gravitational pull when he rolls to the basket as he averages the third most points per possession on pick-and-rolls in the entire NBA. Towns is almost automatic on catch-and-shoot threes making 45 percent of his wide open attempts. He’ll probably get those open looks a lot when Gobert rolls to the basket.
Towns is already being considered as one of the best 3-point shooting big men of all time, but he isn’t just a catch-and-shoot player. His diversity of skills on offense is very unique. He has a quick release, and he can shoot it off the dribble with a deadly step back. He also has the quickness and handle to take slower defenders off the dribble, and the strength to bully them at the rim where he’s shooting a blistering 67 percent. The challenge he poses to defenses makes him an easy choice for my top three.
2. Anthony Davis, LA Lakers
2021-22 season averages: 23.2 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 2.3 BPG
Anthony Davis is a once-in-a-generation player. He has the ability to defend the ball at a DPOY level, playing the passing lanes for steals, as well as sending countless shot attempts at the rim to the front row seats. The ability he’s shown to make big-time shots from anywhere on the court makes him one of the best players in the league. The best version of Anthony Davis was the one that helped the Lakers win the NBA title in the 2020 bubble season. That’s the same player who earned four All-NBA nods and a spot on the NBA 75th Anniversary team.
The drawback with the eight-time All-Star has been his availability. Davis is known as one of the most injury-prone stars in the NBA. The Lakers have had two disappointing seasons in a row, and it coincided with his inability to stay on the court. He missed 88 games in the last two seasons. To make matters worse, everyone was trying to figure out where his perimeter shot went because he only made 18 percent of his 3s, his lowest percentage since his third season in the NBA.
He still makes it onto my list at No. 2 because although he had such a down year last season, he still produced superstar numbers, thanks to his sheer talent. He’s had an entire off season to get healthy and stronger. The entire Lakers team has agreed it’s in their best interest to run the offense through the 2012 No. 1 pick. That’s why with a clean bill of health and an ironed out jump shot, he will be taking his place among the top 10 players in the NBA next season.
Davis will be alternating between power forward and center. He’ll be back to putting his 7’6” wingspan to use, twisting and turning on his way to the basket for acrobatic finishes, while anchoring the Lakers’ defense, bringing them back amongst the top defenses in the league.
1. Giannis Anteotokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
2021-22 season averages: 29.9 PPG, 11.6 RPG, 5.8 APG
Antetokounmpo, at just 27 years old, is already considered to be one of the best players the NBA has ever seen. I don’t think anybody could have predicted this level of dominance that we have been seeing over the past five years. It’s clear as day at this point that he has turned into an unstoppable force and it isn’t hard to see him become the most dominant player in league history. The improvements he has made over his nine-year career are nothing short of video game-esque. He has transitioned from a 6’9”, 190-pound kid into a 6’11”, 240-pound beast.
Firstly, Antetokounmpo is one of the best defensive players in the league, earning a shot as the Defensive Player of the Year candidate every season, winning it back in 2020. Last season, offenses shot 11 percent worse in the paint when he was on the court because of his unique physical gifts. He can stay in front of the fastest players in the league and he’s strong enough to battle with bigs in the paint.
With a motor that never never runs out of gas, he’s able to play with maximum effort on every possession, on both ends of the floor.
Opponents have tried different tactics to stop him. Teams have tried to build a wall of defenders to stop him from driving but he still dominated, as evidenced by his leading the NBA in points in the paint for the third time in the last four years. Teams tried to send him to the free-throw line, but he made 72 percent of his free throws. Teams then threw multiple defenders at him to make his teammates beat them, but Antetokounmpo is such a good playmaker, he picked defenses apart, setting his teammates up for easy shots. He is the most dangerous transition weapon in the NBA with his ability to go the length of the floor with just three dribbles.
His only flaw right now is a missing outside shot, and even without one, he still gets to the rim whenever he wants. Ideally in a league in love with spacing we’d expect one of the most dominant inside forces to work on knocking down pull-up contested 3s to become a nightmare for opposing teams. but he’ll be taking the path less followed by continuing to perfect his midrange game. Last season his midrange percentage took a huge jump as he knocked down almost 42 percent with over 60 more attempts than the previous seasons. Teams can’t just wait for him at the paint anymore. His entire repertoire forces NBA coaches to reconsider their entire defensive strategy.
Let’s not forget that he is just 27 years old and has not even hit his peak. The two-time MVP continues to improve as a shot creator and is inching closer to becoming a three-level scorer, becoming even more unfair. Antetokounmpo was the easiest decision for this list, because he is not only far and away the No. 1 power forward, but there is a very good argument to be made that he is the best player in the entire league.