Ranking the 2012-13 NBA Power Forwards
Today, we continue our series examining the best players of the season at each position by moving onto the power forwards. We’ll get to centers later today, but first up are the fours, which is a particularly challenging list to put together because of Kevin Love’s prolonged absence this year.
Let’s be honest, here. If he’s healthy, Love is pretty easily the best all-around power forward in the NBA. He’s one of the league’s most tenacious rebounders, has a respectable post game, can throw an outlet pass like nobody in the business and has redefined the position with his long-range shooting.
The problem, of course, is that Love has only played in 18 games this season, which means it’s impossible for us to include him on a list of the best power forwards of the 2012-13 season. In those few games he played, Love had some monster games, but he just didn’t play enough to make this list. Check down at the bottom of “Honorable Mention” for him, and let’s look at the six players who moved up the list as a result of his absence:
#6 – Zach Randolph, Memphis Grizzlies
15.8 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 0.8 SPG, 18.24 PER
Kevin Love isn’t alone as an amazingly talented player banished to the “Honorable Mention” section of this article; choosing the sixth and final player to make the list was extremely challenging and left really good players like Dirk Nowitzki, David West, Josh Smith, Kevin Garnett and Chris Bosh off the list. That’s how good the power forward crop has been this season, but looking at the top five, it was just too difficult to leave off the positional leader in rebounds. Randolph is actually third in the league in that category overall, and alongside Marc Gasol, he has formed one of the most feared frontcourts in the NBA. Memphis has been the third-best team in the West so far this season, and Randolph’s toughness and veteran leadership have played a major role in that.
#5 – Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City Thunder
13.4 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 2.9 BPG, 18.8 PER
NBA junkies will debate for years whether it would’ve been wiser for OKC to extend and keep James Harden rather than Serge Ibaka, but the truth is that both have been exceptional this past season, and Ibaka has been quite a bit more essential to the team’s defensive identity. His scoring and rebounding numbers aren’t as exciting as those of his colleagues, but he’s second in the league in blocks per game and has made enough offensive improvements to no longer be considered a liability on that end of the floor. The addition of a midrange jumper has boosted his scoring average up from 9.1 PPG last year to 13.4 PPG this year. He continues to evolve as a player, and he’s only going to get more dangerous the older he gets.
#4 – Blake Griffin, L.A. Clippers
18.7 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 24.03 PER
Perhaps the most marketable star in the league right now, Griffin is more than just a powerfully poetic dunker. With the second-highest PER among power forwards, Griffin has proven to be an especially efficient player this year, leading a very talented Clippers roster in scoring while shooting career-highs from both the field and the free-throw line. To be fair, his point and rebound totals are the lowest of his three active years in the league, but that doesn’t matter quite as much so long as the Clippers are winning more games. That has been the case this season, as L.A. looks primed for homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs as a result. Three or four years ago, nobody would’ve ever guessed that was possible, but Griffin has helped turn around the culture with this franchise, which has been exciting to watch.
#3 – David Lee, Golden State Warriors
18.9 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 3.8 APG, 19.56 PER
The Golden State Warriors certainly have their flaws, but at this point in the season it’s probably safe to say that they’ve been better as a team than any of us expected, and David Lee is a huge reason for that. He’s in the top three among power forwards in scoring, rebounding, assists and minutes, which proves just how heavily the Warriors have leaned on him this year. Lee has obviously risen to the challenge, and so Golden State sits in the sixth seed of a very tough Western Conference as the playoffs approach. Named an All-Star for the second time this season, Lee found the form that made him a star with the New York Knicks back in 2010.
#2 – Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
16.9 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 2.6 BPG, 24.18 PER
The other night’s vintage 28-point, 19-rebound performance proved that Tim Duncan, in his sixteenth year in the league, is just as good as he ever was. Last year, it was Kevin Garnett who seemed ageless, but this year’s it has been Duncan, who has the highest PER of any power forward. Of course, the fact that the Spurs recently clinched their 14th consecutive 50-win season is another reason to look at the future Hall-of-Famer as one of the league’s top power forwards, but at this point it shouldn’t take much convincing to get this guy high on a list of the league’s best at the position, whether it be for a career or for this individual season.
#1 – LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers
20.7 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 1.3 BPG, 19.97 PER
While the Portland Trail Blazers haven’t been particularly good this past season, at least Aldridge is having a career season. He is the only power forward averaging over 20 points a night, and one of only two players averaging at least 20 points and eight rebounds per game. That’s pretty rarefied air for the two-time All-Star, and the Blazers are expecting only better things to come. His passing improved exponentially from last season to this one, making him an even more dangerous offensive weapon, and best of all, he’s only 27 years old, which means there’s still plenty of room for even more growth. Perennially unappreciated, Aldridge has been the league’s best power forward in 2012-13.
Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks
17.2 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 17.0 PER
It would be very easy to argue that he should’ve made the list, but the six ahead of Smith were just a tiny bit better. Smith played through the trade rumors like a pro, and he’s got every reason to finish the season strong considering he’ll head into free agency this summer.
Chris Bosh, Miami HEAT
16.8 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 1.3 BPG, 20.20 PER
Often overlooked because he’s the third-best player on a team with two rock stars, Bosh has had a very nice all-around season and has been a major part of the HEAT’s amazing winning streak.
David West, Indiana Pacers
17.5 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 1.0 BPG, 20.90 PER
The Pacers are the second-best team in the Eastern Conference, but they’re a team full of youngsters. West gives them toughness and veteran leadership they absolutely wouldn’t have without him.
Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks
16.1 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 2.5 APG, 18.46 PER
It hasn’t been a banner year for Nowitzki, but his numbers have still been respectable enough to be mentioned honorably.
Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics
14.8 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 18.70 PER
We all hoped to see another rejuvenation in Garnett’s legs like in 2011-12, but it just hasn’t quite been the same kind of year for KG. Losing Rondo for the season sure didn’t help him any, either.
Carlos Boozer, Chicago Bulls
15.5 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 2.0 APG, 17.05 PER
There were times this season when Boozer looked like the Carlos of old, but he’s still not worth $15 million a season.
Paul Millsap, Utah Jazz
15.0 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 20.60 PER
The Utah Jazz are right there for another eighth seed in the Western Conference playoff picture this year, and Millsap’s solid and consistent all-around play at the four spot is a major part of what has kept them in the hunt.
Ryan Anderson, New Orleans Hornets
16.7 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 2.8 3PG, 19.26 PER
Raise your hand if you thought Anderson’s production would drop off without Dwight Howard to help space the floor. Totally didn’t happen, as Anderson was among the top two once again this year in three-pointers made.
Pau Gasol, L.A. Lakers
13.4 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 1.3 BPG, 15.89 PER
Gasol, like the next three guys, was hampered by injuries this season, and the Lakers’ inexplicable collapse didn’t help his stock any.
Amar’e Stoudemire, New York Knicks
14.2 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 0.7 BPG, 22.00 PER
Stoudemire only played in 29 games this season, and the knee problems we all feared would be an issue have proven to be exactly as problematic as we thought they’d be.
Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves
18.3 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 2.3 APG, 18.1 PER
He’s the best when healthy, but he just wasn’t healthy this season.
On the Rise:
Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets
11.8 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 18.70 PER
Faried is better than many of the power forwards in the “Honorable Mention” section, but he’s going to see a boost in minutes next season, which is when we’ll really witness this kid take off as a burgeoning star in the league.
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Hornets
12.9 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 1.8 BPG, 21.12 PER
It took a while for Davis to catch on, but as long as his offensive game continues to improve he should develop into a nice all-around player. He already has the potential to be one of the league’s defensive stars.
Derrick Favors, Utah Jazz
9.4 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 1.6 BPG, 17.75 PER
Assuming one or both of Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson leaves Utah in free agency this summer, Favors could be due for big things. He’s got the talent, but the minutes just haven’t been there in that loaded frontcourt.
Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
7.3 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.7 BPG, 22.3 PER
This is a ridiculous PER for a rookie power forward. Drummond looks like a star in the making.
Who else do you think should’ve made the top six? Were there any reputable power forwards left off the honorable mention list? Put in your two cents in the comments section below, and make sure you check the other positional rankings from earlier in the week!