With the NBA season right around the corner, now is as good a time as any to take stock of the best talent around the league. So before the regular season officially begins, Sports Illustrated will be ranking the top five players at every position in the NBA. Here, we are focusing on power forwards, a position reserved for players who may still want to pretend they are small forwards but aren’t really.
Apologies to: Zion Williamson, Draymond Green, first-time power forward in 2023 Karl-Anthony Towns.
5. Jaren Jackson Jr.
While Jackson has tantalizing potential as a small-ball five, the Grizz still largely employ him at power forward. Fortunately for Memphis, that hasn’t cooled JJJ’s impact. He is one of the best defenders in the league and a feared rim protector. Jackson averaged career bests in blocks, points and field goal percentage last season. His offensive arsenal could use some more polish, but he’s only 24, and his outside shot is already quite a weapon for a player of his size. Jackson should be a fixture on this list at either this position or center for years to come.
4. Kawhi Leonard
Look, I feel weird about having Kawhi here, but he’s played most of his minutes at the four during the past two seasons, and it’s difficult to separate him out of the Clippers’ three-wing look. At any position, Leonard is still that dude. We saw the old Playoff Kawhi in the first round against the Suns, when he looked ready to single-handedly send Kevin Durant and Devin Booker home without Paul George, dominating on both ends of the floor. Unfortunately, for the third time in three years, Kawhi was unable to participate in a full postseason. That’s really the knock at this point. We know what Leonard is capable of when he’s on the floor. He can be the best player in the league on any given night. Can we expect him to stay healthy, though?
3. LeBron James
You either think LeBron is talked about too much or somehow underappreciated. And I still lean toward the latter. What he did in Year 21, with all the miles and stress on his body, was absurd. And even with his nebulous foot injury, he was able to lead the Lakers into the conference finals. LeBron may not be at his peak anymore, but he can still find a way to 27/7/7 without putting in the monster two-way effort he used to. James has been dealing with his own health issues the last few years, and his playoff dominance has definitely taken a little bit of a hit. Yet he remains one of the most feared players in the game.
2. Kevin Durant
It’s so hard to separate Bron and KD. Both have injury issues, but Durant has actually played in more games over the last three seasons. And he continues to be the most hilariously effective scorer in the league. He averaged 29.1 points on 56% shooting from the field, 40.4% from three and 91.9% from the line. Like, what? A near 7-footer casually putting up a 56/40/90 season?
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo
Playoff exit aside, The Freak was arguably better last season than during his two MVP years. He’s the best two-player at this position. A perennial DPOY candidate who also averaged more than 30 points a game last year. If I had to pick the scariest position for a defender to be in, it would be the lone man back on a fast break with Giannis barreling at them. With Damian Lillard at his side this season, Antetokounmpo’s life should be much easier. Good luck with that.