Half of the players ranked in the top-eight on this list switched teams this summer, two forming mega-trios in the Eastern Conference, and the other two hoping to revive two of the best fan bases in the league. If the summer of 2010 proved anything, an elite player at the four spot can transform a playoff team into a championship. As the NBA becomes more global, the foreign influx of talent can be seen at the power forward position more than any other in the league. Power forwards are so deep, a likely first ballot Hall-of-Fame inductee isn’t even ranked in the top-10 even though he’s still in the end of his prime.
30. Josh McRoberts– Indiana Pacers
Indiana boasts the youngest front line in NBA and its most evident by starting Josh McRoberts. Entering his fourth season, McRoberts has only played in 83 games and averages just 10 minutes per appearance. The Pacers need him to produce if they want to get out of the 32-36 win trap the team has been stuck in for the past four seasons.
29. Amir Johnson– Toronto Raptors
The most confusing free agent signing of the summer was the five-year $34 million deal Amir Johnson signed with the Toronto Raptors. In five seasons, Johnson has only started 29 games and has a career highs of 20 points and 12 rebounds. Those numbers make for a nice season average, not a $7 million a year salary.
28. Jonas Jerebko– Detroit Pistons
The first Swedish born player in NBA history, Jonas Jerebko surprisingly emerged as the starter in Detroit. The Pistons signed Charlie Villanueva to a five-year $35 million deal to be their starter, but Jerebko seized his opportunity as a rookie and is looking to hold off Villanueva this season.
27. Channing Frye– Phoenix Suns
Entering last season as a career 34 percent shooter from beyond the arc, Channing Frye became the top three-point shooting power forward in the NBA, connecting on .439 percent of his shots from long range. The problem now is Frye must find a way to replace the 23.1 points per game Amar’e Stoudemire pumped in a night.
26. Al Harrington– Denver Nuggets
Thrust into a prominent role as Kenyon Martin still uncertain for the season opener, Al Harrington is looking to shift from being the instant offense off the bench in New York into a starting role in Denver. Harrington was brought in with a five-year $33.4 year contact. Harrington’s presence may be the first step for a team team reshuffling the roster as the Nuggets try to work out a deal with small forward Carmelo Anthony.
25. Drew Gooden– Milwaukee Bucks
Drew Gooden kicked off the free agency period by agreeing to a five-year $32 million deal with the Milwaukee Bucks on July 1. Playing for his ninth different team during his eight-year career (Magic, Grizzlies, Cavaliers, Bulls, Spurs, Kings, Clippers and Mavericks), Gooden is looking to finally establish a home in the NBA.
24. Boris Diaw– Charlotte Bobcats
As one of the few players that could actually line up at all five positions on the court, Boris Diaw is having difficulty finding a spot in the Charlotte lineup. The Bobcats actually sent Diaw to the Toronto Raptors but the deal fell apart when Charlotte general manager Michael Jordan pulled out of the deal. It still appears Diaw’s days as a Bobcat are numbered.
23. Jeff Green– Oklahoma City Thunder
If Oklahoma City is going to take the next step and advance in the playoffs, Jeff Green needs to step his game up. Regressing in the playoffs (his scoring average dropped four points and rebounding slipped by two per game) Green would have gained tremendous crunch time experience had he made the final cut for Team USA in the FIBA World Championship.
22. Elton Brand– Philadelphia 76ers
If Elton Brand can produce anything for Philadelphia this season, the 76ers will be a playoff team. After signing a five-year $80 million deal two summers ago, Brand had the worst two seasons of his career. For nine years with the Bulls and Clippers, Brand was a great player in the post, terrific rebounder and a legitimate shot blocking threat. If he can recreate one aspect of the game he had, Philadelphia will become a dangerous team.
21. Troy Murphy– New Jersey Nets
Troy Murphy is a one-year stopgap as the Nets let the third overall selection in the NBA Draft, Derrick Favors, develop. All it cost was a backup shooting guard to acquire Murphy, one of nine players to average double digits in rebounds last season.
20. Rashard Lewis– Orlando Magic
Somehow the Rashard Lewis contract isn’t regarded as one of the worst free agent signings in NBA history. In 2007, Orlando signed Lewis to a six-year $110 million deal (the same amount Miami signed LeBron James for this summer) and has since been suspended for 10 games for using a banned substance, made one All Star appearance and completely melted down during the playoffs, averaging 8.2 points per game and shooting 17 percent from three-point range.
19. Antawn Jamison– Cleveland Cavaliers
Brought in to defeat the Orlando Magic in the playoffs, Antawn Jamison never had the chance as Cleveland was unexpectedly bounced from the playoffs by Boston in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Once again the top scorer on a lottery bound team, Jamison’s career may come to an end following this season.
18. Andray Blatche– Washington Wizards
Expected to be fully recovered from foot surgery in June, Andray Blatche says he’ll be ready for training camp. As one of the last straight from high school players in the NBA, Blatche finally was given consistent playing time late in the year and shined on the court. Notching 20 or more points on 24 occasions and averaging a career high 6.3 rebounds, Blatche is one of the reasons why Wizard fans think the team can quickly become a playoff team again.
17. Blake Griffin– Los Angeles Clippers
One of the most explosive athletes at the position, Blake Griffin is finally ready to make his NBA debut. Griffin missed all of what was supposed to be his rookie season after breaking his knee cap. The injury was devastating because it came after Griffin dunked during the Clippers final preseason game. Still eligible to become Rookie of the Year, Griffin has Los Angeles thinking both its teams will be in the playoffs this season.
16. Carl Landry– Sacramento Kings
Potentially on the trading block again after spending just half a season in Sacramento, Carl Landry could be moved again if first round draft pick DeMarcus Cousins develops quickly. Landry is a proven rebounder and solid scorer, he’s just had a difficult time finding consistent playing time.
15. David West– New Orleans Hornets
No player has flown under the radar quite like David West. Look at his profile from ESPN.com, even with seven seasons in the NBA, they don’t have a picture available for him. Posting an average of 20.1 points and 8.2 rebounds over the past three seasons, West would have been a perfect fit for Team USA at the FIBA World Championship.
14. Al Jefferson– Utah Jazz
After losing Carlos Boozer in free agency, the Jazz robbed the Minnesota Timberwolves by trading two future draft picks and a scrub center for Al Jefferson. One of the top “good stats on a bad team” guy for his entire career, Jefferson finally has an opportunity to shine on a team bound for the post season.
13. Josh Smith– Atlanta Hawks
Robbed of his first career All-Star appearance last season, Josh Smith has finally turned his incredible athleticism into positive production on the court. For Smith, his progress can be defined as addition by subtraction. By eliminating the three-point shot from his game (shooting a career low seven attempts last season), Smith shot a career high .505 percent from the field.
12. Kevin Garnett– Bostons Celtics
During Game 7 of the NBA Finals there were 98 missed field goal attempts. Nine different players grabbed at least five rebounds. With Kendrick Perkins sidelined with a knee injury, Kevin Garnett was supposed to fill the void defensively and on the glass. He lost the rebounding edge 18-3 to the man he was guarding. Sorry folks, the days of Garnett being an elite power forward have been over for a while.
11. LaMarcus Aldridge– Portland Trail Blazers
All of the free agency movement at power forward has dwindled the All Star competition a bit in the Western Conference and LaMarcus Aldridge is at the point in his career where he has to take the next step. His scoring average over the past three seasons has been stuck in the 17.8-18.1 range and his rebounding average has been between 7.5-8.1. This is the year Aldridge turns into a 20 and 10 guy.
10. Kevin Love– Minnesota Timberwolves
It seems every time a shot ricochets off the rim, Kevin Love is there to scoop up the loose ball. Last season he averaged 11 rebounds per game in just 28 minutes and notched nine games with 15 or more rebounds. Love alone can crash the offensive glass, as evidenced by his performance with Team USA this summer. As a starter in Minnesota, he becomes the best challenger to Dwight Howard for the rebounding title this year.
9. Zach Randolph– Memphis Grizzlies
For the third consecutive season, Zach Randolph began the NBA season with a new team name on the front of his jersey. For the fourth time in his nine-year career, he averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds a night. Trouble off the court shortened his stints with his previous teams, but the 29-year-old may have finally found a home in Memphis.
8. David Lee– Golden State Warriors
Sure, he tries to play defense by simply out scoring his opponent, but David Lee is one of the toughest match-ups in the NBA. He can shoot consistently from mid-range, take his defenders off the dribble and even connected on 81 percent of his free throws, so hacking him isn’t an option. Playing for a team gunning to outscore all its opponents, Lee is a perfect fit in Golden State.
7. Luis Scola– Houston Rockets
Even though Argentina faced an early exit, Luis Scola established himself as the best player in the FIBA World Championship, averaging a tournament high 27.1 points per game. Some players can dominate playing the international game, but Scola has proven he can be a force in the NBA as well. Against New Jersey, Scola dropped 44 points by connecting on an astonishing 20-of-25 field goal attempts. Scola will play in Los Angeles for the Western Conference All Stars this February.
6. Carlos Boozer– Chicago Bulls
Finally. For the first time in decades, the Bulls have a reliable scorer in the post. The addition of Carlos Boozer signifies Chicago as a legitimate title contender again. Even before he logged one minute in a Bulls uniform, Boozer declared his new team could win the title this season.
5. Amar’e Stoudemire– New York Knicks
In the first good move since the team hired Isiah Thomas, wait, since hiring Larry Brown to coach, wait, that’s not right, since signing Allan Houston for $100 million, hold on, since drafting Patrick Ewing in 1985, there you go, the Knicks finally did something that wasn’t the worst possible decision anyone could ever make ever. So there’s that.
4. Chris Bosh– Miami Heat
Chris Bosh becomes the first player in NBA history to knowingly sign a $100 million contract (a six-year $110.1 million deal if you want to be exact) to become a third scoring option. It’s still crazy, giving someone an eight figure deal to score less points for a team. Bosh is obviously one of the premier power forwards in the league and everyone is curious to see exactly what his role will be in Miami.
3. Dirk Nowitzki– Dallas Mavericks
There was as much of a chance of Dirk Nowitzki leaving Dallas as there was a chance Chris Bosh was going to remain with the Raptors. Back with the Mavericks after inking a four-year $80 million contract, the best shooting seven-footer of all time is still trying to lead the Mavericks to their first title in franchise history.
2. Tim Duncan– San Antonio Spurs
For each of the past three seasons, Tim Duncan has set career lows in minutes played. The greatest power forward ever, Duncan has been limited by plantar fasciitis and yet, he still dropped 17.9 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. The Spurs dynasty has ended, but Duncan is still adding chapters to his legacy.
1. Pau Gasol– Los Angeles Lakers
It took an epic Game 7 performance to finally unseat Tim Duncan, but yes, Pau Gasol is the top power forward in the NBA. He has done everything that has been asked of him in Los Angeles and has led the Lakers to three-straight NBA Finals appearances and consecutive titles. His 18-3 rebounding edge over Kevin Garnett shed any “soft” label incorrectly bestowed on him.
Other Position Rankings: