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Ranking the starting power forwards in the NBA

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Where does Kenneth Faried fall on a surprisingly deep list of power forwards?

Los Angeles Clippers v Denver Nuggets Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

It was surprisingly difficult to do this list. When I was taking a look at some of the bottom players on this list, I thought “that’s not possible right?”

Well, to play power forward in the NBA, one has to do at least one of three things.

  1. Space the floor
  2. Play defense
  3. Have otherworldly skill at doing something else

An example of the third option would be Draymond Green or Blake Griffin facilitating, or Marvin Williams being able to switch on to anybody, or Kristaps Porzingis making plays because he’s simply taller than everyone else.

With those three options in mind, here is my power forward ranking.

1. Draymond Green - Golden State Warriors

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .190 8.97 +5.8
Career .145 6.42 +3.7

There are so few players to ever play the game of basketball that do as many things as well as Draymond Green does. As versatility goes, he, LeBron James, and Russell Westbrook are comparable to Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and the great Fat Lever.

In another era, Draymond many never have been given the opportunity to be as successful as he is today, and it is amazing how far he fell in the draft because teams didn't respect his skill set. Note to self: when grading draft prospects, make sure they check the "competitive fire" box, because that is the single most important trait that Green possesses to be where he is today.

2. Anthony Davis - New Orleans Pelicans

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .160 1.92 +2.2
Career .205 3.84 +4.2

Anthony Davis had a down season from his incredible season in 2014-15, but we have to recognize that he was playing with the worst supporting cast in the league. Jrue Holiday struggled with injuries. Norris Cole was the worst point guard in the league in his place. Eric Gordon played 45 games. The four players with the most starts around David were Omer Asik, Dante Cunningham, Gordon, and Alonzo Gee...wow.

He should be back to his dominant ways soon, especially with a fully healthy Holiday.

Edit: Now, Jrue Holiday will be off the basketball court for awhile. Good luck, Mr. Unibrow.

3. Paul Millsap - Atlanta Hawks

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .183 5.24 +5.3
Career .157 4.14 +3.5

Quick, how many players in the history of the NBA have accumulated 17 points, 9 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks in the history of the NBA?

Just 13, including Paul Millsap. What a story he is. While players like LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Love, and Blake Griffin get the name recognition at power forward, Millsap just gets things done quietly. He makes the third spot on my rankings for just being an elite all around player. He doesn't handle the ball like Draymond Green, but he does everything else just as well.

4. LaMarcus Aldridge - San Antonio Spurs

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .215 2.15 +1.8
Career .151 3.81 +1.2

In his first season with the San Antonio Spurs, LaMarcus Aldridge formed a great 1-2 punch with Kawhi Leonard offensively. He also had the most efficient season of his career (.565 TS%) and the best defensive season of his career. His RPM this year doesn't reflect it because of the contributions of Leonard, Danny Green, and the retired Tim Duncan, but this was his best year as a team defender.

We will see if he continues to perform so well without Duncan next to him, but as of now, he's earned his ranking among his peers.

5. Kevin Love - Cleveland Cavaliers

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .169 5.31 +2.5
Career .182 4.36 +3.2

Really? Kevin Love? Wasn't he awful this year?

Well, not really. He played a solid complementary role on the Cleveland Cavaliers this year, spacing the floor, rebounding the basketball on both ends. His true shooting percentage is far more reflective of his offensive skills, and he's so much better defensively than people give him credit for.

And how can we forget the game saving defense he played on Stephen Curry in the last meaningful play of Game 7 of the NBA Finals? I was absolutely in awe.

6. Blake Griffin - Los Angeles Clippers

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .156 2.07 +3.3
Career .181 3.36 +4.1

Blake Griffin was injured for most of the year, and he didn’t endear himself anymore to fans when he punched a guy. That being said, he’s still a top tier power forward, putting up some incredible numbers at the power forward position.

If Draymond Green didn’t exist, Griffin would be seen as the best passing power forward in the game, something that we don’t talk about enough. Griffin started as just a hyper efficient dunker, but now he’s turned into a savvy vet with an all-around game. He’s still not a floor spacer, but don’t be surprised if he hits 75+ threes this year.

7. Derrick Favors - Utah Jazz

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .173 1.67 +2.7
Career .133 1.38 +0.9

Derrick Favors has quietly risen to the top of the second tier of power forwards in the NBA. He’s not quite elite, but he does so many things really well. He’s a positive defender, a high usage player with solid efficiency, and his statistics reflect it.

Being in Utah, he obviously doesn’t receive the love that he should. It goes to show that the Nuggets would have been fine if they decided to trade Carmelo Anthony to the then New Jersey Nets instead of the New York Knicks. The rebuild would have started quicker for the Nuggets, but Favors has turned into a solid player in this league.

8. Chris Bosh - Miami Heat

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .172 2.06 +2.1
Career .159 1.97 +1.4

Get healthy soon Chris Bosh. The best thing for you and the Miami Heat is for you to be on the court being a solid power forward again. The duo of Chris Bosh and Hassan Whiteside is very underrated, and when they play the Nuggets, they dominated.

I’m hopeful Bosh figures it out and gets back on the court. If the Nuggets want to trade for a power forward who could really change their season, a healthy Chris Bosh would absolutely do that.

9. Marvin Williams - Charlotte Hornets

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .161 2.67 +2.7
Career .104 1.01 -0.5

All hail Marvin Williams, currently my favorite player in the NBA.

There are four players in the NBA who made 150 three pointers and accumulated 500 rebounds: Kevin Durant, Paul George, Kevin Love, and Marvin Williams.

Only one player at the power forward position had a better three point percentage than Williams: Luis Scola. He shot 46.1 percent from the corners.

He added the fourth most wins at the power forward position according to ESPN’s RPM calculations.

If there was a player I REALLY wanted in free agency, it was Marvin Williams. He signed a 4 year $54.5 million deal to return to Charlotte. I would have paid him 4/80.

10. Dirk Nowitzki - Dallas Mavericks

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .138 2.70 +0.9
Career .202 3.22 +3.5

Dirk is obviously starting to trail off a bit. He finally got the pay day he deserved in Dallas (the one Dwyane Wade should have gotten in Miami), and it allows him to ride into the sunset over the next year or two.

He commands nearly all of the attention of the opposing defense every single year, and it didn’t hit me how long Nowitzki has been in the NBA until I saw this:

Dirk Nowitzki has played 47,249 minutes. Good for 12th all-time.

If he plays two more full seasons, he will likely finish third all time in minutes played. Simply amazing.

11. Serge Ibaka - Orlando Magic

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .105 0.89 -0.1
Career .191 2.94 +0.9

Serge Ibaka was not the third best player on the Oklahoma City Thunder last year. Steven Adams was. Ibaka has lost a bit of athleticism that made him so special early in his career, but let’s be honest, he was iced out on offense by a ball dominant Russell Westbrook-Kevin Durant duo.

Now, he’s in Orlando with a bunch of other big men to take minutes. Ibaka will definitely get more of the spotlight in Florida with Aaron Gordon, Jeff Green, Nikola Vucevic, Bismack Biyombo, and Stephen Zimmerman competing for time.

He’s still a solid player though, and if he proves he can still a complementary star, then the Nuggets should go after him in 2017 Free Agency.

12. Kristaps Porzingis - New York Knicks

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .102 2.50 +0.9
Career .102 2.50 +0.9

Is this too high for Kristaps Porzingis? I don’t think so. He ended the season on a rookie slump, but before that, he was performing better than a few of the players above him and every player below him.

13. Zach Randolph - Memphis Grizzlies

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .103 -0.99 -0.8
Career .117 1.88 -0.3

Zach Randolph is an interesting case. On one hand, advanced statistics don’t favor him. On the other, Mike Conley and Marc Gasol abandoned him at the end of the season due to injuries, and he did reasonably well carrying the team.

Also, 28 players suited up for the Memphis Grizzlies last year, which is unheard of. Briante Weber, Ray McCallum, Ryan Hollins, and Jordan Farmar each started games for the Grizzlies. Their injuries were truly unprecedented around the league. I give Randolph a pass for this, but he is sliding due to age a bit.

14. Kenneth Faried - Denver Nuggets

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .156 -0.17 +0.9
Career .156 0.72 +1.5

Oh, where to put Kenneth Faried. This is where I have him, and I’m sure most Nuggets fans will disagree by either sliding him up five spots...or down five spots. He’s vexing.

The most important thing with Faried to remember is that among the 30 players I ranked on this list, he ranked 24rd in minutes per game last season. He was 25th in total minutes played. To be 14th is a very high complement to his hyper efficient offense and sometimes game changing rebounding.

But it also limits me from putting him higher on the list. Michael Malone knows more about the game of basketball than I do, and he saw fit to cut Faried’s minutes due to some defensive ineptitudes, including slow close outs, bad rotations, and poor one on one defense.

I believe by this time next year, Faried will be in a different uniform, but for now, let’s root for him to figure out the defensive side of the ball enough for Malone to utilize him in crunch time. We have seen in the past how game changing his rebounding can be, but I just don’t see that being enough to keep him around unless he can add to his game defensively.

15. Marcus Morris - Detroit Pistons

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .091 1.36 +0.7
Career .087 0.01 -0.3

Marcus Morris is like the anti-Kenneth Faried. He played a high volume of minutes as a floor spacer for the Detroit Pistons at the forward position. Him and Tobias Harris seamlessly transition between the 3 and the 4, but I decided to put Morris here.

I attribute some of his inefficiencies to playing an absurd amount of minutes. There was nobody good behind him though. When he was on the court, the Pistons were 6.7 points per 100 possessions better than when he was off the court, so there’s a reason he played so much.

With the additions of Jon Leuer, rookie Henry Ellenson, and Boban Marjanovic, along with the continued development of Stanley Johnson, I expect minutes to go down and efficiency to go up for Morris this season. He will be a weapon for Detroit next year.

16. Thaddeus Young - Indiana Pacers

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .081 0.76 +0.1
Career .101 1.22 +0.3

Thaddeus Young was stuck in a very bad situation last year. On a team that had limited spacing, facilitators, and another big man playing inside the arc in Brook Lopez, Young was at a disadvantage all year. Still, he put up 15 points, 9 rebounds, and 1.5 steals per contest.

The only other players to do that in the entire NBA: Paul Millsap and DeMarcus Cousins.

There’s a lot of empty statistics there because he played on such a bad team, but his game must be respected.

17. Markieff Morris - Washington Wizards

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .015 -0.57 -2.8
Career .075 0.95 -0.6

Lots of people will be surprised by this ranking based on the advanced metrics. There is no way around Markieff Morris and his unmitigated disaster of a season last year. That being said, I’m going more in line with his career numbers here.

Markieff excels when he has a point guard truly facilitate the offense, and there were signs of him returning to form with John Wall leading the Wizards. It will be interesting to see what he can do, but I’m a pretty big fan of what Washington has built as long as Bradley Beal can stay healthy. Morris is a major part of that as the stretch four they need.

18. Amir Johnson - Boston Celtics

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .158 2.95 +3.0
Career .144 3.13 +2.6

I really struggled placing Amir Johnson on this list. He passes the advanced statistics eye test with flying colors, and he does it on both ends of the floor.

That being said, similar to Kenneth Faried, his low minute total knocks him down a few pegs. He played one of the least minutes per contest among starting power forwards at just 22.8, and he’s largely a recipient of the work of others. A great creator on one side in Isaiah Thomas, and two great perimeter defenders in Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder on the other.

I do like his game as a complement to someone like Nikola Jokic, but he’s a fifth option guy on offense, limiting his ceiling for minutes, and ultimately impact.

19. Ryan Anderson - Houston Rockets

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .092 0.00 -1.4
Career .141 -0.18 +1.1

Ryan Anderson bore a ton of responsibility last season for the New Orleans Pelicans as the sixth man off the bench. He performed reasonably. His floor stretching skills were in action obviously, but he also added a post game that was rivaled by few, pulling off a rare points per possession above 1.00.

The fact of the matter though, is that he is one of the worst defenders in the entire NBA. He’s improved a little bit over the last couple of years, but when people say that Kevin Love is bad at defense, they must be thinking of Ryan Anderson. If not, they need to watch Ryan Anderson.

The all-offense, what-defense approach is about to become a thing in Houston. They are league pass worthy just for that, and Anderson is a major contributor.

20. Jared Dudley - Phoenix Suns

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .105 1.87 +1.0
Career .110 1.22 +1.4

Quick, name the two power forwards who played 2,000 minutes and had a true shooting percentage above 60%.

I bet you weren’t thinking Jared Dudley was one of them. Obviously, there’s more to basketball than just those two things, but it will certainly help a team like the Phoenix Suns to bring in a guy who will steady the ship as a perimeter shooter while other players develop.

Dudley struggles in other areas, and he’s no longer able to play at a high level on heavy starters minutes, but he can be a key contributor to the development of Devin Booker, Marquese Chriss, and Dragan Bender in Phoenix.

21. Taj Gibson - Chicago Bulls

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .133 1.11 +1.6
Career .127 1.33 +0.1

For the record, I believe Taj Gibson will start over Nikola Mirotic, even though Fred Hoiberg needs to space the floor with Mirotic’s shooting.

Taj Gibson, Kenneth Faried, and Amir Johnson are weird fun house mirror images of each other. They all have similar physical skills, but Faried is the high efficiency offense guy, Johnson is the brick wall defense, and Gibson mixes both.

The problem? His defensive reputation is way better than he actually is, and he’s not as good as Faried is offensively. His Synergy numbers are pretty awful for a veteran like him, and he doesn’t make up for it as much as he needs to in other areas. Look for him to be phased into a backup role soon, but not this year in all likelihood.

22. Patrick Patterson - Toronto Raptors

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .086 1.92 +1.0
Career .106 1.26 +0.7

I had a difficult time deciding whether Jared Sullinger or Patrick Patterson is more likely to start. I decided to go with Patterson because of his familiarity with Toronto, but both would rank in around the same place.

Patterson had a difficult year this past season, but there are few power forwards with a better reputation as a stretch 4 that can play defense too. Given his age and previous years, 2015-16 looks like an anomaly. I see him being reasonably successful.

23. Nerlens Noel - Philadelphia 76ers

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .074 -1.19 +0.7
Career .079 -1.35 +0.7

It’s easy to grade Nerlens Noel the center. Nerlens Noel the power forward though?

When I look at Noel’s skill set, his physical attributes, and the Philadelphia 76ers roster, I see a center. The splits between positions reflects this as well: Nerlens Noel is a center.

Can he play power forward? Maybe. He doesn’t spread the floor, nor does he possess efficiency at most any spot on the floor. He’s still very young, but I don’t see him rising too high on the power forward list. Now, if a team like Boston wanted to trade for him...

24. Al-Farouq Aminu - Portland Trailblazers

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .082 1.73 +0.2
Career .069 1.82 -0.2

It took awhile for Al-Farouq Aminu to figure it out, but he’s making things work in Portland. In a larger role, his defense took a step back, but he canned 36 percent of his three pointers, which was huge to complement Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.

Now, he still isn’t effective enough in a large role to warrant a higher placement, but Aminu’s placement on this list shows how deep the power forward position is right now. He was an integral part of a Trailblazers team that competed with the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs.

I believe his future is as a power forward. He’s played small forward largely until now, but as a stretch 4 who can switch on defense, he’s a valuable piece.

25. Gorgui Dieng - Minnesota Timberwolves

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .127 2.57 +2.4
Career .119 -0.57 +2.2

Gorgui Dieng is an interesting player. Everything about his reputation says “solid defensive player who struggles on offense.” The thing is, he accumulated 3.5 offensive win shares last year on a bad Minnesota Timberwolves team, so he’s not all bad.

His job is made worlds easier due to the presence of Karl-Anthony Towns, but gicing him credit where it’s due: Dieng could be ranked much higher on this list if he replicates what he did last year AND the Timberwolves start winning more.

26. Willie Cauley-Stein - Sacramento Kings

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .130 -1.88 +0.7
Career .130 -1.88 +0.7

Willie Cauley-Stein is another guy who I don’t see as a power forward but will be asked to operate like one in Sacramento. The Kings are gearing up for a DeMarcus Cousins trade without actually trading DeMarcus Cousins, which means that guys will be playing out of position.

Cauley-Stein’s natural position will always be as a rim protector/runner on offense. I picture him as a DeAndre Jordan type for a team down the line, but in order to become that type of player, he must get experience as the main rim protector. As of now, his fit is very out of place in the starting lineup.

27. Trevor Booker - Brooklyn Nets

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .128 1.55 +1.4
Career .121 -0.97 +0.3

Trevor Booker is a career backup who is best used as a backup. He’s much more efficient that way. Unfortunately, he’s going to the Brooklyn Nets. He will start there, meaning the Nets will have four players ranked 25th or lower in my positional rankings.

Don’t expect that to change much for Booker. He’s already hit his ceiling in all likelihood. His advanced numbers are great, but only because he’s never player above 1,700 minutes in a single season.

28. Jabari Parker - Milwaukee Bucks

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .072 -3.19 -2.4
Career .075 -3.77 -2.1

Many will have qualms with my ranking of Jabari Parker, but I believe he’s just as much to blame for the issues of the Milwaukee Bucks as anyone else. He doesn’t space the floor quite enough for the rest of the offense to flow effectively, and when he does get the ball, he either drives it right to the rim or takes a mid range shot. Very little else.

Oh, and don’t get me started on his defense.

Could he still turn into a high quality player? Absolutely. In a changing NBA though, he needs to change his game a bit or be traded to a team that can maximize him better.

29. Joffrey Lauvergne - Oklahoma City Thunder

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .105 -2.31 -2.3
Career .086 -3.45 -2.6

I expect Joffrey Lauvergne to claim the starting spot in Oklahoma City. I believe Enes Kanter is best used as the focal point off the bench, Ersan Illyasova needs to space the floor for him, and Domantas Sabonis isn’t quite ready.

We saw what Joffrey could do as a starter last year, and it wasn’t pretty, but 77 percent of his minutes came at center last year. He’s much better at power forward.

I’m rooting for Joffrey, that’s for sure.

30. Julius Randle - Los Angeles Lakers

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .035 -4.30 -3.6
Career .033 -3.01 -3.7

Yes, I ranked Julius Randle last. He has some interesting skills, including some ball handling and rebounding. The problem? Julius Randle isolated more frequently than Kobe Bryant and the 4th most frequently in the league. A microcosm of the Los Angeles Lakers offense, but a major reason why I don’t see Randle improving much.

It remains to be seen whether Randle can carve out a Zach Randolph type career. For that to happen, I believe he needs to depart from Los Angeles. It may be a mutual separation if he continues performing how he has so far.


Well, there’s my list. Kenneth Faried comes in at 14, right around average for the league. Based on the amount of minutes he plays, it’s hard to rank him any higher, and if I do, then I would need to also rank players like Amir Johnson higher as well.

For me, I’m a huge believer in sustaining high level of play for long periods of time.

An example of this is Kenneth Faried versus Blake Griffin. Taking the raw numbers out of it, they both have the same WS/48 in 2015-16. Faried plays well, but because he plays eight less minutes per game than Blake Griffin, he’s ranked far lower. Griffin is able to sustain that level of play for a longer period of time. Add back in the raw statistics, and it’s no contest.

Okay Nuggets Nation. Leave your thoughts below where you believe certain players should be ranked, including the Manimal.