Tim Duncan is 32, has played 11 NBA seasons and has participated in more than 150 playoff games. He is clearly on the downside of his career.
|Amare Stoudemire looms large, but Tim Duncan is still the best of the best. (Getty Images)|
Kevin Garnett and Amare Stoudemire have to be in that discussion. But something doesn't feel right if a "best of" or "top 10" list doesn't have Duncan's name at the top. Yes, Garnett is coming off a title. Stoudemire is the best young "4" in the NBA. Even so, it's Duncan atop the leaderboard.
One more thing: If you put Duncan on the 2007-08 Celtics instead of Garnett, Boston still wins the title.
Here, then, are the top 20 power forwards:
1. Tim Duncan, San Antonio: Duncan continues to be the most vital player to the Spurs, even with the emergence of Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. It is still Duncan getting double-teamed in the low post, setting the table for that twosome. And did we mention his four NBA championships?
2. Amare Stoudemire, Phoenix: The only thing left for Stoudemire is to begin making teammates better. Stoudemire is the most dominant big man in the game, more impactful than a fading Shaquille O'Neal and a burgeoning Dwight Howard.
3. Kevin Garnett, Boston: One of Garnett's greatest assets as a player -- his willingness to defer to teammates -- unfortunately keeps him No. 3 on this list. As great a player as Garnett is, he doesn't get enough credit for being a "glue guy." Don't downplay that he's in the figurative Teammate Hall of Fame.
|1. T. Duncan||1||SAME|
|2. A. Stoudemire||--|
|3. K. Garnett||3||SAME|
|4. C. Bosh||4||SAME|
|5. D. Nowitzki||2|
|6. C. Boozer||5|
|7. P. Gasol||8|
|8. E. Brand||15|
|9. D. West||14|
|10. L. Aldridge||17|
4. Chris Bosh, Toronto: Before the Beijing Olympics, Bosh probably would have been about eighth or ninth on this list. Not anymore. His willingness to play inside and do the dirty work for Team USA portends well for the Raptors. If Bosh uses that style as his foundation and complements it with his skilled perimeter and low-post game, he's going to be a real headache. He also appears to have the look of a leader.
5. Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas: Nowitzki may never again reclaim his good name after the 2006-07 playoff debacle against the Warriors, but he's still one of the league's elite players. Now that Nowitzki has settled into his NBA career, it seems apparent: He's going to need to be a team's second-best player in order to win a title. No shame there, just the way it is.
6. Carlos Boozer, Utah: Boozer is a numbers machine, in large part because he is such a big part of the Jazz offense. He has proved that game in and game out, he's going to win the power forward matchup most of the time. But this might be as high as Boozer gets because he's never going to be a great defender or shot-blocker, and his passing is so-so at best.
7. Pau Gasol, L.A. Lakers: When Gasol came into the league, he was soft. Period. After years of getting beaten on in both the NBA and international play, Gasol began to fight back and grew into a tougher, feistier player. His performance in the NBA Finals made it obvious that he still needs to make more progress, but he's working on it.
1. Amare Stoudemire, Phoenix
2. Al Jefferson, Minnesota
3. Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas
4. Carlos Boozer, Utah
5. Pau Gasol, L.A. Lakers
6. Kevin Garnett, Boston
7. Tim Duncan, San Antonio
8. Elton Brand, Philadelphia
9. Chris Bosh, Toronto
10. David West, New Orleans
11. Shawn Marion, Miami
12. Lamar Odom, L.A. Lakers
13. Antawn Jamison, Washington
14. LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland
15. Zach Randolph, New York
|2008-09 Fantasy Projections|
8. Elton Brand, Philadelphia: We wanted to put Brand higher on this list, we really did. But we couldn't. Brand's career is slipping away as he enters his 10th season. Sure, he has nice numbers, but his teams have had virtually no success. Of course, that's not his fault, but you can't reward him for it, either. Twelve playoff games ... all in one season. If that doesn't change in 2008-09 with Philly, something is really wrong.
9. David West, New Orleans: One of the league's best-kept secrets. West is strong enough that you must defend him with another power forward. But he's as reliable as they come from 16 to 18 feet out, making him a very difficult cover.
10. LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland: All he needs is time. Aldridge is going to be a matchup nightmare for opponents because he is 6-foot-11 and can score effectively with a face-up jumper and a low-post game. He'll be even more effective -- at both ends of the floor -- playing alongside Greg Oden.
11. Josh Smith, Atlanta: Smith is as athletic as they come and has a flair for the spectacular. In between the highlights, however, there are some issues: turnovers, free throw shooting and defense. He also can disappear for stretches here and there. But there is a heck of a lot to work with here.
12. Al Jefferson, Minnesota: He's listed as a power forward in the Timberwolves' media guide, so that's good enough for us. Unfortunately, that's going to push him down this list because he needs to add another dimension to scoring and rebounding.
Who is the NBA's best power forward?
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13. Antawn Jamison, Washington: Jamison has been a total professional over the course of his career, not to mention a consistent scorer and rebounder. The unorthodoxy of his game is perhaps Jamison's most consistent weapon.
14. Rashard Lewis, Orlando: He's not a natural power forward, but he plays one a lot of the time for the Magic. Lewis is another guy whose résumé looks a little thin as his career flies by (he's entering his 11th season). Lewis has missed the playoffs more years (six) than his teams have made them (four), and he never has made it past Round 2.
15. Michael Beasley, Miami: It's always tough to know exactly how a player will "translate" once he enters the league. But by all indications, Beasley appears to have size and skill, can shoot it a little bit and puts it on the floor. If Beasley is, indeed, well-rounded, then he's already ahead of the rest of guys on this list.
16. Zach Randolph, New York: Rarely has so little been done with so much. Randolph proved early in his career that he could put up points and rebounds on a nightly basis, but that's the extent of what he did. The results are very nice-looking numbers, but upon further inspection they prove hollow.
|Sept. 17||Power forwards|
|Sept. 19||Small forwards|
|Sept. 22||Shooting guards|
|Sept. 24||Point guards|
|Sept. 26||Top 50|
17. Paul Millsap, Utah: He could start on about 20 other teams in the NBA, but he's just another point-rebound machine in Utah. It's going to be difficult for the Jazz to keep both Boozer and Millsap long term.
18. Drew Gooden, Chicago: He's not a perfect player, but he has provided 12 and eight over the course of his career. Gooden can hold his own much of the time on the defensive end. But he tends to be a little sloppy and careless, and the fact of the matter is that Chicago is his fourth team since he came into the league in 2002.
19. Nene, Denver: Nene returned from testicular cancer last season and got stronger as the season wore on. This season all systems are go, and now there are freed-up minutes because of the Marcus Camby/Eduardo Najera departures.
20. Ben Wallace, Cleveland: He was exposed once he left the Pistons a few years back. Wallace is no longer the intimidator he has been in the past, nor the defender, either. And he'll be an offensive liability 'til the end of time.