Any discussion around the best forward in the NBA begins with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kevin Durant. After that, things get interesting.
Where does Julius Randle fall after a tough playoffs? Can Pascal Siakam or Kristaps Porzingis take their game to the next level? Is there a breakout season on the cards for emerging talent like Jaren Jackson Jr. or Rui Hachimura?
RANKING OF THE 30 PARTICIPANTS: Leaders | Shooting guards | Small forwards
The ranking of the 30 starters was not an easy exercise, but we did our best. Looked.
NBA Power Forward 2021-22 Ranking
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
In a league where so much emphasis is placed on getting work done in the playoffs, it seems impossible to put anyone other than Antetokounmpo in the top spot.
Antetokounmpo delivered another MVP-caliber regular season, but was not to be counted based on his Milwaukee side’s failure in the back-to-back playoffs.
He responded with an average of 30.2 points, 12.8 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.2 blocks and 1.0 steals over 21 playoff games. He also lost 50 points in Game 6, which won the title, at home in the NBA Finals.
Yes, I think he deserves this ranking.
2. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets
Durant was nothing short of spectacular upon his return from an 18-month absence after breaking his Achilles in the 2019 NBA Finals.
Durant rose to the next level in the playoffs, scoring 34.3 points per game on shooting spreads of 0.514 / 0.402 / 0.871, nearly dragging the Nets into the conference finals before dropping an epic Game 7 against the Bucks in extension.
Rather than rest his body during a shortened offseason, Durant hopped on a flight to Tokyo to lead the US team to the gold medal.
If 2021 shakes off the rust, I can’t wait to see what 2022 looks like.
3. Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers
The biggest question mark over Davis is his ability to stay healthy. Unfortunately for AD and the Lakers, it was groin strain that limited his output in a first-round loss to the Phoenix Suns.
Davis is a superstar and his best is bringing him close to the top two levels, we haven’t seen him in quite a while. On an aging Lakers roster, Davis, 28, must play a leading role if they are to make it to the NBA Finals again.
4. Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans
NBA media day came as a shock, with news that Williamson could potentially miss the start of the regular season following offseason foot surgery.
Any lower limb injury for a player Williamson’s size is cause for concern, with the explosive forward being an unstoppable offensive force at his best.
At the start of his third season, Williamson is as damaging as he is on offense with an average of 27.0 points per game with 61.1% shots from the field in 2020-21.
Shortly missing the All-NBA selection, he won his first All-Star nod. Not bad for his second year in the NBA.
5. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
The Celtics find themselves in a strange place. Reaching the conference finals in two of his first three seasons in the league, Boston has apparently taken a step back in the field as the dynamic forward enters his fifth season with the franchise.
Tatum averaged a career-high 26.4 points per game last regular season before raising that mark to 30.6 in the first round of the playoffs.
An elite scorer at all three levels, it remains to be seen whether Tatum will be able to carry his team to the NBA Finals.
6. Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
The group is reforming.
Green, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are hoping to hit the ground together for the first time since the 2019 NBA Finals at some point this regular season.
Green is at his best when motivated. With the Warriors sniffing a playoff comeback, I expect Green to return to his best level of versatility as he feeds off the superstar duo.
7. Domantas Sabonis, Indiana Pacers
Sabonis is always underrated, right?
One of the most dynamic big men in the league with his ability to score in a variety of ways and facilitate, it looks like he will continue to slip under the radar as the Pacers remain stuck in the middle of the Eastern Conference field.
Sabonis has averaged career highs in scoring (20.3 points per game) and assists (6.7 per game), while hitting 32% of his 2.6 attempts at 3 points per game. That percentage in itself isn’t that impressive, but it was the first season he made more than two long-distance attempts since his rookie season at Oklahoma City.
8. Julius Randle, New York Knicks
A breakout regular season was sadly overshadowed by a disappointing playoff performance for Randle as the Knicks were knocked out in the first round by Atlanta.
A First All-Star, Second Team All-NBA and Most Improved Player has been quite important in 2020-21, now the next step is to make it into the playoffs for the successful Knicks fans.
9. Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors
The plateau hit Siakam over the past two seasons in hopes he would comfortably take the No.1 mantle after Kawhi Leonard left for LA.
Siakam is still a dynamic defender and a force in transition who averaged over 20 points per game last season. Maybe a rebound is in the cards after a tough year relocating to Tampa Bay.
With Kyle Lowry no longer in Toronto, the opportunity remains for Siakam to return to an All-Star level of play.
10. John Collins, Atlanta Hawks
It has been an interesting season for John Collins, with the Hawks charging in in free agency as the athletic tall man looked to cash in on a contract extension.
While his numbers and minutes took a hit, Collins still started in all 63 regular season appearances and eventually signed a five-year, $ 125 million contract.
The Hawks need a real second star next to Trae Young to level up. At just 24 with the pressure of an impending contract, could Collins be the guy?
11. Tobias Harris, Philadelphia 76ers
12. Kristaps Porzingis, Dallas Mavericks
13. Aaron Gordon, Denver Nuggets
14. Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis Grizzly Bears
15. Jerami Grant, Detroit Pistons
16. Bojan Bogdanovic, Utah Jazz
17. Miles Bridges, Charlotte Hornets
18. Keldon Johnson, San Antonio Spurs
19. PJ Tucker, Miami Heat
20. Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers
- It’s a huge season for Kristaps Porzingis. Can head coach Jason Kidd unlock the version of Porzingis that made many believe he was a generational talent, or have injuries taken their toll?
- Aaron Gordon is shaping up to be a player who could potentially see a big bump in the standings in his first full season in Denver. Of course, when the Nuggets traded for Gordon, they expected the high thief to be the third option behind Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, and the boy looked long before Murray’s devastating knee injury. Maybe Michael Porter Jr. takes another leap and Gordon settles into the perfect role on that Nuggets list. Either way, the opportunities will be there.
- Managing just 11 games in 2020-21 with the Grizzlies, Jaren Jackson Jr. will be a major addition to a young team looking to avoid the Western Conference Play-In tournament.
- Evan Mobley lit up the preseason with his athleticism and game-changing ability on the defensive end. He ranks on this list ahead of a number of established veterans, but to be honest I had to restrain myself from placing him even higher.
21. Robert Covington, Portland Trail Blazers
22. Marcus Morris Sr., LA Clippers
23. Jae Crowder, Phoenix Suns
24. Rui Hachimura, wizards of Washington
25. Patrick Williams, Chicago Bulls
26. Marvin Bagley III, Kings of Sacramento
27. Jaden McDaniels, Minnesota Timberwolves
28. Daniel Theis, Houston Rockets
29. Darius Bazley, Thunder of Oklahoma City
30. Chuma Okeke, Orlando Magic
- This part of the list begins with a group of top players in Covington, Morris and Crowder. All three have the skills rival teams covet, but they don’t impact games at the level of the names above them.
- Is this the year of Hachimura for a small group season? The Wizards have gathered an incredibly interesting array of talent during the offseason, but it looks like there are a lot of untapped advantages that Hacimura has left him. The 23-year-old played a key role in the Japanese national team at the Tokyo Olympics, averaging 22.3 points and 6.7 rebounds while reversing 38% of his long-distance attempts.
- Seemingly unhappy at Sacramento, Bagley has yet to live up to the expectations placed on him when the Kings took him with the No.2 pick in the 2018 draft. The 22-year-old has only appeared in 55 games over the course of the last two seasons. Entering the final year of his rookie contract with no signed extension, this would be a great time to have a breakout season.