It's the deepest position in the NBA, partly because skilled big men now prefer to play power forward than center. How deep? A bunch of talented players failed to crack John Galinsky's top 10, including Zach Randolph (Grizzlies, pictured), LaMarcus Aldridge (Blazers), Kevin Love (Timberwolves) and David West (Hornets). It's also ripe for arguments because who you like depends on what you value. Power? Shooting? Rebounding? Durability? Defense? We tried to consider everything, but just as no two power forwards play the same game, no two observers rank them the same way.
Luis Scola, Houston Rockets
Several PFs not on this list fill up a boxscore more than Scola -- we're thinking of you, Zach Randolph -- but few have his intangibles. He's tough. He never misses a game. He sets great screens. He doesn't take bad shots. He dives after loose balls. He annoys opponents with his elbows and distracts them with his hair. He also averaged a none-too-shabby 16.2 points and 8.6 rebounds last season, numbers that may go down with Yao Ming's return. Still, we think he's underrated. Our goal is to keep talking him up until he becomes overrated.
Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics
If the glowing reports from Boston's training camp are to be believed, the KG of old may be back this season, rather than the old KG we've seen the past two years. It all depends on his right knee, the one surgically repaired 16 months ago. If it's truly better and he regains his explosiveness, then this ranking is far too low. But he has to prove it. At 34 and entering his 16th NBA season, there's a ton of wear and tear on his warrior body. Will he hold up all season? If so, Boston can contend again. If not, it may be time to rebuild -- the team, not the knee.
Carlos Boozer, Chicago Bulls
Boozer gets bumped down a few spots from originally planned because of the broken hand that will sideline him for two months. Unfair? No, it has to do with durability. Boozer has missed too many games in his career to be considered a reliable star. Of course, that didn't keep the Bulls from signing him for $80 million. And if and when he's healthy, he should be lethal running the pick and roll with Derrick Rose. But even then, we're not crazy about Boozer's defense and all-around game. He's a very good player but not a great one.
David Lee, Golden State Warriors
You say Lee's stats were inflated by playing in Mike D'Antoni's system? You're surely right. He probably won't be a 20-11 guy in Golden State unless new coach Keith Smart keeps some of the Nellieball philosophy. Still, that shortchanges the improvements Lee has made in his five-year career. Always a relentless offensive rebounder, he's added a dependable midrange shot and an assortment of post moves while becoming a better passer. Now he's the most skilled garbage man in the game. The Knicks may miss him more than they think.
Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks
He made huge strides last season, eliminating wasteful parts of his game (like 3-point shots) while focusing on what he does best (dunking, passing, defending). As a result, Smith emerged as one of the most versatile players in the league. Still, at 24, there's room to grow. His attitude could be better. When the Hawks are soaring, he sneers and flexes and screams. When they're struggling, he sulks and pouts and slumps. If he ever grows up and becomes a leader, he'll truly be an elite player.
Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
We hate putting Timmy this low and we hope he'll prove us wrong. After all, he's arguably the greatest power forward in NBA history. (Some would argue he's actually been a center, but he should legitimately be a power forward this season with Tiago Splitter joining the Spurs.) Duncan put up career lows in points (17.9) and rebounds (10.1) last season, numbers that may fall further if Gregg Popovich fulfills his pledge to limit TD's court time. At 34, he's not done yet. But he's slowing down enough to let some power forwards pass him by. Not many, but a few.
Amar'e Stoudemire, New York Knicks
He's a physical marvel, and not just because of his absurdly sculpted body. He's somehow returned from major knee and eye injuries even better than before, culminating in last season's second-half and playoff surge for the Suns. It all paid off with a $100 million payoff from the Knicks, whose fans should be happy with his offense if disappointed by his rebounding and defense. But Stoudemire won't be judged on stats. If he can give New York a winner again, he'll be worth celebrating.
Chris Bosh, Miami Heat
What's that look on Bosh's face? Is he pleasantly surprised by all the open looks and easy baskets he'll get this season? Or a little horrified by the prospect of being a third option on offense after averaging at least 22 points in five straight seasons with the Raptors? Most likely, he'll be OK with the reduced role. After all, that's what he signed up for when he joined LeBron and D-Wade in Miami. We already know he can score and rebound and run the court. What the Heat really need from Bosh is solid interior defense, the diciest part of his game.
Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks
Literalists who value power in their power forwards like to knock Dirk for his finesse game. But his style and skills age well, meaning Nowitzki still has plenty in the tank at the age of 32. In fact, he shot better than ever last season, notching career highs in FT% (91.5) and 3PT% (42.1) while his FG% (48.1) was the second-best of his 12-year stint with the Mavs. Yes, his rebounding has fallen off a bit and he's lost a step on defense. But there's never been a 7-footer who can shoot like Dirk, and unless Kevin Durant grows a few more inches there won't be for a while.
Pau Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers
It's a question you have to ask about players on championship teams: Do they look better because they are surrounded by great teammates, or is their individual brilliance a big reason for the team success? In other words, if Pau Gasol was still in Memphis, would we say he's the best power forward in the game? Who knows? What's clear is Gasol's sophisticated post game, solid passing skills and high IQ make him a perfect fit for the Lakers' triangle offense, and his length adds immeasurably to L.A.'s underrated defense. They wouldn't have won the last two titles without him. So the better question might be this: Would so many people still say Kobe Bryant is the NBA's best player if Gasol wasn't at his side?