Elise Amendola/Associated Press

Historically speaking, point guards and centers have run the NBA landscape throughout the decades. If your favorite franchise has a dominant low-post presence or an elite floor general running the show, chances are pretty good you’ll get to see postseason basketball.

The power forward spot, though clearly not as stacked with talent as other positions over time, has been patrolled by some of the league’s best. It’s even sparked somewhat of a revolution thanks to guys like Dirk Nowitzki and Ryan Anderson by way of the “stretch 4.” Now that power forwards are being expected to space the floor with outside shooting, in many cases, they need to be the most multi-dimensional players on the floor.

Power forwards must defend opposing bigs, thwart guards orchestrating the pick-and-roll, rebound, score through a post-up game (and with outside jumpers)…the list goes on. So which players at the position over the years did enough for a team to be labeled the best in franchise history?

Note: Longevity matters in the scope of this list. Players who spent numerous seasons with a given franchise will beat out guys who posted one or two stellar years (in most cases). Per-game averages and accolades while with the franchise are the primary barometer in the ranking and positions were determined by those listed on Basketball Reference.

Honorable Mention—Seattle SuperSonics: Spencer Haywood

Spencer Haywood: Averages by Season | PointAfter

Spencer Haywood played the 1969-70 season in the ABA as a 20-year-old rookie for the Denver Rockets. He won Rookie of the Year and MVP honors while making the All-Star team and winning All-Star Game MVP (one of the best single-season performances ever, regardless of age).

That campaign has no bearing in Haywood’s ranking, but he spent the next five years of his playing career in the NBA as a Seattle SuperSonic. Four of those five seasons included All-Star appearances, two resulted in All-NBA Second Team nods and two with All-NBA First Team selections. He averaged 24.9 points, 12.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game with Seattle.

Atlanta Hawks: Bob Pettit

Bob Pettit Career Stats and Bio | PointAfter

Bob Pettit spent his entire career playing for the Milwaukee/St. Louis Hawks back before the franchise relocated to Atlanta for the 1968-69 season. In that time (11 seasons), the “Bombardier from Baton Rouge” ranks No. 1 in Hawks lore in average points (26.4, tied with Dominique Wilkins) and rebounds (16.2) per game.

He made the All-Star team in every season as a pro, racking up four All-Star Game MVPs (tied with Kobe Bryant for most all time). Moreover, he was a two-time scoring champion, made the All-NBA First Team 10 times and was twice named the league’s Most Valuable Player. In 1958, Pettit (with the help of teammate Cliff Hagan) led the Hawks to their first and only championship.

Boston Celtics: Kevin McHale

The Boston Celtics have had a plethora of elite talents roam their locker rooms over the years, but the best power forward they’ve ever employed is easily Kevin McHale.

The former No. 3 overall pick and current Houston Rockets head coach played his entire 13-year career in Beantown. Throughout an illustrious NBA tenure, the big man displayed a dynamic array of skills. He won three titles, two Sixth Man of the Year awards, was named to three All-Defensive First Teams (and three Second Teams) and made seven All-Star teams. It’s exceedingly rare to see a résumé that checks so many different boxes, but McHale was a rare breed.

Brooklyn Nets: Buck Williams

Buck Williams’ Nearly Played in 4 Different Decades | PointAfter

Of all the players who have ever played for the Brooklyn/New Jersey Nets, Buck Williams has the longest tenure (eight full seasons). There’s a good reason why New Jersey kept him around for that long.

The Rocky Mount, North Carolina native won Rookie of the Year in 1982 (also earning his first of three All-Star nods). He made the All-Defensive First Team and All-Defensive Second Team two times apiece and remains the franchise’s all-time leader in points, rebounds and total win shares by comfortable margins.

Charlotte Hornets: Larry Johnson

Larry Johnson: PER Throughout Career | PointAfter

Former No. 1 overall pick Larry Johnson—AKA Grandmama —is likely unanimously seen as the best Charlotte Hornets player in the organization’s relatively short history. He has even less competition at the 4 spot, so he’s the best power forward in history almost by default.

L.J. played the first five seasons of his career in Charlotte. He won Rookie of the Year, made his only two All-Star teams and averaged 19.6 points on 49.6 percent shooting as a Hornet.

Chicago Bulls: Horace Grant

Horace Grant: Averages by Season | PointAfter

The Chicago Bulls’ boundless success during the 90s is tied directly to Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Without a capable supporting cast, however, Chicago wouldn’t have won 72 games in a single season or collect six championships.

Power forward Horace Grant was a key cog in that regard. He helped anchor an elite defense (making the All-Defensive Second Team four times as a Bull), winning three rings and even making the All-Star team in 1994.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Larry Nance

Larry Nance: Total Blocks by Season | PointAfter

After spending six-plus seasons as a high-flying dunker with the Phoenix Suns, Larry Nance (winner of the first-ever Slam Dunk Contest) continued an illustrious career in Cleveland by evolving his game to focus even more on the defensive side of the ball.

Nance had always been a good shot blocker in the desert, but he took that skill to a new level with the Cavaliers. He made the All-Defensive First Team in 1989 and two All-Defensive Second Teams from 1992-93. All told, Nance averaged 2.5 blocks per game in a Cavs uniform.

Dallas Mavericks: Dirk Nowitzki

Dirk Nowitzki Overview | PointAfter

Dirk Nowitzki is one of the best NBA players period, so there’s no logical argument to be had that he isn’t the best power forward in Dallas Mavericks franchise history.

The seven-foot German helped revolutionize the game as a big man who can shoot the ball from anywhere on the court. He’s a champion, MVP, Finals MVP, 13-time All-Star, Three-Point Shootout champ, 50-40-90 club member…let’s just agree Dirk deserves this spot and move on.

Denver Nuggets: Antonio McDyess

Antonio McDyess’ Career Arc (Missed 2002-03 Season w/ Knee Injury) | PointAfter

Before injuries significantly diminished his talents, Antonio McDyess was a game-changing talent. Over the course of six seasons spent in Denver during the early years of his career, “Dice” averaged 18.2 points and nine rebounds per contest.

He made his first and only All-Star team with the Nuggets in 2001, the year when he averaged 20.8 points and a career-high 12.1 rebounds per game.

Detroit Pistons: Dennis Rodman

Dennis Rodman Overview | PointAfter

The Detroit Pistons have had some great centers don the uniform (Bob Lanier, Ben Wallace, Bill Laimbeer). Depth at power forward isn’t nearly as pronounced, but one of the best rebounders the game has ever seen spent seven seasons in Detroit and earned two All-Star nods.

The player in question is the one and only Dennis Rodman. Also known as “The Worm,” Dennis won two Defensive Player of the Year awards and two championship trophies with the Pistons.

Golden State Warriors: Larry Smith

Larry Smith: Averages by Season | PointAfter

Wilt Chamberlain, Nate Thurmond, Jerry Lucas, Neil Johnston, Joe Barry Carroll…all great Philadelphia/San Francisco/Golden State Warriors, but none of them were primarily power forwards. As a result, there’s slim pickings for who should take this spot.

While Larry Smith never made an All-Star team in his career—nine years of which were spent with the dubs—he was a great rebounder who averaged double digits in that statistical category five separate times.

Houston Rockets: Ralph Sampson

Ralph Sampson’s High Highs and Low Lows: PER Throughout Career | PointAfter

Even though Ralph Sampson sported a svelte 7’4” frame, he spent the majority of his time in Houston at the power forward position (pushed to the 4 spot by some guy named Hakeem Olajuwon).

In four-plus seasons as a Rocket, the former No. 1 overall pick won Rookie of the Year, made four All-Star teams (including winning All-Star Game MVP in 1985) and was named to the All-NBA First and Second Team once each. Like Antonio McDyess, however, injuries limited Sampson’s playing abilities and he was never the same after his first four seasons.

Indiana Pacers: Jermaine O’Neal

Jermaine O’Neal’s PER Peaked with Indiana | PointAfter

Throughout an 18-year professional playing career that started right out of high school, Jermaine O’Neal played for seven different NBA teams. His best stint by a wide margin was his tenure with the Indiana Pacers.

In that time (eight seasons), O’Neal won the league’s Most Improved Player award, made six All-Star teams and even finished third in MVP voting for the 2003-04 campaign. All told, he averaged 18.6 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game as a Pacer.

Los Angeles Clippers: Blake Griffin

Blake Griffin: Playoff Averages by Season | PointAfter

There’s an argument to be made here for Elton Brand and the routine 20-10s he’d throw in the box score for the Clippers, but take a look at his numbers (in an LAC jersey) pitted against those of Blake Griffin:

Brand (7 seasons): 20.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 51.4 percent shooting
Griffin (5 seasons): 21.5 points, 9.7 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 52.3 percent shooting

The numbers are tight, but Griffin gets the square for earning more All-Star appearances (five against two) and more All-NBA Second Teams nods (three versus one).

Los Angeles Lakers: Vern Mikkelsen

Mikkelsen’s Averages by Season (rebounds were not recorded until 1950-51) | PointAfter

The Lakers are another team with lengthy history of dominant interior towers: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Shaquille O’Neal, George Mikan (in the Minneapolis years) and even Pau Gasol (who was primarily listed as a center during his time in Lakerland). The power forward spot isn’t even close to being that stacked.

You have to dive back to when the franchise was still located in Minneapolis (and when the ‘Lakers’ moniker actually made sense) to find the best power forward of all time in Lakers lore. That man is the historically underrated Vern Mikkelsen. Primarily known for his defense and rebounding, this lifelong Minneapolis Laker won four titles and made six All-Star teams.

Memphis Grizzlies: Zach Randolph

Full Career Comparison: Z-Bo vs. Pau | PointAfter

This spot is a tossup between Z-Bo and Pau. The former is currently a fan favorite and cult hero in Memphis, while the latter is the first true franchise player in history.

Both guys boast extremely similar stats from their time in Memphis, but Randolph earns the “best power forward” moniker for having two All-Star appearances and one All-NBA Third Team nod besting Gasol’s one All-Star appearance for the franchise.

Miami Heat: LeBron James

LeBron James Overview | PointAfter

Throughout an illustrious career, LeBron James has most often been viewed as a small forward. However, he did some of his best work as a power forward in small-ball lineups under head coach Erik Spoelstra.

James led the team to two championships (winning two Finals MVPs) and added two MVP trophies to his mantel to bring his career total up to four while with the Heat. He’s the best player of his generation and was a dominant force for Miami. That earns him “best power forward ever” status even though Basketball Reference only lists him as a PF for two seasons. He was simply that good.

Milwaukee Bucks: Terry Cummings

Terry Cummings: Averages by Season | PointAfter

Terry Cummings’ name isn’t often among the list of “greats” basketball fans usually turn to, but he was an explosive scorer who could easily put 20-plus points in the box score prior to a devastating knee injury that sapped his athleticism.

A large chunk of his prime (five seasons) was spent in Milwaukee, where he earned two All-Star appearances and a nod for the All-NBA Second Team and All-NBA Third Team. Cummings ranks 10th on the Bucks all-time scoring list, fifth in total rebounds and ninth in steals.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Kevin Garnett

Garnett’s Minnesota Tenure lasted through the 2006-07 Season | PointAfter

Who else?

New Orleans Pelicans: Anthony Davis

Anthony Davis Overview | PointAfter

Is it too early to crown Anthony Davis as the best New Orleans Pelicans power forward of all time? Perhaps. But when you consider that the franchise hasn’t been around very long (dating back to 2002-03 as the New Orleans Hornets) it’s not farfetched to put “The Brow” on this pedestal.

Well, unless you have a soft spot for David West.

New York Knicks: Willis Reed

Willis Reed: Averages by Season | PointAfter

Hall of Famer Willis Reed spent his entire career with the New York Knicks. He entered the league as a rookie playing center, but was moved the following year to power forward in order to accommodate the addition of Walt Bellamy.

Reed was more comfortable at the 5 than he was at the 4, but he played enough power forward to earn this distinction. He won an MVP award and two titles with NY.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Serge Ibaka

Serge Ibaka Overview | PointAfter

Because we’re opting to separate the Seattle SuperSonics as its own entity, the Oklahoma City Thunder need a representative as the organization’s best power forward ever. It’s not a tough call to make, as Serge Ibaka has been brilliant early in his career for OKC.

His shot-blocking prowess coupled with yearly improvement on the offensive end makes him one of the most dynamic big men in the game today.

Orlando Magic: Rashard Lewis

Rashard Lewis Overview | PointAfter

Perhaps Chris Webber would have been the name here if Orlando didn’t opt to trade him on draft night in exchange for Penny Hardaway and three first-round picks. He could have formed a devastating 1-2 punch with Shaquille O’Neal down low, but I digress.

Instead of Webber (who never had a chance to suit up for the Magic), lanky sharpshooter Rashard Lewis gets the distinction. He was one of the most important cogs in Stan Van Gundy’s successful Magic squads that made deep playoff runs with Dwight Howard down low. Lewis’ ability to spread the floor with his admittedly wonky-looking outside shot was an invaluable asset for many years.

Philadelphia 76ers: Dolph Schayes

Dolph Schayes Overview | PointAfter

Dolph Schayes played for the Philadelphia 76ers franchise back when they were the Syracuse Nationals, and boy, did he ever make an impact.

Schayes made 12 All-Star teams (consecutively from age 22 to age 33), was an All-NBA First Teamer six times (he made the Second Team six times as well) and won a championship in 1955. After his playing days, he even won Coach of the Year by leading the Sixers to a 55-25 record. That’s one heck of a résumé.

Phoenix Suns: Charles Barkley

Charles Barkley Overview | PointAfter

Amar’e Stoudemire should earn consideration here for his reign of terror on the pick-and-roll when playing alongside Steve Nash, but Charles Barkley took home an MVP award in a Suns uniform and that acts as a trump card.

“Chuck,” “Sir Charles,” “The Round Mound of Rebound”…whatever you choose to call him, he was a fan favorite who dominated on offense and on the glass. During his four seasons in the desert, Barkley averaged 23.4 points, 11.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game. Let’s just say there’s a reason he won MVP honors.

Portland Trail Blazers: LaMarcus Aldridge

LaMarcus Aldridge: PER Throughout Career | PointAfter

Former Trail Blazer Sidney Wicks, who won Rookie of the Year and made four All-Star teams in Portland, deserves some recognition here. Ultimately, though, LaMarcus Aldridge’s four All-Star berths and appearances on All-NBA teams (one Second, two Thirds) pushes him to the top.

Wicks posted better lifetime averages while playing for the Trail Blazers, but Aldridge beats him out through longevity with the organization (nine seasons versus five).

Sacramento Kings: Chris Webber

Chris Webber: Averages by Season | PointAfter

It took a while for Chris Webber to find a steady home in the NBA. After being taken with the No. 1 overall pick, Orlando traded him to the Warriors (where he lasted just one season). From there he was shipped to the Washington Bullets and eventually found his way to the Sacramento Kings—where he posted his best playing stint by far.

He frequented the All-NBA teams while with Sac-Town, made four of his five All-Star squads and helped carry the Kings to playoff prominence they hadn’t seen since the Cincinnati/Rochester Royals days. His peak as a player was short lived, but it made him one of the best players in Kings franchise history.

San Antonio Spurs: Tim Duncan

Tim Duncan Overview | PointAfter


Toronto Raptors: Chris Bosh

Chris Bosh 2014-15 Shot Chart | PointAfter

Basketball Reference only lists Chris Bosh as a power forward for one season in Toronto, but that one season is better than any other Raps player at the position.

As an organization, the Raptors simply don’t have enough star power to give Bosh competition at this spot.

Utah Jazz: Karl Malone

Karl Malone: Averages by Season | PointAfter

In the mold of “The Big Ticket” for the Timberwolves and “The Big Fundamental” for the Spurs, Karl Malone’s standing as the best Utah Jazz power forward ever is only a difficult distinction to make if you’re recently suffered a severe head injury.

He ranks second on the NBA’s all-time scoring list and only missed a double-take-inducing eight games in 18 years with the Jazz. His durability is a feat in the same stratosphere as Cal Ripken Jr. in Major League Baseball.

Washington Wizards: Elvin Hayes

Elvin Hayes Overview | PointAfter

Over the course of nine seasons played for the Washington Bullets franchise, Elvin Hayes averaged 21.3 points and 12.7 rebounds while playing a whopping 40 minutes per game. An absolute workhorse, Hayes finished with exactly 50,000 regular-season minutes played for his career.

He and Bob Dandridge led Washington to its first and only championship in 1978. “The Big E” is the franchise’s all-time leader in points scored and blocks.