OrlandoMagic.com’s Josh Cohen projects the top 10 power forwards in the NBA during the 2022-23 season.
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Honorable Mentions: Tobias Harris/Kyle Kuzma/John Collins/Jaren Jackson Jr.
All four deserve consideration for this list. Harris had an excellent series against the Raptors in the first round of last year’s playoffs, but struggled against the Heat in the next round. Kuzma has evolved into a jack-of-all-trades type player, recording his first career triple-double last season. He also had a 27-point, 22-rebound game. It was apparent that Collins wasn’t himself in the postseason against Miami after an injury-plagued regular season. Having two guards like Trae Young and Dejounte Murray to run pick-and-roll with should make the game easier for him, if he’s healthy of course. Jackson, one of the best defensive players in the league, had foot surgery over the summer and it remains unclear when he will be back for the Grizzlies.
#10 Julius Randle
Which version of Randle will the Knicks get? The 2020-21 one that was an All-Star, won the Most Improved Player Award, averaged 24.1 points, and shot 41.1 percent from 3-point range? Or the 2021-22 one that was very inefficient and scored 20-plus points 13 fewer times than the previous campaign? If he plays anywhere close to the former type, the Knicks, now with Jalen Brunson and a further developed RJ Barrett, could find themselves back in the playoff mix.
#9 Domantas Sabonis
The Kings made headlines at the trade deadline last season when they acquired Sabonis as part of a blockbuster deal that sent Tyrese Haliburton to the Pacers. Kind of weird, but Sabonis averaged the same exact number of points (18.9) in 47 games with Indiana and 15 games with Sacramento last year. But what didn’t translate after the trade was his perimeter shooting, as he knocked down just four of his 17 3-point tries (23.5 percent). The biggest thing for the 6-foot-11, 240-pounder, though, is not being too much of a defensive liability. Mike Brown, hired last spring to be the Kings’ new head coach, is known for his defensive principles and tactics, which should help Sacramento make at least some progress on that end of the floor.
#8 Draymond Green
How many times have you wondered where Green would rank on a list like this if he didn’t play with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, and under Steve Kerr? Green is a rarity in that he’s one of the league’s best despite being extremely limited from a scoring standpoint. Others who had that status in their heyday include Dennis Rodman and Ben Wallace. The bottom line is, the Warriors have been one of the league’s best defensive teams since their dynasty began, and Green has undoubtedly been the heart and soul of their defensive excellence the entire time.
#7 Pascal Siakam
The Raptors have managed to skip some steps after winning the title in 2019. Some automatically figured they were going to be forced to rebuild after Kawhi Leonard signed with the Clippers. The development of Fred VanVleet and the impact Scottie Barnes made as a rookie were big factors in their success last season. Also key was Siakam’s play. The 6-foot-8, 230-pounder scored 30-plus points 14 times, including on March 28 when he erupted for 40 points against the Celtics. Has he already hit his ceiling, or does the 28-year-old have another floor he can climb to?
#6 Paolo Banchero
What we learned at summer league about Banchero, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, is that he’s extremely versatile. The way he moves, and the feel for the game that he has at 6-foot-10, 255 pounds is quite unusual – in a good way of course. How Orlando utilizes him in year one will be a great storyline to pay attention to. He has all the physical tools to make a huge impact on both ends of the floor, and his high basketball IQ will make the game easier for his Magic teammates. Arguably his best skill is his passing, which isn’t typically the case for guys at this position.
#5 Anthony Davis
Nobody is debating Davis’ talent. Many, in fact, believe he’s a top 10 player in the league. But the fact of the matter is, the way the last two seasons have gone for him, it’s unclear whether he will be able to showcase his talent. He missed half of L.A.’s games in 2020-21 and another 42 games in 2021-22. Even when he played, he just didn’t look right – probably because his conditioning wasn’t where it needs to be. Just a hunch, but expect to see a more motivated Davis this season, especially with LeBron James on the cusp of turning 38. Time will soon run out for this pairing to win a second title together if Davis isn’t the player we all know he’s capable of being.
#4 Evan Mobley
Every NBA fan knows at this point that Mobley is an elite defender. Expect to hear his name in the DPOY talk this season and beyond. The question, however, is whether his offense can catch up to his defense, which if it does, watch out! That’s not to say he isn’t already a solid offensive player. He scored in double figures in 57 of the 69 games he appeared in during his rookie campaign and had a 30-point performance on March 14 against the Clippers. But it was clear that he’s still very raw and unpolished on that end. Certainly, with the talent Cleveland has, particularly after acquiring Donovan Mitchell, he doesn’t need to be a prolific scorer for the Cavs to climb the ladder. But if he becomes a legit scoring threat, that raises the bar quite a bit.
#3 Karl-Anthony Towns
If you thought the days of pairing two elite big men together were over, well, think again – at least according to the Timberwolves, who went out and got Rudy Gobert to team with Towns. Tactically speaking, it’s not that crazy. Towns is best known for his outside shooting at his size, while Gobert is one of the game’s all-time best rim protectors. They are very different, so just because they are both 7-footers (Towns is listed at 6’11, Gobert 7’1, just FYI) doesn’t mean they can’t coexist. Whether or not this core of Towns, Gobert, Anthony Edwards, and D’Angelo Russell is better than the one Minnesota had in 2004 (Kevin Garnett, Latrell Sprewell, and Sam Cassell) remains to be seen, but there’s no doubt that the Wolves have a team that could make some serious noise come playoff time.
#2 Zion Williamson
It all hinges on his health and conditioning. If he’s in shape and free of pain, Williamson is probably right now a top 10 player in the league, and that’s with just 85 games under his belt. The season he put together in 2020-21 made it clear that he can have a Shaq-like effect on the league with his combination of skills, size, and athleticism. The pieces are in place in New Orleans, if they are at full strength, to skyrocket up the Western Conference standings this season.
#1 Giannis Antetokounmpo
This is the fourth or fifth straight year in which Antetokounmpo tops the power forward list, and there’s no reason to believe that’s going to change anytime soon. The third-place finisher in the MVP race last year after already capturing that award twice before, the 27-year-old recorded 10 40-plus point performances in 2021-22, including on Feb. 10 when he exploded for 50, two shy of his career high, against the Pacers. He also had four triple-doubles, including on New Year’s Day against the Pelicans with 35 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists.