As part of the series, this list looks at the best defensive power forwards in NBA history. In case you missed it, Jason Kidd was the best defensive point guard, Michael Jordan was the best defensive shooting guard and John Havlicek led the way for small forwards.
Although the previous lists featured minimal suspense, this list does feature some controversy: one of the most recognizable names is not a power forward. Like previous lists, players chosen for this list must have played a particular position for most, if not all, of their careers.
And now, here are the top-five best defensive power forwards in NBA history.
“The German Racecar”: Dirk Nowitzki
As the original “stretch-four,” the sweet-shooting seven-footer is best known for his almost unstoppable fadeaway. Nowitzki used that to propel the Dallas Mavericks to an improbable championship run in 2011, upsetting LeBron James’ Miami Heat.
As a 7-footer, Nowitzki relied on his offense and not his defense. Though he never made any All-Defensive Teams, he was still an able defender, having two seasons in the top-20 in defensive rating.
Overall, his 62.5 DWS is 25th all-time. Not bad for a 7-footer that didn’t average more than 0.8 blocks and steals for his career.
“Oak Tree”: Charles Oakley
One of the premier enforcers in the NBA during the 1980s and 1990s, Oakley was as tough as they come: he played 1282 games and started 1159. His imposing nature on the court helped him get selected to one All-Star team during the 1993-94 season.
Standing at 6-foot-8, Oakley was never a shot-blocker, instead racking up more than a steal per game. His savvy play resulted in two All-Defensive Team selections – one 1st team and 2nd team – and he had seven seasons in the top-20 in defensive win shares.
Oakley’s 63.3 DWS is 23rd in NBA history. Although Oakley and Nowitzki are fairly close in terms of DWS standings, the next three blow them out.
“The Big E”: Elvin Hayes
Throughout his 16-year career, Hayes’ presence was felt all over the court: he averaged 21 points, 12.5 rebounds 1.8 assists, one steal and two blocks for his career. Averaging two blocks is an amazing feat for any player to accomplish, but bear in mind that “The Big E” stood at only 6-foot-9.
Hayes had eight seasons in the top-20 in blocks and had 13 seasons in the top-20 in DWS. It’s surprising to see that he only made the All-Defensive team twice – both 2nd team selections – in his career.
Nevertheless, his 83.6 DWS is good enough for eighth all-time in NBA history.
“The Big Ticket”: Kevin Garnett
No matter where he played, Garnett led by his intensity and defense: he averaged more than a block and a steal per game. “The Big Ticket” was the 2007-08 Defensive Player of the Year and his defense helped the 2008 Boston Celtics win the NBA championship.
During his 21-year career, Garnett made the All-Defensive Team 12 times – nine times on the 1st team and three times on the 2nd team. He’s 18th all time in steals and blocks (1859 and 2037, respectively).
Garnett’s defensive presence was instrumental to his success. That’s why the 2003-04 MVP is seventh all-time with 91.4 DWS.
“The Mailman”: Karl Malone
As second in all-time points in NBA history (36,928), Malone’s offense was as steady as they come: he scored more than 20 points per game in 17 of his 19 seasons. Because of his longevity, Malone made 14 All-Star games and is a two-time MVP.
Malone’s frame (6-foot-9, 250 pounds) made him an immovable force down in the low block. Even though he wasn’t the tallest defender, his individual defense helped him make four All-Defensive Teams – three times on the 1st team and once on the 2nd.
In all, Malone’s 92.4 DWS is the most of any power forward, past or present, and is sixth in NBA history.