Top 5 Point Forwards in the NBA
Over the past 20 years, the NBA has changed from a methodically slow and meticulous game to a more free-flowing, run-and-gun style of play. While this may be credited to rule changes such as the doing away of hand checks and the relaxing of the restrictions on zone (and other complex) defenses, I believe it is also in part due to the much higher level of athleticism and the more well-rounded style basketball players that have sprouted up increasingly as of late.
One of those most innovative styles of play of our time has been the Point Forward- a bigger player who typically plays a Forward/Center position, but also has impressive enough guard skills (ball handling, creative offensive mind, passing, etc.) that the bigger player is given the keys to controlling the offense.
These types of players have appeared sporadically throughout NBA history, but they have never been as commonplace as they are today. These are the top five point forwards in the league today.
Note: The order is not in their NBA rank; it is based on how I feel their point forward-like play should be ranked. Certain players would rank much higher (and lower) in a list of top NBA players as a whole.
Luka Doncic has been a godsend for the Dallas Mavericks, leading the team to the best offensive rating in the league. Doncic has all the tools to be an incredible point forward, yet there is just one issue: While considered a small forward, he mostly played shooting guard last season and has been moved to point guard this year. Therefore, Doncic does not qualify as a point forward.
Nikola Jokic may not be the most athletic or most in-shape player on this list, but every casual basketball fan knows that Jokic is instrumental to his team’s success. His ability to find open cutters is incredible, his shooting touch is important for spacing and his IQ is off the charts. However, like Doncic, Jokic is not really a ‘forward’, as he plays almost exclusively at center. If there was a list for ‘point centers’, Jokic would be number one.
Top 5 Point Forwards
5. Blake Griffin
While Blake Griffin came into the league known for his above-the-rim style of play, he has evolved into a jack-of-all-trades type player; one who can play as a big man inside and one who can help control the offense. Over the years, Griffin has gradually added ball-handling and jump-shooting to his repertoire and not only increasingly brings the ball up the court after rebounds but also leads fast breaks for his team. Since he was traded to the Detroit Pistons, he has become one of the most versatile big men, as he can bang in the post, shoot from the outside, and throw precision lobs. While Griffin has been fairly injury-prone throughout his career, when healthy, he has shown he is worthy of this top-5 spot.
4. Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant has been a top-3 NBA player for the past 10 years due to his innate ability to put the ball in the hoop. However, due to the attention his scoring gets, people fail to realize that Durant has steadily improved his passing and is now towards the top at his position in distributing the ball. With all the focus KD’s bucket-getting ability receives, he is able to suck the defense in, find holes, and kick the ball to open cutters or spot-up shooters. Furthermore, Durant’s ball-handling has gone largely unnoticed as he puts the ball on the deck better than any other 7-footer in NBA history. While jumping ship from the Thunder to the Warriors did not reflect well on him, playing with incredible shooters and smart players unlocked Durant’s potential as a top point forward.
3. Giannis Antetokounmpo
Over the past seven years, we have had the pleasure of watching Giannis Antetokounmpo grow from a 6”9 pogo stick oozing with potential to a 6”11 shredded freak of nature. Antetokounmpo has the ability to beat anybody off the dribble, can dunk on everyone, and has been expanding his range since the day he stepped onto an NBA court. The “Greek Freak” has also become a pinpoint passer, averaging close to 6 assists a game in the last two seasons. With his strength, size, and athleticism, he already would have already been a terrific player, but his ability to handle the ball, score at will inside and find open shooters and cutters have made Antetokounmpo into a hyper-efficient point forward.
2. Draymond Green
The Golden State Warriors have single-handedly sped up the process of turning the NBA into a 3-point shot happy, pace-and-space NBA we see today, and a lot of this can be contributed to Draymond Green. While not an above-average shooter (31.9% on 2.8 attempts per game), Green has been a key cog to this dynamic Warriors team with his passing and screening ability and as well as its vocal leader. Green’s ability to grab a rebound, dribble up the floor and not only yell out a play call but execute it to perfection for his team as the team’s best big man is something that we had never seen in NBA history before. Green has a knack of knowing exactly where his shooters will be and not only creates space for them with accurate passes and tough screens but also can create offense for himself as to keep his defenders honest.
1. LeBron James
Since he joined the NBA as an 18-year-old, LeBron James has been the main ball handler on his team. Primarily playing the small forward position, James is currently 8th all-time in total assists and is 3rd all-time in total points. There is a reason why James’ teams thrive year in and year out without a top passing guard: his vision, court awareness, and basketball IQ is second to none. There has never been a non-point guard who controls, dictates, and creates offensive sets as well as LeBron James does, either for himself or for teammates.