Power forward (basketball)

Power forward is a position in the sport of basketball. The position is referred to in playbook terms as the four position and is commonly abbreviated "PF". Power forwards play a role similar to that of center in what is called the "post" or "low blocks". They play offensively with their back to the basket on offense and position themselves defensively under the basket in a zone defense or against the opposing power forward on defense in man-to-man defense.

Typically, a power forward is one of the larger players on the court. They are usually expected to be aggressive pursuing rebounds and score most of their points on the low post (no more than six feet (2 m) from the basket), as opposed to taking jump shots from farther away. Power forwards can be imposing presences on defense, but they usually defer to the center for blocking shots and general intimidation. In the NBA, a typical power forward is between 6'9" and 7'0" (2.06 to 2.13 m) in height and 240 to 260 pounds (108 to 118 kg) in weight, and is often asked to play center in specific game situations or when a particular team lacks a taller player. The quintessential power forwards in the game today are Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs, and Kevin Garnett of the Boston Celtics, who are already considered to be of the best players to have played the power forward position (though Duncan in particular is often considered a center). Rasheed Wallace of the Detroit Pistons, Pau Gasol of the Los Angeles Lakers, Amare Stoudemire of the Phoenix Suns, Chris Bosh of the Toronto Raptors, Carlos Boozer of the Utah Jazz, and Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks have also earned praise as great forwards. Great power forwards outside the NBA (in the Euroleague): Matjaz Smodis, Terence Morris,Marcus Haislip,Mike Batiste and David Andersen. Other great power forwards of all time include Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, Kevin McHale, Bob Pettit, Elvin Hayes, Dave DeBusschere, Chris Webber, Dennis Rodman, and Buck Williams.

The power forward position entails a variety of responsibilities at higher levels of play. Many power forwards are noted for their mid-range jumper, and several other big men have become very accurate from 12 to even 18 feet. These skills are more typically exhibted in the European style of play. While Dirk Nowitzki is not noted for his strong inside game or his physical post play, many of his skills, particularly his strong reliance on the jump shot, compare favorably to those of a typical small forward. Other power forwards who add long range shooting to their skillset include Antawn Jamison, Rasheed Wallace, and Troy Murphy. In addition, some "natural" power forwards often play the center position and have the skills but lack the height that is more closely associated with that position. Many argue that the 6'9" Ben Wallace, though listed as a center by the Cleveland Cavaliers and by his previous two teams, the Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons, is actually a natural power forward; this goes back to his days as PF for the Washington Wizards.

As the position runs the gamut of offensive and defensive capabilities for players ranging from 6'4" to 7'0" and above, a variety of players fit "tweener" roles that may find them in the small forward and/or center position depending upon the matchup and coaching philosophy. One example of an effective power forward who did not fit the standard physical description for that position was Dennis Rodman, who was able to out-rebound and defensively shut down rival power forwards despite being listed at 6 ft 8 in, 210 lb (2.01 m, 95 kg) but his real height was closer to 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m). Likewise, Charles Barkley was widely considered as one of the most dominating power forwards of his time, despite being officially listed at only 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m) and reportedly closer to 6' 5" or 6' 4" (1.96 to 1.93 m). Barkley's playing weight of roughly 255 lb (116 kg) was typical for the position, despite giving up more than four inches in height in many matchups. Likewise, Shawn Marion annually ranks among league leaders in rebounds while of similar size to Rodman; he is often listed as a small forward while assuming the defensive duties of a power forward for many matchups. Power forwards are not necssarily undersized; the duo of Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson are a notable pair that could play either position.

Power forwards who were named to the NBA's 50 Greatest Players list include Charles Barkley, Dave DeBusschere, Elvin Hayes, Jerry Lucas, Kevin McHale, Karl Malone, Bob Pettit, and Wes Unseld. Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett will almost assuredly join any such lists in the foreseeable future.


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