San Antonio Spurs' Tim Duncan was once known as the best power forward in the game and will be known for the foreseeable future as the greatest power forward ever. But there's no denying Duncan's game has slipped some in recent years, mostly due a bulkier knee and an advanced age. On top of that, the power forward position hasn't been this strong since Duncan, Kevin Garnett and Chris Webber were on its way up and Karl Malone was at the tail end of his career. As a result, Sean Deveney of Sporting News has ranked Duncan sixth among power forwards in the league.
Ahead of Duncan was (in order) Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin, Dirk Nowitzki and Pau Gasol. What's interesting about this list is Deveney chose to make Kevin Garnett and Chris Bosh centers. Garnett made the transition midway through last season for the first time in his career and Bosh did it for part of the Heat playoff run. However, Duncan's been the Spurs' defacto center since DeJuan Blair moved in to the starting line up. So to list Duncan as a power forward, but not Bosh and KG seems a bit off.
But, using Deveney's list, you could argue Duncan is properly ranked on this list. You could also argue he's a little too low, or rather a couple of guys are a little too high. Kevin Love is a unique talent, ferocious rebounder and improving defender. Tough to argue his position at the top. Same goes for LaMarcus Aldridge. Unfortunately he's tucked away in a small market on a mediocre team so he doesn't get as much notice, but he probably has a better all around game than any other guy on this list. Blake Griffin is a few spots too high. He's tough to defend, but he has just as tough a time defending the other guys on this list. To add to that, his mid-range game didn't improve much last season. Still, they guy's a lock to average 20 and 10 so it's hard to move him too far down the list.
Is Dirk Nowitzki ranked too high? He's still incredibly difficult to defend (that jumper will always be impossible to defend), but are we allowed to say 2011 was Dirk's final run as an elite guy? Am I overreacting from a good but not great lockout shortened, post-title hangover season? These are all things I'm interested in finding out in this coming season.
If we move Duncan to center he's easily top five and maybe top three. Dwight Howard, assuming he's healthy, is still number one. Andrew Bynum, assuming he's healthy, is still number two but is there a clear cut number three? Tyson Chandler is a great defensive anchor and Marc Gasol is a terrific all around center but would you rather have either of them over Duncan for the next year or two? Obvious it's not an apples to apples comparison, but advanced stats say Duncan still has a bigger impact on the game.
We can argue positions some other times, but power forward or center, Tim Duncan still has a serious impact on the game. By the way, Deveney ranked Tony Parker fourth among point guards, Manu Ginobili fifth among shooting guards and didn't have Kawhi Leonard ranked in his top ten among small forwards. He will next year.