Having an elite forward or two can definitely help a team go the distance. Outside of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, perhaps the most iconic players in NBA history have mostly played at either of the two forward spots. With that in mind, we’ve put together our list of the best NBA forwards 2022-23.
Best NBA forwards 2022-23
It’s not a coincidence that some of the best players in the National Basketball Association happen to be forwards. They help stretch the floor and make the most of their physical gifts to dominate both in the perimeter and inside the key.
Notably, the modern NBA forward needs to have some range and be a solid three-point shooter, and being a defensive-oriented forward won’t be enough to be considered elite. Here, we present you with the list of the top 20 best NBA forwards 2022-23.
20. Mikal Bridges
Mikal Bridges was quietly one of the best NBA forwards 2022. He was a lockdown defender, and not only did he guard one through five, but he also managed to keep some of the best scorers on Earth in check. He took pride in that and was a legit candidate to win Defensive Player of the Year honors.
Bridges played a massive role in the Phoenix Suns‘ success over the past two seasons. It’s not a coincidence to see their improvement going side by side with his development, as he’s already become one of the best young two-way players in the Association, and he keeps making strides as a scorer.
19. Jaren Jackson Jr.
Jaren Jackson Jr. entered the season with high hopes and expectations, and even though it took him a while to make a name for himself in the league, he proved last season that he could become a perennial candidate for Defensive Player of the Year and one of the leaders in blocked shots per game.
Right now, it seems like the only thing holding Jaren Jackson Jr. back is his proneness to get hurt and how often he’s forced to miss games with major injuries. He’s still young and has also improved on the offensive end of the floor, so hopefully, he’ll eventually find ways to avoid injuries.
18. John Collins
John Collins has often been tied to a trade, and it seems like the Atlanta Hawks just don’t value him enough. Maybe he’s not the definition of the modern forward because he’s not exactly an elite shooter, although he can stretch the floor and is an efficient mid-range shooter.
Collins can become an elite two-way player. He’s got the physical tools and athleticism to be an impactful defender, and he always finds ways to score even when his streaky shot isn’t falling. Also, unlike most smaller forwards, he can even serve as the Hawks’ small-ball five.
17. Michael Porter Jr.
Michael Porter Jr. has the potential to be the best among the best NBA forwards right now. He was once considered the best prospect in his class, and the fact that he slipped so much in the NBA Draft spoke volumes as to how concerning his history with injuries was.
That hasn’t changed the slightest thus far. When healthy, Michael Porter Jr. is one of the most disruptive offensive players in the league. He can score from all three levels, put the ball on the floor, take it to the rack, or pull up over everybody. Hopefully, his defense will catch up eventually.
16. Khris Middleton
Khris Middleton doesn’t get nearly enough credit and recognition for his game. But truth be told, Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks would’ve never been able to win the NBA championship if it wasn’t for Middleton’s impact on both ends of the floor.
A hard worker and steady improver, Middleton worked relentlessly on his craft and went from an offensive non-factor into an efficient scorer. Also, his length helps him be a plus-defender, and he’s even an underrated passer and willing playmaker.
15. Zion Williamson
There’s no denying that Zion Williamson could wake up tomorrow and become the best player in the National Basketball Association. He silenced his doubters by averaging nearly 28 points per game in his first full season in the league, and the game just comes naturally to him.
However, Zion has been a strange sight on a basketball court since being taken with the first-overall pick of the NBA Draft. The New Orleans Pelicans have been extremely cautious with him, and it now seems like he’s finally in great shape. Hopefully, he’ll avoid further injury and live to his potential.
14. Evan Mobley
Evan Mobley didn’t need a lot of time to prove that he could be a once-in-a-lifetime talent. Just like a young Kevin Garnett or Anthony Davis, he made an immediate impact on defense while also being a dominant scorer, and there are virtually no flaws in his game.
Mobley can play at the four and the five, but his game is also suited for the small forward spot, as he’s an efficient shooter and can pull up over anybody. It won’t be long before he ranks among the league’s top-notch rim protectors, and he can also hold his own in the perimeter.
13. Draymond Green
All things considered, Draymond Green will have to do a lot to finish the season as one of the best NBA forwards 2023, at least to salvage his reputation. That sucker punch on Jordan Poole could mean the end of his tenure with the Golden State Warriors, and that’s a story that’s worth following throughout the season.
Green isn’t much of a fan favorite and often lets emotions get the best of him. But when he’s locked in, he’s one of the three most intelligent players in the league. He can guard all five spots on the court, and is also an outstanding playmaker. He’d be top-10 if he could knock down a shot.
12. Brandon Ingram
Brandon Ingram just needed a change of scenery to finally start living up to his potential. He often drew comparisons to Kevin Durant, but got off to a slow start to his career, mostly because of how poorly managed he was during the Los Angeles Lakers days.
But Ingram can most definitely be a perennial All-Star in this league, all he needs to do is stay healthy. He’s got the potential to be a member of the 50/40/90 club, and while he’s not a lockdown stopper, his long arms and lateral quickness help him hold his own on the defensive end as well.
11. DeMar DeRozan
Even though he’s spent most of his career playing at the two, DeMar DeRozan was one of the best NBA forwards 2022. His pairing next to Zach LaVine was among the league’s finest, and he had one of the best seasons of his career in what some considered a bit of a revenge tour.
People and analysts slept on DeRozan. They said he was overrated and overpaid, and that he should’ve taken the veteran minimum to pursue an NBA championship with the Los Angeles Lakers. He responded by being an MVP candidate for most of the season.
10. Jaylen Brown
The Boston Celtics don’t seem to value Jaylen Brown enough, and that’s something that could come back to bite them sooner rather than later. He’s eligible to sign a big extension and could get his lucrative pay day somewhere else if the Celtics hesitate or even blink to get a deal done.
While Tatum gets most of the spotlight, it’s Brown the one who’s been the most consistent scorer among the two. He’s also an outstanding defender who won’t hesitate to put his body on the line, and he’s got better handles and playmakings skills as well.
9. Paul George
Paul George tarnished his reputation with those infamous ‘Playoff P’ and ‘MVP form’ quotes, but that shouldn’t distract us from the fact that he’s still a lockdown defender, and one of the few players who could be in the mix for Defensive Player of the Year, Scoring Champion, and MVP every year.
George has never hesitated to embrace a lesser role next to another star, so maybe that’s why people don’t think of him as an alpha anymore after leaving the Indiana Pacers. But make no mistake, George is an elite two-way player and would be a franchise guy in nearly every other team.
8. Jimmy Butler
Jimmy Butler‘s character makes him a somewhat controversial player, but that’s also one of the biggest reasons why he’s so good for the Miami Heat. He’s a vocal leader, and won’t hesitate to get in anybody’s face or hold his teammates accountable to get the job done by any means necessary.
Butler is one of two active players with more career steals than personal fouls. He’s an elite stopper and the kind of guy that you want taking the last shot, especially in the playoffs. He’s never going to be a solid three-point shooter, but he’ll still find ways to put up nearly 30 a game in the postseason.
7. Karl-Anthony Towns
Now that Rudy Gobert is expected to start at center for the Minnesota Timberwolves, Karl-Anthony Towns is officially one of the best NBA forwards in 2022-23. His offensive game is perfectly suited to play as a modern power forward, as he’s an outstanding three-point shooter.
KAT’s offensive skill set ranks among the league’s finest. He’s got a ballerina-like footwork, a plethora of post moves, and could shoot 50/40/90 from the floor and still average north of 25 points and 10 rebounds per game. Injuries and his questionable defense will always be a major concern with him, though.
6. Anthony Davis
Anthony Davis could play the five and excel at that position. However, he’s never enjoyed it, and has often referred to himself as a power forward, so we’re officially going to list him here. He’s the second coming of Kevin Garnett, and would’ve been a better player if it wasn’t for the constant injuries.
Davis needs to play with a chip on his shoulder this season. Hopefully, that chip won’t hurt him, though.
He missed most of last year with multiple ailments and those injury woes have haunted him throughout his entire career. He could be the best two-way player on Earth if he didn’t miss that many games. We sure hope he put those struggles behind him and finally starts living up to that big contract, as he’s the most talented big in the league.
5. Jayson Tatum
Even though it feels like he’s been in the league for decades, Jayson Tatum has yet to turn 25 years old. Still, he’s already best one of the best NBA forwards right now. He’s improved as a defender, and wants to silence those who claim that he’s not good enough in the playoffs or lacks the character to lead the Boston Celtics to success.
Offensively, few players can score the same ways Jayson Tatum can. He’s got the whole package, as he can finish with both hands above or below the rim, take off from the free-throw line and drive through the lane, or knock down shots from all over the court. And he’s not even in his prime yet. Some believe he’ll take over as the best player on Earth once he proves he can thrive in the clutch.
4. Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi Leonard missed the whole season, but even if he doesn’t come back as the same player he was before that injury, he’s still likely to rank among the best NBA forwards 2023. Few players can play lockdown defense the way Kawhi can do it, guarding Kevin Durant, James Harden, LeBron James, or even Stephen Curry.
Besides being an elite defender and a guy who can even protect the rim, Leonard has become an outstanding and efficient scorer. He can drain shots from all over the court, and some even claim his offensive game and athleticism mirrors what Michael Jordan used to do in his prime. He’s also an underrated dunker and athlete.
3. LeBron James
LeBron James isn’t only one of the greatest small forwards of all time, but also one of the best athletes to ever do it. Yes, we’re not talking just about basketball. Once it’s all said and done, it will be hard to make a case against him as one of the top three talents in NBA history, not to mention his impact off the court.
James continues to go strong after two decades in the Association, and it doesn’t seem like he’s ready to slow down or retire any time soon. He’s the most well-rounded offensive player in the history of this game; a point guard trapped in a forward’s body, and a guy who has thrived in all five spots on the hardwood.
Chances are we’ll never see a player like LeBron James again, so you better enjoy him while you still can.
2. Kevin Durant
Despite his bad reputation, all the injuries, and not being much of a fan favorite, Kevin Durant is still one of the top forwards in the NBA currently. His unmatched combination of size and shooting allows him to shoot over every defender, and he’s got the handles of a point guard in a seven-footer’s body.
Durant has also become an elite defender, although he doesn’t get any credit for that. He’s guarded James Harden and LeBron James over and over, but that hasn’t taken a toll on his stamina, nor prevented him from putting up nearly 30 points per game on the other end of the floor. You may or may not like him as a person or respect his career decisions, but no one can deny he’s one of the all-time greats.
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo
Even though some may not be a fan of his game, there’s a big chance that Giannis Antetokounmpo is considered the best among all the greatest power forwards of all time. His résumé is HoF worthy, he’s not even in the backend of his prime, and somehow it seems like he just keeps getting better every season he’s in the league.
Giannis doesn’t need to have a consistent jump shot to put up north of 30 points per game, although he’s improved in that area. His athleticism, much-improved IQ, length, and strength, allow him to play and defend all five spots on the court, leading the Milwaukee Bucks in nearly every category year in and year out.
Like him or not, he’s the best player in the league right now, and will continue to be so until someone else proves otherwise.