How to Play Power Forward in Basketball [The Ultimate Guide]

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Are you trying to become a power forward and would like to know how to play power forward in basketball? Maybe, you are power forward and would like to know how to improve your skill sets.

Regardless of the reason, we know it is essential to understand how to play a specific role on the basketball court. We want to help you to understand the roles and skillsets of a power forward so that your game can improve, so we will provide you with the information to do that in this guide to playing power forward.

What is the Role of a Power Forward in BasketballWhat is the Role of a Power Forward in Basketball?

So, what is a power forward in basketball? What are his roles? A power forward has multiple roles on the basketball court, and his role may differ based on the team he plays on. Let’s take a look at some of the roles of a basketball power forward.


Being one of the biggest and the tallest players on a team, the power forward is expected to carry his fair share of the rebounding responsibilities, especially since they are often stationed close to the rim.

Power forwards are normally the second or sometimes the tallest players on the basketball court, and they are often tasked with playing close to the rim, so it is easier for them to grab rebounds than most other players.

Rim protect

As one of the tallest players on the court and as one of the players that play closest to the rim, it is an asset to a team if their power forward can shut a block efficiently. In addition to blocking shots, rim protection also entails contesting shots close to the rim to force the offensive player to change the shot, resulting in a miss. Power forwards should be willing to fill the paint and contest shots with their centers to protect the rim.What is the Role of a Power Forward in Basketball

Provide team with an inside scoring option

Traditionally, centers and the power forwards are often used inside the paint or on the blocks on offense. What this does is it gives the team an inside scoring option and provides a balanced offense.

To score on the inside easily, power forwards need to work on their footwork and inside scoring techniques. Suppose a team has a power forward that can operate on the blocks. In that case, he could draw double-teams, which would result in open perimeter players, or he will attract enough attention to allow perimeter players to operate without extra pressure.

Space the floor on offense for some teams

Some power forwards evolve their game from just playing on the inside to mid-range and long-range shooting. Power forwards that can spread the floor by shooting shots from the perimeter or mid-range are great because they make the team less predictable and harder to guard.

One of the most notable players that brought shooting to the power forward position was Dirk Nowitzki. This is now a common practice that we see power forwards adapting to their game. Current power forwards in the NBA like Anthony Davis and Kristaps Porzingis are credible perimeter threats.

What Makes a Good Power ForwardWhat Makes a Good Power Forward?

There are different levels of power forwards. There are power forwards that are good at one particular skill or role but cannot play another properly, and there are a few power forwards that can play multiple roles and do numerous things properly. Those are rare. These are some qualities of good power forwards.


Being some of the biggest players on the court, power forwards aren’t always mobile. The best power forwards are mobile enough to switch and guard different positions on defense and mobile enough to play multiple offensive sets.

If you have a power forward that can only post up and make a few moves on the block, you may need an upgrade. If you want to become a good power forward, work on your agility to guard multiple positions and work on your movement to be useful in different offensive situations.What Makes a Good Power Forward


The best power forwards all can rebound. You aren’t an excellent power forward if you cannot grab defensive rebounds or grab a few offensive boards that come your way. Rebounding is a crucial factor of every basketball game as it helps create multiple possessions and set the tempo of the game to your team’s space. Power forwards that aren’t good rebounders are liabilities.

Post defense

As most power forwards do have some post presence, it is expected that opposing power forwards will need to guard them in the post. Being able to guard the post effectively takes work and a lot of practice.

Make sure you dedicate time in your training routine to work with your coaches and teammates to develop a defensive post presence. If you can’t protect the paint, teams will target you, and you will either get in early foul trouble or teams will score easily.

Post Offense

On the flip side to being a good post defender, good power forwards are capable scorers in the post. As a power forward, your role on the team will include providing an inside presence for your team to go to when they need a basket.

All good power forwards have a set of offensive moves that they go to in the post, whether from a drop step move, a hook shot, a spin move, etc. Even though basketball is trending to a more parameter based offensive game, there has and will always be a spot for post offense.
Good post players open up many other plays for their teammates, such as cutters going to the basket or open shots from double-teams.

Shot Blocking

Unfortunately, not many power forwards have this skill. Good power forwards have some rim-protecting ability as they acknowledge and work on this skill to help their team. Look at Anthony Davis, for example. So far, Anthony Davis has carved out one of the greatest power forward careers in terms of numbers in the game’s history.Shot Blocking

Anthony Davis will be anchoring the Lakers defense come next season. Power forwards willing to put their bodies on the line and willing to go after every shot can significantly affect a game’s outcome.

Free Throw Shooting

When you play in the post, it is a common occurrence for you to get fouls and sent to the free-throw line. Power forwards can expect the go to the free-throw line almost as often as centers in a basketball game. Power forwards that can convert these free throws are great because teams will be unwilling to commit unnecessary fouls.

On the other hand, if a power forward is poor at the free-throw line, teams will devise strategies to send them there to slow down your team’s offense and to get back the ball. Free throws can often determine the game’s outcome, so practice your free throws if you want to become a good power forward.

Mid-Range Shooting

If you can’t make a mid-range jumper consistently, based on where basketball is currently trending, you may be out of a roster spot sooner than later. You don’t necessarily need to become a three-point specialist, but being able to knock down a free throw line jumper will be quite a necessity in a good power forwards repertoire.

Setting Screens

Basketball is a team sport, and nothing says team than putting your body on the line to allow your teammate to get open. Many pick and roll or pick and pop plays are orchestrated with power forwards and centers in the play.

Power forwards need to learn how to set screens and set good screens that are usable by the ball handlers on their team. In addition to setting screens, what happens next is very important. Learn how to roll off a screen properly to get open in an area where you can convert the basket.

How to Improve Your Play as a Power Forward 5 TipsHow to Improve Your Play as a Power Forward: 5 Tips

Let’s now look at some tips that will help you become better at the power forward position.

Work on overall strength

If you are not strong enough to hold your own against bigger and stronger players at the power forward or center position, you will have a lot of trouble operating at that position. We strongly suggest that you work on straightening your arms, legs, and torso to manage to play effective defense against big, strong players and be strong enough to impose your will against defenders in the post.

Develop good footwork

Footwork is a great asset for any basketball player, especially for frontcourt players. Footwork is one of the most challenging skills to learn because it can become very intricate and technical the higher you go. Develop your footwork game, and you will quickly see how you are dominating your opponents.

Work on agility

Good power forwards can keep up with opponents, especially when they switch on to smaller players. On the other hand, good power forwards can have their way with slower defenders when playing offense, so all-in-all agility is an excellent asset to any power forward.

This video will provide you with some agility drills that you can do on your own. These drills will help to improve your defense.

Develop a post game

If you haven’t done so as yet, develop a post game. We know it is exciting to fire off shots from mid-range and long-range, but if you don’t have a post the game, you lack a crucial element to a power forward’s game.

Work with your coaches and teammates to develop the skills necessary to be effective in the post. Give your team an extra scoring option and allow your team to balance the floor by becoming a good post player that your opponents have to work on guarding.

If you don’t have a post game, you may become predictable, and this could result in a stagnant offense.

Hakeem Olajuwon teaches a myriad of post moves in this next video.

Work on free throws

Work on your free throw shooting, so when you are sent to the line, you are an asset and not a liability to your team. It is often difficult for bigger players such as power forwards to shoot the ball properly from the free-throw line.

It will take a lot of practice and a lot of commitment if this isn’t something you are naturally good at, but it is entirely possible. The best power forwards are those that have a pretty good free-throw shooting percentage. You will be one of the players sent to the line most because of the nature of a power forwards game.

Here is a video that can help you to develop your free throw shooting. It has techniques that should be practiced to get a better shot.

Honorable Mention

Develop mid to long-range shooting.

Good power forwards can space the floor by knocking down shots from outside of the paint. Work on shooting the ball so that your teammates can run multiple offensive sets through you. Your team will become harder to guard.

Top 3 Power Forward Basketball PlayersTop 3 Power Forward Basketball Players

Here is our list of the best NBA power forward players of all time.

Karl Malone

Karl Malone AKA The Mailman, is a 14-time NBA all-star and a two-time MVP that averaged 25 points and 10 rebounds throughout his career.

Charles Barkley

Sir Charles The Chuckster was one of the most dominant power forwards the game has ever seen. He is an 11-time all-star that averaged 22 points and almost 12 rebounds throughout his career.

Anthony Davis

Anthony Davis’s career isn’t finished yet, but he is one of the greatest to have ever play the power forward position from a numbers and talent perspective. He is currently averaging 24 points and 10 rebounds in his career.

Wrapping Things Up: How to Play Power Forward in Basketball

To play the power forward position in basketball, you will need it to develop a post game while working on your mid-range and long-range shooting. It would help if you also worked on your agility while maintaining your size and strength.

Good power forwards are also good rim protectors. Remember, all basketball positions can be equally important, if they can contribute equally to the game.

Did you find this helpful? Then also check out other basketball FAQ articles here.

More interesting basketball FAQ posts here:

> How to Play Center in Basketball

> How to Play Small Forward in Basketball

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Hoops Addict

Hoops Addict was created to help basketball fans of all ages learn more about the sport and find the best basketball gear to improve their ability to hoop. He has been a huge basketball fan for decades, watching thousands of basketball games through the years to learn the ins and outs of the game.

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