Who are the best power forwards in Celtics history? Ranking the Top 10
Big men have always been a big deal for the Boston Celtics, particularly when it comes to the power forward position.
And while the position has certainly evolved through the years, Celtics manning this position have consistently been among the best in the NBA.
So who are the best of the best? We take a look at the Boston Celtics’ all-time great power forwards.
10. Dino Radja
While Dino Radja’s international basketball résumé is what landed him a spot in the Basketball Hall of Fame, he was an impact player during his four seasons in Boston. One of the first European players to see action in the NBA, Radja averaged 16.7 points and 8.4 rebounds during his three-plus seasons in Boston. He also earned a spot on the NBA’s All-Rookie Second Team.
Wins were few and far between for Boston at that point in time, with the Celtics winning no more than 35 games in a single season with just one postseason appearance.
But the Croatian-born Radja was very much a trailblazer in Boston as one of the first European players in the NBA whose impact in many ways paved the way for future NBA stars afterwards.
9. Paul Silas
A rugged defender and rebounder, Paul Silas’ best years in the NBA came during his time in Boston. In those four seasons, he averaged a double-double of 11.5 points and 12.3 rebounds.
A five-time member on one of the NBA’s All-Defensive teams, Silas won three NBA titles — two in Boston and one with the Seattle Supersonics (now the Oklahoma City Thunder).
And in arguably the greatest NBA game ever, the Celtics’ 128-126 triple overtime win over Phoenix in Game 5 of the 1976 NBA Finals, Silas came up with a double-double of 17 points and 14 rebounds to go with four assists.
8. Bailey Howell
An elite scorer prior to arriving in Boston, Howell’s penchant for producing big-time scoring nights fit in well with a Celtics roster that in the late 1950s and early 1960s was loaded with future Hall of Famers with established roles.
That didn’t prevent Howell from averaging 18.0 points and 8.4 rebounds during his four seasons with the Celtics which included a pair of NBA titles (1968 and 1969).
When Howell retired in 1971, he ranked among the NBA’s all-time top 10 players in nine different statistical categories.
7. Ed Macauley
While he went by the nickname “Easy Ed” Macauley, there was nothing easy about having to deal with the 6-foot-8 forward, who was among the best scorers in the NBA.
During his first season in Boston, 1951, Macauley (pictured, right) averaged 20.4 points per game.
He would continue to be among the Celtics’ top scorers for years, and ultimately helped lead Boston to an NBA title in 1958.
A career 17.5 points per game scorer, Macauley is among the long and lengthy list of Celtics inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
6. Antoine Walker
The way the game has changed the last decade or so, you get the sense that Walker’s game would have put him squarely in the conversation for league MVP. But even during his era, the 6-foot-9 forward was a standout performer.
A three-time All-Star, Walker finished his career with 937 made 3-pointers which ranks second all-time to Paul Pierce (1,823) on the franchise’s all-time leaders list.
For his career, Walker averaged 17.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game.
5. Kevin Garnett
The newest Celtic to enter the Hall of Fame, Garnett’s place among all-time great power forwards in Boston is not in doubt. His ability to be a five-tool talent at the highest of levels as a scorer, rebounder, defender and passer who could also make his teammates better, was among the keys to an exceptional career that included an NBA title in 2008, his first with the Celtics.
Most of Garnett’s career was spent in Minnesota. But when it comes time to talk about his place among the all-time greats, there’s little doubt that Garnett’s best efforts when it came to winning came during his five seasons in Boston.
4. Tommy Heinsohn
One of the most decorated Celtics ever, Heinsohn’s impact on the franchise was evident from Day One even while playing alongside another standout rookie named Bill Russell.
As impactful as Russell was, it was Heinsohn — not Russell — who was named the NBA’s Rookie of the Year.
That would set the tone for a Hall of Fame career, both as a player and as a coach. Only a handful of others wound up in the Hall of Fame checking off both of those boxes, which speaks to Heinsohn’s greatness and — more important — impact on the Celtics franchise that’s still being felt to this day as a basketball analyst for NBC Sports Boston, the flagship station of the Boston Celtics.
3. Larry Bird
It speaks to how great Larry Bird was as a player when he’s a consensus top-3 player at both forward positions. While many think of him as a small forward, the 6-9 Bird spent his first five seasons with the Celtics primarily at the power forward position.
At that position, Bird averaged at least 21.2 points per game and shot at least 47 percent from the field.
The scoring prowess, the versatility and of course the ability to deliver in the clutch collectively made Bird one of the greatest Celtics ever at every position he played on the floor.
2. Kevin McHale
Surrounded by a slew of Hall of Famers didn’t stop McHale from being an unstoppable force around the basket in Boston.
His up-and-under ball-fakes in the paint made him a legend in addition to cementing his status as an integral figure in the franchise's longstanding legacy of greatness.
A seven-time All-Star, McHale played a key role in a trio of NBA titles (1981 1984 and 1986) for the Celtics. He was a good defender as well, evident by him being named to an All-NBA Defensive team six times during his 13 NBA seasons — all with the Celtics.
1. Dave Cowens
The numbers (17.6 points, 13.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists) alone speak to how impactful a player Cowens was in the NBA.
But what separated Cowens from others was his ability to not just elevate his play and stand out, but also do so while lifting a once-proud franchise back to prominence.
The year before Cowens arrived was a rare sub-.500 season for the Celtics. His return sparked the franchise’s renaissance which included a pair of NBA titles (1974 and 1976) and a seat at the head of the table when it came time to talk about the league’s best teams.