NBA Free Agency Preview: Top five power forwards

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It’s become arguably the most in-demand position in the NBA — but you can’t just be a back-to-the-basket, hang inside the paint guy anymore. A modern NBA power forward better is able to stretch the floor out to the three-point line.

There are a handful of good power forwards on the market, but the quality drops off pretty quickly. This list does not include players such as Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah, who can play the four but function mostly as centers in today’s game. Here’s our list.

1) Al Horford. The second best free agent on the market this season after Kevin Durant, Horford is valuable because he can play the four or the five, and he does everything well on a basketball court. He can knock down threes or score inside, he’s a good passer and a quality defender. The Hawks will hope to retain him but it will take a five-year max offer (and they may ultimately regret the last year or two of that deal as he just turned 30), but he will have options as teams from Los Angeles through Boston would love the chance to pitch him and get him on their team. Does Horford take the money to be on a good but not contending team in the Hawks, or does he chase glory elsewhere?

2) Dirk Nowitzki. It was amusing that rumors of Nowitzki bolting Dallas to go to Golden State and chase a ring came up this week — that became a story despite the near zero percent chance it happens. Nowitzki has said if he didn’t have a ring already he may have chased one, but as he has that 2011 title he wants to stay put. Mark Cuban would give Nowitzki whatever he wants, but Dirk will take a deal that is best for the team.

3) Ryan Anderson. A prototypical stretch four, he can knock down threes but also put the ball on the floor and get boards. He hasn’t done that at the same rate in recent years due to injuries. A lot of teams looking for a stretch four — the Wizards, Kings, Lakers, among others — either already are or quickly will turn to Anderson. He’s just 28 and some team is going to pay him like the injuries are in his past. Just wait.

4) Jared Sullinger (restricted). The Celtics are reportedly willing to let him walk if a team comes in with a healthy offer, ending the annual training camp tradition in Boston of “how much does Sullinger weigh this year?” He’s a wide body inside, but he can space the floor out to the three-point line. He’s nobody’s first choice, but the offers will start to come in once teams miss out on their higher targets.

5) Jared Dudley. Dudley is an example of the evolution of the league — he came in as a wing player, a three, but is now used primarily as a stretch four. One of the best guys in the league (he’s great in the locker room), he’s a solid bench player who could help out a number of teams. Some team will come to him as likely their third choice, but that team will end up with a quality role player who helps them out.

Others of note: Nene, David West, Terrence Jones, Mirza Teletovic, Luis Scola.