There was a time when power forwards in basketball mostly stayed back-to-the-basket on offense and mainly guarded similar-sized foes on defense.
Today, power forwards in the WNBA still have to be tough and strong inside. They still have to rebound like maniacs. They still have to make those close-in, contested shots that observers sitting down eating popcorn call "bunnies."
But top power forwards now also need to be super athletic. They need to have a reliable face-up game that might even extend out to the 3-point line. They need to be able to guard the pick-and-roll, and that means having versatility, lateral quickness and good instincts.
You might look at our current list of "five best power forwards in the WNBA" (as in, those on active rosters this season) and think it looks rather youngish, with two second-year pros included. Yes, we are pretty enthralled with their explosiveness and jumping-jack ability.
You also might think if we're leaving the likes of Phoenix's Candice Dupree, Chicago's Swin Cash and Seattle's co-power-forward duo of Camille Little and Tina Thompson off the list, then we're just nuts. (Thompson put up 30 points against Washington on Tuesday after we had already compiled this list. Clearly, she was trying to make us regret it.)
But, hey, narrowing this down to five wasn't easy. If this starts a few friendly arguments, that's cool. Just some advice, though: Don't argue with a power forward. They're not to be trifled with.
1. Rebekkah Brunson, Minnesota: The 6-foot-2 veteran has won two WNBA titles and is one of the fiercest rebounders in the game. She's very good at fulfilling her role game-to-game, and is averaging 11.6 points and 10.4 rebounds. She is also one of the Lynx's defensive anchors.
-- Mechelle Voepel
2. Crystal Langhorne, Washington: She has always been called undersized, but never seems to let it bother her. Through the good and bad for the Mystics in her pro career, Langhorne has been a consistent presence. She's averaging 14.7 points and 6.7 rebounds, putting up a season-high 23 points Tuesday in a loss at Seattle. -- Mechelle Voepel
3. Sancho Lyttle, Atlanta: The Dream are doing without Lyttle until July 9 while she plays with the Spanish national team, and despite a 6-1 start, Atlanta will miss this pace-setting scorer and rebounder. In five games to open the season, Lyttle averaged 15.4 points and 9.0 rebounds.
-- Michelle Smith
4. Glory Johnson, Tulsa: The lithe young player who never quite reached her full potential at Tennessee is finding her groove in the pro game. Johnson is having a huge start to her sophomore season as a pro, averaging 18.8 points and 10.8 rebounds to lead the Shock in both categories. -- Michelle Smith
5. Nneka Ogwumike, Los Angeles: Athleticism, explosiveness and nowhere to go but up. Ogwumike came in as a rookie and proved to be a great complement inside to Candace Parker. If she can become a more consistently aggressive offensive player in her second season, she's well on her way to being a major star. -- Michelle Smith