As I mentioned yesterday, I believe small forwards are one of the most loaded positions in the NBA, second only to the point guard position. So with that said, I brought to you who I thought were the 10-6 small forwards in the NBA. In numerical order, they were: Danilo Gallinari, Chandler Parsons, Rudy Gay, Kawhi Leonard and Luol Deng.
Today, I will present to you my top 5 small forwards in the NBA.
5. Paul Pierce, Brooklyn Nets
18.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 4.8 APG, 19.14 PER (player efficiency rating)
We tend to see the best of players when they have something to play for. But that was never the case with Paul Pierce and his time with the Celtics. In my eyes, he was always consistently a top 5 small forward year in and year out, no matter what the circumstances may have been.
As far as my history with sports is concerned, when you thought of the Boston Celtics, the first person that came to my mind was Paul Pierce. For the past 15 years, he has been apart of every historic moment the organization came across, good and bad.
From having the second worst regular season losing percentage in franchise history in 2006-2007, to following that year with the 3rd best regular season winning percentage in franchise history, and later capturing the NBA Title in that same season. Pierce was there for it all, and he was always loyal to his Celtics teams’, which is why everyone across the country nicknames him “The Truth.” So much so, that once the trade, involving Pierce and teammate Kevin Garnett with the Brooklyn Nets was official, the Celtics paid for an advertisement in the Boston Globe that read:
For Your Heart
For Your Passion
For Your Sacrifice
For Playing Through The Pain
For Bleeding Green
For Honoring Tradition
For An Amazing Ride
For Restoring Celtic Pride
For Banner 17
With Pierce joining a legitimate championship contending team this season in the Nets, you can expect to see the 15-year-veteran give all that he has got left in his tank, which is still better than most at his position.
4. Paul George, Indiana Pacers
17.4 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 4.1 APG, 16.84 PER
Paul Pierce may own the nick name “The Truth,” but he might have to give up his copyrights to that name pretty soon, because Paul George is now “that guy.”
Before the playoffs, and especially before the New York Knicks and Miami Heat series’, the Pacers and George hadn’t played in enough nationally televised games to really have much of a national reputation.
George was good at shooting guard in 2011-2012, but Danny Granger’s injury problems allowed him to move to small forward this past season, where he’s far more athletic than the majority of those defending him.
In both playoff series, against the Knicks and the Heat, George boosted his PPG average by 2.0 points and his APG average by a whole full point. Those numbers may not sound like much of a difference, but it indicates that when his team needed him the most, George was there to deliver.
After beating the Knicks in 6 games, George and the Pacers were confident they can take down the would-be-champions Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. Even though the Heat won the series in 7 games, George proved to the league that the Miami Heat are vulnerable, and that with a couple of pieces added to their bench (which they did in this offseason) the Pacers, not the Heat, have a legitimate shot at being the team to beat in the East this upcoming season.
Some may have been surprised to see George selected to this year’s All-Star team, which I thought was to be expected. The bottom line is, after watching those two playoff series, the league now understands that George can score, defend, handle, pass and rebound. And since he’s only 23, the 6-9 California native could be doing it for the foreseeable future.
3. Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
28.7 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 2.6 APG, 24.83 PER
Even though Anthony played a lot of power forward for the Knicks last season, he is truly a small forward by trade. But with that said, you can understand why Anthony is one of the most dynamic players in the league.
When the conversation comes up of who’s the best all around scorer in the league, the first two people that comes to your mind has to be Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony. The 10th year man out of Syracuse University can pull it up from three, hit mid-range jumpers at ease, post you up down low, and drive to the lane whenever he pleases.
Anthony makes a strong case for being the best player in the NBA without a ring. NBA’s leading scorer last season had a solid if not entirely efficient season for New York, shooting 44% from the field. No one can question Anthony’s abilities on the court, he is an undeniable superstar. However, in order to take that next step into all time great territory, and to move further up on this list, he is going to have to lead a team on a deep playoff run, and eventually a NBA Title.
2. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
28.1 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 4.6 APG, 28.35 PER
You think the Portland Trail Blazers organization are kicking themselves for selecting Greg Oden over Kevin Durant in the 2007 NBA Draft? I know I would. Durant is not only the second best small forward in the league, but he is the second best basketball player in the world.
Year in and year out Durant continues to amaze people, like myself, of how athletically skilled a 6’10” big man can be. If LeBron James is the best player in the world, Durant is the world’s best scorer.
Last season may have been Durant’s finest season. His unblockable 3-point shot went in 41.4 percent of the time last season and he hit close to 91 percent of his free throws, which is why he averaged 28.4 points per game. Once again, he grabbed about eight boards per game, but he’s also developing as a passer, as he averaged a career-best 4.6 assists per game.
The difference between Durant and a player like Anthony is that Durant doesn’t even take the most shots on his team. That title goes to point guard Russell Westbrook. At only 24 years of age, maybe within the next 5-7 years, I can expect to see Durant eventually overtake Lebron James as the best player in the universe.
1. LeBron James, Miami Heat
26.8 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 7.3 APG, 31.67
The scariest thing about a guy like LeBron James is that even with 4 league MVP titles already under his belt, I feel like we still have yet to see the best of him.
Is it possible to be considered the world’s greatest player while still being somewhat underrated?
The Kobe-LeBron debate is over, and the only person to really compare James to is Michael Jordan. But what people often overlook about James is that he’s arguably the greatest defender in the world. He can defend all five positions, he’s strong enough to bang in the paint, he’s fast enough to keep up with point guards on the perimeter; and his reputation for chasing down opponents on the fast break is second to none.
There is some debate as to whether or not the HEAT used him as a small forward this past season. He started at power forward, but that’s largely because Miami went with a smaller lineup. If head coach Erik Spoelstra had a traditional center to put alongside power forward Chris Bosh, like they do this season with the Greg Oden signing, James would be a true small forward.
This past season James has finally become an established 3-point shooter, making 40 percent of his attempts. His free throw percentage (75.3 percent) could be higher, but I guess he now has another area where he can improve. James hit 56.5 percent of his field goals this past season, scoring 26.8 points per game, grabbing 8.0 boards per game and dishing out 7.3 assists per game as well.
And now that he has 2 NBA Titles and a Gold Medal, 4 league MVP Titles, 2 NBA Title MVP awards, 5 straight all defensive first team honors; James doesn’t have to hear the word “but” when people describe his accomplishments.
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