After being inactive for six months, I figured there was no better time than now to continue my positional rankings. Looking over the two guard positions, there isn’t much I would change for my honorable mentions, but the top fives stay the same.
With that established, it’s time for our small forwards to step under the microscope. Since Larry Bird dominated the position in the 1980′s, it feels like we’ve been searching for that next legendary player; one that can do anything on the court.
Scottie Pippen was close, and pre-injury Grant Hill produced a game that led many to believe he was the next big thing.
Fortunately, we may have found two, and they stand out among the five best small forwards in the NBA.
1. LeBron James, Miami Heat (29.7 PPG on .503 FG, 7.3 RPG, 8.6 APG)
Word is, there has not been a forward in the NBA that has racked up more assists per game than James. Yes, that includes Larry Legend, who averaged an astounding 7.6 assists in 1987. LeBron’s combination of strength and speed makes it difficult for anyone to defend him one-on-one, and his passing ability, added to his size, draws comparisons to Magic Johnson.
Of course, it’s based on James being able to have that height advantage running the point, but by the end of his career, no one should be surprised to hear his name being called as a top 10-15 greatest player to play the game.
2. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder (30.1 PPG on .476 FG, 7.6 RPG, 2.8 APG)
If you’re wondering how Durant topples Carmelo Anthony, take a look at the numbers. Durant has him in shooting percentage, three-point percentage, free throw percentage, free throws attempted, scoring average, rebounding, steals, and blocks.
Defensively, Durant has posted both a better opponent PER and opponent eFG percentage. If he’s producing more and there’s no visible evidence that Carmelo has a more defined skillset, what more is there to say?
Not much other than the young scorer is one of just eight to average 30 or more points and lead his team to 50 or more wins in the last 40 years. The others? Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, LeBron James, Allen Iverson, and Dominique Wilkins.
3. Carmelo Anthony, Denver Nuggets (28.2 PPG on .458 FG, 6.6 RPG, 3.2 APG)
For starters, I hope you didn’t skip over the Durant-Melo explanation. That covers quite a bit. However, there are reasons why Carmelo sits above others on the list. Despite playing under 70 games last season, he still managed to bounce back from a relatively poor season (by superstar standards) with a little more effort, desire, and focus.
The improved numbers speak for themselves. Granted he’s now unhappy in Denver and wants out regardless of the extension being offered, Anthony’s scoring output and big fourth quarters will most definitely draw attention from other teams in the league, and the fact that Carmelo is a statistically-proven superstar and top three small forward only solidifies his place as a big-name go-to player in the NBA today.
4. Gerald Wallace, Charlotte Bobcats (18.2 PPG on .484 FG, 10.0 RPG, 2.1 APG)
Over the last six seasons, only one other player, 6'7" and under, has pulled down 10 or more boards a game: Shawn Marion.
Like the Matrix, Wallace plays excellent defense, and unlike most dedicated lockdown perimeter defenders (Thabo Sefolosha and Arron Afflalo come to mind), he can also contribute as a secondary scoring option on the offensive end.
It’s no wonder he made the all-star team last season. Now, with a 32-year-old Stephen Jackson and Raymond Felton gone to the Knicks, Wallace could be gearing up to tackle his largest offensive role in Charlotte, possibly the biggest of his career.
5. Danny Granger, Indiana Pacers (24.1 PPG on .428 FG, 5.5 RPG, 2.8 APG)
The fifth slot was the toughest decision yet. Last season Granger struggled keeping his head above water. Injuries turned him into an inconsistent star that was robbed of an all-star bid in 2009.
However, things changed for the Indiana Pacers, and Granger snags a spot on the Fab Five because, quite frankly, he should have a better individual season than both Paul Pierce and Andre Iguodala in 2011, mainly due to some of the load being taken from his shoulders by newly-acquired Darren Collison and rookie Paul George.
While it’s true that his game at the World Championships left little to be desired, some players aren’t fit to participate in international play, and being the best offensive threat for 48 minutes makes Granger a more dangerous player in the NBA, versus playing the role of a spot-up shooter on Team USA’s roster of all-stars and superstars.
That Other Five (in no particular order):
Andre Iguodala, Philadelphia 76ers (17.1 PPG on .443 FG, 6.5 RPG, 5.8 APG)
Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics (18.3 PPG on .472 FG, 4.4 RPG, 3.1 APG)
Rudy Gay, Memphis Grizzlies (19.6 PPG on .466 FG, 5.9 RPG, 1.9 APG)
Luol Deng, Chicago Bulls (17.6 PPG on .466 FG, 7.3 RPG, 2.0 APG)
Ron Artest, Los Angeles Lakers (11.0 PPG on .414 FG, 4.3 RPG, 3.0 APG)
Original article: http://www.alldaynba.com/nbageneral/nbas-fab-five-small-forwards
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