The small forward position is the most top heavy position in the NBA. The small forward position is different for every team because the player is usually the most athletic on the team so they change positions frequently depending on the situation. As seen with James, Durant, and Anthony, anyone of these players can play any position from point guard to center because of their athleticism and skill.
1. LeBron James – Miami Heat
The undisputed best player in the game is one of the best players this league has ever seen because he is incredibly skilled and athletic. In my opinion, LeBron is the best athlete to ever play the game because of his speed, size, strength, and athleticism. The four time MVP and two time Finals MVP has the rare ability to pass and score at an incredibly high level. Since James won his first Finals MVP, he has been a completely different person because he is more relaxed and does not have the pressure to win. Although James’ stats are great, at this point in his career his legacy will be determined by the championships he wins not the points nor assists he tallies. If James wants to draw more comparisons to Michael Jordan, he must win at least three and possibly four or more championships. Although championships will ultimately define his legacy, his stats are interesting to watch because he is good in every aspect of the game. Last year, LeBron recorded 26.8 points, 7.3 assists, 8.0 rebounds, 1.7 steals, and 1 block per game while winning his second straight MVP. Even though his offensive game is impressive, his defense may be the best part of his game. Although he lost out to Marc Gasol in the defensive player of the year voting, he probably should have won the award because he can effectively defend any player and any position on the floor. He was selected to the last five first team defensive team.
2. Kevin Durant – Oklahoma City Thunder
The 24 year old small forward would be number one in any other position besides for small forward. Like LeBron, Durant has improved every season of his career. Durant is the best offensive player in the league because he score from anywhere on the floor. Besides for being one of the best shooters in the league, Durant has the athletic ability and skill to finish around the rim with ease. Although he is not very strong, he is incredibly smart and uses his long arms to shoot over any defender. Although he did not win the scoring title this year, he already won three scoring titles during his short six year career. Even though he did not win the title, he scored the most points in the league for the past four seasons. Durant has improved at setting up his teammates, rebounding, and defending over the last few years. Last year Durant had his most complete year, 28.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 1.4 steals. Durant had one of the most efficient season of all time. He is the first player since Larry Bird to shoot 50% from the field, 40% from behind the arc, and 90% from the free throw line while competing for the scoring title. Although Durant has not won an MVP because James is a beast, he finished second in MVP voting three times in the last four seasons. When Durant finally retires, he will be thought of as one of the best scorers and players in NBA history.
3. Carmelo Anthony – New York Knicks
The 2013 NBA scoring champion is the second best scorer in the league because, like Durant, he is strong inside and can shoot from the outside with ease. Although Anthony is a great scorer, many critics have bashed Anthony because he is a “ball hog” and looks for his own shoot instead of looking for the open man. Although I agree that he can stop ball flow, Anthony does not have another reliable scoring option to pass to on the Knicks. If the Knicks had a better secondary scorer than JR Smith, Melo may pass more because he has more confidence in his teammates. Last year, he was number one in usage rate by three percent 35.6%. Although Anthony does have his flaws, he is a top ten or fifteen player in the league. When motivated, Anthony can be a solid defensive player because he is strong, quick, and versatile. Anthony has demonstrated that he can score and succeed during the regular season, but has not won during the postseason. Anthony has only won three of the thirteen playoff series during his playoff career, which is a horrible winning percentage for one of the best players in the NBA. During the playoffs, Anthony’s shooting percentage dropped by forty points because he shoots too often and does not pass to his teammates.
4. Paul George – Indiana Pacers
The breakout player of the year last season showed that he is one of the best two way players in the league. The former first round pick had, by far, his best season in his NBA career. George’s stats have steadily improved during the first three years of his career. Last year, George averaged 17.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists, and 1.8 steals per game. During the post season, George became a superstar by leading the Pacers to the Eastern Conference Finals and coming within one game of beating the Heat and making the NBA Finals. George’s stats increased during the playoffs. During the playoffs, George scored more points, tallied more assists, shot a higher percentage from the field, and played great defense against the best player in the league. Although Paul frequently turned over the ball, he was forced to point guard and lead an offense at the age of 23. George was one of the best defensive players in the league last season because he is long, lengthy, athletic, and strong. Last year, George ranked first in Defensive Win Shares, selected to the second All Defensive Team, and finished third in defensive rating. George will be one of the top ten or fifteen players in the league while leading the Pacers deep in the playoffs in the future.
5. Josh Smith – Detroit Pistons
The 27 year old small forward has become one of the most dynamic and exciting players in the NBA. The man they call ‘J-Smoove’ was one of the best free agents on the market this offseason. Although he played his last nine seasons with the Hawks, he departed this offseason and signed a huge deal with the Detroit Pistons. The Pistons signed Smith to a huge deal because he is effective and one of the most athletic players in the league. Over the past seven years, Smith has averaged about 16 points, 8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.5 steals, and 2 blocks. Over the past two seasons, Smith has averaged 19 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, and 2 blocks per game. Even though Smith has solid stats, he is not the most intelligent player, which causes him to shoot consistently from the outside although he shoots a low percentage. If Smith can improve his shot selection, he will score a lot more points and shoot a higher percentage. Although Smith is not a player who can lead a team to a championship, he would be a solid number two or three on a great team. Besides for being a solid offensive player, Smith is an elite defensive player. Two years ago, Smith was ranked first in Defensive Wins Shares and fifth in defensive rating. Smith is a great defensive player because he is incredibly long, strong, and fast.
6. Paul Pierce – Brooklyn Nets
The 35 year old veteran small forward has been one of the most under appreciated players in the NBA. Pierce has been a scoring machine since entering the league in 1998 with the Boston Celtics. Paul has scored more than 18 points per game for the past 14 consecutive seasons. Even though he has been a Finals MVP, great scorer, and a fantastic leader, the Celtics have shown him little loyalty over the years and have traded him to the Brooklyn Nets this offseason. Although Paul had a solid season last year, many critics point to his age and predict that he will play poorly year after year. However, Pierce consistently doubts his critics by putting up great numbers year after year. Last year, Pierce scored 18.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. Unlike other players, Pierce has succeeded because he is really skilled and smart, not athletic. Even though Pierce has lost a step, he can still play at a high level because he knows how to be efficient. Pierce has been known as a superstar over the last decade because he is extremely clutch and leads his team to wins. During his playoff career, Pierce has never scored less than 18.8 points per game while averaging about 6 rebounds and 4 assists. Although he will not be able to play major minutes with the Nets, he will be valuable because he is a great late game scorer and leader.
7. Rudy Gay – Toronto Raptors
The talented offensive player for the Raptors has been one of the better offensive players at the small forward position. Although Gay is routinely criticized because he cannot validate is huge contract, Gay is a good player who could be the second or third best player on a championship level team. Similar to Pierce, Gay is a consistent scorer and knows how to tally a lot of points. During six of his first seven career seasons, Gay has scored more than 18.2 points per game while averaging 5.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists. Gay is a talented player and should be starting to enter his prime with the Toronto Raptors. Gay is going to be the number one option for the Toronto Raptors, which will improve his number of shots and points. During his half season with the Raptors, Gay averaged 19.5 points and 6.4 rebounds. Rudy Gay has the size and skill to score against any player in the league. This season, Gay will finally be appreciated with the Toronto Raptors and he will have the ability to lead the rising Raptors to the playoffs.
8. Luol Deng – Chicago Bulls
The Bulls small forward has been a stalwart in the Bulls starting lineup for the past few years. Although Deng will not display great numbers, he is average or above average in almost every aspect of the game. Last season, Deng averaged 16.5 points 6.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. Deng is an absolute warrior who is willing to play through injury or any obstacle. The last two seasons Luol has led the league in minutes per game, 39.4 in 2012 and 38.7 in 2013. Along with posting solid offensive numbers, he is an impressive defensive player who can alter many shots and make life for opposing offenders miserable. Deng is a solid competitor and the Bulls are lucky to have him, although he may be overpaid.
9. Danilo Gallinari – Denver Nuggets
The 6’10” sharp shooting small forward is one of the young leaders of the Denver Nuggets. Acquired in the Carmelo Anthony trade, Gallinari fits perfectly in the Nuggets’ offensive because he loves to shoot and does not play a lot of defense. Over the past four seasons, Danilo has consistently averaged 15 points per game while posting about 5 rebounds. Like other small forwards, Gallinari has the size to play the either the small forward or power forward position. Danilo’s versatility is important for the Nuggets because they love to play a fast pace game and shoot as many times as possible during a game. When ‘Galo’ tore his ACL during the regular season, the Nuggets’ hopes to advance far in the playoffs were ruined because he is an incredibly important part of their team. ‘Galo’ spreads the floor and enables players like Ty Lawson and Wilson Chandler to drive inside. Also, Kenneth Faried is given better looks because defense’s cannot leave Danilo open from deep.
10. Nicolas Batum – Portland Trailblazers
The versatile young small forward is one of the few bright spots on the Portland Trailblazers. The five year veteran has improved during every season of his career in the Great Northwest. Batum’s scoring average and rebounding has improved during every season of his career. Batum has become one of the most complete players in the league because he can fill up every offensive statistical category. Last year, Batum had a complete season averaging 14.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.2 steals, and 1.1 blocks. Although Portland does not care about fantasy basketball, Batum is one of the most useful fantasy option because he does every thing for the Trailblazers. Batum should continue improving because he is finally receiving the minutes he deserves. Along with providing an offensive spark for Portland, Batum is a fabulous defensive player because he is incredibly long and fast. Batum is another player, who has the size and strength to play small forward or be a stretch four. Batum can be a stretch four that shoots the three and drives to the lane.
pics and stats from espn and basketball reference