Tag Archives: National Basketball Association

Allen Iverson: The Voice of a Generation

By: Prad

Initially, when Allen Iverson retired about three weeks ago, I didn’t think it was necessary to write about it since he hasn’t been on an NBA team in the last three seasons. His season in the Turkish professional league served as an indicator of the end of his playing days. Yet, his announcement is important. His retirement officially ends any chance of a return to the NBA. It gives his millions of fans some closure and some sort of acceptance to the fact that revolutionary players can’t stay revolutionary forever.

The Answer was as famous for his tattoos, cornrows, and bling as much as his on-court presence Courtesy of Zimbio
The Answer was as famous for his tattoos, cornrows, and bling as much as his on-court presence
Courtesy of Zimbio

Iverson became a polarizing figure the moment he began to receive any media coverage. His personality and physical characteristics evoke a certain sense of divide. His tattoos, cornrows, and sense of confidence make for a figure who is never rattled by criticism. He never felt deterred to be himself despite all the other scrutiny he came under for his off-court antics including David Stern implementing a dress code for all NBA players because of Iverson’s wardrobe.

The first indication of this enigmatic athlete came when Iverson was a 17 year old star in 1993 in Hampton, Virginia. He and a group of friends went to a bowling alley and created a “raucous.” A verbal argument escalated into far more when punches began being thrown. The altercation is believed to have been stemmed by the use of pejorative and racist remarks directed towards Iverson and his group. This event made national headlines for two reasons. First, it was a racial altercation and second, at the time Iverson was the best high school basketball player in the country. Though the real reason will never be known for the fight, Iverson was sentenced to 15 years in prison for his part in that fight on that February night. The fact that only Iverson and his group of black friends were arrested is noteworthy and was very controversial at the time of the court proceedings. Fortunately, Iverson only had to spend four months in jail before the governor of Virginia pardoned him.

Allen Iverson was one of the best college basketball players in the country in 1996 Courtesy of Bleacher Report
Allen Iverson was one of the best college basketball players in the country in 1996
Courtesy of Bleacher Report 

Despite his prison term, head coach John Thompson was willing to offer him a spot at Georgetown. During this time in college, NBA scouts discovered Iverson’s brilliance as a game changer. For Iverson, two years of college basketball was enough to prove to NBA teams that he could play amongst all the talent in the NBA. As a Hoya, he won the Big East Rookie of the Year, First Team All American, and set the team record for scoring average, a record that still stands. Everything he accomplished on the basketball court was done with a sense of swagger though. His fashion sense became trendy. His Georgetown Hoya uniform and Jordan sneakers became an iconic image of basketball throughout the 1990s.

Iverson became the first 6’0 player to be drafted #1 overall when he was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1996 from a talented pool filled with Stephon Marbury, Ray Allen, Kobe Bryant, and Steve Nash. This draft class would later be responsible for a grand total of four MVP awards and numerous records. Critics of his called this pick a terrible one because of the lack of maturity on Iverson’s part. He was now a professional athlete, he needed to start acting like one. But, this idea of successfully transitioning into a more mature media character never came to fruition for Iverson. It didn’t matter though, because this “bad ass” attitude was thought of as cool and something which was responsible for Iverson’s popularity amongst all young players.

The Iverson Era was one of the most successful periods of basketball in Philadelphia's history Courtesy of ESPN
The Iverson Era was one of the most successful periods of basketball in Philadelphia’s history
Courtesy of ESPN

During the first 10 full seasons of his career, Iverson led the 76ers to six playoff appearances including the 2001 NBA Finals against the Shaquille O’Neal led Los Angeles Lakers. He broke out for 48 points in Game 1 of that series, which ended with Philadelphia victorious. The 76ers lost the next four games despite a collective 130 point effort in those games from Iverson. He went on to win the league’s MVP award at season’s end. During those 10 full years in Philly, Iverson led the league in minutes per game six times, points per game four times, and steals per game three times. Also of note, is the fact that during that 10 year span, Iverson averaged more than 30 points per game an astonishing five times including 33 PPG in the 2005-2006 season. Although his on-court play was sensation, it too drew much criticism. His skeptics cited the fact that Iverson was the most selfish player in the NBA. With Philly, his field goal percentage never elevated above 45% with the exception of one season. Clearly, that did not matter as his 76ers had one of the most successful periods of winning in the franchise’s history during this “Iverson Era.” All good teams need a player like Iverson who is willing to take charge and do whatever it takes to win even if it means that he has to hoist up 25 shot each night. He had enough offensive talent to score a basket on anybody who defended him including the famous Jordan double crossover mid range jumper. His offensive prowess is unparalleled to any other barely six footer the league has ever witnessed.

I kept on mentioning the term “full” in the previous paragraph since in his 11th season, Iverson was traded to the Denver Nuggets. After his first and only full season in Denver, the 2007-2008 campaign, Iverson’s number began to gradually decline. He was traded to the Detroit Pistons and then signed with the Memphis Grizzlies during the next offseason. Then, he was traded back to the 76ers during the 2009-2010 season. He began and ended his career in the city of “brotherly love.” His “bad ass” attitude could partially be attributed to the city of Philadelphia as well. During the 1980s and 1990s, Philadelphia became a major pop culture hub in the United States. Prior to Iverson even joining the 76ers, he was seen as an basketball off-court icon to kids around the country. Adding Philly to the mix, made it an even more extreme combo.

Iverson was fearless and willing to drive on anybody including Shaq, who was noted for his dominant interior presence Courtesy of Sports Illustarted
Iverson was fearless and willing to drive on anybody including Shaq, who was noted for his dominant interior presence
Courtesy of Sports Illustrated

In a league that has had many of these polarizing figures throughout its history, Iverson stands out. Iverson’s on-court presence was so unique. Rarely, do we find such an athletic player who is willing to drive as hard as possible against men who tower almost a foot taller. He was willing to sacrifice everything for basketball as long as he achieved glory and the W’s in the result column. Perhaps, sometimes he might have put too much on the line. Off the court, Iverson had some memorable moments including the infamous practice rant and his aforementioned wardrobe, which included baggy shorts, chains, and sideways caps. Because of him, players  had to begin conducting themselves in a more appropriate manner with their attire during press conferences, arriving and leaving an arena, and while on the bench. That is certainly not the only way he transformed the league. He leaves an indelible mark on the NBA. He transcended the Point Guard position. With him came an evolution towards a more score-first Point Guard position which we see so widespread today in Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, and Kyrie Irving to name a few.

The original A.I. played a critical role in the transformation of the NBA from the beginning of his career. People will remember him for his scoring as much as his heart. He may be the shortest player ever to win the scoring title, a feat he accomplished four times, but was able to do so because he had the greatest desire to push forward. He may have logged the fourth most minutes on average per game in NBA history, but he’ll also be remembered for his pitchman prowess as an endorser for Reebok. His stellar perimeter defense will be remembered as much as his trend setting ways with the shooting sleeve, which is now worn by almost all superstars in the NBA. His electrifying nature cannot simply stop the moment he retired. Rather, the legend of Allen Iverson will live on as long as the Point Guard position is still in existence.

Top Ten Power Forwards in the NBA

By: Jon

The Power Forward position is one of the thinnest positions, in terms of depth and skill. Many of the great all time power forwards are about to retire or out of their prime. However, there are some incredibly talented and athletic players in the bunch.

 

1. Kevin Love – Minnesota Timberwolves

Kevin Love
Kevin Love

The 6’10” power forward out of UCLA has made a name for himself as one of the best players in the game, during his 5 year career. Although Love missed most of last season with a myriad of injuries, he is still the most talented and best power forward in the game. Love is a scoring and rebounding machine that excites every owner and fantasy owner. Over the past three seasons, Love has averaged about 22 points and 14 rebounds per game. Kevin “loves” to garner double doubles, which he does frequently. Besides for averaging a double double for the last four seasons, Kevin has obtained a double double in over 86% of the games he has played over the last three seasons. Since the merger in 1976, Kevin had the most consecutive double doubles, 53.  Kevin is part of a new wave of stretch power forwards. Kevin Love is a tall player who can effectively play inside and outside. Although he is not a great three point shooter, 35%, he can shoot well enough to draw the defense and cause open shots for his teammates. Kevin is one of the best offensive players in the league and his offensive win shares, top five twice in his career, depict his success.  Love has already made one All-NBA team and should make many more in the future. Love’s situation will become incredibly interesting because he has already requested a trade or more help so that the Timberwolves will win in the playoffs.

 

2. Tim Duncan – San Antonio Spurs

Tim Duncan
Tim Duncan

At the age of 37, Tim experience a rebirth during his 16th season in the NBA. The greatest power forward of all time is still one of the best big men in the league. The future Hall of Famer has been recognized by many as the best player of the generation. The four time champion and three time Finals MVP is held in such high esteem because he turned around an abysmal organization almost by himself. During his career, Duncan played in 14 All-Star games and has been voted to 10 first team All-NBA. Duncan has won 2 MVP and has finished top five in MVP voting eight times. Although he has lost a step, he has improve his passing ability and uses his intelligence to stay a step in front of the opposition. After two straight average seasons, Tim Duncan had a great season for the Spurs averaging 17.8 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 2.7 blocks. Although his stats do not resemble his stats during his prime, his PER 36 minutes stats are comparable to the stats during his prime. The Big Fundamental showed during the playoffs that he can still be a dominant force for stretches of a game and a series. Although Duncan’s stats are impressive, he will always be remembered for his postseason success and his ability to maintain his focus under pressure.

 

3. Dirk Nowitzki – Dallas Mavericks

Dirk Nowitzki
Dirk Nowitzki

The future Hall of Famer is probably the greatest shooting seven footer in NBA history. Known for his clutch play and fate away jumper, Dirk has been one of the best scorers over the past decade. Although he does not have the pedigree like Duncan, Nowitzki has won a championship, earned Finals MVP honors, has been voted the 2006 MVP, selected to 14 All-Star games, and been voted to 12 All-NBA teams. Before last season, Dirk averaged more than 21.5 points per game over the previous twelve games. Unlike other high volume shooters, Dirk shoots a good percentage, 47.5%, for a player who averages about 17 shoots per game during his career. Along with shooting a good percentage from inside the arc, Dirk has shot an amazing 38% for a seven footer from behind the arc. Although Dirk had a disappointing season last year because of injury, he still scored 17.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Dirk has the rare ability to carry a team into the playoffs. As seen in the 2011 NBA Finals, Dirk has the skill to carry a team to a title. Although Dirk has been a great scorer during the regular season, 22.6 points per game, he has been insane during the playoffs. Dirk has a career playoff scoring average of 25.9 points while averaging over 26.5 points per game eight times during his career. Next year, Dirk should be able to return to his usual stats since he will hopefully not be dealing with any injuries.

 

4. Blake Griffin – Los Angeles Clippers

Blake Griffin
Blake Griffin

The human highlight reel is the most exciting player in the game because he is an incredible dunker. Although Griffin is frequently criticized for being “soft”, he is one of the most productive players in the league. Although Griffin’s stats have steadily decreased during his first three seasons in the NBA, he has improved in other aspects of his game. Griffin was also forced to relinquished his role as the primary scorer when Paul was acquired by the Clippers. Blake’s numbers have been decreasing because his minutes and usage ratings have been steadily decreased. Blake’s PER 36 minutes stats have remained at a high level during each season of his career. Griffin’s defensive metrics have improved during every season of his career. Last season, Griffin posted his best Defensive Rating, 102, and Defensive Win Share, 3.9. Although Griffin has only played for three seasons, he has already been voted to three All-Star games, won the Rookie of the Year Award, and has been selected to two All-NBA teams. Griffin will be a star for years to come because he is determined to improve and has the ability to succeed.

 

5. David Lee – Golden State Warriors

David Lee
David Lee

The eight year professional and borderline first round pick has defied the odds and has become one of the most consistent offensive players in the league. After sitting on the bench for the first three seasons of his career, Lee has been one of the best double double man in the league. Similar to Zach Randolph, Lee is one of the few active players who has recorded multiple 20-10 seasons. Unlike Randolph, Lee is still in his prime and has a a great chance to record more double double seasons. Lee has already averaged a double double four times and should have more during his career. Last year, he had the most double doubles and experienced a double double more than 70% of the games he played. Although Lee may have trouble averaging 20 points per game because he is the number 3 or 4 option with the Warriors, he will definitely tally more than 15 points and 10 rebounds.  Although Lee is a dynamic and solid offensive player, he is not a very good defensive player because he is short and not as athletic as other players. However, his defensive game did make progress last season. Lee recorded his best defensive rating,104, and defensive wins shares, 3.7, of his career. Lee is benefiting from playing with a defensive stalwart, like Andrew Bogut.

 

6. David West – Indiana Pacers

David West
David West

The Pacers power forward is one of the most underrated, but one of the most important players on the Pacers. Since his third year in the league, West has bee one of the most consistent and efficient player on the Pacers. In 7 of the last 8 years, West has averaged at least 17.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. After a disappointing 2011-2012 season, West had a solid 2012-2013 season, averaging 17.1 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.0 steals, and 1.0 blocks per game. West has been an efficient shooter during his career, shooting over 49% from the field and 83% from the free throw line. Although West is not a rim protecter for the Pacers, he is a tough player and is willing to act tough with any opponent.  Even though many power forwards are starting to spread the floor, West is an old fashion power forward who has a consistent 15 foot jump shoot and has an array of shots from inside the paint. West’s defensive intensity and toughness allows him to be one of the top defensive big men in the league. David’s defensive rating and defensive wins shares were ranked inside the top ten in the league. Although West will never be a star, he is a reliable player that every good championship team must have to win big.

 

7. Kevin Garnett – Brooklyn Nets

Kevin Garnett
Kevin Garnett

The 18 year veteran and future hall of famer has been one of the best power forwards of all time. Although Garnett does not have the rings like Tim or Kobe, he has the stats and reputation to be considered one of the best players of his generation. Garnett has made 12 All-NBA Defensive teams, 9 first teams, 15 All-Star games, and 9 All-NBA teams. He has won a MVP, DPOY, and a title. Similar to Kobe’s tenacity, Kevin is the most fierce player in the league, although he is not the youngest or most talented player on the court. Although Garnett’s stats are amazing, his ability to configure the defense, help his teammates improve, and motivate his teammates makes his stats less important. Last season, KG had a decent year for the Celts, averaging 14.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.1 steals, and 1 block per game. Although Garnett does not rebound at his career average, 10.4, or like when he led the NBA in rebounding for four straight years, he can still rebound at a high level for short periods of games or a series. Although the Celtics lost to the Knicks in six games last postseason, KG showed that he can rebound and defend at a extremely high level, 13.7 rebounds and 90 defensive rating, both first in the NBA playoffs. The Nets, who acquired him and Pierce this offseason, hope that he will help improve their defense and post similar stats during their postseason run.

 

8. Zach Randolph – Memphis Grizzlies

Zach Randolph
Zach Randolph

The 12 year veteran has had an extremely productive career, although he does not have the prototypical NBA body. The undersized power forward has been able to be successful in the league because he uses his wide and strong body as an advantage. Z-Bo’s ability to bang inside allows him to amass a lot of rebounds and score a lot of points. Even though Zach has played for many different teams, he has produced the same stats during every stop in his career. Although Zach does not have the ability to average 20-10 for a season, he can still be a productive double double man as seen last season. During his prime, Z-Bo had five seasons were he averaged at least 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. Last season, Zach finished second among power forwards in double doubles. Although Randolph did not experience a great offensive season, he posted his best defensive season by far in terms of defensive rating and defensive win shares. Zach will continue to bully his opponents inside while posting solid stats.

 

9. Carlos Boozer – Chicago Bulls

Carlos Boozer
Carlos Boozer

The veteran from Alaska has had a tremendous career for the Cavaliers, Jazz, and currently the Bulls. Once known as a walking double double, Boozer has experienced a decreased in his stats since signing a huge deal with the Chicago Bulls in the famous summer of 2010. However last season, Boozer had a mini renaissance because of the injury to Derrick Rose and an increase in minutes. He almost recorded a double double for the first time since he accomplished the feat four straight years with the Utah Jazz. During his 11 year career, Boozer has nearly averaged a double double for his career, 16.2 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. Boozer has also shot an incredible 53% from the field, which is solid for a guy who primarily shoots from 10-15 feet. Boozer has been able to be successful in the NBA because he is ridiculously strong and has a nice jump shot. Carlos’s crazy jump shot is impossible to block because he shots from over his head. Although Carlos is a strong man and can bully many of his opponents when he plays defense, he is not a good defensive player. Although he experienced two solid defensive years when he first signed with the Bulls, he was below average last season, although he plays for one of the best defensive coaches in the league. Next year, I expect a dip in Boozer’s stats because Rose is returning from injury and will take a lot of shots from his teammates.

 

10. Anthony Davis – New Orleans Pelicans

Anthony Davis
Anthony Davis

The first round pick in the 2012 NBA Draft had a solid rookie season, although he experienced a few injuries. During his first season, Davis played in 64 while averaging 13.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.2 steals, and 1.8 blocks. Although he is a good rim protector and has quick hands, the defensive metrics do not love his ability, 104 defensive rating. Davis may one day become a solid offensive contributor because he is incredibly athletic and has a solid mid range game. Last season, he shot 52% from the field on 11 shots. Coming out of college, scouts compared Davis to players such as Kevin Garnett. Scouts believe that he will one day be the best power forward in the game because he is a great defensive player and rim protector as well as an incredibly raw offensive force. However, I do not feel the same way as those scouts. I believe that he will one day be a top five power forward, but never a superstar in the league. Davis will probably be a similar player to Serge Ibaka. Although Ibaka is a great rim protector and a good shooter from the outside, he is not a superstar. Davis may have a higher potential than Ibaka, but I do not think that he will be significantly better than the young, athletic Oklahoma City power forward. Unless Davis makes significant gains on his strength and learns better inside moves, he will never reach the heights that some scouts predict for him.

 

pics and stats from espn.com and basketballreference

Top Ten Small Forwards in the NBA

By: Jon

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

LeBron James
LeBron James

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

Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant

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

Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo Anthony

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

Paul George
Paul George

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

Josh Smith
Josh Smith

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

Paul Pierce
Paul Pierce

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

Rudy Gay
Rudy Gay

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

Luol Deng
Luol Deng

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

Danillo Gallinari
Danilo Gallinari

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

Nicolas Batum
Nicolas Batum

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