This section of the list completes my top 40 small forwards in the NBA, and it includes a bunch of amazing players. Some of the best players in the league are small forwards, which was been shown by the recent MVPs. Here are my rankings:
10. Josh Smith, Detroit Pistons
Stats: 16.4 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 3.3 APG
The biggest problem with Smith is that he doesn’t have a real position, and in his case it can often come back to haunt him. Instead of it being an advantage that he’s such a scoring threat as a power forward, it causes him to take too many shots, many of which are bad takes. The Pistons decided to move him to SF after signing him last offseason, and his stats certainly took a hit. He has never been a particularly efficient player, finishing with a PER of just 14.10. That’s the lowest of the top 10. He unsurprisingly took way too many shots, especially 3-pointers, which hurt his efficiency. Regardless of all that criticism, he still puts up a lot of points and rebounds, which put him at #10 on this list.
9. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
Stats: 12.8 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.0 APG
Leonard’s stats aren’t exactly the most impressive, but like many Spurs players, that’s because of two things. First, not even the Spurs’ starters play a ton of minutes, so it’s impossible to have dominant stats like some other players (he only averaged 29.1 MPG). Second, he does a lot behind the scenes that can’t be measured in the basic statistics, especially defense. His PER is extremely high though which allows him to be at #9 on the list. He’s a very good rebounder for his size and will often get double doubles. He’s going to be a star in the near future and will be one of the key pieces of the next round of talent for the Spurs.
8. Nicolas Batum, Portland Trail Blazers
Stats: 13.0 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 5.1 APG
Batum seemingly does it all, combining a rare amount of rebounds and assists in addition to the normal points scored. He’s second among all small forwards in the league in RPG and is third in APG, a very impressive stat for a player that shoots as much as he did. His PPG went down a bit from the year before, but he shot much more efficiently and focused on other aspects of the game, getting career highs in RPG and APG. I actually consider him one of the most underrated players in the league because of how dynamic he is. He has such a rare combination of skills that he becomes extremely valuable to a team. He also can jack up 3-pointers at will, knocking down 145 of them last year.
7. Chandler Parsons, Houston Rockets
Stats: 16.6 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 4.0 APG
Parsons is another guy that can seemingly do it all, although he focuses a bit more on the scoring side. He was one of the most underpaid players last year, receiving less than $1 million while being a key part of the Rockets’ team. Parsons has improved his scoring, rebounding, and passing in each of his three seasons in the league, and I expect it to go up again after he was signed by the Mavericks this offseason. He’s an excellent perimeter shooter that also cares to play defense back on the other side of the court, grabbing 5.5 boards a game. He’s another guy that could be a huge star in a couple years.
6. Tyreke Evans, New Orleans Pelicans
Stats: 14.5 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 5.0 APG
Some people began writing off Tyreke Evans after his production diminished in each of his four years in Sacramento. They gave up on him and let him go into free agency where he signed with the Pelicans where he would be a primary sixth man. It’s rare to see a sixth man up this high on the list, but he only started 22/72 games last year. His big problem is that he has trouble staying healthy, but he tied his career high for games played last year. His stats were still far below what he did in his rookie year, but with a PER of 18.43, he deserves to be this high. Don’t forget about Evans, he’s still a great player.
5. Rudy Gay, Sacramento Kings/Toronto Raptors
Stats: 20.0 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 2.9 APG
After Evans there is a big jump in skill, starting with Rudy Gay. He was traded to the Kings from the Raptors primarily because he has a ridiculously high salary, but he is still one of the best small forwards in the league. He finished with exactly 20 PPG and still added a solid 6.0 RPG and a more than negligible amount of assists. It was one of the best years of his career (maybe the best), and he’s still one of the better scorers in the whole league. He was much better after being traded to the Kings, so maybe that will be a better fit for him next year.
4. Paul George, Indiana Pacers
Stats: 21.7 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 3.5 APG
Boy, is it a shame what just recently happened to Paul George. It really sucks when a player suffers an injury as bad as he did, and now he’s likely going to miss the entire season next year. As for last year, he was definitely one of the best small forwards, but like his team’s performance in the playoffs, he just came up short. It was definitely the best year of his career as he continued to get better, which is why it’s such a shame that he’s going to miss a year. He eclipsed the 20 PPG mark for the first time and will likely retire as a 20+ PPG scorer. He’s also an extremely athletic player that can grab rebounds and draw fouls (and still make the free throws). His shooting percentage isn’t amazing, but he can always improve that over time.
3. Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
Stats: 27.4 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 3.1 APG
Carmelo Anthony is an excellent individual player, but he’s not a team player, and that’s why his team will never win a championship, no matter who he plays for. He decided to return to New York, a franchise that really doesn’t have a very good team (and didn’t improve at all this offseason after failing to make the playoffs). As for Anthony himself, it was one of his best scoring years, finishing second in the league in scoring. He also set a career high in RPG, showing that he cares about defense as well. But he’s essentially a ball hog that doesn’t pass enough, as evidenced by his measly 3.1 APG (which has never been higher than 3.8 APG in his career). But based on his scoring alone, he’s no doubt an elite small forward in this league.
2. LeBron James, Miami Heat
Stats: 27.1 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 6.4 APG
LeBron James is the best player in the NBA even if he didn’t win the MVP award last year. He may not have had the best season, but overall, he’s definitely the best player. There’s really nothing that he can’t do, averaging an insane amount of points while still averaging 6+ RPG and APG. He’s the best passing SF in the league and one of the best rebounders. He also has an absolutely ridiculous shooting percentage of 56.7%, something that I can’t even comprehend for a player that shoots as much as he does. What’s craziest is that all three of the stats I listed under his name are below his career highs…so basically he had an off year and still dominated that much. That’s how good LeBron is.
1. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
Stats: 32.0 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 5.5 APG
I may think that LeBron is the best player in the NBA, but Durant definitely had the best season last year. He led the league in scoring and was second in the league among small forwards in rebounding. He still had time to get 5.5 APG, and on top of all that, shot over 50% for the year. He was just a sliver below an outstanding PER of 30 (29.90 to be exact), something that really never happens. He also had the second highest FT% for his position (he was behind Danny Granger of all people, my last SF on this list), finishing with 87.3% on the year. That’s an absolutely amazing season, and it’s great to see him finally win an MVP after LeBron dominated that category for so long.