I’ve now reached the top half of NBA small forwards in the league, although this list doesn’t include the best of the best. Here are the next ten on my rankings:
20. Andre Iguodala, Golden State Warriors
Stats: 9.3 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 4.2 APG
Iguodala was supposed to be the replacement for Allen Iverson in Philadelphia, but their skill sets were so different that it made it impossible to expect that. Iguodala does it all, but doesn’t do a ton of anything in particular. After signing with Golden State where they already have tons of scoring options, he was allowed to sit back and do what he does best: fill the stat sheet and play excellent defense. He had a very similar season to his rookie year, where he started all 82 games for Philly and put up 9.0 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 3.0 APG. This past year, he balanced out those stats a little bit more and shot very conservatively. He was the perfect player for the place the Warriors wanted him in.
19. Shawn Marion, Dallas Mavericks
Stats: 10.4 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.6 APG
Marion has certainly dropped off, but he was still good enough to make it in the middle of the pack for starting small forwards last year. He started all 76 games he played for Dallas last year, but averaged single digit shots per game for the first time since his rookie year. It was also his lowest scoring output since then and one of his lowest rebounding totals. He’s still a pretty good veteran, but he’s at the tail end of his career and likely won’t be more than a veteran role player for a contender next year after the Mavericks decided to leave him out of the small forward signing party they had this offseason.
18. DeMarre Carroll, Atlanta Hawks
Stats: 11.1 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.8 APG
Carroll has played 5 years in the NBA, but I honestly had never heard of him until last year. He landed the starting SF slot in Atlanta and did great, averaging career highs all over the place. He was a very solid rebounding SF, and he also added 1.5 SPG. He started all 73 games he played for Atlanta last year and looks to continue to do so in the future for them. He’s not going to be their first option, but he can do a lot of different things which is a great quality to have.
17. Evan Turner, Indiana Pacers/Philadelphia 76ers
Stats: 14.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.2 APG
Oh boy, it’s Evan Turner. I have a negative bias towards him as a Sixers fan, but I’ll try to be as honest as possible. Turner isn’t terrible, but he’s incredibly overrated. He was supposed to be a key up and comer for the rebuilding Sixers and was largely a bust. You can’t deny he did a lot as the Sixers’ first offensive option last year, averaging 17.4 PPG, 6.0 RPG, and 3.7 APG. But after he was traded to Indiana at the deadline, he was atrocious in his bench role, finishing with a worse PER than almost every other player on the team. He needs to take a lot of shots to score a lot, but he does poorly in a bench role. Where does he fit in then? As a volume shooter on a bad team. I guess that’s why the Celtics signed him.
16. Jeff Green, Boston Celtics
Stats: 16.9 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 1.7 APG
Speaking of the Celtics, Jeff Green is the starting SF there and has done very well since coming back from the heart problem he had a little while back. He was forced to shoot a little more than he’s used to last year, but did manage to notch a career high in PPG. His rebounding and FG% took a hit as a consequence of focusing on shooting more though. If he wants to be a dominant player that I believe he can be (and showed while in Oklahoma City), he’ll need to shoot more efficiently and get his rebounds up. Otherwise, he’s just a slightly better version of Evan Turner.
15. Paul Pierce, Brooklyn Nets
Stats: 13.5 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.4 APG
In pretty much any other year of Paul Pierce’s career, he wouldn’t be this low on the list of best small forwards, but after getting traded to a “stacked” Nets team, there were too many washed up scorers for any one particular guy to shine. It was very weird to see Pierce in anything other than a Celtics jersey, and now after one year in Brooklyn, he’s heading to Washington for his third team in three years. It was by far his least impressive year of his long career, and his role will continue to decrease as the years go on. It’s not time for him to hang it up, but he can’t expect to be an elite scorer anymore.
14. Nick Young, Los Angeles Lakers
Stats: 17.9 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 1.5 APG
When someone says the phrase “volume shooter,” the first person I think of is Nick Young. He began to perfect it while he was in Washington, then had a terrible year in Philadlephia. He then revived his career as the sixth man for the Lakers last year, getting tons of minutes because of Kobe Bryant’s injury (which caused everyone else to move up on the depth chart). Young has also played SG in his career, but I think he’s better suited as a scoring threat off the bench, aka, the exact role the Lakers gave him. He averaged a career high in PPG and 3’s per game (2.1), while managing to still keep his FG% at a reasonable 43.5%. He won’t do much else but score, but that’s the way it works with players like Young.
13. Tobias Harris, Orlando Magic
Stats: 14.6 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 1.3 APG
I’ve always liked Tobias Harris, but it seems like he’s always struggled to put a full season together. Sometimes he starts out the beginning of the season and then trails off into mediocrity, but mostly it’s the other way around, waiting until the end of the year to turn on the jets. His 27 game stretch two years ago with the Magic after getting traded from the Bucks was phenomenal, combining tons of points with tons of rebounds, as well as blocks and steals. His minutes dipped a bit last year and so did his numbers, but he still put up a very good season in Orlando as one of their best young players. He missed 21 games with an injury, but if he plays the full year next year, he could be really really good and a top 10 SF.
12. Trevor Ariza, Washington Wizards
Stats: 14.4 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.5 APG
It’s kind of rare to see a player’s best season in his 10th year of his career, but that’s what Ariza did last year for Washington. He scored points and rained 3’s like it was his job (oh wait, it was). He also averaged a very solid 1.6 SPG last year, something that has always been a strong suit of his. He will now play for the Rockets as he takes over the place of Chandler Parsons, who heads to Dallas. Ariza’s best scoring season of his career was actually the one year he played for Houston in 2009-10 when he averaged 14.9 PPG. I have a feeling he’ll continue to be a real perimeter threat next year.
11. Luol Deng, Chicago Bulls/Cleveland Cavaliers
Stats: 16.0 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.9 APG
It’s pretty rare to see a player as good as Deng traded in the middle of the year, but he was struggling to stay healthy and they didn’t really want his big, expiring contract. What’s interesting though is that he was averaging a career high 19.0 PPG in his 23 games with the Bulls last year, as well as 6.9 RPG, one of his best averages of his career. For some unknown reason, his value seems to have dropped a bit recently, but there shouldn’t be any doubt that he’s one of the best small forwards in the league. The Heat signed him to replace LeBron James, and while that’s not an upgrade, it’s still a good fill-in considering who was available. I expect Deng to thrive there.