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Ranking Paul Pierce Among NBA's 10 Best Small Forwards Today

Luis BatlleContributor IAugust 15, 2012

Ranking Paul Pierce Among NBA's 10 Best Small Forwards Today

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    Paul Pierce is not only a top-10 forward in today's game, but arguably the best starting forward in Boston Celtics history.

    Pierce competes with some of the best players in today's game for top honors in the league, including Team USA stars LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant.

    An enforcer who tends to make plays on both ends of the court, the swingman position is one that can drive a team in today's game. The small forward spot is easily the most underrated in basketball, and also features some of the top talents in the game.

    Pierce, entering his 15th season in the NBA, has been the leader of his Boston Celtics each year and continues to keep his team in championship contention.

    Along with Pierce, here are the top 10 small forwards in the NBA today.

No. 10: Shawn Marion, Dallas Mavericks

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    2011-12 By the Numbers (Per Game)

    Points: 10.6

    Assists: 2.1

    Rebounds: 7.4 

     

    Shawn Marion is not only a top-10 defender in the NBA, but a recognized master at the position for his consistency over the last 13 years he has been in the league.

    He has averaged no less than 6.4 rebounds per game and has never scored fewer than 10.2 points per game in any season.

    Talk about impressive.

    Add in the fact that Marion helped his 2011 Dallas Mavericks to win an NBA championship and succeeded in the assignment of guarding LeBron James, and there is absolutely no question he lands a spot in the top-10 list for small forwards today.

No. 9: Luol Deng, Chicago Bulls

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    2011-12 By the Numbers (Per Game)

    Points: 15.3

    Assists: 2.9

    Rebounds: 6.5

     

    The Sudan native was a beast for his Great Britain team and as consistent a player as there is for his Chicago Bulls.

    As great of a defender as Deng is, one of the more underrated aspects of his play is the ability to score late in games. He is a prolific scorer in the second half of games, and when Derrick Rose can't close out, Deng is the first player to step up offensively.

    Arguably the best defender at the SF spot, Deng certainly is one of the more versatile, all-around players in today's game. Without Deng, the Bulls are without a consistent scoring threat outside of Rose and Boozer, making this guy the ultimate difference maker for this team.

No. 8: Gerald Wallace, Brooklyn Nets

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    2011-12 By the Numbers (Per Game)

    Points: 13.8

    Assists: 2.8

    Rebounds: 6.7

     

    His numbers are especially solid, which is exactly what helps this talent crack the top-10 list.

    Gerald Wallace is an aggressive defender who can grab rebounds and can score the basketball well when needed. Unfortunately, part of the reason Wallace isn't ranked any higher is because he has been unable to play with a winning team. The first nine-and-a-half seasons in the league he was a member of the Sacramento Kings and Charlotte Bobcats, two of the poorer teams over the last decade.

    Wallace will continue to play strong defense and attack the rim offensively, and that is exactly what will propel him to a career-best season. For the first time in his career, he will play an entire season with an especially talented team, as fans can fully expect Wallace to shine.

No. 7: Rudy Gay, Memphis Grizzlies

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    2011-12 By the Numbers (Per Game)

    Points: 19.0

    Assists: 2.3

    Rebounds: 6.4

     

    Rudy Gay's play was fantastic last season, and it nearly resulted in the Memphis Grizzlies topping the Los Angeles Clippers in the playoffs.

    He is a prime shooting threat and an underrated defender, and he easily cracks the top-10 list. His defense on the perimeter is certainly solid and one the major reasons the Grizzlies are able to get out on the break.

    If not for the scoring of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, Gay easily tops the 20-point mark for the season and puts up career-best numbers.

No. 6: Danny Granger, Indiana Pacers

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    2011-12 By the Numbers (Per Game)

    Points: 18.7

    Assists: 1.8

    Rebounds: 5.0

     

    Danny Granger was one of the driving forces behind a team that shocked the NBA last season.

    The Indiana Pacers finished the season a whopping 42-24 third place in the Eastern Conference—not to mention they were just four games behind the Miami Heat and nearly took them down in the second round of the playoffs.

    Granger has declined in his points-per-game production each of the last three seasons, which is what bumps him out of the top five. In fact, one could argue Rudy Gay and Gerald Wallace should take his place at No. 6, because unlike Granger, they are putting up improved numbers.

    Yet Granger has been able to take his Pacers to the next level along with Roy Hibbert and Paul George, and that is exactly what propels him to the No. 6 rank.

No. 5: Andre Iguodala, Denver Nuggets

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    2011-12 By the Numbers (Per Game)

    Points: 12.4

    Assists: 5.5

    Rebounds: 6.1

     

    He isn't a team-best scoring threat like the Philadelphia 76ers tried to make him out to be, but, boy, can Andre Iguodala shine as a leader on the hardwood.

    "Iggy" is as prominent a defender as we have in this league, and the way he is able to take over a game defensively is outstanding. He led a 76ers defense that ranked third in points allowed per game, allowing just 89.4 points per game.

    He is also sound offensively, as he has a knack for taking the ball to the rim and attacking the offensive glass when it counts. This is a player who has helped his 76ers stay relevant the for the last handful of seasons and will be an incredible asset to the Denver Nuggets next season—a team in dire need of defense.

No. 4: Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics

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    2011-12 By the Numbers (Per Game)

    Points: 19.4

    Assists: 4.5

    Rebounds: 5.2

     

    Paul Pierce is an NBA champion, a 14-year veteran and an integral part of the Boston Celtics franchise each season he has been in the league.

    He may go down as the best scorer in team history, as Pierce can score in a multitude of ways and continues to display consistency. Since his rookie season where he averaged an impressive 16.5 points per game, Pierce has never averaged less than 18.3 points in any single season.

    For his career, he has a whopping 22,591 points, which has him at 25th of all time.

    Yet as of late, what gives him the argument for being in the top five is the fact that he still anchors a championship contender. "The Truth" was key in the Celtics grabbing a 3-2 lead over the Miami Heat, leading the team in scoring for the regular season. Time and time again, Pierce proved he was as clutch a performer as there is in the game. He is the staple of this organization.

    A 2008 championship and the simple fact the Celtics have been top-five contenders the last five seasons is more than enough to give this player the praise he deserves. Give it up for the No. 4 SF in basketball.

No. 3: Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks

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    2011-12 By the Numbers (Per Game)

    Points: 22.6

    Assists: 3.6

    Rebounds: 6.3

     

    Carmelo Anthony came back from injury last season, and has since played some of the best basketball of his career.

    In the last month of the regular season, Anthony averaged 29.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and just 2.5 turnovers per game. He did all this while shooting a remarkable 49.5 percent from the floor and 46 percent from three-point range.

    He has done just the same for Team USA, stepping it up offensively along with Kevin Durant. The two of them had arguably the best Olympics of any player on the team, and Anthony was red hot from the field throughout.

    The biggest hit on Anthony's game is the fact he isn't able to make his own team a championship contender. Next season it will be interesting to see where the Knicks end up, as 'Melo is playing some of the best ball of his entire tenure in the league.

No. 2: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    2011-12 By the Numbers (Per Game)

    Points: 28.0

    Assists: 3.5

    Rebounds: 8.0

     

    If not for the force that is LeBron James, Kevin Durant is a surefire No. 1 in the league at the SF spot.

    Durant has led the league in scoring the last three seasons, and the scoring-title winner is just 23 years of age and five years into his NBA career.

    But what makes Durant, a 2012 NBA finalist, all the more special, is the fact that he is as clutch and efficient as they come.

    In the 2012 postseason, it was Durant hitting tough shots late in games time and time again, and he was the very reason OKC took down San Antonio and the L.A. Lakers so comfortably. There was no better player in the fourth quarter going into the NBA Finals.

    His efficiency was also incredible, and this was especially the case during the regular season. He shot a whopping 49.6 percent in the playoffs. Not only is that a great percentage, but it also included deep three-point shots and tough midrange jumpers. Durant is a shot creator and a plentiful shooter; the type of player who would normally rarely shoot better than 44-to-45 percent.

    Easily surpassing Carmelo Anthony, rest assured Durant has earned himself the No. 2 spot on the countdown.

No. 1: LeBron James, Miami Heat

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    2011-12 By the Numbers (Per Game)

    Points: 27.1

    Assists: 6.2

    Rebounds: 7.9

     

    As great as Kevin Durant is, LeBron James is hands-down the best small forward in basketball.

    Make no mistake about it, James is far more talented than the rest, and it has shown recently. He was the NBA's MVP, an NBA champion, an NBA Finals MVP and an Olympic gold medalist in three months' time.

    Talk about a mouthful.

    He has stuck it to every doubter and every non-believer there could possibly be (yes, including Skip Bayless). James is a triple-double threat each time he takes the floor, a leader on the hardwood when his team needs him and, more than anything else, now officially a winner.

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