Small-Ball: The Top Small Forwards of the NBA Playoffs

Sean StancillSenior Writer IMay 16, 2009

Only six teams are left in the NBA's annual rendition know as the Playoffs and as two Game Sevens conclude only four will remain after Sunday. The postseason is littered with talent on every team at every position.

However, the numbers pinpoint that Small Forward  is clearly one of the most important out there on the floor and without a solid 3 your team won't get as far.
The examples are everywhere and in this piece I will highlight few and there contributions to their respective teams.
Here are the Top Three Small Forwards of the NBA Playoffs:

LeBron James
James was deemed the league's Most Valuable Player after leading the Cavs' to a franchise best 66-win season and the Top overall seed in the Eastern Conference. He finished second in Defensive Player of The Year voting behind Dwight Howard and earned a spot on the NBA's All-Defensive First Team.
In addition, James was a unanimous pick on the NBA's All-First Team and so far has gotten the Cleveland Cavaliers' off to a 8-0 start (the only two sweeps in the playoffs belong to LeBron and Co.) in the postseason sans Allen Iverson and a banged up Atlanta Hawks squad.
He's averaging 32.9 points, 9.8 rebounds, 6.8 assists, and 2 steals per game in Cleveland's eight postseason meetings and looks to be in prime position to make his 2nd Finals' appearance in his first 6 seasons.
His next opponent will be determined on Sunday as the Celtics and the Magic will battle for a berth in the Eastern Conference Finals at the Garden.

Carmelo Anthony
Melo has averaged over 20 points per game in each of his first six seasons as a pro and the best dual threat in the Western Conference north of Kobe Bryant.
In addition, Melo is beginning to learn to play defense thanks to the teachings of Team USA, and is developing into the superstar that everyone envisioned of him when he was selected third overall out of Syracuse after leading them to a National Championship as a freshman.
He averaged 30 points in their five-game demolition of the Dallas Mavericks and sank the game-winning three from the right elbow in Game Three that spelled the end for Dallas and the beginning of advancement for the Nuggets.
Carmelo is also becoming more committed on the defensive end, a trend we haven't seen prior to this season. 
An even scarier thought: What if Anthony realizes his potential and actually becomes a true two-way player in the future?
But back to his endless offensive abilities Anthony likes to operate preferably from the elbows or from the the top of the key which gives him the advantage when taking his man off the dribble and creates the right angle when getting to the basket.
If that is negated by weak-side help, Anthony executes a few dribbles, takes a sweet pull-up jumper to soften up the defense which opens up the rest of his game.
He will be awaiting the winner of the Lakers-Rockets series  and looks poised to make a run towards his first NBA Finals' appearance with the Denver Nuggets.

Paul Pierce
Pierce has to shoulder the load since Kevin Garnett went down with an untimely knee injury first suffered against the Utah Jazz back in the regular season, and has answered the call like the eight-time All Star and reigning Finals' MVP that he is.
Since February 19 (day of Garnett's injury) Pierce has scored in double-figures in all but four games and has recorded 24 games with 20+ points in the Big Tickets' absence.
With the Celtics' facing an all-important Game Seven against the Orlando Magic, Pierce must continue to handle the ball well in iso-set situations and use the added attention he accumulates from the defense to distribute the ball to his open mates.
In his last two games, Pierce has 13 assists to three turnovers and continues to help Boston's efforts with 18 rebounds in that same span. 
In the Celtics' five Game Sevens in the past two years, he's scored 112 points including last year's memorable 41-point outburst that sent LeBron and the Cavs' on Summer Vacation.
Honorable mention goes to Shane Battier, Hedo Turkoglu, and Ron Artest as well.