Ranking the NBA's Top 10 Small Forwards: Is LeBron James Still the Best?

Bob Sun Contributor IIIJanuary 12, 2013

Ranking the NBA's Top 10 Small Forwards: Is LeBron James Still the Best?

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    This generation of small forwards has been nothing short of amazing.

    The two best players in the world are small forwards, and there are many future Hall of Famers in the mix of today's small forwards.

    These include Paul Pierce, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, and Kevin Durant, among others.

    From veterans to youngsters, here is the list of the top 10 NBA small forwards.

    Please feel free to put your comments below.

Honorable Mentions

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    Shawn Marion, Dallas Mavericks

    Shawn Marion's defense is vital to the Mavericks, and the former All-Star is still putting up a decent 8.3 rebounds per game and 10.0 points per game. He is a shadow of what he once was, but is still a good player.  

    Danny Granger, Indiana Pacers

    Granger was the Pacers' leading scorer last season, but has been injured for all of this season. When he returns he will climb the rankings. 

    Chandler Parsons, Houston Rockets

    Parsons is a young small forward with a lot of potential, but his inconsistency prevented him from making the cut.

    Andrei Kirilenko, Minnesota Timberwolves

    Kirilenko has been phenomenal this season, being the Timberwolves' defensive anchor and offensive anchor when Kevin Love, Chase Budinger, Brandon Roy, and Ricky Rubio were injured. He led them to a good record, but has struggled to mesh with Kevin Love.

10. Nicolas Batum, Portland Trail Blazers

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    There was a crazy bidding war between the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Portland Trail Blazers this summer. It was about Nicolas Batum.

    The Blazers will give him $46 million by 2016. That seemed like a lot of money for a guy that didn't even average 14 points per game last year. But now, the Frenchman is averaging nearly 17 points, two steals, a block, five assists and six boards per game. That's pretty good.

    Batum is a solid all-around player whose presence is felt on both ends of the floor. He does have some issues with punching below the belt, but overall, Batum is a solid player.

    He is a rangy forward who can make shots, defend and score in transition. To be honest, I don't think that he's ever going to live up to the potential some stamped him with early in his career, but those have more to do with lofty expectations than his talent and work. 

    Batum is a great player and the Blazers would be lost without him.

9. Danillo Gallinari, Denver Nuggets

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    The Denver Nuggets have a great group of young players with tons of potential. Danilo Gallinari is one of them.

    At 24 years old, Galo has formed a solid pic-and-roll with Ty Lawson, and is currently averaging 16.2 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. He is improving every year and may be able to crack a top five small forward list in a couple of years.

    Since being traded to Denver, Galo has shown he can be a great player in the league. This season, the Italian is proving that he is a top 10 small forward in the NBA. He is having a great season and is leading the Nuggets in scoring. He may contend for an All-Star spot, but will not land one. I see one in his future some day.

8. Gerald Wallace, Brooklyn Nets

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    Gerald Wallace is averaging 10.1 points per game, 3.1 assists per game, and 5.7 rebounds per game. That alone is not enough to make the list.

    It's Wallace's defense that gives him the eight spot.

    His aggressiveness can be seen every time he walks onto the court. Just look at the picture above.

    Unfortunately, Wallace has not had enough opportunities to be on a winning team. He spent his first nine-and-a-half seasons with the Charlotte Bobcats and Sacramento Kings, both cellar dwellers in their respective conferences.

    For the first time in his career, Wallace has been on a team that can potentially get to the finals. This is his opportunity to shine.

    Wallace is a pest, who can score and crash the glass when needed. He is a versatile player that can do a little bit of everything. He is easily the eighth-best small forward in basketball.

7. Luol Deng, Chicago Bulls

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    Luol Deng has been an integral part of a Rose-less Chicago Bulls so far.

    His defense and ability to score late in games has helped them defeat contenders like New York, Boston and Miami. 

    The Britain native is averaging 17.4 points per game, 2.6 assists per game and 6.8 rebounds per game. He is reminding the world why he was an All-Star last year, and is contending for a spot this year. He is leading the Bulls in scoring, and is the best SF defender not named Andre Iguodala.

    Like all the other Bulls, Deng has stepped up in the absence of MVP Derrick Rose, and put in a lot of effort to keep this team on the path to contention. The seventh best SF in basketball is an integral part of a title contender.

6. Rudy Gay, Memphis Grizzlies

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    Rudy Gay has been fantastic this season. 

    He is a reason that the Grizzlies are winning and is a very good offensive player, averaging 17.8 points per game, a number that would be higher if not for the scoring of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.

    His perimeter defense is also vastly underrated with a 1.4 steals per game average. He would get more love for his efforts on that end of the floor if not for having to share the spotlight with All-NBA defenders Mike Conley Jr. and Tony Allen.

5. Andre Iguodala, Denver Nuggets

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    Andre Iguodala is an All-NBA defender, an All-Star and one of the few men who can slow down LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Kobe Bryant.

    He is also a very good offensive player, attacking the glass when needed and stretching the floor with his decent three-point shooting.

    He is a leader on the hardwood, despite not being a scoring threat night in and night out.

    His defense is by far the best on the Nuggets, leading their D every day and their offense some of the days. He is also 28 years old and is entering his prime.

    His scoring is not outstanding and the Nuggets D hasn't skyrocketed since his arrival, but he shines on both ends of the court and is essential to the Nuggets. 

4. Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics

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    Pal Pierce is an All-Star, an NBA Champion and a vital part of the Boston Celtics each year that he's been in the league.

    He is having another great season, ranking 11th in the league in scoring and fourth among small forwards, Pierce is as consistent and clutch as they come.

    The Celtics have won four in a row after starting the season 14-17, and appear to be back in contention. This could not have been done without Paul Pierce, still an All-Star at 35 years old. Despite not getting into any All-NBA first teams, When Paul Pierce retires he may be named the greatest Celtic ever not named Bill Russell or Larry Bird.  

    He may go down with the most points in team history. He has never averaged less than 16 points a season, and there's no reason that that should change. He has 23,275 career points, good for 23rd of all time.

    But what sets him apart from the other veterans is that his team is still a contender. The fact that the Celtics have been a top five team since Kevin Garnett came to town is enough to give him his respect. Give it up for the fourth best small forward in all of basketball.

3. Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks

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    Carmelo Anthony is leading the oldest team in the league to its best start since 1997.

    He is the best Knicks player since Patrick Ewing.

    Melo is second in the league in scoring at 29.0 points per game. He is also playing the best defense of his career, as demonstrated by this block. He works hard and grew with his time with team USA this past summer. He is the center of the Knicks. Everything on offense revolves around him, and everybody else knows their place around him. 

    Melo is arguably the league's deadliest scorer. He is a top-five player until Dwight Howard returns to form and filled in great at power forward in the absence of Amar'e Stoudemire. Anthony is the heart and soul of the Knicks and is essential to their playoff plans. 

    Thanks to him, the Knicks may finally get past the first round this year.

2. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Kevin Durant would be a lock for MVP, best small forward, best young player in the game, and best player in the game if not for the otherworldly talents of the man in front of him.

    He won the scoring title three years in a row, but will probably concede that title to Kobe Bryant this year.

    He is also just 24 and has yet to hit his prime, which is scary. He is already the second best player in the world. Imagine what he could do at 28 or 29.

    The Durant is playing some of the most efficient ball of his career. He has joined the exclusive 50-40-90 club and is third in the league in scoring behind Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony.

    He is extremely clutch and has career highs in steals, blocks, and assists and is within 0.2 of his career high in rebounds. He is leading the Thunder, a top two (if not top one) team in the NBA and is still a contender,  despite an upset by the Washington Wizards.

    Until LeBron starts to decline, Durant will be forced to live with being number two.

LeBron James, Miami Heat

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    LeBron James is still the best basketball player in the world.

    Yes, the Durant is having the best season of his career, but LeBron is just a more complete player.

    He leads Durant in dimes, boards, FG%, turnovers, and personal fouls and is within 0.4 in blocks and 0.1 in steals.

    He is also an All-NBA defender. He guards everyone from Rajon Rondo to Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant to LaMarcus Aldridge. The Heat's defensive woes have not been because of him.

    Since last summer, LeBron has added a skyhook and has had some clutch performances, something that many critics said he lacks.

    Durant is a better scorer, but LeBron is the best player in the NBA and a top-15 player of all time.

    "The King" is a dominant presence on both ends of the court. He will lead his team to the Eastern Conference Finals at the very least and the championship in a best-case scenario. He is, in my opinion, the greatest small forward in the NBA.