The athletic wing player. Whoever lines up at the small forward position has the unenviable task of guarding some of the league’s premier players. But who are the best small forwards at the moment?
Chandler Parsons has been instrumental for the Houston Rockets. (Photo: thepanamerican).
10. Chandler Parsons, Houston Rockets
In a league filled with overpaid players, it is remarkable to learn that Chandler Parsons is only earning $888,000 this season. Parsons is averaging a very solid 15.2 points a game–on a team that includes volume scorer James Harden. His shooting is vital to the Rockets team, 38.6 percent from beyond the arc is not only very respectable, but it opens up the floor for Harden and Jeremy Lin to penetrate. He’s ever improving on the defensive side too. A hard-working player with all the tools to continue to flourish in a young, exciting team.
Kawhi Leonard is the next big star in San Antonio. (Photo: Mark Runyon, Basketball Schedule)
9. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
While some find it hard finding a role on an accomplished, veteran team, the second-year man from San Diego State has taken to it like a duck to water. Kawhi Leonard’s biggest contributions come defensively; he’s one of the top perimeter defenders in the league. He’ll often guard the opponents best player–he’s that good. On the offensive side, Leonard is finding his feet. An impressive field goal percentage of .493 gives the stacked roster of San Antonio another option.
The best perimeter defender in the league is Andre Iguodala of the Denver Nuggets. (Photo by Howard Cheng/Creative Commons)
8. Andre Iguodala, Denver Nuggets
Whereas Kawhi Leonard is one of the top perimeter defenders in the league, Andre Iguodala is the best. Acquired in a four-team trade from the Philadelphia 76ers last summer, Iguodala is terrifyingly athletic and a great finisher. His free-throw numbers are inconsistent (.578 is poor) and his shooting is very streaky (.318 from downtown), but he’s a very solid player and one that most teams would take in a heartbeat. There’s a reason he went to the Olympic games.
Rudy Gay is the main man in Toronto, but can he lead the Raptors back to the playoffs? (Photo Credit: Keith Allison, Flickr.com)
7. Rudy Gay, Toronto Raptors
Rudy Gay is a player that always divides opinion: statistically he’s inefficient, takes some bad shots and holds the ball too long. On the other hand, he is a long, athletic player that can catch fire and take a game over. Now playing for the Raptors, Gay will get the chance to show his former employers what they are missing. I expect to see the Raptors back in the low seedings of the playoffs with Gay as the franchise star.
A two-time all-star, Luol Deng is a coach’s dream. Photo Credit: Keith Allison, Flickr.com
6. Luol Deng, Chicago Bulls
For a Derrick Rose-less Bulls team, Luol Deng has had to shoulder more of a responsibility along with Joakim Noah. He’s done that. Deng has had to play 39.1 minutes per game–the most in the NBA. He also spends most of the game guarding the other team’s best player. Because of these two factors it came of no surprise to me that Deng made his second consecutive All-Star team. His offensive game needs some refinement (.303 from 3-point range could be improved) but it’s of little doubt that Deng is a vital cog in the wheel that is the Chicago Bulls. A coach’s dream.
A small forward or a power forward? Whatever he is, Josh Smith is good at it. (Photo by Keith Allison/Flickr.com)
5. Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks
I was torn as to include Josh Smith as a small forward, but his love for the perimeter jump shot and recent playing time at the 3 meant I felt obliged to include him. Smith is in his contract year and is certainly playing like it; 17.3 points per game and 8.6 rebounds are not career high statistics for J-Smoove, but there very steady numbers and ones that should see him fetch a near-max contract come the off-season. He can feel rightly upset he missed out on an All-Star berth, too.
A re-invigorated Paul Pierce–how far can he take the Boston Celtics? Photo Credit: Keith Allison, Flickr.com
4. Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics
When All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo went down with a torn ACL, many (including myself) wrote off the Boston Celtics. Since then, Pierce has taken over and shown flashes of his old self. Pierce has been running a tidy pick-and-roll combination with Kevin Garnett and his additional time spent with the ball in hand can be seen through his impressive 4.6 assists per game. Scoring has always come naturally for Pierce and this year is no different: 18.7 points per game from .426 percent shooting is no mean feat. And then there’s clutch situations; there are only a few players you would rather have with the ball in their hand in the fourth quarter of a close game; a future Hall of Famer.
Will Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks ever win a ring? Photo Credit: Bridget Samuels, Flickr.com
3. Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
The big player in the Big Apple, Carmelo Anthony has been on a tear this season, guiding the Knicks to the second seeding in the Eastern Conference. After being considered for the MVP early in the season, Melo has dropped off a little, but he’s still having a great year. This is finally the year for Anthony to break out and get past the first round of the playoffs; it’s long overdue. His 28.2 points per game is a vast improvement on the 22 points per game he averaged in the 2011-12 season.
Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder is perhaps the most likeable superstar in the NBA. Photo Credit: Keith Allison, Flickr.com
2. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
Kevin Durant is a scoring machine. We’ve heard it countless times, yet it rings so true. Perhaps the most most deadly scorer since Michael Jordan, Durant is once again having a sterling season for a James Harden-less Thunder side. With Harden gone, Durant has rounded off his overall game–improving his facilitating. KD now averages 4.7 assists per game, a leap from last season’s numbers. It’s only a matter of time before he wins the MVP award.
Your 2013 MVP, LeBron James of the Miami Heat. Photo Credit: Mark Runyon, Basketball Schedule
1. LeBron James, Miami Heat
Is there any more to say on LeBron James? He is the best player in the world–without doubt. James is well on the way to his fourth Most Valuable Player award and looks to be set to defend his NBA championship, too. A freakish athlete, LeBron gets up and down the floor quicker than most and is stronger than most–a simply deadly combination. Add to that his high basketball IQ and unselfishness and it’s easy to see why he’s a three-time MVP winner. Miami is flying and LeBron is the team’s best scorer, rebounder, passer and–as we learned from the Miami Heat’s “Harlem Shake” video–dancer. Comparisons with Michael Jordan are rife, but I see a lot of Magic Johnson in the 28-year-old, too. What is certain is that LeBron James will go down in history as one of the greatest to ever take to the hardwood.