Top Ten Small Forwards in the NBA

Top Ten Small Forwards in the NBA
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The small forward position is the most diverse position in basketball. The position requires the ball handling and playmaking of a guard but also the interior force of a big man. Because of these diverse skills, the small forward position has dominated the NBA over the past decade, with the past 8 finals MVPs playing the position (at least at the time). But in 2020 the position has weakened quite a bit. Kevin Durant has been injured all year, LeBron and Jayson Tatum moved positions to fill team wholes, and Giannis Antetokounmpo moved down to the four a couple of years ago to accommodate the NBA’s growing movement towards smaller lineups. However the position is still full of talent. Only active players in the 2019-2020 NBA season count, so a player like Kevin Durant will be excluded form this list. Without further a do, the Top Ten Small Forwards in the NBA. And yes, LeBron could be counted as a SF, but he you can say that for almost every position. He is not on this list.

Jaylen Brown against the New York Knicks

10. Gordon Hayward

17.3 PPG|4.1 APG|6.5 RPG|.563 eFG%|.138 DEF WS|43-21 Record

Former all-star Gordon Hayward has a rough couple over years, but seems to have gotten back on track this year. After having a terrible injury in the first quarter of opening day in 2018, he missed all of that season and had a weak year last year. But this year Hayward has added back some strength and athleticism and his scoring has comeback to almost pre-injury levels. Hayward scores using a combination shooting and interior scoring. He is relatively athletic so he can finish at the rim, and he gets space to blow by because of his shooting and strong teammates who pull defenders away. Hayward also adds quite a bit of value as a defender because of his great build and effort. Overall, Haywards scoring numbers are kind of inflated by the fact that he gets lots of isolations and easy scores because of the gravity of teammates, but Gordon Hayward still adds lots of value as a scoring option and as a defender to a championship level team.

9. Bojan Bogdanovic

20.2 PPG|2.1 APG|4.1 RPG|.548 eFG%|.105 DEF WS|41-23 Record

Former Indiana Pacer Bojan Bogdanovic has made a nice career fro himself over the past couple years. Three years ago he played great defense on LeBron James and helped bring the eventual eastern conference champions to seven games. Last year he was the leading scorer on a Pacers team which got swept by the Celtics. Because of his play in that series, he got a bag from his current team, the Utah Jazz, in the offseason, and he has more than played up to his contract. Because of Mike Conley having a very disappointing season, the Jazz were in massive need for a secondary scorer, and Bojan stepped up. He has been scoring his career high points per game, using mostly perimeter scoring to make up that sum. He doesn’t provide much other value on offense besides scoring, but his elite shooting provides a lot of spacing for a Gobert-Mitchell pick and roll. Bojan isn’t an amazing defender but definitely adds positive value on that end. Overall, Bojan Bogdanovic is a great NBA player who adds a lot of value to a contending team.

8. Tobias Harris

19.4 PPG|3.2 APG|6.8 RPG|.528 eFG%|.122 DEF WS|39-26 Record

Tobias Harris has jumped around quite a bit in his career, but it seems like he has found his long term home in Philadelphia, and it can’t be understated how important he is to the 76ers. The 76ers have a desperate need for shooting, because they have Ben Simmons, and Tobias is a great shooter, being his main skill. Toby is also a great midrange shooter, reigning in shots using his six foot eight height which is tall for the position. Harris is a neutral defender I’d say, but it doesn’t really matter because he plays with so many great defenders on his team. Tobias isn’t any sort of playmaker, but again it doesn’t matter because he plays with Ben Simmons. Tobias Harris isn’t the kind of player who can be the top player on a good team in 2020, but him playing well couldn’t be more crucial to a Philadelphia 76ers finals run.

7. Jaylen Brown

20.4 PPG|2.2 APG|6.4 RPG|.559 eFG%|.119 DEF WS|43-21 Record

Former third overall pick Jaylen Brown, has been having the best season of his career so far. JB has grown tremendously this year as a ball handler, which makes scoring much easier than it had been for him earlier in his career. Jaylen is also an incredible athlete, which helps him score at the rim. Jaylen is also a good but not great shooter, which I think if he improved on he could become a transcendent offensive player. Jaylen is also a great defender. He is very athletic and has great instincts, as well as massive size, which helps JB be a great defender. Brown also employs a strong off-ball game which will be very useful in the future considering he plays next to such great scorers and playmakers. Jaylen’s biggest weakness as a player is his subpar playmaking, which is a problem considering that Jaylen’s natural position is shooting guard. Jaylen Brown is a great player but he needs some improvement if he is gonna be a second option on a future Celtics championship team.

6. DeMar DeRozan

22.2 PPG|5.6 APG|5.6 RPG|.530 eFG%|.049 DEF WS|27-36 Record

After being traded away from the Raptors, DeMar DeRozan has seen a decline in his production since arriving in San Antonio. However, DeMar is still great player. DeRozan’s greatest strength as a player is his incredible midrange game. DeRozan is one of the best midrange shooters of all time, scoring at a high volume there. DeRozan is also a very athletic player which helps him score at the rim at a high rate. DeRozan’s biggest weakness as a player is his lack of a three point jumpshot. Throughout his career he has been asked to shoot from that range, but once he got to San Antonio Coach Popovich cut it off. DeRozan is a strong playmaker, which comes from the fact that he played shooting guard in Toronto. DeRozan isn’t a good defender, but is definitely better than the numbers make him look. Overall, DeMar DeRozan is still a great player but is definitely showing decline.

5. Brandon Ingram

24.3 PPG|4.3 APG|6.3 RPG|.534 eFG%|.078 DEF WS|28-36 Record

After having a slow start to his career, Brandon Ingram has made a massive leap this year making his first ever all-star game. Ingram’s biggest leap that he made this year was in his three point shooting. In prior years with the lakers, BI had struggled from beyond the arc shooting only 33% from deep last year on only 1.8 attempts a game, but this year he increased both his percentage and volume to 38.7% from deep on 6.3 attempts which is vastly improved from prior years. Ingram also improved in the areas he was already strong in, like midrange shooting, finishing, and playmaking. However, Ingram still has room to improve. I think he would benefit a lot from adding an off ball game, which will be very useful in the future considering he plays with superstar power forward Zion Williamson. Ingram also has lots of room to improve as a defender. He isn’t very aware or tenacious, but that will come with experience, and one day I think BI will be a good defender because of his length and athleticism. I think he’ll make the kind of jump Kevin Durant made on the defensive end later in his career because of Brandon’s similar frame. To me, the thing that is most promising about Ingram is only 22 which means he still has lots of time to develop his wholes in his game. Overall, I think Brandon Ingram will be the NBA’s most improved player and has long and great career ahead of him.

4. Khris Middleton

21.1 PPG|4.1 APG|6.2 RPG|.577 eFG%|.172 DEF WS|53-12 Record

The two time all-star Khris Middleton has quietly become an amazing player over the past couple years. Khris Middleton has grown into a great scorer, which works great next to Giannis Antetokounmpo. Middleton is a great shooter, which creates lots of room for the Greek Freak to operate. But Khris wouldn’t be an all-star if he was just a shooter. Middleton isn’t a great ball handler but he can still get open enough to shoot midrange shots, which he is shooting 51.55% from, the best in the league this season. Middleton also has a strong post game, which is another way that he scores. Putting this all together, Middleton is one of the most efficient scorers of all time, almost shooting at a 50;40;90 spread. Khris is also a good defender, but definitely not as good as the numbers make him look. Middleton probably isn’t a good enough player to be the best player on a competitive team, but because he is on the Bucks he isn’t being asked to be. Khris Middleton is a great player, probably not the tenth best player in the NBA like Bleacher Report says, but he is still a top tier small forward in the NBA.

3. Jimmy Butler

20.2 PPG|6.1 APG|6.6 RPG|.474 eFG%|.103 DEF WS|41-24 Record

After two awkward seasons in Minnesota and Philadelphia, Jimmy Butler decided to sign with the Miami Heat this offseason. The Heat were not expected to do much, but because of the emergence of Bam Adebayo, Duncan Robinson, and the great rookie years of Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro, as well as the excellent play of Jimmy Butler, the Miami Heat have been playing amazing and are sitting in the fourth seed going into the bubble. The main reason that all of these young players had breakout seasons is the example Jimmy Butler set. Jimmy would show up at team practices at the three in the morning, setting a great example for how hard all of these young players have to work to succeed in the NBA. Jimmy’s best asset as a player is the incredible leadership that he has brought to this Heat team. But Jimmy isn’t just a locker room guy. He is also a great player. Jimmy Buckets brings lots of value on the offensive end, being able to score at all three levels. Jimmy is also the most talented passer on this list. Butler probably isn’t good enough to be the best offensive player on a championship team, but Jimmy still provides lots value on the offensive end. However Jimmy can be the best defensive player on a championship team. Jimmy is big at six foot eight, is fast enough to keep up with anyone, and has great instincts and is very tenacious. Overall, Jimmy Butler is one of the best small forwards in the NBA.

2. Paul George

21.0 PPG|3.9 APG|5.7 RPG|.530 eFG%|.112 DEF WS|44-20 Record

Coming off the best season of his career where he averaged 28 points per game, four assists, and finished third in defensive player of the year voting, Paul George had to make a big adjustment when he was traded to the already stacked Clippers. PG13 had a hard time adjusting early because he missed the first month of the NBA, but since then he has adjusted better to the Clippers system. Paul George is a very athletic player, and a great shooter so he has the ability to play well off Kawhi Leonard, but the move to Los Angeles has hurt Paul George in one major way. Paul’s strengths offensively are very similar to the Leonard’s, but they are just a little bit worse. The pair also plays the same position which makes PG13 have to move up or down a position quite often which can be awkward sometimes. Paul George is also an amazing defender just like Kawhi, so George will often be guarding the opposing teams second best perimeter player, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Paul, also like Leonard, isn’t a good playmaker which is a problem especially on a team which has a massive need for playmaking. Overall, Paul George is kinda like a Kawhi Leonard lite, but Young Trece is still a top tier small forward in 2020.

1. Kawhi Leonard

26.9 PPG|5.0 APG|7.3 RPG|.521 eFG%|.135 DEF WS|44-20 Record

The reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard has completely reinvented himself since his exodus from San Antonio. After spending a season in Toronto in which he load managed his way through the regular season, he then had an all time great playoff run in which he lead the Raptors to their first ever championship. Then, he packed his bags in the offseason and headed to his hometown in sunny Los Angeles. But he didn’t sign with the historic and already great Lakers. Instead, he signed with the Clippers which rocked the NBA to its core. Along with fellow elite small forward Paul George, he completely turned the franchise into a contender overnight. He was able to turn the franchise around because he is such a great player. His all time great man defense is his main skill. His defense is so good because of his amazing physical skills and tenacity. Kawhi is very fast and has extremely long arms and massive hands which allow him to keep up with anyone. He also is very tenacious and aggressive which will be important against some of the great players he will have to guard in a potential Clippers finals run. Kawhi very occasionally has mental lapses but overall is an amazing defender. Kawhi is also an excellent isolation scorer. He isn’t the greatest ball handler but he is very athletic but his midrange shot is Michael Jordan level. His scoring is very Michael Jordan like in general. But the way he differs from Mike, is his three point shooting. Kawhi’s shot isn’t Steph Curry level but his scoring from deep is still great. The Board Man’s biggest weakness as a player is his subpar playmaking, but because of the Clippers need for a volume playmaker Kawhi has made a mini jump this year. Overall Kawhi Leonard is by far the best small forward in 2020. Kawhi is number 1 on Top Ten Small Forwards in the NBA

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