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NBA's Best Small Forwards Rankings for the 2014-15 Season

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Sonics Rising staff (and guests) weigh in on who we think the best NBA small forwards to be.

He might have lost the MVP last season, but LeBron James is still the best small forward in the NBA.
He might have lost the MVP last season, but LeBron James is still the best small forward in the NBA.
Buda Mendes

The prototypical players in the NBA used to be shooting guards. Michael Jordan, Clyde Drexler, Tracy McGrady, Kobe Bryant, I can go on. Small forwards were usually left to pick up the pieces on defense, using their versatile skills as a secondary ball-handler or making their bones as a secondary scorer, night after night. All guts, no glamour.

Ask Scottie Pippen about it.

They ended up as some of the most underrated players of my young life. Along with Pippen, Dominique Wilkins will never get his just due. Grant Hill's greatness almost never gets mentioned anymore. Jamal Mashburn, Detlef Schrempf, Glen Rice, etc.. Underrated.

Not anymore. The stars are still on the wings, they're just taller, faster, stronger, and, as it always has been, versatile.

The rankings are a consensus of the SonicsRising crew and a few quests. Do you agree? Disagree? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Tier 5: The Outliers

Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
30
hollis

Hollis Thompson
25 30 29.3
Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
29
wes johnson

Wesley Johnson
17 30 28.1
Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank

28
pj

P.J. Tucker
25 29 27.3

These three players could be out of the league tomorrow and you wouldn't know the difference. They also could have lasting places as role players on contending teams and you also wouldn't know the difference. Tucker has established himself as stout defender on the wings, with an improving three-point shot from the corners, but he's limited beyond that role.

Johnson possess more of the "3" in the 3-and-D type of small forward needed in today's NBA. He seems to be at least finding a niche beyond his failed expectations as a fourth overall pick. Hollis Thompson may have the most upside of the three as a second-year player with an already consistent outside shot.

Or they could be out of the league in two years and no one will think the wiser.

Tier 4: The Specialists (except Josh Smith)

Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
27
barnes

Matt Barnes
19 28 23.4
Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
26
henderson

Gerald Henderson
19 29 22.8
Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
25

C.J. Miles
11 27 22.8
Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
24
jsmoove

Josh Smith
10 29 22.6
Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
23
dunleavy

Mike Dunleavy
13 27 21.1

How Josh Smith falls this far in any ranking is an observation of two things. 1. He shouldn't have been playing small forward last season (or any season). 2. The majority of people are still confused on who he is as a player (take note that his highest rank and lowest rank have the widest spectrum of any player in any of our rankings).

Smith was horrible as a small forward last season, but if his circle isn't forced into such a square hole? We may still have the makings of an All-Star forward.

The rest of the group is comprised of some pretty standards specialists. Shooters (Dunleavy, C.J. Miles), a defender (Barnes), and a inefficient scorer (Henderson). Gerald may be the only one of this tier than probably belongs in the next.. Though with the incoming Lance Stephenson starting at the shooting guard position and fellow forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist finding a jumper, Henderson may be relegated to the sixth man gunner role.

Tier 3: The Indispensables

Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
22
vc

Vince Carter
14 26 20.0
Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
21
greek freak

Giannis Antetokounmpo
14 26 20.0
Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
20
harris

Tobias Harris
11 28 19.7
Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
19
tyreke

Tyreke Evans
11 26 18.8
Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
18
demarre

DeMarre Carroll
12 25 18.7
Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
17
uncle jeff

Jeff Green
12 22 18.3
Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
16
ak47

Andrei Kirilenko
12 24 17.8
Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
15
ymca

Paul Pierce
12 26 17.5

These are the players that play key roles on their teams. Roles that are not easily replaced by anyone else on their franchise's roster.

You have veterans that fill essential gaps in their teams schemes: Let it be Pierce replacing the departed Trevor Ariza's defense, outside shooting, and giving Washington another ball-handler next to John Wall. Vince Carter infusing Memphis with some much-needed outside shooting. Kirilenko with back-line defense next to a broken down Brook Lopez and an old and broken down Kevin Garnett. Carroll surprised many last year with his outside shooting, hustle, and defense, a vital cog in the Atlanta roster.

The young guys in this group are in the position to raise the ceiling on their franchise's future (Harris, Antetokounmpo) or after more than a few years, prove they are/were worthy of their high draft status (Evans, Green).

Tier 2: The Gatekeepers

Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
14
ariza

Trevor Ariza
11 18 14.0
Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
13
gordon

Gordon Hayward
6 26 13.3
Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
12
gallo

Danilo Gallinari
8 22 13.3
Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
11
wiggins

Andrew Wiggins
6 24 13.2
Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
10
ross

Terrence Ross
8 25 13.0
Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
9
deng

Luol Deng
6 26 11.7

If these players have big years, then you're talking about teams making a lot of noise. Can Houston stay a contender after replacing the loss of key role players (Omer Asik, Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons) with Ariza? Can Hayward be the player that is worthy of the max-level contract he signed this past summer? How healthy is Gallo? And can he finally transform into the All-Star talent he is capable of? Is Wiggins a once-in-a-generation talent that can make Minnesota fans forget Kevin Love? Can Ross be that 3-and-D perimeter player that Toronto needs to make the leap into contender status? How much does Luol Deng have left in the tank after being ran into the ground in Chicago?

A positive answer to any of the questions can literally change the very trajectory of said players respective franchise.

Tier 1: The Elite

Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
8
iggy

Andre Iguodala
5 13 8.8
Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
7
gay

Rudy Gay
5 10 7.5
Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
6
batum

Nicolas Batum
4 9 6.3
Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
5
chandler

Chandler Parsons
4 8 5.7
Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
4
kawhi

Kawhi Leonard
3 6 4.1
Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
3
melo

Carmelo Anthony
3 4 3.2
Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
2
kd

Kevin Durant
2 2 2.0
Rank Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank Average Rank
1
lebron

LeBron James
1 1 1.0

As if you would be surprised. LeBron James and Kevin Durant will be numbers 1 and 2, until they say other wise.

On the other hand. Iguodala is starting to show signs of slippage due to age, it'll be interesting to see if his game, that's so dependent on his athleticism will begin to fade this year.

Batum, Parsons, and Leonard are very interesting cases. Where are their ceilings as players? At 25, 25, and 23 years old they have yet to hit their primes.

Batum averaged 13.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 5.1 assists last season, including 16 double-doubles (as many as he recorded in his previous five season combined). He capped of his summer by dropping 35 and 27 points in the FIBA World Cup. The questions are arising: No, he may not be a dominate scorer consistently, but how good can he be?

Parsons having signed a new contract with the Dallas Mavericks is surely going to be getting plenty of touches as one of the main options in an offense with Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis. Will he develop as a better defender? Can he shoulder more attention by defenses now that he's being paid like he will? Parsons may be setting himself up to be the face of franchise in a few years if he keeps trending up.

The most intrigue rests down in San Antonio. Leonard was named the Finals MVP at 22 years old. 22 years old. He doesn't have a definitive off-the-dribble game needed to be identified as a star, yet he's the third youngest Finals MVP ever. He came into the league a defender and energy guy and has already developed a consistent outside shot and possess a high basketball IQ. The sky is the limit, especially with Greg Popovich in his corner.

Carmelo Anthony will probably never see higher than a third place ranking in his own position list, but he's still as dynamic a scorer as ever and should be that much more effective in Phil Jackson's triangle offense. At 30 years old his defense will never be better, but at least you know what you're going to get.

Will Kevin Durant's Jones fracture injury (expected to sideline him for 6-8 weeks) effect the view on him as the second best small forward in the NBA? Probably not, but it's definitely worth watching. What it should do is solidify LeBron's hold on the top spot and more than likely his fifth MVP trophy.

One player we left out worth mentioning. Paul George. As much as I hate to see him out all year, if he was on this list I would guess he'd fit in either the third, fourth, or fifth slot. Hopefully George comes back as dynamic as he was before the injury as the small forward position will be one worth watching for years to come.