Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Ranking the best small forwards in the NBA

1. LeBron James – He’s a freak. Being as athletic as he is at 6-8 and 250 is practically unfair. The scary thing is that he is steadily improving. His defense was much improved this year and he is knocking down his outside shot with more regularity. He can do everything, as evidenced by his stats: 30ppg, 7.9rpg, 7.2apg. If we ever see someone average a triple-double again, it’ll be LeBron.
2. Paul Pierce – Paul is not as pretty to watch as some of the other guys in the league (and many whine about him exaggerating when he gets bumped) but Pierce is impressively fundamental. He has an all-around game: underrated defender, solid shooter, good rebounder, impressive passer, etc. Pierce does whatever his team needs. His D is severely disrespected – witness what he did when matched up one-on-one with LeBron and Kobe in the playoffs. Impressive.
3. Carmelo Anthony – It’s a bit hard for me to put ‘Melo here because I don’t like the guy. That said, he has major talent. He can score in a variety of ways and has an excellent post-up game. His defense is lacking but he has improved throughout his short career. For him to cement his place as a superstar he needs to get it done in the playoffs…
4. Andre Iguodala – Most people don’t recognize how good this guy is because he plays on a crappy team, but his abilities deserve serious respect. AI’s defense is excellent and he has developed his offensive game in the past two years. Plus he rebounds and dishes the ball. As his confidence grows, expect to hear a lot more about him in the future.
5. Richard Jefferson – If you thought his stats were impressive just because Jason Kidd got him easy looks, check out his stats after the Kidd trade. No drop off. Jefferson is super athletic and has a good perimeter game. For some reason he gets more credit than he deserves for his defense – it’s solid, but not as good as people seem to think. He doesn’t have the lateral movement required to keep some of the quicker 3s in the league from getting to the tin. Jefferson gets the nod over Shawn Marion here, but just slightly.

Best defender: Shane Battier – this spot has gone to Bruce Bowen for years, but Battier takes the spot this year, and that’s saying something. Consider the quality defenders in the NBA at this position: Bowen, Pierce, Marion, Iguodala, Artest, Kirilenko, Josh Smith, Prince, and James Posey, to name a few. Battier is the best of the bunch and the most versatile: he can defend the post and the perimeter equally well.
Best dunker: LeBron James – Is there another wing who throws it down with such authority? Um, no. Josh Smith is pretty awesome though.
Best offensive game in the post: Carmelo Anthony – he can score so many ways on the block – up and under, step back J, spin moves, fadeaways. He can do everything.
Best rebounder: Josh Smith – Smith gets tons of rebounds from the 3 position. His strength and jumping ability allow him to put up big numbers.
Most underrated: Danny Granger (barely over Caron Butler) – This guy is really good. The only real weakness in his game is his ball-handling, but he is improving that constantly. Expect Granger to get better and better, and as the Pacers improve he’ll start to get more attention.
Most overrated: Andrei Kirilenko – This guy has a max contract? Seriously? AK47 plays amazing help defense – maybe the best in the league – but what else does he do? Score about 11 a game. Wow. What a joke.
Best in five years: 1. LeBron 2. Carmelo 3. Kevin Durant 4. Iguodala 5. Josh Smith