Seven more days remaining until the regular season begins. That is a cause for us NBA fans to have problems sleeping due to excitement like a little kid waiting for Christmas morning. By now, my top five point guard (find that here) and top five shooting guard (find that here) articles have been published and you should know what is going on in these articles. With that being said, let’s see who my top five small forwards are.
**Stats come from ESPN.com and advanced statistics come from basketball-reference.com**
George takes a hit because he plays with two ball dominant players in Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony, meaning his touches will decline after being the #1 option in Indiana. Even him being the #1 option in Indiana, his usage percentage was at 28.9%, his lowest since the 2013-2014 season. George has high aspirations this season and has made that known. He is gunning for the MVP award this year. Thunder fans should be excited in that because that means he is putting in the work necessary this offseason to try to be an MVP candidate. In 75 games last season, he put up averages of 23.7ppg, 6.6rpg, 3.3apg, and 1.6spg while shooting .461% from the field, .393% from the three point line, and .898% from the free throw line. He contributed +7.1 Win Shares with +3.9 Offensive Win Shares and +3.1 Defensive Win Shares. Now Myles Turner is a terrific player for the Indiana Pacers but playing with Westbrook and Anthony should trump Turner on a competitive level. The per game stats George averaged in the playoffs were terrific numbers, albeit only in four games. He averaged 28.0ppg, 8.8rpg, 7.3apg, and 1.8spg while shooting .386% from the field, .429% from the three point line, and .867% from the free throw line. George’s talent on offense, as well as defense, makes him a dangerous contribution to the Thunder this season and one of the best small forwards heading into this new season. The Thunder have become one of the more intriguing teams to watch to see how Westbrook, George, and Melo can mesh. If they mesh well, this trio can be one of the best. With Melo and Westbrook, George does become limited on offense, hence why he’s only ranked #5.
I have good news for the Bucks and bad news for the rest of the league. Let’s start with the good news. The “Greek Freak” is only 22 years old. The bad news for the rest of the league? He is only 22 years old. The 6’11” small forward with long arms and hands that stretch across the basketball makes you see why the Bucks loved the potential of this player. Watching him play and improve every single season makes the Bucks look like geniuses for drafting him in 2013. The fact that he was able to play point guard last season (learning from a HOF point guard in Jason Kidd) as well should make the entire state of Wisconsin fall in love with Giannis and the rest of the league fear him. In 80 games last season, Giannis averaged 22.9ppg, 8.8rpg, 5.4apg, 1.9bpg, and 1.6spg. He shot .521% from the field, .272% from the three point line, and .770% from the free throw line. His shooting could be improved upon but the Bucks don’t want him to fall in love with that shot because he is extremely dangerous when he is driving to the basket. Giannis contributed the third highest Win Shares on this list at +12.4 (+7.9 Offensive Win Shares and +4.5 Defensive Win Shares). He contributed a +7.6 Box Plus/Minus (+4.1 Offensive Box Plus/Minus and +3.5 Defensive Box Plus/Minus). With a usage percentage of 28.3%, a career high, he posted a 26.13 PER. The Bucks love that Giannis elevated his game even further in the playoffs where in six games, he averaged 24.8ppg, 9.5rpg, 4.0apg, 2.2spg, and 1.7bpg, shooting .536% from the field, .400% from the three point line, and .543% from the free throw line. Giannis should have another tremendous season as he looks to carry the Milwaukee Bucks to a playoff berth. With Jabari Parker struggling to stay healthy, this is undoubtedly Giannis’s team. Look for him to explode this season.
The biggest question mark surrounding Leonard this season? Health. The Spurs are being mum on the severity of Leonard’s injury, making it hard to pinpoint if I can disqualify him from the list like I did Isaiah Thomas. Leonard for sure will, and has, missed preseason for the Spurs thus far, but how much time he will miss in the regular season remains to be seen. If healthy, Leonard is undoubtedly one of the top talents in the NBA. His offensive game has developed each year since he was drafted to add on to the fact that he is one of the best defenders in the NBA. Nicknamed “The Claw” for his massive hands, Leonard averaged 1.8spg this past season. On top of that, he averaged 25.5ppg, 5.8rpg, and 3.5apg while shooting .485% from the field, .380% from the three point line, and .880% from the free throw line. Leonard contributed +13.6 Win Shares, the highest on the list (+8.9 Offensive Win Shares and +4.7 Defensive Win Shares). Leonard’s +7.9 Box Plus/Minus (+6.4 Offensive Box Plus/Minus and +1.5 Defensive Box Plus/Minus) is good enough for the third highest on the list. On the playoffs, Leonard averaged 27.7ppg, 7.8rpg, 4.6apg, and 1.7spg while shooting .525% from the field, .455% from the three point line, and .931% from the free throw line before his controversial injury against the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs. The Spurs will go only as far as Leonard can take them, so if health is an issue this season for him, the Spurs are going to struggle. If healthy, watch for him to dominate the offensive and defensive side of the court.
Durant may play on the best team in the NBA but that does not make him the best small forward in the league. Arguably though, he’s very close to #1. “Durantula” averaged 25.1ppg, 8.3rpg, and 4.8apg in a career low 27.8 usage percentage. Efficiency was key for Durant last season, even finishing the season with a 27.68 PER, the highest on the list. He shot .537% from the field, .375% from the three point line, and .875% from the free throw line, which he mainly raised in the playoffs on the way to his first championship. Durant contributed +12.0 Win Shares (+8.0 Offensive Win Shares and +4.0 Defensive Win Shares) and +8.0 Box Plus/Minus (+5.4 Offensive Box Plus/Minus and a +2.6 Defensive Box Plus/Minus). In 15 games of postseason play where the Warriors only lost one game, Durant averaged 28.5ppg, 7.9rpg, 4.3apg, and 1.6bpg while shooting .556% from the field, .442% from the three point line, and .839% from the free throw line. Durant’s touches have decreased after being added to a team with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green which was to be expected but, like stated earlier, his efficiency has increased. As he gets acclimated even more in his second season in Golden State, his stats may increase some. His talent easily makes him #2 on the list.
This was a simple choice. LeBron is arguably the best player in the NBA so making him the #1 small forward was not a hard choice. LeBron has an interesting season coming ahead for him. His sidekick, Kyrie Irving, is now wearing a Boston Celtics jersey but, Isaiah Thomas, Derrick Rose, and Dwyane Wade are now wearing the same logo on the jersey as LeBron. The roster has quite possibly improved from last season and changes may not be done quite yet. Even with all the changes, the Cavaliers are still favored to come out of the Eastern Conference as champions but very much so the underdog against the Golden State Warriors. At 32 years old, LeBron is still putting up absolutely terrific numbers. In 74 games last season, LeBron averaged 26.4ppg, 8.7apg, 8.6rpg, and 1.2spg while shooting .548% from the field, .363% from the three point line, and .674% from the free throw line on a 30.0 usage rate percentage, the lowest since the 2004-2005 season. Efficiency is the model for LeBron. LeBron’s +12.9 Win Shares (+9.8 Offensive Win Shares and +3.0 Defensive Win Shares) is good enough for second on the list. His +8.4 Box Plus/Minus (+6.8 Offensive Box Plus/Minus and +1.6 Defensive Box Plus/Minus) puts him at #1 on the list. LeBron continued to be absolutely dominant in the postseason, averaging 32.8ppg, 9.1rpg, 7.8apg, 1.9spg, and 1.3bpg while shooting .565% from the field, .411% from the three point line, and .696% from the free throw line in 18 games. Without a doubt, LeBron is the top small forward heading into the coming season, as well as the top player heading into the new and exciting season.