The small forward used to compliment the frontcourt, but in the contemporary game it’s a position that’s turned out elite wing players with the body of a power forward from just a generation prior. Small forwards are basketball renaissance men who can do it all: shoot, pass, handle the ball and create havoc for opponents. That’s what makes this list so difficult to pin down.
A class of players far deeper than that of the shooting guard position, the small forward is a hybrid position home to many all-time great scorers and defenders. Names like Alex English, Adrian Dantley, Bernard King, and Carmelo Anthony all hold meaning for their talent as elite scorers but the position class is so deep not one made the top 10. Multiple time All-Stars like Paul Pierce and Shawn Marion are worth noting but also fell short of the all time list. Selecting just ten names from such a large pool of players makes it tough to trim the fat. Here are the 10 greatest small forwards in NBA history:
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Honorable mention: Paul Pierce
The Truth has been getting it done with an old school game predicated on wile rather than an overwhelming athleticism. He’s just as liable to pull out an up-and-under as he is to just go up with the ball. While he’s no longer the player who made 10 consecutive all-star games between 2002 and 2012, Double P is still worthy of mention on this list.
He has a title and was the 2008 NBA Finals MVP, but he’s only ever finished within the top 10 for MVP voting once, during Boston’s followup to his only ring. Now he’s masquerading as the same big shot player in Brooklyn, but his athletic gifts — already a notch below some of the game’s contemporary greats — are in remission. Still, he’ll be inducted in the Basketball Hall of Fame, and if it weren’t for the overwhelming number of talented power forwards, he’d crack the top 10.
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10. Kevin Durant
Career Accolades: MVP, 5X All-Star, 4X All-NBA
It’s hard to put a player this young on the list. He’s 25 years old, never won a championship, and doesn’t have as long of a resume as many players left off the list. Yet, he might’ve just had the greatest scoring season ever for a wing. The MVP award definitely helps, and it goes a long way towards his inclusion when a guy like Pierce is left off. He also just won his fourth scoring title in seven years as an NBA player. He joins Adrian Dantley as the only two players ever to average 30 plus points a game with a true shooting percentage of .630 or higher. He also just became one of three players to average 30 or more points, seven or more rebounds, five or more assists, and still shoot above 50 percent from the field. The other two guys are Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan. Durant just came off a historic season and will have a chance to really throw himself into the conversation if he can carry his regular season success deep into the playoffs.