The small forward position contains three of the best four players in the game, and yet by No. 20 on our list, we had already entered the, “Eh, I guess we have to put somebody here” phase. There were questions of position eligibility and some of the most apples-to-oranges comparisons we have on the second-weirdest position we’ll be covering (power forward is going to get bizarre). I mean, how do you weigh Giannis Antetokounmpo (included here mostly because of his history and who he guards on defense) and Carmelo Anthony against each other? Their impacts on the court are so different that it often seems they barely play the same sport.
But we’ll give it a go anyway, because damn it, this is important. Here are the 20 best small forwards in the NBA right now.
20. Rudy Gay
He’s taken a lot of crap through the years, but boy can Rudy score. He’s scored at least 17 points per game every season but his rookie year. The problem is that he does so without passing much or shooting all that high a percentage from the floor. He’s got the physical tools to be a great defender, but not the interest — at least on the surface. It’s been a while since he was on a team with real direction. Gay gets the distinction of being the first Sacramento King to make one of these lists, mostly because he’s a generally competent player with flashes of absolute dominance that are often few and far between. In case you’re wondering, No. 21 would have been Matt Barnes. Take that for what it’s worth.
19. Justise Winslow
The 20 year old doesn’t have much of an offensive game yet, but give him time. He has a Tony Allen-like feel for cutting backdoor when defenses sag off him too much, and he doesn’t look lost out there. He’s on this list because he’s already one of the better defenders in the league, able to guard up a position with a physicality that belies his age. When the Celtics try to trade a king’s ransom to move up for you in the draft (Frank Kaminsky looks good, but not good enough to justify what MJ turned down to draft him), and Erik Spoelstra plays you damn near 30 minutes a game in the regular season and the playoffs, you know you belong out there. In a few years’ time, he might even be challenging Kawhi Leonard for the DPOY. He’s warranted the hyperbole.