We have already covered the greatest point guards and shooting guards in NBA history. Now, we begin to talk about the guys that can do it all, the small forwards. The role of a small forward varies from player to player and team to team. They need to be able to create for themselves and score. They need to be able to defend some of the toughest matchups nightly. They sometimes have to be a team’s best rebounder after the bigs. Small Forwards can do it all and when the best of the best are called upon, they answer.
Some of the greatest players to ever play the game have been at the Small Forward position. LeBron James is a walking hybrid of a player but spent most of his career at the small forward position with Miami and Cleveland. Larry Bird could play the 2-4 positions on the floor but did most of his damage at small forward. Some of the game’s most underrated players have called small forward their primary position like Glen Rice, Scottie Pippen, and Dominique Wilkins. The small forward position has been loaded with talent throughout NBA history and we break it down by every team below.
Here are the greatest small forwards to play for every NBA Team:
Rule: No ABA players will be used for this list. Players must have played with the team when they were a part of the NBA.
Career Stats (with Hawks): 26.4 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.7 BPG
Accolades and Awards (with Hawks): 9x All-Star, 6x All-NBA Team Selection
Dominique Wilkins is one of the most prolific scorers of the 1980s who could get a basket any way he wanted while electrifying fans with incredible dunks. They don’t call him the “Human Highlight Film” for nothing. People often forget that at times, Wilkins was put into the same conversation as Larry Bird, Julius Erving, and Michael Jordan when it came to the NBA’s marquee players in the 80s and 90s. Wilkins led the Hawks to 4 straight 50-win seasons in the 80s despite a less than attractive supporting cast.
For a decade straight from 1985 through 1994, Wilkins poured in at least 25.0 PPG every season. He averaged over 30.0 PPG twice during that span including in 1986 when he took home the scoring title with an average of 30.3 PPG. Mid-way through the 1993-94 season, Wilkins tore his Achilles tendon and many thought he would call it a career from there. He instead came back the next season and averaged 29.9 PPG, something unheard of at the time after such an injury. Wilkins currently ranks 1st in Hawks history in games played and points and ranks 16th all-time. He is also one of only 21 players to record more than 26,000 career points.
Career Stats (with Celtics): 24.3 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 6.3 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.8 BPG
Accolades and Awards (with Celtics): 3x MVP, 2x Finals MVP, 1x Rookie of the Year, 12x All-Star, 1x All-Star MVP, 10x All-NBA Team Selection, 3x All-Defensive Team Selection
Larry Bird is one of the great all-around and complete players in NBA history. He could shoot any shot and make it look easy. Whether it be an off-balance mid-range, a dazzling finish at the rim, or a three-pointer from deep, Bird made it look so easy at times. He could also rebound with the best of them, averaging 10.0 RPG for his career. He had eyes in the back of his head when it came to being a passer too, seemingly always hitting his teammate in stride and right in the hands for an easy basket.
Bird won 3 straight MVP awards in 1984, 1985, and 1986. He led the Celtics to NBA titles in 2 of those 3 seasons as well as 2 Finals MVP awards. He was an All-Star all but one season of his 13-year career while leading the league in PER twice. In 1984, when he won his first Finals MVP award, Bird averaged 27.4 PPG, 14.0 RPG, and 3.6 APG to defeat the Lakers in 7 games. He would take home the Finals MVP again in 1986 when he averaged 24.0 PPG, 9.7 RPG, and 9.5 APG in a 6-game Finals win over the Houston Rockets. He ranks 3rd all-time for the Celtics in points, 1st in triple-doubles, 4th in RPG, and 7th in APG.
Career Stats (with Nets): 17.4 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 3.0 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.3 BPG
Accolades and Awards (with Nets): N/A
I am sure there will be some backlash with this pick, however, please remember that there are no ABA players used so Julius Erving will not be here for the Nets. Jefferson made a career out of being the quintessential slasher, able to find the holes on the defense and finish at the rim with authority. Not only were his moves to the basket something to watch, but he could shoot it from the perimeter as well. In his rookie season, Jefferson benefited from playing with the point guard, Jason Kidd. He and Kidd were a match made in heaven with Jefferson’s ability to finish at a 61.8% clip from 0-3 feet.
In their first season together, Kidd and Jefferson led the Nets to the Finals. Jefferson was a vital piece off the bench for them in the 2002 run that ended when they met the Lakers in the Finals. The following season, they went right back to the Finals with Jefferson taking on a much larger starting role and contributing 15.5 PPG and 6.4 RPG. Jefferson peaked in the 2007-08 season with the Nets which also happened to be his last. He averaged 22.6 PPG which led the team and was good for 9th in the NBA. Although he was never able to hoist the ultimate prize in New Jersey, Jefferson provided many lasting memories for one of the best teams in their franchise history.
Career Stats (with Hornets): 23.5 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.3 BPG
Accolades and Awards (with Hornets): 3x All-Star, 1x All-Star Game MVP, 2x All-NBA Team Selection
Glen Rice is one of those guys that was just way before his time. Rice was a prolific shooter who could create on his own off of the dribble or curl around the screen for an open look too. In his 3 seasons with the Hornets, Rice shot 44.4% from three-point land on only 4.8 three-point attempts per game. He led the NBA in three-point percentage in 1997 as well with 47.0% shooting. If he was active in 2022, his attempts and scoring would skyrocket. Back when Rice was playing, teams barely took 100 attempts per game and in today’s league, teams are averaging 35 three-point attempts per game.
Rice peaked in 1996-97 with Charlotte. He averaged 26.8 PPG on 47.0% shooting from three and 47.7% shooting overall. He won the All-Star Game MVP that season throwing in 26 points and going 4-7 from three. His 26.8 PPG for that season ranked 3rd in the league behind only Michael Jordan and Karl Malone. He led the Hornets to the playoffs and averaged 27.7 PPG in the first round but the Hornets were swept by the Knicks. Rice was finally able to taste championship glory in 2000 with the Lakers.
Career Stats (with Bulls): 17.7 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 5.3 APG, 2.1 SPG, 0.9 BPG
Awards and Accolades (with Bulls): 7x All-Star, 1x All-Star Game MVP, 7x All-NBA Team Selection, 10x All-Defensive Team Selection
Scottie Pippen could do it all on the basketball court. He was a swiss army knife on offense and defense, able to adapt or adjust to any situation or a matchup in front of him. He could score like a shooting guard, guide the offense like a point guard, rebound like a power forward, and defend the perimeter as very few did. Unfortunately, when you play next to the greatest player of all time, you tend to become underrated in many ways.
The truth is the Bulls don’t win 6 championships in the 90s without Scottie. In 35 Finals games, Pippen averaged 19.0 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 5.9 APG, and 1.9 SPG. He had the best 2 seasons of his career when Michael Jordan decided to retire in 1994 and 1995. In 1994, he averaged career-highs in points, rebounds, and steals and brought the Chicago Bulls within 1 game of the Eastern Conference Finals. He finished 3rd in the MVP voting that season. In 1995, he led the league in SPG and added 21.4 PPG. The truth is without Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen was great but with him, he was special.
Career Stats (with Cavaliers): 27.2 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 7.3 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.8 BPG
Accolades and Awards (with Cavaliers): 2x MVP, 1x Finals MVP, 1x Rookie of the Year, 10x All-Star, 10x All-NBA Team Selection, 2x All-Defensive Team Selection
No player means more to the city of Cleveland than LeBron James. He is the true definition of a player that can do everything and do everything at an elite level. Offensively, he is smart, selfless, and lethal in every aspect. He can pick you apart with his high IQ and playmaking skills or he can just take over by barreling his way through the paint and there is nothing you can do to stop him. Defensively, he can guard the 1-4 positions at a high level as well. His length and lateral quickness give him a distinct advantage over the competition and he is so strong that he can hang with anyone in the paint.
LeBron spent his first 7 seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers where he exceeded expectations even though they were exponentially high already. He took them to the NBA Finals in 2007 only to fall to the Spurs Dynasty but he got them there as a young man. When he returned in 2015 is when he cemented himself in Cavaliers lore. Who can forget the 2016 NBA Finals? After falling behind 3-1 to the Golden State Warriors, Lebron led the Cavs to an epic comeback with 29.7 PPG, 11.3 RPG, and 8.9 APG. He has captured 4 championships with 3 different franchises but none were more special than the 1 he earned in Cleveland.
Career Stats (with Mavericks): 24.6 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 3.8 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.4 BPG
Accolades and Awards (with Mavericks): 3x All-Star
Mark Aguirre helped put the Dallas Mavericks on the map in the 1980s. He was an outstanding scorer, a great passer, and could take anyone he wanted in the post. He was as complete as they come on offense. Aguirre was drafted No.1 overall in 1981 by the Mavs and immediately made a positive impact on the franchise. He averaged 18.7 PPG his rookie season despite missing 31 games. By the time 1983-84 came around, Aguirre had established himself as the Mavs’ best player.
He earned his 1st All-Star selection in 1983-84 when he ranked 2nd in the league in scoring with 29.5 PPG. He was also Dallas’ best passer and one of their best rebounders. He led Dallas to their first playoff berth in franchise history. After his rookie year, Aguirre never averaged below 22.0 PPG for the Mavs and averaged over 25.0 PPG 4 times. He led the Mavs to the Western Conference Finals in 1988 and averaged 21.6 PPG on that playoff run. Aguirre would eventually become an NBA champion in Detroit with the Pistons but his impact on the Mavericks franchise is etched in stone.
Career Stats (with Nuggets): 25.9 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 4.4 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.7 BPG
Accolades and Awards (with Nuggets): 8x All-Star, 3x All-NBA Team Selection
Alex English could very well be the most underrated player in NBA history. He had a majestic play style about him that made him one of the most prolific scorers of the 19080s. English had it all on offense. He ran the fast break like a pro, often soaring to the hoop to finish his coast-to-coast bucket. He could also split defenders with ease and often finish with a tough shot off the backboard from the mid-range. When defenders started to cheat, he would fake them out of their shoes and hit an open teammate for an easy basket. He became an offensive weapon from all angles and the numbers reflect it.
English scored the most total points in the entire 1980s. Not Bird, not Magic, and not Jordan. Alex English. He poured in 8 consecutive 2,000-point seasons from 1982 to 1988 and was named an All-Star in each one. He was a high-percentage free throw shooter who could stroke it from anywhere on the court. For his career, English shot 50.7% from the field. In 1983, he won the scoring title averaging 28.4 PPG. In 1985, he helped the Nuggets reach the Western Conference Finals with a 30.2 PPG playoff run. He is still the all-time leading scorer in Nuggets franchise history and until a man named Nikola Jokic arrived, he was the best player in their franchise history overall.
Career Stats (with Pistons):21.6 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 6.3 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.6 BPG
Accolades and Awards (with Pistons): 5x All-Star, 1x Rookie of the Year, 5x All-NBA Team Selection
Grant Hill was supposed to be one of the all-time greats. He was the complete basketball package with a generational skillset not possessed by many. There was a point in time when Hill was considered to be the heir apparent to Jordan after his 1993 retirement. From the moment h suited up for Detroit, any whispers about him not being able to live up to the hype were washed away. By just the second season of his career, Hill was already being named an All-NBA Second Team talent and one of the best small forwards in the game.
The 1996-97 season was Hill’s statistical peak. He led the NBA with 13 triple-doubles (I know, that’s crazy) and averaged 21.4 PPG, 9.0 RPG, and 7.3 APG. He became the 1st player since Larry Bird to average at least 20.0 PPG, 9.0 RPG, and 7.0 APG in a season. This was just his 3rd year. He shot 47.6% in his 6 years with Detroit and tallied immaculate scoring numbers while rarely shooting the deep ball. In the 1999-00 season, Hill averaged 25.8 PPG and 6.6 RPG in 74 games. Disaster would strike in the playoffs as he would suffer an ankle injury that would derail the rest of his career. Hill would be traded to the Magic that offseason with fears he would never be the same again. Even though we were robbed of something even more incredible, Hill is still the best small forward in Pistons history.
Career Stats (with Warriors): 25.8 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 5.4 APG, 0.8 SPG, 1.5 BPG
Accolades and Awards (with Warriors): 2x Finals MVP, 3x All-Star, 1x All-Star Game MVP, 3x All-NBA Team Selection
When Kevin Durant announced he was joining the Golden State Warriors in the summer of 2016, it sent the league into a frenzy. A team that just went 73-9 in the regular season and was just 1 win shy of their 2nd straight NBA championship had just added one of the best players in the world. The initial reactions were ones of shock and thought of how unbeatable the team would be adding a 7-footer who could do whatever he wanted on the floor. Unbeatable they certainly were.
Kevin Durant, alongside Stephen Curry, led the Warriors to 3 straight NBA Finals and was victorious in 2 of them. They most likely would have three-peated, or at least made the Finals more interesting, had Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson stayed healthy in 2019. Durant was on top of the world, slaying the beast that is LeBron James in back-to-back Finals in 2017 and 2018. In 2017, he averaged 35.2 PPG, 8.2 RPG, and 5.4 APG In a 5-game series win and claimed his 1st of 2 Finals MVP awards. In 2018, he had 28.8 PPG, 10.8 RPG, and 7.5 APG in a sweep of LeBron’s Cavs. Kevin Durant’s 3-year hold over the NBA in Golden State is enough to make him the best small forward in team history.
Career Stats (with Rockets): 22.7 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 5.6 APG, 1.3 SPG, 0.6 BPG
Accolades and Awards (with Rockets): 3x All-Star, 3x All-NBA Team Selection
Tracy McGrady is one of the more special talents in the NBA during the 2000s. He would physically impose his strength on defenders on the perimeter to the point that there was nothing you could do to stop him. McGrady was versatile, able to score from anywhere, pass and handle the ball like a guard, drive to the rim or hit a perimeter shot like a wing, and defend multiple positions at a high level. The only things that held McGrady back were his own body and his lack of ability to lead a team past the 1st round of the NBA playoffs.
McGrady’s time in Houston was met with excitement around the sport. He would team up with Chinese basketball Yao Ming to form what was supposed to be one of the league’s most dominant duos. Each of their bodies said otherwise. His best season in Houston came in 2006-07 when he averaged 24.6 PPG and a career-high 6.5 APG. He again led Houston to the playoffs but lost in 7 games in the first round. McGrady’s time atop the league should have lasted longer but regardless, he is still the best small forward to ever wear a Rockets jersey. Besides, who else can erupt for 13 points in 33 seconds?
Career Stats (with Pacers): 18.1 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.4 BPG
Accolades and Awards (with Pacers): 1x Most Improved Player, 4x All-Star, 3x All-NBA Team Selection, 3x All-Defensive Team Selection
Paul George has always been a lethal two-way player. In Indiana, he was a lockdown defender with elite scoring ability and both were on display nightly. He was explosive, strong, and could create virtually any shot that he wanted. His catch and shoot numbers were spectacular as well, shooting 60.4% shooting in those situations which was 2nd behind only LeBron James. George did his best work off the dribble, shaking defenders and snatching ankles regularly.
In 2013, George led the Pacers to their first Eastern Conference Finals since the days of Reggie Miller. He averaged 19.4 PPG, 6.0 RPG, and 5.1 APG in the 7-game series against LeBron and the Heat, but the Pacers would lose the series. The following year, he had the Pacers right back in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Heat. George averaged 24.0 PPG, 5.3 RPG, and 4.0 APG but the Pacers fell to the Heat in 6 games. George was the franchise guy for a few years in Indiana and he answered the call valiantly.
Career Stats (with Clippers): 26.0 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 5.0 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.5 BPG
Accolades and Awards (with Clippers): 2x All-Star, 1x All-Star Game MVP, 2x All-NBA Team Selection, 2x All-Defensive Team Selection
I know that this pick may seem controversial at first glance considering Kawhi has only been with the Clippers for 3 years and missed a full one due to injury. In his two seasons that he was healthy, he missed 27 games or more in both. The fact is, the Clippers do not have a history of employing very good small forwards. To be fair, they have never had a player at small forward get selected to 2 All-NBA Teams and 2 All-Defensive Teams either which Kawhi has done since getting to L.A. As good as his regular season runs have been, it has been his performances in the playoffs that have been better and stood out.
In 13 games in the 2020 NBA Bubble, Kawji averaged 28.2 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 5.5 APG, and 2.3 SPG before being eliminated by the Nuggets in the second round. Yeah, I know they blew a 3-1 lead but it is impressive regardless. In the 2021 playoffs, Kawhi played 11 games and averaged 30.4 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 4.4 APG, and 2.1 SPG before going down with a knee injury that has kept him out since. Kawhi is gearing up for an epic return in 2022-23 but he has already cemented himself as the best small forward in Clippers history.
Career Stats (with Lakers): 27.4 PPG, 13.5 RPG, 4.3 APG
Accolades and Awards (with Lakers): 1x Rookie Of The Year, 11x All-Star, 1x All-Star Game MVP, 10x All-NBA Team Selection
Elgin Baylor was one of the first true athletic players to grace the NBA hardwood. He was an innovator on the court who helped save Lakers basketball and was part of the reason the team was brought to Los Angeles. He was the first real high-flyer in the game who could create shots off of the dribble and finish at the rim in style. Defenders had no answer who with style, strength, and speed would render defenders useless against him.
Baylor’s numbers are incredible when stacked up against the all-time greats. His 274 PPG career average is ranked 3rd all-time behind only Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan. In 11 out of his 14 seasons in the NBA, Baylor averaged at least 24.0 PPG and 10.0 RPG. He averaged at least 34.0 PPG and 14.0 RPG for 3 years straight from 1960 to 1962. Baylor was equally as good in the playoffs with a career 27.0 PPG and 12.9 RPG average. His teams could never do quite enough to win the NBA championship though. Baylor was a pioneer, a trailblazer, and the greatest small forward in Lakers history by far.
Career Stats (with Grizzlies): 17.9 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.3 SPG, 0.9 BPG
Accolades and Awards (with Grizzlies): N/A
Rudy Gay was considered to be one of the premier players in his draft class and for the first few seasons in Memphis, he was exactly that. On offense, he was an athletic and physical specimen using his speed and great ball-handling to create mid-range jumpers that he could hit at a high clip. He was a decent isolation player as well, having no issues changing directions or creating separation from a defender. He could finish with either hand and had a deadly first step making him a versatile offensive weapon.
Gay was a decent three-point shooter with Memphis, shooting 34.4% from three in his career in Memphis and 45.2% overall. His 2nd season in the league saw him start to trend toward superstar status when he played 81 games and averaged 20.1 PPG and 6.2 RPG. During his time in Memphis, he was a consistent 18.0 PPG scorer at least with an addition of 6.0 RPG. The numbers and accolades might not warrant it but as far as the Grizzlies go, Gay is the best small forward they’ve ever had.
Career Stats (with Heat): 26.9 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 6.7 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.7 BPG
Accolades and Awards (with Heat): 2x MVP, 2x Finals MVP, 4x All-Star,4x All-NBA Team Selection, 4x All-Defensive Team Selection
The version of LeBron James that we all witnessed in Miami was his offensive and defensive peak. This is where he transformed into the best all-around offensive player in basketball while becoming equally as dangerous on defense. He led the Heat to 4 straight NBA Finals appearances with 2 wins and 2 heartbreaking defeats. This was the period when LeBron had a stranglehold on the league and no one could escape his clutches.
In 2012 and 2013, LeBron won back-to-back MVP awards, championships, and Finals MVP awards. It was a special 2-year stretch that saw LeBron nearly win a Defensive Player Of The Year award as well. In the 2012 NBA Finals, LeBron averaged 28.6 PPG, 10.2 RPG, and 7.4 APG as the Heat took down Kevin Durant and the Thunder. The following season, LeBron had Miami back in the Finals but this time against the San Antonio Spurs. This time he averaged 25.3 PPG, 10.9 RPG, and 7.0 APG in the series win. LeBron’s time in Miami was short-lived but great enough to easily make him the team’s greatest small forward.
Career Stats (with Bucks): 17.6 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.2 BPG
Accolades and Awards (with Bucks): 3x All-Star
Khris Middleton has transformed into a high-impact player who has shown he can step up in big moments and win big games for his team. He has increased his scoring volume over the past 5 years, averaging at least 20.0 PPG in 4 out of the last 5 seasons. He excels at creating for himself at the mid-range level, shooting 48.3% from 10-16 feet for his career and 39.4% from three-point land.
The 2020-21 playoffs are where Middleton proved his worth. In every round, there was at least one instance where the Bucks were struggling to score the ball and Middleton stepped up to take over. En route to the title, Middleton averaged 23.6 PPG, 7.6 RPG, and 5.1 APG. The Bucks won their first championship in 50 years and Middleton was a big reason why. He has taken hold of the top spot for small forwards in Bucks history.
Career Stats (with Timberwolves): 15.5 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 2.7 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.3 BPG
Accolades and Awards (with Timberwolves): 1x All-Star
The Minnesota Timberwolves are another team with a very thin history at the small forward position. It should be safe to say that Anthony Edwards will probably top this list in no time but for now, it is still Szczerbiak. Wally was an experienced scorer who displayed high-volume perimeter abilities. He wasn’t much of a shot creator rather than a catch and shoot specialist. He could be effective off of the dribble as well but more from within the three-point line rather than beyond it.
For his career, Szczerbiak shot over 40.0% from beyond the arc which for his era, was a great efficiency. He only made 1 All-Star trip in his career but it was well deserved. In the 2001-02 season, he averaged 18.7 PPG, 4.8 RPG, and 3.1 APG. He shot 50.8 % overall and 45.5% from three. He wasn’t the flashiest player but he got the job done and when he got hot, there was no prettier jumper to watch go down than his.
Career Stats (with New Orleans): 21.5 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 5.0 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.2 BPG
Accolades and Awards (with New Orleans): 1x All-Star, 1x All-NBA Team Selection
Before we get into the man they called “Monster Mash”, I would like to point out that I think this could be Brandon Ingram in another year or two that takes this spot. For now, it remains the only man to get an All-NBA nod at the position for the New Orleans franchise. Jamal Mashburn was one of the revolutionizers of the point-forward position. He could control the game from the perimeter but if you needed him to, he could play in the post and be effective as well. He could handle the paint defensively as well, routinely switching on to opposing power forwards and keeping them at bay.
With New Orleans, he was the same way. He scored in bunches in a variety of ways and played defense at a high level both on the perimeter and inside. In the 2002-03 season, Mashburn earned the only All-Star selection and All-NBA Team selection of his career. He averaged 21.6 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 5.6 APG, and 1.0 SPG. He led them to the playoffs where he averaged 24.8 PPG and 5.3 APG but New Orleans was swept in the first round. As versatile and effective as he was, it is no surprise he is our pick for the New Orleans franchise.
Career Stats (with Knicks): 24.7 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.5 BPG
Accolades and Awards (with Knicks): 6x All-Star, 2x All-NBA Selection
In just 7 seasons with the New York Knicks, Carmelo Anthony established himself as one of the best players to ever call MSG home. Anthony’s time in New York was tumultuous and rough seas, yet he was still an elite scorer at every level. He shot the three-pointer as well as he had in his career and controlled the post especially when matched up against smaller defenders. He also loved the 2-dribble mid-range jumper that had defenders lunging which turned into easy points for Carmelo.
Anthony helped the Knicks claim their first playoff series victory since the early 2000s during his tenure there. That should tell you the state of the team when that is their largest victory. He led the NBA in scoring in 2013 with 28.7 PPG and gave the Knicks their third playoff berth in 3 years. He would help the Knicks reach the second round for the first time in over a decade. He averaged 28.8 PPG and 6.6 RPG in the playoffs until they were stopped by the Indiana Pacers. No matter how you feel about Carmelo, there should be no doubt about his status in NY. He ranks among the top of the list in points and three-pointers made for the franchise.
Career Stats (with Thunder): 27.4 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 3.7 APG, 1.2 SPG, 1.0 BPG
Accolades and Awards (with Thunder): 1x MVP, 1x Rookie Of The Year, 7x All-Star, 1x All-Star Game MVP, 6x All-NBA Team Selection
Kevin Durant has long been a problem for the rest of the league dating back to his 9 seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Durant won 4 scoring titles with the Thunder including 3 straight from 2010 to 2012. He led them to the NBA Finals in 2012 and again to the brink of the Finals in 2016. His tenure with the team may have ended with sour grapes but there is no denying his impact on the franchise.
Among the Thunder career leaders, Durant ranks 1st in three-pointers made, 3rd in points, 4th in blocks, and 1st in PPG. His 2013-14 season saw him take home the only MVP award of his career when he averaged 32.0 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 5.5 APG, 1.3 SPG, and 0.7 BPG. Durant led the Thunder to the Finals in 2011-12 when he averaged 28.5 PPG and 7.4 RPG in 20 playoff games. As one of the best offensive threats the NBA has ever seen, Durant easily established himself as one of the best players in Thunder franchise history.
Career Stats (with Magic): 16.4 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.4 BPG
Accolades and Awards (with Magic): 2x All-Star
I will say that the only other player I gave thought to place here over Hill was Rashard Lewis. Lewis was great for the perennial contender Magic in the late 2000s but he was no Grant Hill. Grant Hill’s time in Orlando came on the heels of an injury that haunted him for the rest of his career. He played just 57 games combined in his first 3 years with the Magic and missed the entire 4th year due to another ankle injury. When he returned in 2004-05, He was right back to his All-Star form once again.
In his first season that he seemed fully healthy since 2004-05, Hill averaged 19.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG, and 3.3 APG and earned the 7th All-Star selection in his career. He was supposed to form an unstoppable duo with Tracy McGrady but health ended up getting in both of their ways. Heck, the thought of those two together even had Tim Duncan thinking he should jump ship from San Antonio to form a Big 3. Had Hill never suffered those ankle injuries, who knows what he could have done with the Magic in his time there? I do believe he could help get them past the first round though. Hill remains the Magic’s best small forward for now but will Paolo Banchero perhaps take a run at that status?
Career Stats (with 76ers): 22.0 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.8 SPG, 1.5 BPG
Accolades and Awards (with 76ers): 1x MVP, 11x All-Star, 2x All-Star Game MVP, 7x All-NBA Team Selection
Julius Erving set the tone for the players to come after him with his flashy yet powerful playing style. No one had ever conquered the game of basketball like Erving did above the rim. He brought a certain art to the skill that made him one of the most revered players of his time. He was clutch, he dominated from start to finish, and he was a draw to fans from all over the world as one of the first to make dunking and finishing at the rim a popular trend.
In his first 8 seasons with the 76ers, Dr.J averaged at least 20.0 PPG and 6.5 RPG in each. He won the 1981 MVP award after he averaged 24.6 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 4.4 APG, 2.1 SPG, and 1.8 BPG. See that’s what a lot of people forget about him, his athleticism helped him become a tremendous defender as well. In 1983, He helped the Sixers take home the NBA championship behind 18.4 PPG and 7.6 RPG in the playoffs. For the Finals, he put up 19.0 PPG, 8.5 RPG, and 5.0 APG. For a man who transcended the game and rose above the occasion his entire career, Erving has to be the Sixers’ greatest small forward of all time.
Career Stats (with Suns): 20.5 PPG, 3,2 RPG, 4.4 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.2 BPG
Accolades and Awards (with Suns): 1x Rookie of the Year, 6x All-Star, 2x All-NBA Team Selection
Walter Davis made as big of an immediate impact as anyone in Suns history. He was selected 5th overall in the 1977 Draft and went to work straight away. In his rookie season, he averaged 24.2 PPG, 6.0 RPG, and 3.4 APG. He took home the Rookie of the Year award and earned All-NBA Second Team honors. In his first 10 seasons, Davis averaged over 20.0 PPG 6 times and earned 6 All-Star appearances.
Davis is widely known as the best pure shooter in Suns history. His efforts helped the Suns reach the playoffs 7 times but only ever made 2 deep playoff runs. Davis ranks 1st all-time in points, field goals made, and 2-point field goals made in Suns history He also ranks 3rd in steals, 4th in assists, and 10th in points per game. Davis would never host championship gold but there is no denying what he means to the city of Phoenix.
Career Stats (with Trail Blazers): 23.5 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 2.2 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.5 BPG
Accolades and Awards (with Trail Blazers): N/A
Just before his back started giving him issues that would eventually be the reason he retired, Kiki Vandeweghe was a scoring machine for the Nuggets and Trail Blazers of the 1980s. The Blazers were at a crossroads as a franchise when they brought Vandeweghe in, having just finished 40-42 losing 12 straight games to end the 1985-86 season. Enter coach Mike Schuler and Kiki Vandeweghe. Kiki, in his 2nd season with the team, would help turn around the franchise and give them hope moving forward.
Vandeweghe would average 26.9 PPG to lead the team to 49 wins that season and a berth in the NBA playoffs. The Blazers would be swept in the first round but morale was high and the tides had changed. Vandeweghe would average 20.0 PPG or more 3 more times for Portland before being traded to the Knicks in 1988-89. He helped the Blazers make 4 times in his 5 seasons as a member of the Trail Blazers and left this mark on the franchise with his effortless buckets and infectious personality.
Career Stats (with Kings): 18.3 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.1 BPG
Accolades and Awards (with Kings): 3x All-Star, 1x All-Nba Team Selection
Peja Stojakovic was another player who was ahead of his time and still excelled at his position. He was a lethal shooter who was a consistent 50-40-90 threat every year. He was fantastic at the catch and shoot situations with his length which allowed him to extend and rise above smaller defenders with ease. He also had a keen eye for the game off the ball and knew exactly where to cut and at what times to give himself the best opportunity at an open look. When defenders would get just a little too close, Stojakovic could go right by them, sealing them off with his long arms.
Stojakovic was a career 46.1% shooter overall and 39.8% from three-point range in his 8 seasons with the Kings. He earned the only 3 All-Star selections of his career in a Kings’ uniform in 3 consecutive seasons from 2002 to 2004. In the 2003-04 season, Peja earned the only All-NBA selection of his career when he averaged a career-high 24.2 PPG and 6.3 RPG. Stojakovic and the Kings went to the playoffs 7 times in his 8 seasons there and were a perennial contender for a chance at the NBA finals.
Career Stats (with Spurs):16.3 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.8 SPG, 0.7 BPG
Accolades and Awards (with Spurs): 1x Finals MVP, 2x Defensive Player Of The Year, 2x All-Star, 2x All-NBA Team Selection, 4x All-Defensive Team Selection
Kawhi got his career started in a Greg Popovich system with San Antonio and it showed. Leonard started to come into his own in the 2013-14 season when he proved to be a valuable two-way threat, He was selected to his first All-Defensive team while averaging 12.8 PPG and 6.2 RPG and the Spurs finished with 62 wins. They would meet LeBron James in the Miami Heat for the 2nd straight season in the NBA Finals where Leonard would have his coming out party.
Leonard would take home the Finals MVP award after helping the Spurs take down Miami in 5 games. He earned the award for his defensive efforts on LeBron James but still averaged 17.8 PPG on 61.0% shooting from the field. This was only the beginning. Leonard would go on to win back-to-back Defensive Player Of The Year awards in 2015 and 2016 as he reached a level of superstardom. No other Spurs player had ever won multiple Defensive Player Of The Year awards. Kawhi was just getting started on his impressive peak as a player.
Career Stats (with Raptors): 26.6 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.8 SPG, 0.4 BPG
Accolades and Awards (with Raptors): 1x Finals MVP, 1x All-Star, 1x All-NBA Team Selection, 1x All-Defensive Team Selection
Kawhi Leonard spent just one season in Toronto but that year was so special that it is enough to call him their greatest small forward ever. Kawhi averaged 26.6 PPG in60 games for the Raptors, was selected to be an All-Star, named to the All-NBA 2nd Team, and named to the All-Defensive 2nd Team. He was as polished as he had ever been on both sides of the ball, but he was just getting started.
In the first round of the 2019 playoffs, Kawhi and the Raptors would take down the Magic in 5 games behind 27.8 PPG from Leonard. They met Sixers in the second round where Kawhi averaged 34.7 PPG in the 7-game series and ended it at the buzzer of Game 7 on one of the most iconic shots in NBA history. They would meet the Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals where Leonard would average 29.8 PPG and take them down in 6 games. In the Finals, he didn’t slow down and gave the Raptors their 1st title as he averaged 28.5 PPG and took home Finals MVP. His one season in Toronto gave the franchise their best season in team history and for that, he is named their greatest small forward.
Career stats (with Jazz): 29.6 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 3.7 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.1 BPG
Accolades and Awards (with Jazz): 1x Comeback Player Of The Year, 6x All-Star, 2x All-NBA Team Selection
As a scorer, Adrian Dantley etched his name among some of the greatest in NBA history. He is one of just 6 players to ever record 30.0 PPG or more in a season four times. He is one of only 4 to do it four years in a row. Dantley was a high-IQ player with the ball in his hands, often dribbling around until he found his spot or go to the line by drawing a foul on the attack. He did it quite efficiently too, shooting 56.2% from the field in his career with the Jazz.
Dantley did everything he could to make Utah a relevant franchise but the problem was his teams were never very good. The Jazz only made the playoffs twice in Dantley’s 7 seasons with the team. Many blamed Dantley for the team’s failures, suggesting it was his proficient scoring that held them back. That was not the case. The Jazz only had one other scorer that reached 20.0 PPG while Dantley was in town, putting most of the scoring on his shoulders. He did the best he could, averaging 26.0 PPG or better in all 7 seasons with the team.
Career Stats (with Washington): 22.0 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 3.9 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.2 BPG
Accolades and Awards (with Washington): 1x All-Star, 1x All-NBA Team Selection
Bernard King may not have been the offensive force he was in Golden State and New York during his time with Washington, but he was still very good. King was still a gritty finisher who made a living at the foul line. He adapted his style after a knee injury took his explosiveness and became a face-up scorer who made a killing slashing to the basket.
King poured in 20.0 PPG in 3 out of 4 seasons while in Washington, leading the Bullets to the playoffs once.in 1988. The Bullets had a miserable series and were eliminated in 5 games. In the 1990-91 season, King earned the 4th All-NBA Team selection of his career when he went off for 28.4 PPG, 5.0 RPG, and 4.6 APG. He finished 3rd in the NBA in scoring and was selected to the All-Star Game for the only time while with Washington. King’s 4 years with the team were good enough to name him their greatest small forward.
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