Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Greatest small forwards of all time


The NBA has both a rich history and promising future at the small forward position. Aside from the two players in the picture above, the NBA today has Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, and Paul George among the promising small forwards of the future. For now, here's a look at the greatest SFs of all time...and yes, LeBron James has already earned a position quite high on this list.

10. Paul Pierce


Points
Rebounds
Assists
Steals
Blocks
FG%
FT%
Titles
MVPs
FMVPs
21.8
6.0
3.9
1.4
0.6
.447
.806
1
0
1
                            
Not known for his athleticism, Paul Pierce has that crafty will to win that was finally was rewarded with a championship-caliber team in 2008. Never short on nailing clutch shots, Shaquille O’Neal paid respect to his rival in 2001, calling the Celtics star “The Truth.” That year he played in all 82 games for the Celtics after being stabbed in the face, neck, and back in less than a month before the season began.

9. Dominique Wilkins


Points
Rebounds
Assists
Steals
Blocks
FG%
FT%
Titles
MVPs
FMVPs
24.8
6.7
2.5
1.3
0.6
.461
.811
0
0
0

The Human Highlight Film was just that. One of the most electrifying players that the NBA has ever seen, Dominique was one of the greatest dunkers who also earned nine All-Star appearances and an NBA scoring title. Wilkins holds the record for most free throws made in a regular season game without missing (23) and is only one of six players in history to average 25 points per game for 10 consecutive years.

8. James Worthy


Points
Rebounds
Assists
Steals
Blocks
FG%
FT%
Titles
MVPs
FMVPs
17.6
5.1
3.0
1.1
0.7
.521
.769
3
0
1

Immortalized in NBA history because of his 36-16-10 performance in Game 7 of the 1988 NBA Finals, Big Game James never shied away from the spotlight. A three-time NBA champion, he also won an NCAA title at UNC. Worthy benefited from playing with some of the great Lakers of all time (Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) but undoubtedly still managed to prove his worthiness to play alongside some of the all-time greats.

7. Rick Barry


Points
Rebounds
Assists
Steals
Blocks
FG%
FT%
Titles
MVPs
FMVPs
23.2
6.5
5.1
2.0
0.5
.449
.900
1
0
1

Perhaps best known for that granny-style free-throw shooting, Rick Barry is the only player to lead both the NCAA and NBA in scoring for single seasons. Also known as Ricky Balboa because of his tendency to take poorly talented teams farther than they would have otherwise gone, he played nearly his entire NBA career as a member of the Golden State Warriors. In March 1974 vs. the Portland Trailblazers, Barry piled up 64 points in a single game—and 45 points in the second half alone.

6. Scottie Pippen


Points
Rebounds
Assists
Steals
Blocks
FG%
FT%
Titles
MVPs
FMVPs
16.1
6.4
5.2
2.0
0.8
.473
.704
6
0
0

A difficult player to rate because of his role as a No. 2 for the duration of his career, there is definitely a place among the greatest SFs of all time for Scottie Pippen. An All-Defensive First Team player for eight consecutive years, he is in the discussion for greatest on-ball defenders in NBA history. Scottie Pippen also appeared in the playoffs for 16 consecutive years.

5. Elgin Baylor


Points
Rebounds
Assists
Steals
Blocks
FG%
FT%
Titles
MVPs
FMVPs
27.4
13.5
4.3
N/A
N/A
.431
.780
0
0
0

An 11-time All-Star, Elgin Baylor was a lifetime player for the Lakers organization, playing both in Minneapolis and in Los Angeles. A victim of his era (namely the rival Boston Celtics), Baylor was a horrendous 0-for-8 in his NBA Finals appearances. (Ironically, the Lakers won the year after he retired.) Nonetheless, he is often in the discussion as one of the great players of all time because of his incredible individual prowess on the court. A superb all-around threat, he holds the Finals record for most points scored in a game (1962 Finals) and put up 71 in a regular season game vs. the Knicks in 1960.

4. John Havlicek


Points
Rebounds
Assists
Steals
Blocks
FG%
FT%
Titles
MVPs
FMVPs
20.8
6.3
4.8
1.2
0.3
.439
.815
8
0
1

A member of the Boston Celtics during the Bill Russell era, Havlicek’s championship numbers beat everybody but Russell in our “greatest of all time” series for the NBA. Although he only managed to pull off one Finals MVP, it is important to recognize that the award was not given out until 1969. A 13-time All-Star and five-time NBA All-Defensive First Team player, Bill Simmons ranked the Celtic great at No. 13 GOAT in The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to the Sports Guy.

3. Julius Erving


Points
Rebounds
Assists
Steals
Blocks
FG%
FT%
Titles
MVPs
FMVPs
22.0
6.7
3.9
1.8
1.5
.507
.777
1
1
0

Known primarily for his incredible athleticism, Julius Erving made dunking an art. But unlike some of the better recent dunkers (Vince Carter, Jason Richardson, etc.) Dr. J was also one of the great overall players that the game has ever seen. He is a top-five scorer of all time (on the NBA/ABA list) and has three ABA MVPs to add onto his NBA MVP. Magic Johnson said of the Doctor: “Julius Erving did more to popularize basketball than anybody else who’s ever played the game.”

2. LeBron James


Points
Rebounds
Assists
Steals
Blocks
FG%
FT%
Titles
MVPs
FMVPs
27.6
7.3
6.9
1.7
0.8
.490
.747
1
4
1

Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan, and Bill Russell have more regular season MVP awards than LeBron James. He has had some of the most incredible playoff performances of all time including Game 5 of the Eastern conference finals vs. the Pistons in 2007. All he did was score 29 of the Cavs final 30 points in a double-OT victory. And in the 2012-13 regular season he also became the first player to rattle off 30 points on 60+ percent shooting for six consecutive games.

1. Larry Bird


Points
Rebounds
Assists
Steals
Blocks
FG%
FT%
Titles
MVPs
FMVPs
24.3
10.0
6.3
1.7
0.8
.496
.886
3
3
2


A repeat champion and MVP, Larry Bird is routinely mentioned alongside the top of the greatest NBA players of all time. Arguably the best pure shooter in history, Bird is a member of the elite 50-40-90 club (50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three, and 90 percent from the line in the same season). Bird’s biggest contribution to the game of basketball is often overshadowed by the more recent greatness of Michael Jordan. Alongside Laker great, Magic Johnson, the Hick from French Lick brought the game back to relevancy in the United States. 

Without Bird (and Magic), Michael Jordan and the NBA as we know it would not be here.


View the rest of our "greatest of all time" series including the greatest point guards, shooting guards, power forwards, centers, and overall players of all time.

12 comments:

  1. Quick question: Didn't Dirk Nowitzki go 24-24 from the line? (in regards to nique's record)

    Overall a pretty good list, but I would take Scottie over Baylor. Scottie was pretty much a poor-man's LeBron, a guy who was a monster athelete, rebounder, passer, and defender. Baylor's game was essentially predicated on scoring, and going 0-8 in the finals is unacceptable. The one season that Pippen had alone with the bulls, he led the team in each of the five major categories, and they got 55 wins. Very solid. Other than that, not much to disagree with. Even after only 9 seasons, LeBron's accolades speak for themselves among other great small forwards.

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  2. Meant to write "regular season" record from the line...good call and it's fixed now.

    As for Scottie over Baylor, it's tough but Baylor was the primary option for a Lakers team that had the misfortune of being in the league at the same time as Bill Russell's Celtics. I don't think you can really take away from the individual greatness of a player that was going up against a true Goliath of a team (as I've written many times before haha). So 0-for-8 definitely jumps out - which is why I included it - but his scoring ability was bar-none. In this case, I give the edge to a great primary option as opposed to one of the best second options.

    Pippen did do well in his lone season as the Bulls No. 1 guy but the interesting thing was that Phil Jackson drew up a play for a rookie instead of Pippen in the playoffs. And the rookie, Toni Kukoc, nailed the game-winner. That's not to say Pippen didn't have a great season but one season vs. a career of great seasons (Baylor) is more impressive. And clearly the Zen Master didn't have confidence in Pippen which speaks volumes.

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  3. Its definitely a tough call, but being a second option on a consistent championship team is pretty good, and the only evidence we have is that as a first option he wouldve been a damn good player.



    Also, looking again, I may take 'Nique and Pierce over Worthy. They were just more consistent. Worthy was CLUTCH, and he played his role on the Lakers very well (to the tune of 3 titles), but those other two guys were #1 options on their teams, and were better players over a longer period of time. Worthy was arguably the 4th option on some of those Lakers teams (after Magic, Kareem, and Byron Scott). He came through when it counted, but I think Pierce and Dominique have earned to be ranked higher.

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  4. I can see where you're going but I'm seeing somewhat contradicting opinions: on the one hand you're saying give the edge to the guy who was a great second option and had less exposure as a primary option (Pippen over Baylor) but on the other you're saying give the edge to the above average primary option instead of the player who shined in the playoffs as a secondary/tertiary option (Pierce/Wilkins over Worthy).


    Definitely agree about the part with Worthy and there certainly is an argument to be made for Pierce and Dominique ahead of Worthy with the points you brought up.

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  5. Very Solid list. I'm glad you decided to put Hondo at the SF even though he was a combo 2/3 he was dominantly a 3. Also


    At first I was think Elgin Baylor was top 4 but really the more I thought about it you may have a point for Hondo over Baylor. Baylor was a MUCH better rebounder, but Hondo was a MUCH better defender. And the fact that he had 8 rings u have to consider him right the greater of all time for sure.


    He's even > DR J if you ask me because of his all around game still give you a solid 20 PPG

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  6. Hahaha fair call. Here's my thought though. Scottie had a very clear role carved out for him, and he did a little bit of EVERYTHING. He made 1st team all-NBA several times, so he was only a second option because he played with the greatest player of all time. And Baylor going 0-8 in the finals isn't just a coincidence; 8 tries and you can't come through once! This affects Jerry West as well... I believe he was also 0-8 to start and won his only ring on a scary loaded team!


    And glad you agree about Worthy part! I probably go with that stronger, but still would prolly put Scottie one spot up

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  7. I'd still take Bird. It's close, but for me it comes down to that LeBron has played 10 great seasons in the NBA, while Bird played 13, and was a baller until the end. Obviously a guy doesn't need to play more seasons to be greater, but Bird was an amazing player throughout his career, accross the board. By the end of his career, I'm almost sure LeBron will be the greatest small forward of all time, but not quite yet. Damn close tho!

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  8. Bird did play 13 seasons but don't forget he played 5 games in one of those seasons and only 45 in his final season. The end to Bird's career was far from pretty because of his back problems so because of that I'd definitely say that what LeBron has put together so far is quite comparable to Bird.

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  9. Oh no question he's comparable... its very close! Just the fact that Bird has still played a few more seasons at a higher level pulls it over the top tho.

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  10. Nice list! 1-7.. Although I don't get how Alex English & Adrian Dantley can be behind James Worthy?! It seems to happen in all of these Small Forward lists. I have them both in my top 10 in front of D.Wilkins & P.Pierce. Yep!

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  11. Lebron is better than larray bird.

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  12. Lebron is better than larry bird.

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