While the players are getting tuned up in the pre season games, we continue our Best-by-position previews, this time with the NBA’s best Small Forwards – Paul Pierce, Lebron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and Danny Granger.

Number 5 – Danny Granger, Indiana Pacers

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The NBA’s 2009 Most Improved Player Award winner has matured into one of the best offensive players in the league since his arrival from New Mexico in 2005. Granger has improved his scoring average in each of the last three seasons, finishing his 2008-2009 season with 25.8 points per game while shooting over 40% from beyond the arc. He missed 16 games last season, probably the reason why the Pacers again didn’t make the playoffs, but if Granger continues to improve and stay healthy, Indiana can be a dark horse contender in the Eastern Playoff sweepstakes this season.

Number 4 – Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

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Remember, back in the summer of 2007, there was that argument about who to choose number one? Greg Oden or Kevin Durant? Well, Oden didn’t play at all in 2007-2008 while Durant won the NBA’s rookie of the year award in Sonics’ last season in Seattle. Last year? Durant, like Granger, became one of the most dangerous offensive threats in the league. Yes, he’s on a bad team, but things are improving around him, and so his he. Many would put their money on him  winning the league’s scoring title this year and who knows how many in years to come. He averaged just above 25 points per game last season while shooting over 40% from the three, and improving his numbers in Field Goal percentage, Rebounds, assists and steals per game. This kid has future MVP written all over him in my eyes.

Number 3 – Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics

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Paul Pierce might not score as much as Durant anymore, but he still averages over 20 points per game and playing his heart out every night. And lets not forget, he was the NBA Finals MVP just 15 months ago. He’s obviously starting his away on the downward slope, but Pierce is a leader and a winner, not just good stats, and he has them. If Garnett stays healthy next year along with Allen and Rondo keeps improving, Pierce might get another shot at another title.

Number 2 – Carmelo Anthony, Denver Nuggets

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How did Carmelo’s post-Olympics season look like? His regular season numbers dropped a bit, but he also carried an injury and missed 16 games, but he shaked it off right in time for the playoffs. Along with Billups, Anthony led the Nuggets to their first conference Finals in more than two decades while scoring 27.2 points per game. It seems his head, his will, his game, everything was on for Anthony these playoffs, unlike in recent years. Can he carry, with some help, the Nuggets to at least the same achievement as last year?

Number 1 – Lebron James, Cleveland Cavaliers

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Lebron isn’t exactly easy to define – yes he’s the smaller forward and he has two guard playing in the lineup with him, but he’s more than just a 3. He does it all when needed, and sometimes, as the last playoff exit against Orlando proved, does too much at once. It’s not all his fault of course, he is the best player in the game, but even he breaks down after playing 90 games at incredible intensity. He does it all – scores (28.4 points per game), rebounds (7.6), passes ( 7.2) and he’s finally become a defensive presence. So many questions for Lebron this season, last year’s MVP.Finally a ring this year? Will Shaq and Anthony Parker joining him be enough (Cleveland aren’t the only team to make a few changes for the upcoming season)? Is this Lebron’s final season in Cleveland? If James gets the helps he needs and doesn’t have to do it all alone, a ring is a good bet and a Cleveland future as well.