Part III of our best-by-position preview for the 2010-2011 NBA season, here are the top 5 Small Forwards in the league.
* For the previous posts – Top 5 Point Guards – Top 5 Shooting Guards
Number 5 – Danny Granger, Indiana Pacers
Pretty much the only good thing with the Indiana Pacers the last couple of years has been Danny Granger, but in 2009-2010, despite showing his offensive skill set again, averaging 24.1 points per game, he and the Pacers took a step back it seemed, mostly due to his injuries. He missed 20 games as Indiana finished with 32 wins. Could they have made the playoffs with Granger healthy all the way? Granger played with the United States national team in the FIBA World Championship this summer, scoring 4.1 points per game and hardly getting any playing time during the finals matches. If Granger remains healthy this year, his numbers should be back to 2009-2010 level, maybe even better, and Indiana should be able to stay in contention for a playoff spot till the very end.
Number 4 – Gerald Wallace, Charlotte Bobcats
After a record year for the Bobcats and Wallace – making the playoffs for the first time in Franchise history, winning 44 games, while Wallace averaged 18.2 points, 10 redounds, 1.5 steals and 1.1 blocks per game while finally making his first All-Star game and making the All-Defensive first team, helping Charlotte in averaging the lowest opponent scoring average in the league (93.8 points). Wallace averaged 41 minutes a night last season, second in the league, and the Bobcats need another season from him in which he stayed healthy (76 games, most of his career) while becoming much more of a leader and not just an athletic freak who’s risky style gets himself injured. Wallace is too good and important to what the Bobcats are building right now, and it seems that by slowing down just a bit he’s turned into a better player.
Number 3 – Carmelo Anthony, Denver Nuggets
Just when we though the Nuggets have grown and matured into a title contender, probably being the team that matches up the best with the Lakers heading into the 2010 playoffs. Six games later, and Denver players began their summer vacation. Even though he’s easy to blame, and maybe in past years deserved to be blamed, Anthony isn’t that kind of player anymore. It wasn’t his fault that the Nuggets failed against Utah.
‘Melo averaged 28.2 points per game in 2009-2010, third in the league and his best numbers since 2006-2007, showing again he is among the finest offensive players in the NBA. He was very good against the Jazz in the playoffs, averaging over 30 points in the series and grabbing 8.5 rebounds, but that wasn’t enough. Anthony was rumored to be heading away from Colorado last month, with a deal that would have sent him to the Nets collapsing just before it was a done deal, but he was greeted with cheers in the pre season opener and I find it hard to believe that Anthony will be traded for now. If things head South with the Nuggets this season, it’s a different story.
Number 2 – Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
The best player in the league? Hold your horses. Durant might be the best offensive weapon in the league, becoming the youngest player in NBA history to win the scoring title last season, averaging 30.1 points, shooting 47.6% from the field and 36.5% from three. He led the Thunder to their first playoff appearance since arriving from the Northwest and pretty much established himself as one of the top 4 players in the league, along with LeBron, Wade and Kobe. The summer brought more goodies and accolades, leading the United States team to Gold in the FIBA World Championships, winning the tournament MVP award. He played in his first All-Star game in 2010 and made his first All-NBA team. He is the reason the Thunder are discussed as a potential outside challenge for the NBA title. That’s too soon as well. Durant is incredible, but he needs to have another superstar season like 2009-2010. And he will, I’m pretty sure of that. Title contenders? Not yet. First win a playoff series. Then We’ll talk. Still, Durant, with a few others, is the future of this league.
Number 1 – LeBron James, Miami Heat
Most hated athlete in America? Wins make people forget why they don’t like you. It’s debatable whether James folded or just suffered from bad teammates during the Celtics series in the 2010 playoffs. I tend to believe the latter. James wants to win, but couldn’t do it all by himself against Boston. He is the best player in the league – not Kobe and not Durant. No one can do what he does – which is pretty much everything. You don’t get two back to back deserved MVP’s for nothing. His defense is among the best in the league if not the best (look at Pierce’s numbers during the series – 13.5 points). It’s exciting thinking about how the Heat will look like with him and Wade calling the shots together. It could be amazing. Who’ll be the alpha male in South Beach? I believe James is too good of a player to hide behind Wade. A title in the next couple of years will make everybody forget why they hated him so much (except for folks in Ohio). If that wasn’t enough, maybe the numbers will help – 29.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 8.6 assists, 1.6 steals, 1 block per game. ONLY one in the league right now who can pull this off.