NBA: Top Five Small Forwards of All-Time
When it comes to the NBA, the small forward has always been arguably the most important position. Just look at the plethora of greats who have played at the small forward spot. The position is extremely important as it is somewhat of a Swiss Army Knife spot. This means this player needs to be extremely versatile, meaning they can do a little bit of everything.
With that, the question of who is the greatest small forward of all time seems to always be asked. We have already ranked our top five centers, shooting guards, power forwards, and point guards, now it is time to rank the small forwards. Without further adieu, here are the top five small forwards in NBA history. For the record, this list was extremely tough to rank as some players who do have a case for being in the top five did not make it. Honorable mentions include Elgin Baylor, Kevin Durant, and Scottie Pippen.
Top Five Small Forwards in NBA History
5. NBA Small Forward, James Worthy
James Worthy seems to always be the forgotten part of the Los Angeles Lakers star trio consisting of Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and of course, Worthy himself. He was a great third option and showed his value many times throughout his career. He finished his career with totals of 17.6 points per game (PPG), three assists per game (APG), 5.1 rebounds per game (RPG), 1.1 steals per game (SPG), and a career defensive rating (DRTG) of 108. Worthy was a great player for the Lakers and had he played for any other team in his prime, he could have thrived as the first offensive option in many other places.
Worthy racked up quite the resume during his career as well. He was the 1987-88 NBA Finals MVP along with winning three titles. Worthy also got selected to the All-Star Game seven times and made the All-NBA Team twice throughout his career. To top off the list, Worthy is also a former All-Rookie Team Member and Hall of Famer. James Worthy has certainly earned his spot on this list with his numbers and accomplishments.
4. NBA Small Forward, John Havlicek
The late, great Hondo was a key staple of the Boston Celtics’ dynasty in the 1960s-70s. While he did play with other great players such as Bill Russell and Bob Cousy, do not discount the impact he had on his team. The man was an extremely well-rounded player. He did a little bit of everything, as evident by his career 20.8 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 4.8 APG, 1.2 SPG, and a DRTG of 99.
Havlicek has an extremely impressive NBA resume as well. He is a 13-time All-Star, 11-time All-NBA Team member, and of course, an eight-time champion. Not to mention, Hondo also has an NBA Finals MVP to boast on his resume to go along with a spot on the All-Rookie Team in 1962-63. Havlicek was a solid defender as well which is proven by eight All-Defensive Team appearances and his career DRTG as alluded to earlier. Also, the late and great John Havlicek is a basketball Hall of Famer to round off his extremely impressive career.
3. NBA Small Forward, Julius Erving
Dr. J is both an ABA and NBA legend. He was one of the first high-flyers in the league and a terrific athlete. Everyone remembers the crazy reverse lay-up he pulled off against the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1980 NBA Finals. However, Erving was anything but a one-time wonder. His whole body of work is jaw-dropping. Dr. J would finish his career with totals of 24.2 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 4.2 APG, 2 SPG, and a career DRTG of 100. Bear in mind, these include both his NBA and ABA totals.
As one can imagine, Erving possesses a phenomenal basketball resume. He is a 16-time All-Star, one-time NBA champion, two-time ABA champion, and has made an appearance on seven All-NBA Teams. On top of this, he is also an All-Defensive NBA Team member to go along with being a member of the All-NBA Rookie Team. Finally, he has made an insane total of 16 All-Star Teams, won two All-Star Game MVPs, and won four MVPs. Julius Erving was truly a one of a kind talent during his prime.
2. Larry Bird
To be fair, Larry Legend honestly has a case for being number one on this list. However, we will get to the number one player in a bit. Most NBA fans know about Bird’s greatness. He was a great competitor and simply a winner. Despite his career being cut relatively short, he still finished with great numbers. The Hick from French Lick would finish his career averaging 24.3 PPG, 10 RPG, 6.3 APG, 1.7 SPG, and a career DRTG of 101.
Larry Bird also has an impressive NBA resume. He won the MVP three times, the NBA Finals MVP twice, and is also a three-time NBA champion. Bird also made the All-Star Team 12 times, appeared on 10 All-NBA Teams, and has also appeared on three All-Defensive Teams. Not to mention, he was also the Rookie of the Year meaning he was also on the All-Rookie Team to go along with being in the Hall of Fame. Larry Bird is not just the greatest Boston Celtic of all time, he also has a great argument for being the greatest small forward of all time as well.
1. LeBron James
What is there to say about LBJ? The man has made many NBA fans and outlets argue over who is the greatest player of all time between him and Michael Jordan. However, that is a debate for a different day. For now, we need to see what makes LeBron James so great at the small forward position. So far, he is averaging 27.2 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 7.3 APG, 1.6 SPG, and a career DRTG of 103. However, if LeBron wants to keep this ranking, he does need to improve defensively (so far, he is looking good defensively as of November 4, 2019, with a DRTG of 95).
Of course, we have to take into account the King’s resume. He has won three titles so far to go along with making 15 All-NBA Teams. LeBron has also been featured on 15 All-Star teams with more to certainly come. On top of this, he has also been a three-time All-Star Game MVP, four-time league MVP and won the Finals MVP three times. Some fans even forget that James won the scoring title back in the 2007-08 season and was also the Rookie of the Year. As of right now, it is hard to discount LeBron James’ spot on the small forward list and he is continuing to back up his case.
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