NBA Preview: Top Small Forwards (2009-10)
Posted by Jo$h on October 23, 2009
1. Lebron James (Cleveland Cavaliers) – As if there were any doubt who would get this top spot. Lebron does it all. In addition to his skills, he is probably the most physically imposing person in the league pound for pound. When you combine his physique with his speed you get a player like the league has never seen before. Lebron is a walking triple double waiting to happen. Add him with the most domiating force the league has ever seen in (a past his prime) Shaquille O’Neal and who knows what King James will be capable of. He’s already shown that he can lead his team to a dominating regular season record. His new challenge, making sure that success carries over into the playoffs.
2. Carmelo Anthony (Denver Nuggets) – It seems like Carmelo Anthony is destined to spend his entire career in Lebron James shadow. While it seems unlikely that he will surpass Lebron anytime soon, what is certain is that Carmelo is destined to step out from the shadow and prove to the rest of the league that he is one of the league’s premier players. While Chauncey Billups brought the focus back to the Denver Nuggets there was still never a question as to who the star of the team was. During the regular season Carmelo averaged 23 points 7 rebounds and just over 3 assists. During the playoffs his numbers went to 27 points 6 rebounds and 4 assists as the Nuggets took the eventual champion Lakers to game 6 of the Conference Finals where many observers considered the Nuggets as the better team.
3. Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder) – Kevin Durant has as much upside as anyone in the league including Lebron James. In fact, I expect to many hyped up Kevin Durant-Lebron James showdowns in the future once Kobe Bryant gets to old for the NBA to market that matchup. In February I attended the Rookie-Sophomore challenge at All Star Weekend and saw Durant light up the Rookies for a record 46 points. He may not get much recognition due to his location, but Kevin Durant’s future in this league is as a top 5 player.
4. Paul Pierce (Boston Celtics) – 20 Points 6 rebounds 4 assists while shooting 39% from beyond the arc on a team that had 2 (arguably 3) other stars last season. Just two seasons ago Paul Pierce finally had a stage large enough to show the world why he was one of the game’s best as he put on several memorable clutch performances while leading the Boston Celtics to their 17th championship. Last year, the repeat attempt fell short due to an injury to Kevin Garnett, but that didn’t stop Paul Pierce from taking the Boston Celtics to epic game seven’s before falling to the eventual Finanls runner up Orlando Magic. The Celtics are reloaded this year, so expect Paul Pierce to be extra motivated to return to the promised land.
5. Ron Artest (Los Angeles Lakers) – Last season the Houston Rockets were a popular darkhorse pick to win the NBA title. On paper the Rockets were a strong squad, however, the title hopes faded when Tracy McGrady and eventually Yao Ming were long to injury. Instead of folding, Ron Artest took the reigns and the Rockets played better than they had all season, advanced to the 2nd round of the playoffs and gave the eventual champion Lakers their toughest opponent that they would face all postseason. This season Ron Artest is sporting the purple and gold and will be on the most talented squad he’s seen in his entire career. His numbers might take a slight decline, but the Lakers acquired him for his defense and toughness which he should be able to provide. Also, it won’t hurt that he’s a scoring threat that may be the 3rd or 4th option while he’s on the floor. This could lead to defenders leaving him open for easy opportunities while they chase Kobe and Pau across the floor.
5a. Danny Granger (Indiana Pacers) – I know most of the casual NBA fans reading this are wondering who this is. They were probably wondering the same exact thing as he came off the bench for the Eastern Conference during the All Star Game in Phoenix last season. They were also probably wondering the same thing towards the end of the season when he was named the NBA’s most improved player. Truth be told, the only thing that separates Danny Granger from the other names on this list is that he’s not yet a household name. The keyword in that last sentence is “yet” as you cant expect someone to average 26 points 5 rebounds 3 assists and 1.5 blocks while making the All Star team to not get recognized by the fans sooner or later.
Honorable Mentions: Josh Smith (Atlanta Hawks), Caron Butler (Washington Wizards), Hedo Turkoglu (Toronto Raptors), Rashard Lewis (Orlando Magic), Stephen Jackson (Golden State Warriors), John Salmons (Chicago Bulls), Gerald Wallace (Charlotte Bobcats)