December 28, 2014

Ranking The NBA's Best Small Forwards Heading Into 2015

#23, LeBron James, SF, Cleveland Cavaliers

Three small forwards usually are in the top 10 overall conversation... four if you include a healthy Paul George. While no one is a legit threat to leap ahead of those guys as of now, the talent at the position is severely underrated. One player who's usually near the top of the small forward rankings seems to be regressing slightly, but will he get the benefit of the doubt? The criteria for these rankings isn't complex. Which small forwards in the NBA are playing the best, putting up the best numbers, are the most efficient, and are the most important to their team's success right now. If a player is listed lower than you think he should be, it's probably because his defensive play isn't up to par right now, which is also very, very important.

(Paul George has not played this season, while Jabari Parker is out for the season with a torn ACL, so they aren't included in these rankings).

*Stats as of 12/27/14

(PER = Player Efficiency Rating / ORTG = Offensive Rating / DRTG = Defensive Rating)

Tier 4: The "Starting Caliber" Small Forwards

They aren't the most spectacular players, and they may not be the most flashy. However, these players are capable of producing and contributing in a variety of ways for their respective teams. A few young, promising players are in this tier, and could be in for a huge jump over the next few months.

20. Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves

9.9 PER / 92.9 ORTG / 113.7 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
31.0 MPG: 12.8 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.0 SPG, 2.0 TO (40% FG, 39% 3P, 69% FT)
PER 36: 14.9 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1.2 SPG, 2.3 TO

Analysis: The future is very bright for the rookie from Kansas. He has lock down defensive potential, and if he continues to improve his all around game over the next couple of years, he should sky rocket on everyone's small forward list. He's more of an athletic two guard right now who flashes star potential.

19. Terrence Ross, Toronto Raptors

13.1 PER / 109.3 ORTG / 108.8 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
28.2 MPG: 12.2 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.7 SPG, 1.0 TO (44% FG, 39% 3P, 90% FT)
PER 36: 15.6 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.1 APG, 0.9 SPG, 1.3 TO

Analysis: Terrence Ross can fly and can shoot. Now, he just needs to continue to put it together. That means up-ing his intensity on defense, rounding out his overall game, and being a more consistent scorer.

18. Nick Young, Los Angeles Lakers

16.7 PER / 112.1 ORTG / 112.9 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
25.0 MPG: 14.9 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 0.8 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.8 TO (40% FG, 44% 3P, 89% FT)
PER 36: 21.4 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 1.2 APG, 0.9 SPG, 1.2 TO

Analysis: Nick Young is one of the more fun players in the NBA to watch. When he's hot, he's hot, and his 44% three point shooting proves that he's been mostly hot this year. He's really a shooting guard, and doesn't do much other than score, which is why it's hard to slot him any higher than this right now.

17. Wilson Chandler, Denver Nuggets

12.7 PER / 103.1 ORTG / 107.5 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
31.2 MPG: 14.3 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.7 SPG, 1.6 TO (42% FG, 36% 3P, 83% FT)
PER 36: 16.4 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.8 SPG, 1.9 TO

Analysis: Wilson Chandler is a really underrated player. He's enjoying his best season as a member of the Nuggets, and putting up some very respectable numbers. He's been coasting since he was traded to Denver, which is kind of unfortunate.

16. DeMarre Carroll, Atlanta Hawks

13.4 PER / 112.1 ORTG / 102.3 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
31.8 MPG: 11.7 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 1.3 APG, 1.2 SPG, 1.0 TO (44% FG, 40% 3P, 73% FT)
PER 36: 13.2 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.3 SPG, 1.1 TO

Analysis: DeMarre Carroll has become a really solid player. He's one of those guys who may not do one thing great (at least on the offensive end)--though his 40% three point rate says other wise--but he does several things pretty well, including playing tough, hard-nosed defense.

15. Jeff Green, Boston Celtics

15.9 PER / 108.3 ORTG / 108.4 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
33.6 MPG: 18.9 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.7 APG, 0.9 SPG, 1.8 TO (45% FG, 32% 3P, 84% FT)
PER 36: 20.3 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.9 SPG, 1.9 TO

Analysis: Jeff Green is a really underrated scorer. He's a very good finisher at the rim, and can get hot from deep on any given night. If he can improve on the other end of the court (which includes becoming a better rebounder), he can move up into the next tier.

14. Trevor Ariza, Houston Rockets

11.5 PER / 103.4 ORTG / 101.4 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
38.3 MPG: 13.8 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.7 SPG, 1.8 TO (37% FG, 34% 3P, 82% FT)
PER 36: 13.0 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.6 SPG, 1.6 TO

Analysis: Trevor Ariza is what you call a "glue guy". He can come right in and hold everything together. He's the prototypical wing player in terms of his length and athleticism. His niche is playing lockdown perimeter defense and shooting the three ball at a high clip. He's struggling a bit this year offensively, which is why he isn't higher on the list.

13. Harrison Barnes, Golden State Warriors

13.8 PER / 119.7 ORTG / 102.2 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
31.0 MPG: 10.9 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.4 APG, 0.7 SPG, 1.0 TO (50% FG, 41% 3P, 75% FT)
PER 36: 12.7 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 1.6 APG, 0.8 SPG, 1.1 TO

Analysis: Harrison Barnes is another young wing player with star potential. He hasn't been an elite scorer since stepping into the league, but he's been a pretty good player on a contending team. He's been an efficient scorer, an excellent rebounder, and tough defender this season for the Warriors.

12. Tyreke Evans, New Orleans Pelicans

15.2 PER / 97.9 ORTG / 109.9 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
34.1 MPG: 16.1 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 5.6 APG, 1.3 SPG, 2.9 TO (42% FG, 31% 3P, 66% FT)
PER 36: 17.0 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 5.9 APG, 1.4 SPG, 3.0 TO

Analysis: Tyreke Evans is statistically one of the better all-around wing players in the league. He's an underrated scorer, but still struggles with consistency and efficiency. It makes you wonder why he never really progressed after his rookie season.

11. Luol Deng, Miami Heat

18.0 PER / 114.6 ORTG / 109.2 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
32.5 MPG: 14.7 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.3 SPG, 1.4 TO (51% FG, 38% 3P, 72% FT)
PER 36: 16.3 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.4 SPG, 1.6 TO

Analysis: Luol Deng is mostly known for his defense. He's not the same defender that he was a couple of years ago, but, I do expect his play on that end of the court to pick up as the season goes on. He's shooting the ball well this season, but look for him to have an even bigger impact as a scorer in 2015.

Tier 3: The "Rising All-Star" Small Forwards

This tier only has three players (weird, right?) but, two of them are very underrated scorers, and could be in for all-star appearances in February, while a veteran wing player continues to be slept on. Besides the bona fide all-star and elite small forwards, there are no obvious players I'd take over these guys.

10. Gordon Hayward, Utah Jazz

19.5 PER / 112.3 ORTG / 110.4 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
35.3 MPG: 18.9 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 4.0 APG, 1.3 SPG, 2.6 TO (46% FG, 37% 3P, 80% FT)
PER 36: 19.2 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 4.1 APG, 1.4 SPG, 2.6 TO

Analysis: He may be overpaid, but almost every team in the league can use a guy who can score efficiently like Gordon Hayward. He's also becoming a good all-around player. He's an underrated passer and rebounder, and is playing at an all-star level right now. If he can improve on defense, he could leap into the next tier.

9. Chandler Parsons, Dallas Mavericks

16.3 PER / 113.3 ORTG / 109.1 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
33.0 MPG: 15.8 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 2.3 APG, 0.9 SPG, 1.3 TO (45% FG, 36% 3P, 73% FT)
PER 36: 17.2 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.0 SPG, 1.4 TO

Analysis: Like Gordon Hayward, many people feel like Chandler Parsons is also overpaid. However, he's proving to be a valuable commodity for Dallas so far this season, and is in a perfect role as a third scoring option.

8. Joe Johnson, Brooklyn Nets

15.8 PER / 106.5 ORTG / 106.9 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
35.0 MPG: 16.5 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 3.8 APG, 0.9 SPG, 2.1 TO (45% FG, 40% 3P, 79% FT)
PER 36: 17.0 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.0 SPG, 2.1 TO

Analysis: When he's on fire, he's one of the hardest players to guard. That's been an issue for Joe Johnson the past few years... consistency. He's been an efficient scorer and a decent defender this season, and he's having one of his best all-around years in recent memory.

Tier 2: The "All-Star" Small Forwards

Maybe they've lost a step, or maybe they need to take the next step. Make no mistake, these players are in the "All-Star" tier for a reason. They are most likely the best players on their respective teams, and consistently deliver each and every night.

7. Paul Pierce, Washington Wizards

16.3 PER / 113.7 ORTG / 103.7 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
27.0 MPG: 12.9 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 2.2 APG, 0.6 SPG, 1.1 TO (44% FG, 36% 3P, 78% FT)
PER 36: 17.2 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 3.0 APG, 0.9 SPG, 1.4 TO

Analysis: There are some young, rising small forwards trying to take Paul Pierce's spot, but, I'll still take the future hall-of-famer right now. His numbers don't seem that impressive, but you have to remember, he's only averaging 27 minutes a game, and isn't a top 2 scoring option on a playoff team. Pierce is 37 years old, but is still balling right now.

6. Tobias Harris, Orlando Magic

17.7 PER / 106.4 ORTG / 104.8 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
35.5 MPG: 18.6 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.0 SPG, 2.0 TO (47% FG, 39% 3P, 79% FT)
PER 36: 18.8 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.0 SPG, 2.0 TO

Analysis: Tobias Harris is really one of the rising young stars in the NBA. A combo forward, Harris is a smooth scorer, and an impressive rebounder. He's also stepped up his defense as well. Should he continue to progress, he might just make a few all-star games in the near future.

5. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs

18.8 PER / 106.7 ORTG / 95.4 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
32.2 MPG: 15.2 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 2.5 APG, 2.0 SPG, 1.7 TO (45% FG, 31% 3P, 78% FT)
PER 36: 17.0 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 2.8 APG, 2.2 SPG, 1.9 TO

Analysis: Some players are elite scorers. Kawhi Leonard is an elite defender. He will guard and lock down your best perimeter player, but he's also shown an ability to be a go to scorer. Consistency on that end of the floor is what needs to improve if he wants to be considered elite.

4. Rudy Gay, Sacramento Kings

19.8 PER / 110.7 ORTG / 109.2 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
36.6 MPG: 21.0 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 4.6 APG, 1.2 SPG, 2.8 TO (45% FG, 38% 3P, 86% FT)
PER 36: 20.7 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 4.5 APG, 1.2 SPG, 2.8 TO

Analysis: Rudy Gay has truly become an elite scorer. He can score inside and out, and he's really improved as a jump shooter, especially from deep. He's even upped his assist and rebound totals, and most importantly, is scoring efficiently. However, his defense is still suspect, which is holding him back from being an elite player.

3. Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks

21.5 PER / 109.1 ORTG / 112.3 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
37.0 MPG: 24.5 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 3.3 APG, 0.9 SPG, 2.4 TO (46% FG, 33% 3P, 80% FT)
PER 36: 23.8 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 3.2 APG, 0.8 SPG, 2.4 TO

Analysis: Carmelo Anthony is one of the elite scorers in the NBA, and you can always make the case that he's the league's best all-around scorer. And this season is no different in that regard. Also, Melo is a better player than given credit for statistically, as his rebound and assist numbers are very good. But, it's the same story with Anthony. It's hard to consider him elite because he gives little to no effort on the defensive end.

Tier 1: The "Elite" Small Forwards

This was almost a tier of one, but, I do realize that it would've been blasphemous to go through with the idea, at least for now. These are not just the best small forwards in the league, but arguably the two best players in the game depending on who you ask. This shouldn't be too surprising.

2. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers

25.8 PER / 114.7 ORTG / 107.3 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
37.7 MPG: 25.5 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 7.6 APG, 1.4 SPG, 3.7 TO (50% FG, 37% 3P, 74% FT)
PER 36: 24.3 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 7.3 APG, 1.3 SPG, 3.5 TO

Analysis: You know that LeBron James will always stuff the stat sheets like only few NBA stars can. His rebounding numbers are way down from what we're used to seeing, but his assist numbers are up, and his offensive efficiency is as high as we're used to seeing it. However, the reason why LeBron isn't the best at his position right now? His defense has not been very good this season, and at times, his effort on that end has been lackadaisical. It appears that he switched roles with James Harden this season. It's concerning, because his defense began to tail off somewhat last year.

1. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

27.1 PER / 117.3 ORTG / 100.9 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
28.2 MPG: 22.4 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.6 APG, 0.8 SPG, 3.3 TO (53% FG, 41% 3P, 87% FT)
PER 36: 28.6 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 4.5 APG, 1.0 SPG, 4.3 TO

Analysis: Last season's MVP has missed the last five games, and has only played in 9 this season, but, in those nine games, he's proven that he's still the best player at his position, and arguably the best player overall. We know he's probably the best scorer on the planet, but, he's become arguably the best all-around star in the league, and has become a true two way player.