TOP 10 SMALL FORWARDS
You will not see Kevin Durant on this list. Durant has put up phenomenal numbers in his first three years, but this may be the hardest position to crack the top 10 in, and you need more than 3 years of greatness. The hardest part about this group is there are players that put up monster numbers and some others with modest numbers that pass the eye test as some of the greatest of all time, making the order very difficult. With that, here are my top 10 small forwards of the past 30 years.
10. Carmelo Anthony - Immediately, you can see the quality of this list with "Melo" checking in at #10. Anthony has two strikes working against him - the duration of his career and his lack of playoff success thus far. Carmelo has a career scoring average of 24.7 PPG (currently 14th all-time in PPG) and a RASB (Rebounds+Assists+Steals+Blocks per game) of 10.8. He will definitely continue his march up this list with continued personal success and some better team results.
9. Chris Mullin - Mullin is one of those players whose career numbers ended up a little lower than I thought, but there can be little argument that he is one of the top players of the past 30 years. Like another player on this list, injuries were not kind to him as his career winded down, but Mullin sports career averages of 18.2 PPG and a RASB of 9.8. Mullin was a terrific shooter, one of only 4 players on this list with a FG% over 50% (50.9), along with a 38.6 3PT% and 86.5 FT% for his career. Mullin does suffer from a lack of team success never making an NBA finals.
8. Adrian Dantley - Dantley's career started in the late 70's, but he entered the 80's with a bang averaging 30 PPG for the first 5 seasons of the leg-warmer decade. For his career, Dantley averaged 24.3 PPG with a RASB of 9.9 and a phenomenal FG% of 54.0. Dantley is 20th on the NBA's all-time scoring list, but alas, his only Finals appearance was late in his career as a role player on the Pistons.
7. Paul Pierce - He was listed as a shooting guard on my All-Celtics team, but Pierce comes in at #7 on this list. Sporting career averages of 22.5 PPG and a RASB of 12.0, Pierce is also #36 on the NBA's all-time scoring list. With one NBA championship and a 2nd Finals appearance (and potential ring) this year, Pierce has backed-up his spectacular career numbers with team success. Pierce's only knock is his career 44.5 FG%, lowest of the ten players on this list.
6. James Worthy - This list is getting good if Worthy can't crack the top 5. Some will argue Worthy's 3 championship rings should place him higher on this list and it would be tough to disagree. Worthy finished his career with averages of 17.6 PPG and a RASB of 9.9 along with a 52.1 career FG%. His career playoff scoring average vaulted to 21.1 and Worthy, like Pierce, was also a Finals MVP. I will remember him most for his last play in college when he tricked Freddie Brown into throwing him the ball.
5. Dominique Wilkins - "Nique" was a human highlight film, but only appeared in 56 playoff games his entire career (In comparison, Kobe Bryant will play in at least 64 over the last 3 years). That lack of team success is the only damper on a tremendous individual career that his Wilkins sitting at #10 on the all-time NBA scoring list, with averages of 24.8 PPG and a RASB of 11.1.
4. Julius Erving - Ok, before the haters come out, "Dr. J" would be higher on the list, maybe even #2, if it was not supposed to be from my basketball lifetime. As is, using his NBA stats starting in 1976, Erving averaged 22.0 PPG with a RASB of 13.9 and a career FG% of 50.7. No one was smoother then Dr. J and its too bad the "finger-roll" has gone the way of the dinosaur. Erving led the 76ers to one NBA championship ring, but mostly played third fiddle to the Lakers and Celtics as his career wound down in the 80's.
3. Scottie Pippen - OK, so I have already referred to him as Robin, but Pippen's career can stand alone as a superhero. 6 NBA championship rings can go along way, and before one argues that he got them because of Jordan, look how many rings Jordan had without Pippen. Scottie averaged 16.1 PPG with a RASB of 14.4 and sits at #48 on the NBA's all-time scoring list and 13th all-time on the NBA steals list.
The Legend vs The King
And then there were two - Larry Bird and LeBron James. The first difference is easy, Bird is a 3-time NBA Champion and 2-time Finals MVP. LeBron has played in one NBA finals. Statistically, King James is averaging 27.8 PPG (3rd all-time) with a RASB of 16.6. Bird ended with a career scoring average of 24.3 PPG (16th) and sits at #25 on the all-time scoring list. Bird's RASB of 18.8 tops the small forward list and he sits 44th in rebounds, 33rd in assists and 26th in steals on the all-time NBA lists. LeBron may one day surpass these numbers, but as of now its
2. LeBron James
1. Larry Bird