The next installment of FishTankSports NBA Top-10 lists brings us to the small forward spot.The small forward position is one of the most versatile and important positions in the NBA. A small forward can have many roles on a team, such as being the best shooter on the team, the best defender who can also guard multiple positions, and can be the secondary ball handler.
With players like Lebron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo switching to different positions, the small forward position looks to be one of the weaker positions in the NBA. However, there is still some great all-stars on this list, as well as effective role players who contribute a high impact to a contending team.
When ranking the top 10 small forwards in the league, there are a few things to consider. The first is their stats, as well as overall impact and how they contribute to winning. The defensive side of the ball is also considered and can be a difference maker in comparing players who have a similar offensive impact.
This list is based off the 2019-2020 season, past seasons will not affect their ranking on the list. Their play will be evaluated strictly based off this season. Players like Kevin Durant will not be on this list due to injuries that either kept them out the whole season, or most of the season. Lastly, the way a player’s position is determined is based off what position Basketball Reference lists them under.
10. Kelly Oubre
Kelly Oubre has taken a big jump as a player this year in his first full season with the Phoenix Suns. His role has been increased this season with Deandre Ayton missing lots of games due to his suspension. Oubre has stepped up and has been the second scoring option for the Suns. He is a great, energizer player who has had many highlight plays this season. He gives it his all on the defensive side of the ball each game, even on a team that is out of the playoff picture. Oubre is averaging 18.7 points per game this season with the best efficiency he has had in his career. Kelly Oubre isn’t a great shot creator, but he has a very high basketball I.Q and always seems to be at the right place at the right time on the basketball court. Kelly has been very clutch this season and has hit lots of shots in the clutch that has helped his team win.
9. Will Barton
Will Barton is a near perfect role player in the NBA due to his unselfishness and versatility. With the Nuggets this season, he has been the 3rd leading scorer on the team with 15.1 points per game. Some games, he even ranks 2nd or first in the teams scoring. Barton has been one of the Nuggets best defenders this season and due to his gritty style of play, he can guard players who are bigger than him. He also ranks third in assists for the Nuggets and has been a very good playmaking option to relieve pressure off Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. He is also a versatile scorer who can hit the 3 consistent and is a crafty inside finisher. Barton isn’t elite at one category, but he’s a great all-around player. Lots of teams would like to have a player like Will Barton on their team.
8. Gordon Hayward
Last season, Gordon Hayward was in his rehab season with the Celtics and had to find a way to score with all these offensive weapons on the team. This season Hayward has been playing really efficient and is playing his role perfectly. With great scorers like Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown on the team, Hayward still finds a way to score and be effective with limited touches. Hayward can be a huge X factor for the Celtics in the playoffs. He hasn’t been the player the Celtics payed him to be, but he’s been playing his role very well
7. Bojan Bogdanovic
Most NBA fans thought that the Jazz biggest acquisition in the 2019 offseason was Mike Conley. This season, Bojan Bogdanovic is proving that he is the biggest acquisition for the Jazz in the 2019 offseason. Bojan has been another go to scorer on a Jazz team that struggles with scoring. He has been a great bright spot for the Jazz this season. He’s relieving scoring pressure off of Mitchell, especially in the clutch. Bojan has hit two game winners this year and has been very efficient when closing out games. Bogdanovic is a great floor spacer on a team with not a lot of spacing. He is shooting 41.4% from 3 this season on 7.3 attempts per game. He has also been a good defender for the Jazz this season. Bojan has been a great fit with the Utah Jazz this season and doesn’t do much wrong on the court.
6. Demar Derozan
Demar DeRozan is one of the most confusing players on this list. This season he didn’t seem like he fit in with the Spurs team culture. He seemed unhappy in San Antonio and will most likely hit the open market in the 2020 offseason. Derozan needs a different environment. He is a really good player who is great at creating his own shot, but he has shown that his game style doesn’t translate to much success in the modern NBA. Derozan is an awful 3-point shooter that doesn’t provide spacing to his team. He is a ball stopper and his game heavily relies on isolations for himself. If his shots aren’t falling, he doesn’t provide much else for his team. Due to his playstyle, he doesn’t fit next to other stars, but he’s not talented enough to lead his own team to much success. Despite his criticism, Derozan is still a borderline all-star caliber player who is coming off the most efficient season in his career.
5. Jaylen Brown
Jaylen Brown is the youngest player on this list and still has lots of room to grow. He has amazing two-way ability and has high basketball knowledge. He brings great energy on both sides of the ball. Even with players like Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum on his team, he still finds a way to shine and average 20 points per game. He plays perfectly in his role and can seamlessly fit on the most NBA teams. Since he’s behind two all stars, we haven’t seen what he’s fully capable of: he needs to get more opportunities to grow.
4. Paul George
Paul George has been battling injuries this season but is still averaging good numbers on a down year. This is the first time in a while that we have seen Paul George as a second option. He’s Kawhi’s sidekick on a top contending team in the league. Although he isn’t the MVP candidate he was last year, he’s still averaging 21 points and almost 6 rebounds a game. His elite defensive play still puts him high on this list, despite his inconsistencies on offence throughout the season.
3. Khris Middleton
Choosing between Middleton and Paul George was a very difficult task. Both players have put up very similar stats, both posting a stat line of about 21 points 6 rebounds and 4 assists per game. Middleton’s efficiency is one reason why he edges out Paul George. Middleton is 0.01 percent field goal shooting away from joining the elite 50/40/90 club. He has also been very consistent throughout the season and has been a big part of the Buck’s success. Middleton is also great all-around player and has been playing great defensively. Middleton is mostly in the shadow of Giannis, but he is still one of the best, most reliable side kicks in the NBA.
2. Jimmy Butler
Jimmy Butler has been an amazing fit with the Miami Heat this season, both on and off the court. He fits the Heat culture perfectly and has elevated them from a borderline playoff team, to a top team in the eastern conference. Jimmy is an amazing player who is a great locker room presence. He has helped mentor the young players and leads his team by example. He is one of the hardest working players in the NBA and motivates everyone on his team to work harder. As for his on the court play, Jimmy is still an elite defender. He ranks top 10 in steals, deflections and loose balls recovered. On the offensive end, Jimmy has started to round out his game. He’s playing more unselfish and is averaging a career high 6.1 assists per game. Although Jimmy has been shooting atrocious from 3-point range and hasn’t been playing as good in the clutch as he usually does, you still have to recognize and appreciate the tremendous impact Jimmy Butler has had this season.
1. Kawhi Leonard
This selection should be a consensus across NBA fans. Kawhi is not only the best small forward in the NBA, but he’s also debatably the best player in the league. He is the reigning finals MVP and is currently the top player on one of the top teams in the NBA. Kawhi is a great shot creator and is one of the best midrange shooters in the NBA. He is averaging a career high in scoring this season with 26.9 points per game. He has also improved his playmaking and is averaging 5 assists per game. The most elite part of Kawhi’s game is his defence. He is the best perimeter defender in the NBA and most people would argue he is the best defender in the league. He ranks top 5 in steals, deflections and will most likely be named to his 6th all defensive team. Kawhi is also a great leader for the Clippers and is the best two-way player in the NBA.