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There has always been great small forwards in the NBA. You can go back to Larry Bird and Dominique Wilkins or Grant Hill and Scottie Pippen. Each era has had their share of great small forwards but in today’s game, it’s the premiere position in the league. When you think of versatility, dominance, and game changing players, you think about the top small forwards in the league.
LeBron James is still the best player in the game. The Cavaliers may be going through a rough patch but you definitely cannot blame that on “The King.” James has continued to improve his game each and every year. It’s amazing when someone this great continues to find something to work on and not only maintain a high level of skill, but bring those skills to another level. The Cleveland Cavaliers’ top man has taken what were weaknesses in his game and made them strengths. The critics used to point to his jump shot and post game as weaknesses but now he is efficient in both of those aspects, along with being a great play maker and rebounder. James may not be the defender he once was but there is still no lay-up that is safe when “The King” is in the area.
There has been an understanding for quite a while now that LeBron James is the best player in the league. That understanding is now starting to be questioned as Kevin Durant has continued to improve on both ends of the floor. Durant has been a scoring machine since entering the league and has become more efficient since joining the Golden State Warriors. The improvement that has been the most evident this season is his impact on the defensive end of the floor. The Warriors are ranked towards the top of the NBA in defense and Durant is a big reason for that, as he is top five in blocks per game. The all time great scorer is now playing defense on an All-NBA Defensive Team level. That is just plain scary.
The Milwaukee Bucks are built to make some noise in the playoffs this year. This is all because of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s rapid improvement. The man they call “The Greek Freak” truly does have freakish versatility on the basketball court. One second you may see him leading a fast break which has to be an opponent’s biggest nightmare, as he has the ability to dunk on anyone or create open shots for teammates. The next moment he could be playing the role of rim protector and denying the opponent from getting easy baskets. The one weakness in Antetokounmpo’s game is his jumper but he is so good at everything else that the lack of a jump shot doesn’t affect him in a major way.
We have not seen a lot of Kawhi Leonard this year as he has dealt with a quadriceps injury all season. The NBA universe cannot forget how good this guy is. The two-time defensive player of the year is still the best perimeter defender in the NBA. On top of being elite defensively, Leonard is also one of the most versatile scorers in the league. He can score in a plethora of ways. Leonard has a good handle and can maneuver his way to the rim and he can also score with his back to the basket with fade away jumpers over each shoulder. On top of that, he is a very good three point shooter. The San Antonio Spurs will be right back in the championship mix if Leonard is healthy for the playoffs.
Paul George is an amazing two way player for the Oklahoma City Thunder. George has proven this year that he can score being both the primary and secondary option. This is his first season with the Thunder, where of course Russell Westbrook is the main ball handler. George struggled during some portions of this season adjusting to his new role but now seems to be really comfortable. PG13 gets buckets in an array of ways and this year is doing it off the ball by taking advantage of open shots that Westbrook’s penetration creates. The Thunder may have had inconsistent stretches during the year but the one constant has been good defense. The presence of Paul George has definitely been a huge factor in the Thunder’s play on that end.