NBA’s Best – Part 3 Small Forwards
The small forwards in basketball, are usually some of the best athletes around. Their scorers, rebounders, and since the Bulls success with Scottie Pippen, they have become the “point-forwards” guys who can start the break or set up your offence, here’s a look at the league’s best.
(included are the players points, rebounds, and assists per game averages from the 2002-03 season)
NEXT BEST THING
Players that aren’t elite status but are the next best thing. Glenn Robinson (20.8-6.6-3.0), may not have personally enjoyed his time in Atlanta, but his numbers didn’t show it. Now in Philly Robinson , if he and Iverson can gel, can continue his prolific scoring and have a shot at the playoffs. The newest Mav Antawn Jamison (22.2-7.0-1.9), has come into his own the last couple seasons, even though he has always been over shadowed by his former college teammate and the guy traded for him Vince Carter. In Dallas Jamison will have less pressure to score, but will have to improve his defensive play. When the Hornets lost Baron Davis for a long stretch during the season many thought New Orleans would be finished. However Jamal Mashburn (21.6-6.1-5.6) coming back from a injury himself (vertigo) carried the Hornets on his back, with his scoring and clutch game winning shots.
Solid players, that also bring that extra flash of athleticism and excitement to their game.Jalen Rose (22.1-4.3-4.8), has long been labeled selfish and not a team player, but any player putting up his numbers on a team like Chicago has true talent.With Payton out of the Emerald city, Rashard Lewis (18.1-6.5-1.7), is the Sonics best complete player along with Ray Allen. Lewis fell back a bit this year but continues to improve from second-rounder out of high school to NBA star.Just a rookie last year, Caron Butler (15.4-5.1-2.7), was as consistent and important to his team as any veteran. Coming in third in the rookie-of-the-year voting, Butlers suggest he could have been #1.
ON THE RISE
Players just starting to make their mark in the NBA. Richard Jefferson (15.5-6.4-2.5) helped off-set the trade of Keith Van Horn and again helped the Nets get to the NBA Finals. Though he struggled in the Finals , Jefferson in just his first year of starting, second year overall, has shown the promise of a superstar. 2001 Rookie of the Year Mike Miller (15.6-5.3-2.6), got traded to Memphis, and while not the place to be for wins, Miller will get the playing time to show why he is one of the top young forwards. Morris Peterson (14.1-4.4-2.3) continues to grow into his role in Toronto, increasing his scoring output for a third straight season. If the Raptors can get healthy and back into the spotlight, people will learn quickly about Mo Petes’ talent. Use to be the “Big Three” in Milwaukee (Robinson,Allen,Cassell) but now it’s Tim Thomas (13.3-4.9-1.3) and others. Thomas after being traded from Philly, has been suppose to have his breakout year seasons ago, but with those 3 guys theres only so many shots to go around. Now with Thomas the most complete and versatile scorer left for the Bucks, expect big things from Mr. Thomas.
Guys who’s games seem to excel in one aspect of the game. Peja Stojakovic (19.2-5.5-2.0) is one of the most deadly outside shooters in the NBA (38% from 3 point), but also is lethal from the foul-line (87%). Ron Artest (15.5-5.3-2.9), may be one of the biggest hot-heads in the game, but that doesn’t take away from the fact he is an absolute shutdown defender and a decent scorer.
Players who you know what your gonna get everytime they step on the court. Juwan Howard (18.4-7.6-3.0) has bounced around to a few teams the last couple years. The one common trait is that he always scores and comes up with some big rebounds. Keith Van Horn (15.9-7.1-1.3) may always be knocked for his lack of reaching his potential and his defense. The numbers though are always very good for Van Horn, as he tries his luck now as a member of the New York Knicks. Toni Kukoc (11.6-4.2-3.6) is no longer the “Croatian Sensation” but he’s a veteran leader who’s gone through the NBA Playoffs before, and knows how to get it done. A reliable outside scorer (36% 3-point range), Kukoc also is one of the better ball handlers among the big guys. Scottie Pippen (10.8-4.3-4.5) may be the best ball handler as a forward, as he brought about the whole “point-forward” talk in his 1st go-round in Chicago. A championship caliber player in his prime, Pippen is now more of a mentor to the “Baby Bulls” and will try to instill that winning attitude on and off the court.
SOMETHING TO PROVE
Players who have to prove their worth to their teams, fans, and maybe themselves.Lamar Odom (14.6-6.7-3.6) has struggled in his 4 seasons in LA, now a restricted free agent, he’s hoping a change of scenery to Miami may do him well, if the Clippers decide not to match the Heats’ offer. Bonzi Wells (15.2-5.3-3.3) has had his on and off the court problems, but he’s also showed an incredible scoring ability. There aren’t to many guys who on any given night can go for 35-40 points and with some more practice and maturing, Wells can be that constant threat. Darius Miles (9.2-5.4-2.6) who’s been one of much hype since coming to the NBA from high school. Has yet to fully deliver on it, after two seasons with the Clippers he was showing improvement and thought that the trade to Cleveland, meaning more playing time would help him even more. Instead Miles stunk up the joint, showing absolutely no jumpshot at all, while trying to be the Cavs’ point guard too. Now with Lebron James aboard and a new excitement around the Cavs, Miles has shown marked improvement in the summer leagues, but will have to wait and see if it carries over to the regular season.
Anybody wondering who the next big name will be among forwards have to look no further then Denver’s own Carmelo Anthony. The #3 pick in the last NBA Draft, many believe the Nuggets got number one talent at a lower pick. With good reason those statements have been made, after being named freshman of the year in college basketball, Anthony followed that up by leading his team to the National title, and wrapping up MVP honors. Denver will surely struggle in this up coming year, but the Nuggets sure have something to build on and be excited about in the Rockies.