Top 10 NBA Best Small Forwards of All Time Rankings
Ranking the greatest NBA Small Forwards all time such as Lebron James, Kevin Durant, Larry Bird, and more
By Fan Author | September 23, 2021
The small forward position continues to evolve as the game of basketball continues to evolve for the NBA. A position that once was filled by a player with more height then a point guard and less scoring abilities then a shooting guard has now transitioned to a position that can handle the team’s offense, lead the team in scoring and dominate on the defensive side of the ball. However despite the small forward’s evolution, many great players have played the position over the years.
From Elgin Baylor to John Havlicek to Rick Barry to James Worthy to Larry Bird to Scottie Pippen to the likes of current stars such as Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Lebron James. With that said, here is our list of the Top 10 NBA Small Forwards of All-Time.
Top 10 Small Forwards
Team(s): Atlanta Hawks, Los Angeles Clippers, Boston Celtics, San Antonio Spurs, Orlando Magic
Career Stats: 24.8 Pts, 6.7 Rebs, 2.5 Asts
It is hard to leave Dominique Wilkins outside of the top 10 but with the emergence of some of the games top stars, Wilkins slid outside of the top 10. The Human Highlight Film as fans would like to call him could do it all on both sides of the floor was a fan favorite who was known for his ability to dunk. Over his career, Wilkins averaged 24.8 points a game to go with 6.7 rebounds per game and 2.5 assists. His production on the court led Wilkins to nine NBA All-Star teams, one All-NBA first team selection, two NBA slam dunk championships and the 1986 NBA scoring champion.
- 9x All-Star (1986 – 1994)
- Scoring Champion (1986)
Team(s): Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Washington Wizards, Los Angeles Clippers
Career Stats: 19.7 Pts, 5.6 Rebs, 3.5 Asts
“The Truth” Paul Pierce can easily be slotted in to one of the top 10 Small Forwards of All-Time spots as he put together a brilliant NBA career after being selected by the Boston Celtics with the 10th pick during the 1998 NBA Draft. Over his career Pierce averaged 19.7 points a game to go along with 5.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists while earning ten trips to the NBA All-Star Game. In addition, Pierce helped form the big three with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen while leading the Boston Celtics to the 2008 NBA Championship as the NBA Finals MVP. Over the final few years of his career he would spend time with the Brooklyn Nets, Washington Wizards and Los Angeles Clippers serving as a mentor and leader while solidifying his greatness among the game.
- Finals Most Valuable Player (2008)
- 10x All-Star (2002 – 2006, 2008 – 2012)
#TB Paul Pierce Career-High vs Cavs
Spoiler: LeBron couldn’t guard him. pic.twitter.com/GhyqQNvGdx
— Celtics Direct (@CelticsDirect) September 9, 2021
Team(s): Los Angeles Lakers
Career Stats: 17.6 Pts, 5.1 Rebs, 3 Asts
One man that was once much higher on this list is the former Los Angeles Lakers and North Carolina Tar Heels great James Worthy. Worthy was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers with the first pick of the 1982 NBA Draft. After being selected by the Lakers, Worthy helped guide the Lakers to three NBA Championships in 1985, 1987 and 1988. Over his career, Worthy was a seven time NBA All-Star, NBA Finals MVP and named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team while averaging 17.6 points a game over the course of his career along with 5.1 rebounds and three assists.
- Finals Most Valuable Player (1988)
- 7x All-Star (1986 – 1992)
Team(s): Boston Celtics
Career Stats: 20.8 Pts, 6.3 Rebs, 4.8 Asts
The former Boston Celtics great was one of the best two way small forwards to play the game and one of the best players of his generation. An eight time NBA Champion averaged 20.8 points a game to go along with 6.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game. In a day where point guards were known to control the ball, Havlicek was good enough to play both guard positions and change the pace of the game. His talent on the court helped earn Havlicek a NBA Finals MVP and 13 trips to the NBA All-Star game as well as being named to the NBA All-Defensive team five different times.
- Finals Most Valuable Player (1974)
- 13x All-Star (1966 – 1978)
Team(s): Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets, Portland Trail Blazers
Career Stats: 16.1 Pts, 6.4 Rebs, 5.2 Asts
The one big question many fans have continued to ask is how good Scottie Pippen is and how much he contributed to the Chicago Bulls. Nonetheless Pippen was as good as any player in the NBA and it showed on the court as he finished with three All-NBA First Team nods, and seven All-Star team appearances. In addition to his offensive abilities, Pippen was as good as any defensive player in the NBA earning NBA All-Defensive First Team on eight separate opportunities while leading the NBA in steals in 1995. Pippen averaged 16.1 points a game to go with 6.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists.
- All-Star Game Most Valuable Player (1994)
- 7x All-Star (1990, 1992 – 1997)
- Steals Leader (1995)
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Team(s): Minneapolis & Los Angeles Lakers
Career Stats: 27.4 Pts, 13.5 Rebs, 4.3 Asts
Long before the athleticism that has taken over the NBA, Elgin Baylor brought a new level to the small forward position. A level that helped transition the game of basketball to what we have seen today and helped set the foundation for the small forward position we know today. Baylor, who has his number 22 retired by the Los Angeles Lakers finished his career averaging 27.4 points a game to go with 13.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. His production on the floor helped Baylor to earn 10 All-NBA First Team honors, 11 trips to the NBA All-Star game and the 1959 NBA Rookie of the Year award.
- Rookie of the Year (1959)
- All-Star Game Most Valuable Player (1959)
- 11x All-Star (1959 – 1970)
Team(s): Virginia Squires, New York Nets, Philadelphia 76ers
Career Stats: 24.2 Pts, 8.5 Rebs, 4.2 Asts
The NBA great and former Philadelphia 76ers star Julius “Dr J” Irving could do it all on the floor and might have been one of the best players on the floor any night of the week. Irving who was known for his up and under layups and his fascinating dunks was one of the best one on one players the NBA has ever seen. Irving helped lead the Philadelphia 76ers to the 1983 NBA Championships. Over his course, Irving averaged 24.2 points a game to go along with 8.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists. His production on the floor helped Dr J to the 1981 NBA MVP Award, 11 NBA All-Star nods and five NBA All First Team nods.
- 4x Most Valuable Player (1974 – 1976, 1981)
- 2x All-Star Game Most Valuable Player (1977, 1983)
- 16x All-Star (1972 – 1987)
- 3x ABA Scoring Champion (1973, 1974, 1976)
Team(s): Boston Celtics
Career Stats: 24.3 Pts, 10 Rebs, 6.3 Asts
The debate can be made that Larry Bird is the best small forward of his playing days and the best shooting small forward of All-Time. Bird who was known for his ability to shoot from behind the arc despite being a big man (6’9’’). The Boston Celtics great was a two time member of the 50-40-90 club, a three time NBA Champion, two time NBA Finals MVP and three time NBA MVP. The 12 time NBA All-Star won the 1980 NBA Rookie of the Year Award and averaged 24.3 points and 10 rebounds per game over the course of his career.
- 3x Most Valuable Player (1984 – 1986)
- 2x Finals Most Valuable Player (1984, 1986)
- Rookie of the Year (1980)
- All-Star Game Most Valuable Player (1982)
- 12x All-Star (1980 – 1992)
Team(s): Oklahoma City Thunder, Golden State Warriors, Brooklyn Nets
Career Stats: 27 Pts, 7.1 Rebs, 4.2 Asts *Still Active
When you analyze any NBA player in the NBA and their physical gifts it is hard to look past the player’s size. That is not to be said about Kevin Durant who is six foot ten the same size as many NBA centers but with the finesse, skills and talent of any guard or forward in the NBA. Durant has averaged 29.5 points a game over the course of his career while averaging at least 30 points in three different seasons. In addition to scoring, Durant has been known for his ability to rebound and facilitate the offense while being a massive threat from behind the three point line. Durant is a two time NBA Champion, two time NBA Finals MVP, NBA MVP, 11 time NBA All-Star and 2008 NBA Rookie of the Year.
- Most Valuable Player (2014)
- 2x Finals Most Valuable Player (2017, 2018)
- Rookie of the Year (2008)
- All-Star Game Most Valuable Player (2019)
- 11x All-Star (2010 – 2019, 2021)
- 4x Scoring Champion (2010 – 2012, 2014)
Kevin Durant’s 2020-21 shooting numbers.
At-rim: 79% (77/98) — 96th percentile
Short midrange: 51% (92/182) — 92nd percentile
Long midrange: 52% (68/130) — 86th percentile
Corner 3: 60% (9/15) — 60th percentile
Non-corner 3: 44% (76/173) — 93rd percentile.
Insane efficiency. pic.twitter.com/UY93OXKaFi
— Matt Brooks (@MattBrooksNBA) September 8, 2021
Team(s): Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers
Career Stats: 27 Pts, 7.4 Rebs, 7.4 Asts *Still Active
LeBron James has been the face of the NBA since being selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the first pick of the 2003 NBA Draft. King James, who has dominated the NBA since earning the 2004 NBA Rookie of the Year Award, continues to solidify himself among all of the NBA greats. James has won four NBA Championships, four NBA Finals MVP Awards, four NBA MVP Awards and has been named to 13 NBA All-First Teams. In addition, James has been one of the best two way players in the NBA and one of the best big men ball handlers the game has seen. James has been named to five NBA All Defensive First teams and led the NBA in scoring during 2008. There is simply nothing King James cannot do on the floor any night of the week.
- 4x Most Valuable Player (2009, 2010, 2012, 2013)
- 4x Finals Most Valuable Player (2012, 2013, 2016, 2020)
- Rookie of the Year (2004)
- 3x All-Star Game Most Valuable Player (2006, 2008, 2018)
- 17x All-Star (2005 – 2021)
- Scoring Champion (2008)
Never forget, LeBron James went to the Lakers who had not played in a playoff game for 6 years, and by year 2, they were champions. This is what LeBron does. That’s what the greatest player of his era or any era does. And he just proved it once again. ? pic.twitter.com/SehXvQ7gIP
— Ryan Rueda (@iDude14) September 10, 2021
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