For the 2014-20 season, you must have seen how the NBA small forwards are living up to the expectations from their fans. Some have come through while others are still struggling to meet those expectations. The performance of some has warranted the notice of the NBA fans and congratulations are in order, especially with the advanced stats, team chemistry and overall individual play. However, to be fair, some have met with injuries while others have to consider that their aging legs aren’t up to par anymore. For the most part, though, several on this list have given their best and so it is worth mentioning which ones are currently in the forefront while we wait on others to pick up their pace. A good NBA small forward is ready and able to play extraordinary defense and shoot the ball at a high-scoring level. He will hold an elite position in the league, aspiring to be like some of the great forwards that historically played the game of basketball. A player with superb caliber like this will go on to make history in the playbooks.
The position of NBA small forward has players who are multi-talented and have lifted their respective teams to successful game wins. Several of these players are NBA championship mentions, some top MVP candidates and others holding a memorable position in the minds and hearts of their fans for specific plays made during various games. LeBron James and Kevin Durant, two superstars will always be mentioned in many conversations like this one if they keep playing at such high level. The 10 basketball players that made the lists of outstanding 2014-15 NBA small forwards are indeed not afraid to go the extra mile to help their teams win basketball games and at the same time, showing why they are the best.
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10 Luol Deng
Many people gave up on Luol Deng because of his poor performance during the half-season played with the Cleveland Cavaliers. But, he is not done yet. Though, he didn’t have such good numbers during the 40 NBA games that he played while in Cleveland, it shows now with his current performance that this was just an ill-fated union for Deng and the Cavaliers. He played well while he was with the Chicago Bulls before going to Cleveland, putting up average numbers like 16 points, 2.5 assists and 6.4 rebounds per game. In Cleveland, his points dropped to an average of 14.3 with 5.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists each game.
The Miami Heat and Pat Riley made the wise comparison and pounced on the opportunity to steal the 29-year old Deng from Cleveland. It shows with his current game that he is a better match for the Miami Heat. Deng has helped to stabilize the defense and is a great asset to the team’s top players, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
9 Trevor Ariza
Trevor Ariza’s average numbers are in close comparison to Deng and Batum. The Washington Wizards depended on Ariza more than the Rockets do now. In his defense, the Houston Rockets won’t completely rely on him as there are other players who have the ability to help the team. In Houston, Ariza will provide the wing defense that is needed in replacement of Chandler Parsons. However, the Rockets pretty much have the boards covered, but will need Ariza to hit three-point shots in the corner of the court as he did so well while he was in Washington.
Ariza is now 29 years old and he probably has gotten as good as he will ever be. He will offer his veteran, athletic defense and three-point shooting experience to the team. However, the Rockets still belong to players like Dwight Howard and James Harden. Chandler Parsons seemed like the third wheel until he got injured, freeing up the spot for Ariza to show the prominent player that he is.
8 Nicolas Batum
Standing at 6-foot-8, Nicolas Batum gets the edge over Trevor Ariza because he is a better-rounded player for a team that needs him so much. His height, wing span and long arms allow him to rebound the ball and play the passing lane better than his teammates. Many people often overlook him because of his pricey contract and it doesn’t do any better that he shares the limelight with players like LaMarcus Aldridge. However, the Blazers need Batum’s defense ability to be taken seriously.
Last year, he played for 36 minutes each game, giving the team an average of 13 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists. While his numbers aren’t always competitive, on any given night, he will give the team 5-5-5-5. Most of what he does will not show up in his stats because he doesn’t mind doing the dirty work that no one seems to notice that much. Batum makes the other team’s defense pay while everyone is watching Lillard on the perimeter or Alridge on the floor.
7 Chandler Parsons
Chandler Parsons probably got a contract worth more than what he is worth as a player, but he is definitely underrated athletically. However, he is also an excellent three point shooter. With superstars like Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki on his team, Parsons takes third position. He probably doesn’t mind, though, since the team has as good a chance as anybody for a long run at the playoffs. Parsons did improve his rebounding, passing and scoring abilities each season, but with the superstars in the forefront, he might not have the opportunity to really show his true potential. Adding him to an already strong team gives the Mavericks more fire power in perimeter shots and rim attack. He does need a little work on wing defense.
6 Gordon Hayward
For the 2014-15 season, it cannot be argued that Gordon Hayward has proven that he is the Utah Jazz's best player. He is well-rounded and a better wing defender compared to Chandler Parsons. He averages a stat sheet of 19.7 points per game, 4.3 assists and 5 rebounds. He lands in the company of some elite players like Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook. He doesn’t have a perfect game though. His three-point shooting was poor last season. Before that, he averaged 42% from three-point range. He should work on his accuracy and leave his shooting struggles behind. He definitely is one to watch out for because he is great with grabbing rebounds, attacking the basket and setting up plays for his teammates.
5 Rudy Gay
Although, Rudy Gay can be a one-man team sometimes, concentrating on making his shot rather than what is necessary for a team win, he helped the Sacramento Kings look like a respectable team last season. The Toronto Raptors also benefited from his average 19 points per game and 38% shooting from the field. In Sacramento, he averaged 20 points per game and 48% shooting from the floor.
Let’s put this into perspective. Last season, Paul George of the Indiana Pacers averaged 21 points per game and 42% shooting from the floor. Of course, he is not as good as George, but offensively, but he's an impressive player.
4 Kawhi Leonard
Out of any small forward on this list, Kawhi Leonard has the least notable stats. But, wait! You haven’t gotten to the shooting splits and rating for player efficiency. He plays less than 30 minutes each game yet brings so much to his team. Soon, coach Popovich may not want to restrict this 23-year-old star’s minutes. The Spurs are a deep team and Leonard was able to give the team an average of 14.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 1.7 assists a game in last year's playoff run. Under the tutelage of teammates, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, this kid has so much more in store for NBA seasons to come.
3 Carmelo Anthony
Many haters of Carmelo Anthony might disagree with him landing the no.3 spot on this list. But, he has shown his skill for a long time in the association. He has great scoring abilities, although, some may think he is a ‘ball hog.' His shooting abilities are what is most noticeable and with a good supporting cast of defenders, the New York Knicks and Anthony are viable contenders in the NBA. He's now out for the rest of the season and no one knows if he still has a future in New York, but there are many teams who would happily take Melo.
2 Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant has had his share of disappointments, but he still tries to improve his game and is the main reason for the Oklahoma City Thunder's success over the last few seasons. Although, ringless, he still had better defensive numbers than LeBron James did last season. He is definitely a contender for the MVP award for this season, despite his long injury and deservedly took home the award last year. Only 25 years old, Durant has a lot more to offer the NBA. The title window is still open for both he and Westbrook and they both seem to realize this.
1 LeBron James
Well, we all knew it would come down to the king grabbing the number 1 spot. It’s no surprise. He gives 100% on most nights and is always the difference maker. Although, he has gone back to the Cavs, his game has not changed that much. With Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving as his supporting cast, LeBron will do just as well as he did with the Miami Heat. He is in line for another title. It’s going to be his to take. After a rough start to the season, he and his Cavs appear to be trending towards contender status as was expected of them.
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