September 29, 2009
OK, we know the first decade of the 21st century doesn't really end until 2011. We think. But we also know there have been 10 full NBA seasons played since the phrase "Y2K" was on all of our lips (1999-2000), and here at Ball Don't Lie we've decided to use this as an offseason excuse to rank some of the best and not-so-brightest of the 10 campaigns in question. The result? Why, top 10 lists!
No, Scottie Pippen wasn't the best small forward of all time. Far from it.
But he helped define the position. And that position? You're in a position where you're expected to do just about everything well. Score, board, pass, dribble, defend, shoot, play, hard, play.
We think the following players have held up quite well to Pippen's on-court challenge. After the jump, you'll find the top 10 small forwards of the last decade.
10. Jamal Mashburn
He may not have changed the game much, but Mash was an all-around forward who basically made life hellish for any coach who underestimated his "nah, he's no game-changer"-abilities.
Scores in the post, scored off of hard dribbles, scored on the perimeter, and got to the line. Also made the right pass, played a bit of point forward, and rebounded well enough. His career was more or less over by the mid-point of the decade, but Mash could play. Remember that.
In a pinch, his shot selection can be a bit crap. His handles aren't there, his perimeter touch isn't much to write home about, and he can gamble defensively.
Everything else? He's just fine. Scores, passes, uses his athleticism, contributes. Sure, he isn't what we'd hope for, considering the athletic package presented, but that hardly matters in the face of what he's given the 76ers since 2004. He may frustrate, but the ends help argue away the means.
The Magic list him at power forward, which is quaint, but the man is a small forward. He stays on the perimeter, he worked the position in Seattle, he's a small forward.
Lewis' game hasn't exactly been the sort of stuff chilling docudramas have been made of, but he can shoot, he scores in double figures, and he can shoot. Shoots well, also.
Because of his appearance on several nationally televised games per season, Jefferson tends to come off as a superduperstar. He isn't. But he's been pretty good, solid in all areas, since the 2001-02 season.
Johnson isn't the franchise player the Atlanta Hawks pegged him as, but as a do-it-all wing, he's damn good.
If Joe's legs are there, few are better at breaking down defenses and making a solid decision with the ball. He's a passable defender, a very good passer, a fine finisher in the paint, and someone worth defending behind the three-point line.
Peja's more or less finished, but he was a knockout scorer for years with the Sacramento Kings, on very good teams.
Though Predrag was drafted in 1996, Stojakovic didn't come over to the States until 1999, working as a backup wing during the lockout year. And his blend of quick and accurate shooting alongside post scoring made him a consistent All-Star during the decade.
As it is with just about every small forward on this list, 'Melo's game has holes. Doesn't defend well enough, could stand to pass better, take better, shots, and rebound better.
But he's adequate in most areas, and fantastic at putting the ball in the hole. And after a 2008-09 season that was a bit of a letdown individually, we see Anthony bouncing back.
McGrady's been grimacing and in pain for most of the decade,
but he's also been a standout wing. At his best, and at his healthiest, he has
no limitations. No holes, nothing to work on, nothing to worry about.
Pity that he's had so, so much to worry about.
One year, 2003-04, didn't work out all that well. Pierce slept through the entire season.
Actually, 2006-07 was kind of a drag, Pierce was hurt and the Celtics stunk it up, but other than that? He's been all you can ask for as a small forward. Kind of annoying, pretty potent, sound in all areas.
Nobody on this list has come close to be considered the best player in the game. McGrady may have been there for a spell, but it was fleeting. Peja was thought of as an MVP candidate one year, but that was nuts. Anthony had promise, and while he hasn't let anyone down, he still isn't thought of as an MVP-type.
James? He's been at the top of the heap for a while. One of a few players who fighting for the top spot in the NBA in 2005-06, took a step back in 2006-07, and the game's best ever since. Fully worth the hype, the attention, while nearly making the idea of a position useless.
Small forward? Feh. Classifying things with LeBron, by position? It makes no sense.
Questions? Comments? Furious and righteous anger at a world, not to mention top 10 list, gone wrong? Swing by later today at about 3 p.m. Eastern for a BDL mini-chat regarding this very list.