Ball Don't Lie - NBA

As summer winds down and the day-to-day "news" falls flat, BDL will be ranking each NBA position, 1-through-30. Or, more accurately, 30-through-1. Here's an explanation.

In this post, we take on the small forwards, 20-through-11. Click the jump for the run.

20. Wilson Chandler(notes), New York Knicks (last year: 25th)

I don't think anyone could ever accuse me of being Chandler's biggest fan. I think he plays on a bad team (or, at least, what was a bad team), takes a lot of bad shots spread out over the big minutes that he's afforded in a up-tempo offense and pumps up his per-game scoring totals as a result. And yet, 15 points and five rebounds last year in just under 36 minutes per game on 48 percent shooting. So I have to put him somewhere.

. Shawn Marion(notes), Dallas Mavericks (last year: 23rd, but as a power forward)

Marion's contributions fell off significantly for the second straight season, so maybe this ranking is a little optimistic. He turned 32 last May, his rebounding numbers are starting to look rather ordinary and the once-passable 3-point shooter failed to hit one in every five long-range bombs he tossed up last season. Marion might be able to sustain or possibly improve a bit in 2010-11, but the bigger money is on him getting much, much worse.

. Trevor Ariza(notes), New Orleans Hornets (last year: 16th)

To these eyes, no player in this league came close to chucking as many egregious forces as Ariza did last season, and that's even counting players who worked for the Golden State Warriors. Yes, Houston's poor offense demanded that he let fly, but Ariza was just a black hole for the Rockets last season, something we're hoping he completely cleans himself of with the Hornets.

. Travis Outlaw(notes), New Jersey Nets (last year: 20th)

I like Travis. I think he's a good go-to option offensively. He hits clutch shots, he can be counted on to attempt a good shot with that length of his, and I'm hoping Avery Johnson recognizes what he can do in New Jersey, rather than letting what he can't do alter the amount of shots and minutes he'll be allowed. Something to consider: Travis won't even turn 26 until next month.

. Richard Jefferson(notes), San Antonio Spurs (last year: ninth)

Something in me really, really wants to rank Jefferson higher. To recognize that the Spurs are looking at him as their best chance to try for one more title in the Tim Duncan(notes) era. To see that his gifts are really well-suited for San Antonio's schemes on both ends of the court, despite Jefferson looking terribly out of place last season. And yet, even considering the offseason tutelage from coach Gregg Popovich and the "it-can't-get-worse-than-last-season" scenario, I have to pull back with this ranking. Few small forwards will be more pivotal than Jefferson this season, but coming off that miserable 2009-10? Sixteenth sounds about right.

. Ron Artest(notes), Los Angeles Lakers (last year: 13th)

It's hard to believe that Ron Ron has actually fallen a few places on this list, especially coming off a season where he seemed to do just about everything right (in relative terms, of course), and also because a big part of me feels like a No. 15 ranking is almost too optimistic. But Ron's getting it together, he'll have a starting slot on a team that everyone should still consider the championship favorites for a while (unless the Heat win 33 of their first 34 games), his backup (Matt Barnes(notes)) nearly made this list and his second year within the triangle could produce great things.

14. Tayshaun Prince(notes), Detroit Pistons (last year: 21st)

This could be a huge stretch for Prince, but a good part of this ranking is spurred on by the way he finished the season. Prince averaged well over 15 points per game in the season's last three months, shooting a good percentage and bringing the usual stout D. He also hit around 40 percent of his 3-pointers during that run, and that's a good thing, because the Pistons badly need to cash in on Prince's talents in a trade while he's still productive.

. Nicolas Batum(notes), Portland Trail Blazers (last year: 30th)

Before you accuse me of getting a bit batty with Nic, understand that this 21-year-old made 41 percent of his 3-pointers last season, coming through with double-figure scoring despite playing just half a game. Toss in the kid's good defense and (hopeful) ability to develop an NBA-level in-between game, and you could have a real comer for 2010-11.

. Caron Butler(notes), Dallas Mavericks (last year: sixth)

Butler's game is often so overrated, that I don't want to overcompensate and drop him too far in this list, but it was a little tempting. Caron averaged 15.6 points last season, but he has to take a few shots (13.6 a game) on his way to that total, his defense is rather middling at this point and he's not much for contributing in other areas. He's OK, mind you, and it's good to see him starting on a Mavericks team that could use his services, but he's not the final piece of a championship puzzle, as some in the media touted him last season.

Also, his game is more forward-y than guard-like, so he goes here.

. Corey Maggette(notes), Milwaukee Bucks (last year: 15th)

Corey always makes it all about Corey, we know. The guy looks for his own shot and little else every time down court, and then he sort of blacks out until his team gets the ball again.

But maybe this could change in 2010-11.

On a team coached by Scott Skiles, a team so desperately in need of what Corey brings (quick scoring and trips to the free-throw line), perhaps Maggette can get it all together. Can score in a fashion that helps teams win, rather than just looking like some sort of mid-round steal in a fantasy draft. Perhaps he can be this year's Zach Randolph(notes).

Not the loftiest of ambitions, I'm aware, but still worth shooting for. No pun intended.

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