May 6, 2012; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony (7) and Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) exchange words on the court during the first half of game four in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE

NBA Season Preview: Top 10 Small Forwards

The small forward position has totally evolved from what it once was. Once upon a time, the small forward position was predominantly for a team’s best defensive player who would just score garbage points. Now? That position is reserved for each team’s most athletic player. The position contains each team’s most flexible position player who can play each position from point guard to center.

It also is the home to the leagues two best players- LeBron James and Kevin Durant. These two guys can each play all five positions and are the premier players in the sport today. With LeBron and Durant at the top, the rest of the top small forward position players have a lot of catching up to do. The first two players are no surprise but how about the next eight? Here are the Top 10 small forwards heading into the 2013 NBA season.

May 17, 2012; San Antonio, Texas, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Caron Butler (5) shoots during the first half in game two of the Western Conference semifinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs against the San Antonio Spurs at the AT

10. Caron ButlerLos Angeles Clippers

Caron Butler comes in at No. 10 on the list. Butler hasn’t been healthy enough to make a jump into the 5-9 range but he is a damn good player when he gets on the court. He does the little things and has always been a leader, showing the world his toughness by playing with a broken hand in last year’s postseason. Playing with Chris Paul can boost your stats and I like Caron to take a nice step forward if he can stay healthy.

9. Gerald WallaceBrooklyn Nets

Gerald Wallace is a do everything type of guy. He doesn’t do one particular thing great but he does everything well. He can score, rebound, pass, defend and block shots. He is known as one of the best one-on-one defenders in the league and is often near the top of the league in steals. He isn’t the same All-Star type quality player he was with Charlotte, but Wallace doesn’t have to be the go-to-guy on a Nets team that features players such as Deron Williams and Joe Johnson.

8. Luol DengChicago Bulls

Luol will have to be the man in Chicago until MVP Derrick Rose returns from injury after the All-Star break. Deng has always been second fiddle but now he’ll get a chance to shine while Rose is sidelined. He has always struggled staying healthy but has shown up to camp at 100 percent for the first time in a long time. Look for Deng’s numbers to spike this year as he sees more shots with D-Rose out.

7. Danny GrangerIndiana Pacers

Granger is considered the “star” of the Pacers, even though his numbers aren’t “star” quality. He is still an above average player though and has come into his own as the leader of an Indiana team that will be near the top of the Eastern Conference this year. Granger’s three-point shot has steadily improved and he is a solid defender. His scoring production should increase this year as well.

6. Rudy GayMemphis Grizzlies

Gay leads the upstart Memphis Grizzlies who have proven to be a tough playoff team the past couple of seasons. When healthy, Gay is an athletic wing who can score, rebound and defend. His three-point shot can be inconsistent at time but make no mistake about it, Gay is the Grizzlies go to guy down the stretch and has proven he can hit clutch shots late in games. He was highly touted coming out of Connecticut and  is finally proving his superstar quality.

Oct 13, 2012; Hartford, CT, USA; Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce (34) dribbles the ball against New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) during the second half at XL Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-US PRESSWIRE

5. Paul PierceBoston Celtics

Despite being 34 years old, the Truth is still one of the best, most clutch fourth quarter players in the game today. Despite not being the player he once was, everybody knows that Pierce will still take the big shots in the fourth quarter for Boston and be one of the key pieces in determining whether the Celtics can stay in the upper class of the Eastern Conference.

4. Andre IguodalaDenver Nuggets

Iggy has turned into quite the ball player. Once just considered a freak athlete, he has polished his game and turned himself into a viable offensive threat. He is one of the premier defensive stoppers in the league today and showed the world that he can now shoot the rock during the Olympic games in London. I think his first season away from Philadelphia will be a huge success. This team and their style of play fits Iguodala’s game perfectly. He is a guy who likes to run and play a high volume game, just like teammate Ty Lawson.

3. Carmelo AnthonyNew York Knicks

The time is now for Carmelo. His draft partners (LeBron,Darko,Bosh,Wade) all now have rings, leaving him as the lone top five pick of the 2003 draft who hasn’t won the big trophy yet. Carmelo is a top five offensive player in this league, no doubt about it. He can shoot from the outside, drive to the basket, post up smaller players, and he finally looks to be in good shape.

The knock on him has always been his defensive skills. ‘Melo is a bad defensive player who has no interest in buckling down and making a big stop when he needs too. The other problem with ‘Melo is how he co-exists with teammate Amar’e Stoudemire. The two have yet to click and if it doesn’t happen this year, one of them might be on their way out of New York.

2. Kevin DurantOklahoma City Thunder

Never before has the league seen a player as unique as Kevin Durant. The 6″10 small forward is virtually unguardable. He can take it inside or light it up from behind the arc. His length makes it impossible to block his shot and he is arguably the most clutch player in the game right now.

Durant is already a three-time scoring champion and is only 24 years old. He will make a run at Kareem’s scoring record if he remains healthy and he just might break it. KD has taken the once laughable Oklahoma City Thunder and turned them into a powerhouse that game up just short in their first NBA Finals appearance. Don’t be mistaken though, it shouldn’t be long before Durant gets his first ring.

1. LeBron JamesMiami Heat

No surprise here. LeBron James is not only the best small forward in the game, but he is unquestionably the best player in the game today. Period. The three-time MVP and now NBA champion might go down as one of the top five players to ever play the game. He can do it all and then some- score, rebound, pass, and defend. He is the ultimate total package. Hate him or love him, there is no denying his greatness. A player like LeBron hardly ever comes around, so cherish the time we have to watch him play the game.

Tags: Carmelo Anthony Kevin Durant LeBron James New York Knicks Paul Pierce

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