10.) Tobias Harris, Detroit Pistons
Tobias Harris and Scott Skiles didn’t work out at all. They didn’t get along in Milwaukee, and his production decreased with him in Orlando. The trade to the Detroit Pistons was a God send. He averaged 16.6 points per game in his 27 games on the Pistons. All of his shooting percentages increased. Harris joins Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond on an improving Pistons team.
9.) Rudy Gay, Sacramento Kings
2015-2016 was Rudy Gay’s worst scoring season since his rookie season. Gay averaged 17.2 points per game. He never averaged less than 18 in any season other than his 10.8 per game his rookie season. The Sacramento Kings had another abysmal season and Gay didn’t help them win. His biggest issue throughout his career is his inability to lead a team. The dip in production entering his age 30 season is a concern for the Kings.
8.) Jae Crowder, Boston Celtics
Jae Crowder’s emergence makes the Rajon Rondo trade that much worse for the Dallas Mavericks. Crowder averaged a career high 14.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game. He was the Celtics force on defense and brought the energy on a game-by-game basis. No one on the Celtics plays harder than Crowder. Playing for Brad Stevens has changed his career and Crowder is no where near his peak.
7.) Gordon Hayward, Utah Jazz
In six NBA seasons, Gordon Hayward has managed to increase his point per game total. In 2015-2016, Hayward averaged a career high 19.7 points per game. He is a competitive player on a competitive team that is stuck in the brutal Western Conference. He has the talent to contribute, but not lead a team. His job is to recruit a point guard to Utah this offseason.
6.) Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
This may be the last year we see the “Greek Freak” on our small forwards list. The Bucks tested him at point guard and he took off. In a down season, the Bucks need to roll with what worked. Giannis Antetokounmpo dropped 5 triple-doubles this season. Four of them came on and after Feb. 29, the day Michael Carter-Williams got injured and later ruled out for the season. Antetokounmpo ended the season with 16.9 points, 7.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. His points, rebounding and assist numbers have improved every year in his three-year career.
5.) Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
For the third season in a row, Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks have failed to make the NBA playoffs. At least Anthony is still producing. He averaged 21.8 points per game in 2015-2016 and has averaged over 20 in every career NBA season. His offensive game expanded averaging a career high 4.2 assists per game. Anthony proved last year he can be a team player and needs to recruit another star to New York.
4.) Paul George, Indiana Pacers
Paul George sank 210 three-point shots, the most among small forwards. George came back strong averaging 23.1 points and 7 rebounds per game. He led an Indiana Pacers team with a weak supporting to the seven seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. Even though Indiana wasn’t great, the NBA is better when George is healthy. He deserves another star in Indiana (cough, Al Horford).
3.) Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
Kawhi Leonard is the best defensive player in the NBA. He has won the award two consecutive seasons. Defense is Leonard’s identity, but he averaged a career high 21.2 points per game. He also led all small forwards shooting 44.3 percent from behind the three-point line. Leonard is a superstar who is still getting better. Gregg Popovich isn’t retiring anytime soon and the Spurs dynasty will continue thanks to Leonard.
2.) Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
Kevin Durant led all small forwards in points and rebounds per game with 28.2 and 8.2, respectively. He still led with ball hog Russell Westbrook doing everything possible to get a triple-double every night. Durant earned his next contract and is going to make north of Anthony Davis’ $145 million contract he signed last offseason ($122 million if not on an All-NBA team). Durant is the league’s third best player.
1.) LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
LeBron James is the best player in the NBA. I know Steph Curry shot the lights out in 2015-2016, but no one is more important to their team than James. James averaged 25.3 points per game and led all small forwards with 6.8 assists per game. The Cleveland Cavaliers went 1-5 when James didn’t play. James is a once in a generation player.