1. LeBron James– Cleveland Cavaliers: Many will agree that James is the top small forward in the league but just incase you think different here’s why he is No. 1. Last season, King James or as others call him, LBJ shocked tons of people around the world by bringing the Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy to his hometown in Cleveland, OH. It wasn’t an easy task, as they had to defeat the favored Golden State Warriors. The Cavs started the series on the wrong foot when they went 1-3 in the first four games. Somehow James and his teammates found a way to beat the Warriors in three consecutive games including a couple at the Oracle Arena. This is an impressive task since the Warriors were dominate with a 39-2 home record in the regular season. During the Finals, LeBron averaged 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, 8.9 assist, 2.6 steals, and 2.3 blocks and led all players in points, rebounds, assist, steals, and blocks. No other player in NBA history has put up those kind of numbers in any playoff series. If that is not enough to show that he is the number one small forward in the NBA, here are some more reasons. He is the fifth player to win at least three Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP Awards. James is the first player in the last 50 years and the only non-Celtic in NBA history to play in six consecutive Finals. James has seven career Finals triple-doubles, which is one shy of Magic Johnson’s record of eight. During the Finals, James became the only player to rank in the top 10 on the career postseason list in points, rebounds, and assist. James scored 18 consecutive points for the Cavs during their Game 6 victory. This was the second-longest playoff streak of his career. James scored 41 points in Game 5 and 6, becoming the first player with back-to-back 40-point games since Shaquille O’Neal. James made an NBA record with 68 Finals three-pointers. LBJ has 131 playoff victories, tied for the seventh most in NBA history. He has 176 career 20-point playoff games, another NBA record. Finally, James ranks third all time in playoff assist with 1,348, fourth in points 5,572, and ninth in rebounds. James is the third player to record triple-doubles in a Finals Game 7. The reasons why James is the top small forward in the NBA can go on and on, this only shows what he did last season. James has accomplished a lot during his career and it doesn’t look like he is slowing down anytime soon.
2. Kevin Durant – Golden State Warriors: Kevin Durant has a new home and on Tuesday night fans around the world had a preview of the upgraded version of the Warriors. Golden State was already a dominate team with several All-Stars and Durant just adds to their overall potential success. The former Longhorn had impressive numbers last season with the Oklahoma City Thunder as he averaged 28.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, and five assist per game. The upside of making the move to Golden State is the Championship doesn’t seem out of reach, but the downside is that his stats will probably go down. Having so many All-Stars on a team is a blessing and a curse for the coaching staff. There were already three All-Stars (Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green) on the Warriors and some are worried that adding a fourth All-Star may mess with the team’s chemistry. They have so many offensive options but they must figure out the right balance and the right chemistry to have a successful season. This sounds easy but it can be nearly impossible to achieve for some teams. It remains to be seen if what looks good on paper can consistently transfer to the floor.
3. Giannis Antetokounmpo – Milwaukee Bucks: Giannis Antetokounmpo also know as the Greek Freak had his best performance of his young career last season. He averaged a career high with 16.9 points, 7.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.4 blocks per game. The Greece native has impressed many around the league with his quickness and athleticism but he still has areas where he can improve. The Bucks have experimented with Antetokounmpo by using him in different positions, particularly the point guard position. His 6 foot-11 frame does not slow him down or affect his guarding skills. This could be a deadly combination for opponents to overcome. As he enters his fourth year as a professional basketball player, he will be looking to improve in all areas and keep making a name for himself.
4. Paul George – Indiana Pacers: After suffering a gruesome injury, Paul George bounced back with his best scoring performance of his career by averaging 23.1 points per game during the 2015-16 campaign. George has made it clear this coming season he is looking for the Pacers to reach the playoffs and do some damage. George is impressed how dedicated his teammates were this offseason and believes the team is prepared to make a run for the Championship. George has proven time and time again that he is tough and his goal is to win it all. He has come close but has not achieved it yet.
5. Kawhi Leonard – San Antonio Spurs: The two time NBA defensive player of the year Kawhi Leonard is coming off a career high in points, blocks, and games played for Gregg Popovich. It seems like Kawhi has no intentions of slowing down with the Spurs. With Tim Duncan’s retirement, Leonard seems to be the best person to take over the team. Over the past couple of seasons, we have seen Popovich praise Leonard and is clear that he is molding him into becoming the leader of the team. He is an overall dominate player and is one of the best small forwards in the league.
Honorable mentions: Carmelo Anthony, Nicolas Batum, Andrew Wiggins, Tobias Harris, Justise Winslow, Rudy Gay, Gordon Hayward