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College, NBA / Jul 30, 2009 / 9:44 am

Top 10 small forwards of the ’08-09 season

LeBron James

LeBron James

Back for one more. As I’ve covered before, this isn’t a typical “best players” list. If you see a high school kid ranked higher than an NBA All-Star here, nobody’s saying the prep is better than the pro. Instead, I’m looking at the whole picture: Who had an overall better season? Pound-for-pound, who made the biggest impact on their level? Who made the biggest mark on the entire game of basketball? Who made this season his own? That said, here are my Top 10 — not “10 best” — small forwards from the ’08-09 season…

10. Trevor Ariza
Nothing to carve a bust for in the regular season (8.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.7 spg), but Ariza earned his money in the playoffs (11.3 ppg, 48% 3PA, 1.6 spg) and was invaluable in getting the Lakers a championship. He took pressure off Kobe by handling tough defensive assignments, he hit dagger threes, and he came up with timely defensive stops and steals when it mattered most. Even if Ariza’s agent did blow his client’s chances at staying in L.A., the Rockets’ five-year, $33 million deal wasn’t the worst consolation prize out there.

9. Caron Butler
The list of NBA guys who had to carry a bigger load than Caron in ’08-09 is shorter than Ne-Yo. With Gilbert Arenas pretty much out for the whole year and Antawn Jamison locked into “I’m getting my 20-10 regardless” mode, Caron had to headline Washington’s cast of inexperienced oft-injured knuckleheads. He slapped up 20.8 points, 6.2 boards, 4.3 dimes and 1.6 steals while single-handedly winning a few games along the way, but the Wizards still lost 63 times.

8. Terrence Williams
College ball’s most complete player was all over the stat sheet: 12.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.3 steals, leading Louisville to the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament and a spot in the Elite Eight. I spoke to T-Will a couple weeks ago, and here’s how he analyzed his senior season: “If you win games, all the accolades that you want will come to you. I was on the cover of Sports Illustrated three weeks in a row, and that wouldn’t have happened without winning, without my teammates. There were guys who were supposed to be ranked better than me because they averaged 20-something points or whatever, but I made sure my team won.”

7. Ron Artest
Never mind what he did on the court for a second. Seventeen points and five boards will be forgotten one day, but when somebody on the Rockets (I’m guessing Brent Barry) writes a book about this season, stories like traveling to a Game 7 in his drawers and popping up in Kobe’s shower like The Ghost of Queensbridge will make ’08-09 Ron Artest the most “fun crazy” star of the post-Rodman era. And as Houston’s last All-Star standing when T-Mac and Yao got hurt, Ron-Ron got the team to the brink of the conference finals, then joined forces with his nemesis Kobe over the summer.

6. Paul Pierce
This time, everybody was expecting great from Pierce. And while he didn’t live up to his own “I’m the best player in the world” preseason hype, he still did his thing. Like always, The Truth (20.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 3.6 apg, 81 games) was the Celtics’ most dependable rock. The difference was that it appeared to wear on him more than in years past, as Pierce wasn’t his usual Takeover self during the playoffs.

Super-Granger (photo. Stephen Hill)

Super-Granger (photo. Stephen Hill)

5. Kevin Durant
Admittedly, when I picked KD to lead the NBA in scoring in ’09, I didn’t 100% believe he’d actually do it. I believed he had a shot at the crown, but the larger point of my prediction was that Durant would make a big leap from his rookie year into legit stardom. And he did. KD’s 25.3 ppg was sixth in the League, and after he permanently moved from two-guard to small forward, he flourished.

4. Danny Granger
The NBA’s Most Improved Player and first-time All-Star finished fifth in scoring (25.8 ppg) and fourth in threes (182), and just missed taking a seriously flawed Pacers team to the playoffs. With Indiana playing so many close games, Senor Buckets got a lot of crunch-time reps and grew into one of the League’s up-and-coming fourth-quarter killers.

3. Hedo Turkoglu
Somewhat before and definitely after Jameer Nelson had his season-ending injury around All-Star break, Hedo (16.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.9 apg) was Orlando’s primary playmaker/ball-handler and its go-to scorer in clutch situations. He QB’d the Magic all the way to the Finals, knocking off the defending champion Celtics and the heavily-favored Cavs along the way, then inked a $53 million deal with the Raptors in free agency.

2. Carmelo Anthony
As much as everyone talked about ‘Melo (22.8 ppg) patching up the well-known holes in his game, his rebounding (6.8 rpg) was actually down from a year ago, and his field-goal shooting (44 percent) was his lowest since his second year in the League. But forget the numbers: ‘Melo finally got past the first round of the playoffs, and while Chauncey Billups was getting most of the credit for taking the Nuggets to the conference finals, ‘Melo constantly reminded everybody who is the face of the franchise. Dropping 27 points per in the postseason, he gave Dallas a buzzer-beating game-winner and a 41-point outing, then hit the Lakers for 30-plus three times in their series.

1. LeBron James
No other player in the NBA could average 38 points, eight boards and eight dimes in a playoff series and still get the brunt of the blame for his team losing. You see what ‘Bron is dealing with? Despite falling short of Cleveland’s championship aspirations and being subject to fan-hating only Kobe could identify with, LeBron owned this season. He took home the MVP trophy (28.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 7.2 apg, 1.7 spg, 1.1 bpg), was a first team NBA All-Defensive pick, led the Cavs to a League-best 66 wins, and made like $184 million in the process.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
5. Brian Cardinal — If he played on a team as popular as the Celtics, he’d easily take Scalabrine’s spot as the Worst Player in the NBA.
4. Bruce Bowen — MiMS didn’t fall off as fast as Bowen did this year. Love the dude, still pattern my pickup game after him, but he’s done.
3. Danilo Gallinari — Booed at the Draft, screwed up his back before the season started, then had a quiet 28-game rookie campaign (6.1 ppg) that was about as memorable as Walter Sharpe’s.
2. Luol Deng — Signed a $71 million deal last summer, then dropped off the face of the Earth. Deng actually wasn’t THAT bad stat-wise (14.1 ppg, 6 rpg), but numbers don’t tell the story. Deng was a bust this year, no two ways about it.
1. Ricky Davis — Anybody could (and everybody did) predict a Davis/Clippers marriage would be a disaster. Ricky Buckets got ‘em few and far between in L.A., going for 6.4 points a night at 33 percent from the field.

* Top 10 Point Guards
* Top 10 Shooting Guards
* Top 10 Power Forwards

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  • karizmatic

    The Terence Williams quote automatically makes him one of my favorite guys. It should be exciting to watch the small forward matchups next season. Could next season be the year of the small forward?

  • goonther

    GUARANTEED there is going to be serious Lebron backlash @ dime for putting him #1 – even tho he effin deserves it

  • http://www.imeem.com/dialogs/standaloneplaylist/?p=ztKqfEZj smoove chips

    lebron deserves that spot.hate his antics,ain’t mad at his game.too simple

    lakers tap that in 2010 lol,assuming we sign the candy man

  • Leonard Wilson

    Was Granger originally a power forward?

  • elaly

    lakers got worse with artest… dude got that contract cuz of his reputation and reputation alone because his numbers are statistically worse than Ariza this past season and he is a lot older, not to mention wasn’t the primary defender on the rockets, and he is suppose to be known for his defense because u dont pay artest for his offense…the same offense where he breaks plays repeatedly and shoots ill-advised shots deep into the shotclock…

    lakers got worse this offseason…if LO bounces then u basically are relying on Bynum to become Howard in the span of 1 offseason…

  • dk

    @ Dime

    What no college or high school scrub on the list!!!!!!

  • no j mayo

    No fuckin way that Durant isn’t at least number 3 on this list…….Turdglue?? STFU

  • elaly

    @no j mayo

    what has durant done?? has he seen the postseason? did he have a better year including the postseason than Hedo?? thats a straight up hell no… he didnt hit game winners past march, nor did he beat the cavs or the defending champs in any series… sure durant can score, but regular season doesn’t matter… nor does it equate to him having a better year than mr. 4th quarter for a final’s team…it doesnt

  • Celts Fan

    Scal’s not even the worst player on the Celtics. He’s a NIGHTMARE, but Tony Allen would be overmatched in a pickup run in Latvia.

  • the_don_mega

    @no j mayo – better read AB’s disclaimer first before goin’ on a rant…

    “this isn’t a typical “best players” list. If you see a high school kid ranked higher than an NBA All-Star here, nobody’s saying the prep is better than the pro. Instead, I’m looking at the whole picture: Who had an overall better season?”

  • OHYES

    MY BOY MELOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

  • jzsmoove

    Carmelo should be dropped to #6 on Pierce’s spot. Hedo, Granger and Durant move one spot up each respectively, to #2 t0 #5. Artest should be #6 and Pierce should drop to #8 on the list.

  • Chaos

    Hey thank you for puttin melo as high on this list. He had a great season. the drop in his rebounding numbers dropped cuz he had a more complete team this go around. Nene and kenyon stayed relatively healthy and he had good bench play. He took a better leadership and defensive role. On the team. Chauncy had a good influence on him that will prolly last. Hedo is overrated on this list

  • sh!tfaced

    LeBron is the number one small forward, no doubt, and arguably the most hated player today.

    KD might win the scoring title this year.

    Danny Granger had a hell of a season and just ruined it by wearing that ugly ass, overused logo (jacket,robe or cape?).

  • Heckler…formerly ‘Yallallreadyknow’

    terrance williams hasnt even played an nba game yet. how the hell can he make the list of 08-09 players?

  • http://www.myspace.com/beenobrown BERN BROGDEN aka BINO BROWN STR8 UP N DOWN

    DANILO’S rookie year “was about as memorable as Walter Sharpe’s.”

    OUUUUUUCHHHHHHHHHH!

    And what does the smug Danilo say about that???

    “Whatever dude, I could’ve had a rookie season like MJ(shrug) but I didn’t feel like it.”

    Then Danilo resumes playing John Woo’s Stranglehold he started back in back rehab.

  • Dagomar

    Still don’t really get why Lebron is so hated. By all accounts he’s a great teammate, a great leader, liked by most of the NBA . . . IF he covered up the dunk (and that’s very iffy) it would be out of character and stupid, especially given that it was no big deal. Leaving the court without shaking hands was bizarre if not unprecedented, although remember this is still a kid in his early 20s. But he’s getting hate as though he was accused of rape, played selfishly and ranted about shipping out his teammates. It’s insanity.

    Like it or not, this guy’s the best player in the game and will be the face of the league for years to come. I do feel Durant should be at least #3 on this list though, maybe even #2. He’s gonna go nova this year and his team has some serious young talent. I’m not saying they make the playoffs but . . . they might.

  • Dagomar

    Correction: it’s the 08-09 season (my bad). List looks solid then.

  • QQ

    Here’s a question, who would win in a Royal Rumble to the death between:

    Dwight
    Lebron
    Brandon Bass
    Artest
    Kenyon
    Dwade
    Boozer

    I think I’d go Lebron vs Dwight as last men standing…and lebron pulls out the victory with a Ken-like dragonpunch.

    Anyone else?

  • MC Welk

    Williams wasn’t even the best small forward on his college team. Earl Clark was. Williams is an SG who can’t shoot.

  • Sweet English

    Firstly, i think its worth pointing out that when Dime highlight that Lebron is a great PLAYER, there isnt much backlash. When the hype is about something OFF the court, thats where he starts to lose the love.

    Secondly, QQ, i’m gonna go for Artest vs Dwight, Artest finishes it with some crazy Mortal-Kombat-pull-your-spine-out-your-ass-shit.

    BLAOW.

  • SpoiledPrinceJames

    Can we make it a rule to never call him King again? More like spoiled prince. There’s only two people I’d spit on if I saw them in person walking down the street; Spoiled Prince James and Reggie/Cheryl Miller. (same person)

  • http://www.myspace.com/beenobrown BERN BROGDEN aka BINO BROWN STR8 UP N DOWN

    @ 19

    I see Kenyon and Bass last ones standing.

    Then Bass with the figure four.

    Then KMart taps out.

    Then Bass takes takes Trina off his hands.

  • utahJZZ

    lebrons the best sf,
    but he gets too much hype, and media attention

  • http://leogau.com Leo

    Good list. Thanks for showing Caron Butler some love. Didn’t get a lot of attention but definitely stepped up his game. Hopefully the Wiz can put something together this season.

  • Aaron

    Wow @ the LeBron hate, I mean really is it that serious?

  • The Dude

    I just wanna say that MC Welk is a moron. Terrence Williams was the SF on Louisville and Earl Clark was the PF. And Terrence Williams can shoot. Get your facts straight!!

  • haslem

    lets just say it:
    before its all said and done, KD might just out do melo

  • http://joe.com joe

    dime i usually back you on everything and pierce is better then ariza, but if you’re only going by the year they had, ariza is not #10. and paul pierce sure as hell isn’t #6. flip flop them and we’ll talk.

  • bill

    wow – SF really has fallen off in terms of overall talent.

  • Greg

    Ariza was better than Pierce, really? A role player who hit open spot up threes and was a better team defender than individual one was better than Pierce last season.

    Admittedly Pierce didn’t have his best year. I wasn’t too optimistic coming into the season considering that his worst season happened five years ago when he similarly had little time off in the offseason like he had this past one, recuperating from his meniscus sprain after a long playoff run. He didn’t start getting ready for the season, really ready, until about three weeks before training camp. That’s how long it took for the soreness in his knees to disappear. Overall, he looked sluggish but he was still a far far better player than Ariza. You can’t compare a top offensive option who has to create his own shot to a guy who mostly feeds on open threes. Ridiculous.

    Pierce is still young enough that with a full offseason to rejuvenate, I expect him to play very well next season.

  • Derik

    he doesn’t put up crazy numbers like he used to do, but now he runs with Jason Kidd again, I can’t believe Shawn Marion isn’t in the top 10… 2 years ago, he was top 3.

  • RICK773

    DENG is gonna have a breakout season…Blind Optimism perhaps but until the season starts…I’m gon act like I knew it all along….

  • http://yahoo dj

    melo best player in the league

  • Matt Ballou

    nO Richard Jefferson? WTF

  • Mellmeister_reppin’_Shaolin

    @jzsmoove says:

    Carmelo should be dropped to #6 on Pierce’s spot. Hedo, Granger and Durant move one spot up each respectively, to #2 t0 #5. Artest should be #6 and Pierce should drop to #8 on the list.

    Melo dropped on pierce’s spot? you’ve gotta be kidding me. Pierce claiming that’s he’s the best player in the planet, can’t even be justified… you got a lot to consider… (winning with two future HOF in KG and Mr.Shuttlesworth.) besides topic about the best player in the planet? you can only put 3 in the same breath, that’s D-Wade, LBJ and Kobe. and Melo’s just creepin’ on the come up.

    @haslem says:

    lets just say it:
    before its all said and done, KD might just out do melo

    KD outdoing melo? how? on a game of horse? :) hahahaha! KD’s getting better as a scorer, but he still can’t do what melo does in games (melo doesn’t need to score much)… melo brought his team to the playoffs in his rookie season, how did KD faired on his rookie season? (which made me think that LBJ was hyped up) and yes KD might pile up points, but melo piles up W’s.

    KD would be able to Out Do Melo in Year 2020… :P

  • rangerjohn

    all the ariza love is crazy, the kid has never averaged more then 9 PPG, 1.8 apg, and 4.4 rpg? and he has better numbers then artest? or he is better then pierce? GTFOH

  • doc

    Looks good