The NBA is heavily dictated by superstar players more than any other sports league in the world. This makes sense since superstar players can get the ball and impact the game pretty much whenever they want to.
More specifically, the small forward position has become the most impactful position in the league. Wing players have now been the most dominant forces in the NBA for some time now. LeBron James has been the league’s best player for nearly a decade, while Kevin Durant has been right behind him.
More recently, Kawhi Leonard has transformed from a defensive specialist to arguably the top player in the league as we speak. He is a two-time NBA Finals MVP who dominates on both ends of the floor. Even Giannis Antetokounpo, the refining regular season MVP, is entering the best player in the league conversation.
With so much dominance at the small forward position, who is the best when we categorize them? It is time to see which player owns the small forward categories.
Scoring: Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant is easily the best scoring small forward in the NBA. He has a perfect offensive arsenal and is a threat to score from literally 35 feet to the basket. Durant is also very efficient, thanks to his ability to shoot over defenders and get good looks whenever he wants.
No matter where he is on the floor, Durant can score. From the free-throw line, he is automatic. From three, he is very proficient even with a hand in his face. It is no wonder why Durant is a multiple-time scoring champion.
Rebounding: LeBron James
LeBron averaged the most rebounds in the NBA out of all the top forwards, and he is truly a better rebounder. James is the best all-around player in the league, and rebounding is a big part of his game.
James has consistently averages 7 or more rebounds for most of his career, and this is a clear testament to his high basketball I.Q. and his ability to impact the game in a variety of ways.
Playmaking: LeBron James
If there is one area where James is particularly dominant, it’s his playmaking ability. Lebron, in many ways, plays like Magic Johnson. He is very adept at finding open shooters when he attacks the rim, thanks to his incredible size and strength that forces defenses to collapse on him. James can pretty much make any pass he wants, as long as he sees a picture of what he wants to do next.
While guys like Giannis Antetokounmpo comes close, James is the best playmaker at the SF position.
Shooting: Kevin Durant
Once again, Durant takes the cake for putting the ball in the basket. He is automatic from anywhere on the floor and is a dead-eye of the highest order. If KD gets a good look, it’s usually lights out.
While Kawhi Leonard comes closest to Durant in terms of shooting ability, he is a distant second since KD can shoot a high percentage even when double-teamed thanks to his height.
Defense: Kawhi Leonard
Another no-brainer, but this time for Kawhi Leonard. Kawhi is one of the games greatest defensive players, and he can lock anybody up on any given night. Kawhi has the size to defend 4 positions very well, and even bother some centers with his long arms and huge hands.
In fact, his hands are so large that he has no problem palming the ball which gives him a distinct advantage at poking balls away and bothering defenders. Kawhi is easily the best defensive small forward in the league.
Clutch: Kevin Durant
When it comes to clutch, it is between Durant and Kawhi. As good as LeBron James has become as he has gotten older, he still prefers to defer on final possessions by passing the ball. But Durant is just too lethal with the ball in his hands. He can get a shot off whenever he wants, and he is the ultimate weapon for getting a bucket with the clock ticking down.
Durant can score in any way he wants, and his ability to create shots from nothing is a rare skill.
If you need a basket, from anywhere on the floor, Kevin Durant is the man.
Efficiency: LeBron James
This one does to LeBron. James is the king of efficiency, often stuffing the stat sheet with a very high field goal percentage. The reason LeBron is so efficient is because he rarely forces shots, and always plays within the flow of an offense. Not to mention, most of his points come closer to the basket since he is the most unstoppable force at attacking the basket we have ever seen.
If James feels like it, he wouldn’t miss a shot during a game and still drop 25 points. James is a special talent when it comes to being efficient.
Leadership: LeBron James
Once again, LeBron takes this one. He is the best leader at this position, and it is not even close (yet). James is very vocal and puts everybody accountable for their own efforts. Even so, he still managed to make guys better on the floor. James is one of the most unselfish players on the court, often passing up shots to his teammates. Not to mention, he enjoys playing that way.
Beyond playing style, he leads by example. James works hardest from anyone in the league, and the way he takes care of his body should be studied and admired.
Athleticism: LeBron James
Without a shadow of a doubt, James is the most freakish great athlete in the NBA. Standing at almost 6’9″, James is a battering ram when he attacks the rim at his weight and speed. Even in his prime, James clocked in at 260 pounds of pure force.
What is scary about LeBron James is that his size actually helps him athletically. He can jump as high, run as fast, or move his feet despite his muscular frame. James is truly a physical specimen to admire.
Ball Handling: Kevin Durant
When it comes to pure handles, Durant is the man. He has an uncanny ability to break any defender down with quick dribbles and hesitations, and thus create any shot he wants. Better than any small forward in the game, Durant has an assortment of dribble moves that actually breaks ankles.
Despite standing at nearly 7 feet tall, Durant has the handles of an elite point guard and he can put on a highlight reel whenever he wants.
Basketball I.Q.: LeBron James
In terms of pure basketball I.Q, LeBron James is the best and it isn’t close. James can read and remember plays while on the floor, and always seems to be a step ahead of everyone else. While this can be gained through film study and practice, James is supremely gifted at the game. He always makes the right play on the court and rarely makes mistakes.
James is one of the smartest players in history, and even the best players in the league today don’t come close to his understanding of the game.
Overall: LeBron James
James, all factors considered, is the best overall small forward in the league. While Durant has an unstoppable offensive game and Kawhi a defensive game, LeBron’s impact and leadership on the floor is unquestionably great. He has been to the Finals an unbelievable amount of times and has often carried subpar talent throughout his career.
James simply understands and plays the game better than most, and he has the best all-around game.