The Orlando bubble is going to feature just the cream of the crop. The best players on earth are going to take the hardwood by storm at the Disney campus to try and win the most unusual NBA Championship in the history of the league.
That means that the greatest players in the game will have to be at their best from start to finish during this final stretch if they don't want to put their health at risk for nothing. We're about to see something unprecedented in the history of sports.
And, as you may know by now, most of the current best players in the league play the small forward position. That's why after thorough thinking and analysis, we're going to rank the best small forwards in the Orlando bubble by category.
Player - LeBron James
We're about to see a version of LeBron James that we've never seen before. He's going to have four months of full rest to heal his body and start the playoffs completely healthy and restored. He's going to take it up a notch and that's a scary thought.
James has been playing at his best since the start of the season and now he won't be worn out come playoffs time. That means he'll play lockdown defense and pile up as many minutes as he can when it matters the most. Revenge season is underway.
Scoring - LeBron James
LeBron James has a career average of 27.1 points per game, which makes it funny to think that people don't think of him as a pure scorer. I mean, what's more of a pure scorer than a guy that has averaged 27 points per game over 17 years?
Well, that's just how much we expect from the King. James' scoring averages have taken a slight dip as he's currently averaging 'just' 25.7 points per game. Expect those numbers to trend up once the playoffs start and he unleashes the Kraken.
Rebounding - LeBron James
On top of those 25.7 points per game, LeBron James is also averaging 7.9 rebounds a night (1.0 offensive boards and 6.9 defensive rebounds). He's always been big and strong enough to take a beating in the paint vs. big men and dominate both sides of the glass.
Ever since he made it to the league, LeBron James has been a double-double threat and that's not likely to change any time soon. In fact, he's averaging 0.5 more rebounds per game than his career average (7.4), fooling father time again.
Playmaking - LeBron James
One of LeBron James' most impressive traits has always been his basketball IQ. James has top-tier court vision and knows how to tear defenses apart in real-time. Combine that with his outstanding passing ability and you have yourself the ultimate point forward.
James has been running the point full time for the first time in his career. The result? a league-leading 10.1 assists per game. In fact, making a permanent switch to the point guard position could help him have an even longer career in the league.
Shooting - Khris Middleton
Khris Middleton has earned a lot of praise and respect around the league lately because of the way he's turned from a 2nd-round pick and G-League alumni to an All-Star and the second-best player on the team with the best record in the league.
And one of Middleton's biggest traits is his shooting. He's currently averaging 21.1 points per game on 49.9/41.8/90.8 shooting splits. He's also got a 61.9% true shooting percentage and is knocking down 2.4 three-pointers per game.
Defense - Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi Leonard is the best defender in the world and it's not even close. Notably, he just keeps getting better and better in that regard, which says a lot about his unmatched work ethic. That's why he's a perennial candidate for Defensive Player of the Year.
This season, Leonard is averaging 1.8 steals and 0.6 blocks per game. He's also piled up 3.0 defensive win shares and owns a defensive box plus-minus of 2.5. Add 26.9 points and 5.0 assists per game and you have the best two-way player on earth.
Clutch - Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi Leonard isn't like most humans. As a matter of fact, there are few people that aren't still 100% convinced that he's a human. He looks like a cyborg sent back from the future that won't hesitate to take a big shot and destroy your favorite team.
Leonard has proven to be a master in the clutch time after time. His most recent demonstration came with that iconic long two vs. the Philadelphia 76ers in the second round of the playoffs in 2019. He's not the guy you want taking the last shot if you're on the opposing team.
Efficiency - LeBron James
LeBron James has always been a synonym for efficiency. He shoots the ball at a high field goal percentage, especially for a perimeter player, and that's something that hasn't changed the slightest this season, as his posting 49.8/34.9/69.7 shooting splits.
Moreover, James has a 26.0 PER this season to go along with a 58.2% true shooting percentage, a box plus-minus of 8.7, a usage percentage of 31.5%, and a Value Over Replacement of 5.7. That should speak volumes of what he's done this season.
Leadership - LeBron James
LeBron James is the ultimate leader. He's outspoken, hard-working, and leads by example, both on and off the court. He's been deemed passive-aggressive from time to time and we know he's had a lot to do in some trades around him but he's always delivered when it mattered the most.
James led two different franchises to 8 straight trips to the NBA Finals. He had already led the Cavaliers to the Finals in just his 4th year in the league and is now trying to cement his legacy by winning a ring with his third franchise. He's never hesitated to put the team on his back.
Handles - Paul George
Paul George first made it to the league as a shooting guard and even though his playmaking was quite limited, he proved to have some of the most enticing handles the league had seen on a guy his size on a while. He had some moves that looked like something out of an AND1 tape.
George has a sick crossover and knows how to get operate in tight space and get to his sweet spots thanks to his handles. His playmaking has also improved significantly over the years, even though he's not asked to run the offense that often.
Athletic - LeBron James
LeBron James is a freak of nature. At least in terms of athleticism. The King continues to run the court at full steam and he's a one-man fast-break no player in the world wants to take a charge from, not even at age 35 and in his 17th season in the NBA.
James takes elite care of his body and he hasn't lost his first-step, his flexibility, or his vertical leap whatsoever. He's a gifted athlete and with that kind of work ethic, he could easily play at a high-level way into his forties. Hopefully, that'll be the case.
Rookie - Michael Porter Jr.
Not so long ago, Michael Porter Jr. was considered the best prospect from the 2018 NBA Draft class. Injuries made him slip all the way to the 14th pick but the Denver Nuggets were wise to take a gamble of him considering his combination of size, athleticism, and fundamentals.
Michael Porter Jr. has all the traits and skills to be an elite player and prolific scorer at all three levels. He can play from the shooting guard to both forward spots and has proven to be special in limited minutes. He's likely to have an important role off the bench for the Nuggets in the playoffs after averaging 7.5 points and 4.1 rebounds on 14.0 minutes a night.