The scoring rate in the NBA these days is at an all-time high, as teams are focusing on efficient ways of scoring a ton of points. Of course, we have some of the most spectacular offensive players in the game today including Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, and Jimmy Butler playing at MVP levels. The names mentioned all happen to be forwards and often occupy the small forward at superstar levels.
We have seen over the past decade how elite small forwards control the game on both ends of the floor and are mainly responsible for their team’s successes. Thanks to the new wave of incredible athletes and skilled players at the small forward spot, some of the best offensive players are often wing players. While small forwards are still required to defend and use their size, scoring is most likely their priority these days.
Looking back at the last 40 years, here are the leading scorers at the small forward position from 1982 until the 2022 season. Some names will appear more than once, and some other players managed to take offense to an entirely different level by dominating the scoring charts every year. Without further ado, here are the last 40 scoring champions at the small forward spot in the NBA.
1982-83 - Alex English - 28.4 PPG (Denver Nuggets)
Alex Egnlish would win his first and only scoring title in 1983, leading all forwards and all players in scoring by posting an impressive 28.4 PPG on 51.6% from the field. The talented scorer around the rim made his second All-Star Team and was unstoppable with the ball in his hands as a member of the Denver Nuggets.
1983-84 - Adrian Dantley - 30.6 PPG (Utah Jazz)
Adrian Dantley has to be one of the best offensive players of his era because he continued to prove his worth as arguably the most elite scoring small forward in the league by the time the 1984 season rolled around. The scoring machine won his second scoring title in 1984 by posting 30.6 PPG on 55.8% shooting from the field, and 85.9% from the free-throw line.
1984-85 - Bernard King - 32.9 PPG (New York Knicks)
One of the best scorers and all-around players in Knicks history, Bernard King averaged an excellent 32.9 PPG for the New York Knicks in 1985 to lead all players in scoring. King shot 53.0% from the field and 77.2% from the free-throw line. Standing 6’7” and with some of the best quickness at his position, King was certainly one of the most impactful small forwards in the NBA at the time.
1985-86 - Dominique Wilkins - 30.3 PPG (Atlanta Hawks)
It wouldn’t be long before Dominique Wilkins would stamp his name on the NBA as an elite scorer, and the 1986 season was the first indication of what to expect over the next few years. Blessed with elite athleticism and dunking ability, Dominique made his first All-Star Team by leading the league in scoring at 30.3 PPG.
1986-87 - Dominique Wilkins - 29.0 PPG (Atlanta Hawks)
The following year, Dominique once again led all small forwards in scoring and finished second in the NBA in scoring behind the great Michael Jordan. Wilkins made a living from mid-range, around the basket, and also when flying high in the air. Making his second All-Star Team, Dominique averaged 29.0 PPG on 46.3% shooting.
1987-88 - Dominique Wilkins - 30.7 PPG (Atlanta Hawks)
For the third straight year, Dominique led all small forwards in scoring and he also finished second behind Michael Jordan in league scoring. If it wasn’t for Jordan’s most spectacular season ever, Wilkins might have earned his second scoring title. There was still no shame in finishing second in the league because Dominique was firing on all cylinders by shooting 46.4% from the field.
1988-89 - Alex English - 26.5 PPG (Denver Nuggets)
Alex English is one of the most dominant scorers during the 1980s, and he often did it with the ball in his hands. His ability to create his own shots and finish at the rim with grace was a major reason he managed to put up 26.5 PPG on 49.1% shooting. Easily, English was one of the best Denver Nuggets stars of all time.
1989-90 - Dominique Wilkins - 26.7 PPG (Atlanta Hawks)
Once again, Dominique Wilkins led all small forwards in scoring by averaging 26.7 PPG for the Atlanta Hawks. There was truly no comparison to him at his position because his elite athleticism and grace made him must-see tv. Playing 36.1 MPG, shooting 48.4% from the field, Wilkins was certainly at an All-Star level as he finished 5th in the NBA in scoring.
1990-91 - Bernard King - 28.4 PPG (Washington Bullets)
In his final All-Star season at age 34 for the Washington Bullets, Bernard King averaged 28.4 PPG on 47.2% shooting from the field. These are certainly elite numbers for a player that had relied on efficiency and quickness during his prime. King also managed to finish 3rd in the NBA in scoring behind Michael Jordan and Karl Malone.
1991-92 - Chris Mullin - 25.6 PPG (Golden State Warriors)
While fans will immediately point to the current Golden State Warriors (or the one from 2018) as the most exciting team in franchise history, Chris Mullin’s Warriors in the early 1990s were a sight to behold as well. Thanks to his premier shooting and offensive abilities, Mullin averaged 25.6 PPG on 52.4% shooting from the field to lead all small forwards in scoring.
1992-93 - Dominique Wilkins - 29.9 PPG (Atlanta Hawks)
Guess who? Dominique led all small forwards in scoring again, this time he did it by posting 29.9 PPG on 46.8% shooting and finished 2nd overall in the NBA in scoring behind Michael Jordan. It is amazing how Jordan did not allow any all-time great player to have any glory, but Wilkins was earning it from Hawks fans, to say the least.
1993-94 - Dominique Wilkins - 26.0 PPG (Atlanta Hawks, Los Angeles Clippers)
At age 34, Dominique Wilkins played on two different teams after getting traded after 49 games with the Hawks. He posted 24.4 PPG with Atlanta through those games and finished off the 1994 season by averaging 29.1 PPG on 45.3% shooting. Of course, Wilkins would make the All-Star Team for the final time.
1994-95 - Jamal Mashburn - 24.1 PPG (Dallas Mavericks)
Jamal Mashburn was a versatile forward because he occupied both the small forward and power forward positions over his career. In 1995, Jamal averaged 24.1 PPG on 43.6% shooting from the field for the Dallas Mavericks. A strong outside and inside scorer, it is no surprise to see a prime Mashburn in his best season appear on this list.
1995-96 - Glen Rice - 21.6 PPG (Charlotte Hornets)
One of the greatest shooters ever, Glen Rice was on a tear during the 1996 season by posting 21.6 PPG on 47.1% shooting from the field and 42.4% from three. Rice was known to be an elite spot-up scorer and could also create his offense when needed, a reason why he made his first All-Star Team during the year.
1996-97 - Glen Rice - 26.8 PPG (Charlotte Hornets)
The 1997 season marked the second time Glen Rice would make the All-Star Team, and he did it by posting a career-high in scoring. The small forward shot 47.7% from the field and 47.0% from three for the Charlotte Hornets, elite numbers for a small forward who finished 3rd in the NBA in scoring at 26.8 PPG. Clearly, Rice was one of the best shooters ever and only one can wonder what his numbers would be if he played today.
1997-98 - Shareef Abdur-Rahim - 22.3 PPG (Vancouver Grizzlies)
Shareef Abdur-Rahim has to be one of the greatest scorers in Grizzlies history because even if he wasn’t a premier All-Star at the forward position, he could get buckers from inside and outside. The forward averaged 22.3 PPG on 48.5% shooting from the field, strong numbers for a player that appeared in all 82 games and averaged 36.0 MPG.
1998-99 - Shareef Abdur-Rahim - 23.0 PPG (Vancouver Grizzlies)
For the second-straight year, Abdur-Rahim led all small forwards in scoring thanks to his mix of jump shooting and inside scoring. The forward was well-built at 6’9” and 225 lbs, which made him a capable option to play the power forward spot as well. But he started at small forward throughout the year, posting solid numbers.
1999-00 - Grant Hill - 25.8 PPG (Detroit Pistons)
Grant Hill was supposed to take the reigns from Michael Jordan and become the most dominant offensive player in the league. While he never fully got there due to injuries that greatly derailed his career, we saw glimpses of his greatness as in the case with the 2000 season. Hill averaged 25.8 PPG on 48.9% shooting, which marked his 5th All-Star appearance in 6 years.
2000-01 - Vince Carter - 27.6 PPG (Toronto Raptors)
Vince Carter put Toronto on the map, and he did it mainly through the 2001 season. He was already the best athlete and dunker in the NBA, but he was a dominant scorer as well. Armed with physicality, explosiveness, and a solid jumper, Carter made headlines every week for his offensive prowess. He finished 5th in the league in scoring and led all small forwards at 27.6 PPG.
2001-02 - Jerry Stackhouse - 21.4 PPG (Detroit Pistons)
Jerry Stackhouse was a great scorer during his prime because he had explosiveness and shooting ability that stretched to the three-point line. The small forward led all players in his position in 2002, posting 21.4 PPG on a below-average 39.7% shooting. Stackhouse took a lot of shots, which is why he lacked efficiency that prevented him from making his 3rd All-Star Team.
2002-03 - Antawn Jamison - 22.2 PPG (Golden State Warriors)
Antawn Jamison was one of the early players who could stretch the court from deep and also score inside effectively. Before becoming a full-time power forward, Jamison started as a small forward where he provided floor-spacing and also post abilities. Antawn posted 22.2 PPG for the Golden State Warriors, a scoring average good enough for him to make a solid go-to option on the floor.
2003-04 - Peja Stojakovic - 24.2 PPG (Sacramento Kings)
Peja Stojakovic is one of the greatest pure shooters we have ever seen, and his best season came in 2004 when he played a vital role for the Sacramento Kings which were certainly title contenders. Peja averaged a career-high 24.2 PPG on 48.0% FG, 43.3% 3-PT FG, and 92.7% from the stripe. An elite marksman, Peja was on an absolute tear in 2004.
2004-05 - LeBron James - 27.2 PPG (Cleveland Cavaliers)
The 2005 season saw the emergence of LeBron James as the most dominant scoring small forward in the world. He put up 27.2 PPG for the Cleveland Cavaliers, doing it through his unstoppable ability to get to the rim. James was incredibly explosive and was shocking people with how a player with the build of Karl Malone could move so effortlessly.
2005-06 - LeBron James - 31.4 PPG (Cleveland Cavaliers)
For the second-straight year, LeBron James led all small forwards in scoring and he also made it look as effortless as possible. The young King was so great, that the Cleveland Cavaliers began their hope of one day becoming NBA champions. James did it all on offense, posting 31.4 PPG on 48.0% shooting and his scoring average is still the best of his career.
2006-07 - Carmelo Anthony - 28.9 PPG (Denver Nuggets)
A clutch shot-maker and talented offensive star, Carmelo Anthony averaged 28.9 PPG on 47.6% from the field and 26.8% from three for the Nuggets. The small forward had every offensive trick in the book from jump shooting to basket drives, and there was not much any defender could do against him in 2007. Of course, we were given the chance to witness Anthony compete with scoring-leader Kobe Bryant all year long in terms of offensive exploits.
2007-08 - LeBron James - 30.0 PPG (Cleveland Cavaliers)
LeBron James only has one scoring title, and he won it in 2008 as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers. The King averaged 30.0 PPG on 48.4% shooting from the field, 31.5% shooting from three, and 71.2% from the line. An unstoppable scorer at the rim, James was a monster with the ball in his hands and he will forever be known as the best player (and scorer) in Cavaliers history.
2008-09 - LeBron James - 28.4 PPG (Cleveland Cavaliers)
The King came close to winning his second scoring title, but future teammate Dwyane Wade ended up winning the award by posting 30.2 PPG for the Miami Heat. James led all small forwards, though, as he was still absolutely unstoppable when he attacked the rim. Many thought we would never see a player be more unstoppable than James on the offensive end, but only one season later we would see the start of an all-time great shooter and scorer.
2009-10 - Kevin Durant - 30.1 PPG (Oklahoma City Thunder)
The 2010 season saw the rise of Kevin Durant as one of the game’s most unstoppable scorers, challenging the likes of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James in that regard. KD averaged 30.1 PPG on 47.6% from the field, 36.5% from the three-point line, and 90.0% from the stripe. Standing close to 7-feet tall, Durant would soon mark his stamp on the league.
2010-11 - Kevin Durant - 27.7 PPG (Oklahoma City Thunder)
The superstar small forward once again led the NBA in scoring at 27.7 PPG, averaging 46.2% from the field, 35.0% from three, and 88.0% from the free-throw line. Durant began taking the Oklahoma City Thunder to brighter spots because the team was on the come-up and would make the NBA Finals as early as the following year. Durant would not be done just yet, as he would soon win his third scoring title.
2011-12 - Kevin Durant - 28.0 PPG (Oklahoma City Thunder)
For the 3rd straight season, Durant led the NBA in scoring by posting 28.0 PPG to lead the likes of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James for the award. The Oklahoma City Thunder star was simply unstoppable on the court, averaging 49.6% from the field and 38.7% from three. Durant was already a greater version of Geroge Gervin, something NBA fans and media members would have never dreamed of seeing.
2012-13 - Kevin Durant - 28.1 PPG (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Even if Durant lost in the NBA Finals one year prior, he would start the 2013 season as the greatest scoring small forward yet again. KD averaged 28.1 PPG on incredible 50-40-90 splits, competing in 38.5 MPG in 81 games played. What KD was doing so early in his career by the age of 24 was truly special, because we saw a Hall of Famer budding before our eyes.
2013-14 - Kevin Durant - 32.0 PPG (Oklahoma City Thunder)
In Kevin Durant's only MVP season, the forward led the NBA in scoring on nearly 50-40-90 splits. Durant shot 50.3% from the court, and his scoring average was his career-high. It was funny to see defenders scramble to contest KD’s shots because he could literally rise over defenders and shoot without any disturbance. Of course, Durant’s incredible offense was the reason the Oklahoma City Thunder to the second seed in the West at 59-23.
2014-15 - LeBron James - 25.3 PPG (Cleveland Cavaliers)
After a long spell of dominance from Kevin Durant, LeBron James would return to his spot as the king of the small forward. James averaged 25.3 PPG for the Cavaliers squad that were title-contenders all year, and he ended up making the NBA Finals. Interestingly, Kevin Durant only played 27 games during the season which is why he was not a contender for the scoring title.
2015-16 - Kevin Durant - 28.2 PPG (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Playing at an impressive 35.8 MPG, Kevin Durant was the undisputed man for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Armed with elite handles and a sniper of a jump shot that could destroy any defensive scheme that opposing coaches employ, Durant dropped 28.2 PPG on 50.5% shooting from the field. Unfortunately for Durant and the Thunder, a 3-1 collapse in the Western Conference Finals would kill the season. But Durant would change his career with one major offseason decision.
2016-17 - LeBron James - 26.4 PPG (Cleveland Cavaliers)
With Kevin Durant in Golden State for his first season, James took advantage by leading all small forwards in scoring yet again. The King averaged 26.4 PPG on 54.8% shooting from the field and 36.3% from three, very strong numbers for a player that was also tasked with being a primary playmaker and rebounder as well. Even at age 32, James was unstoppable at a physical level.
2017-18 - Kevin Durant - 26.4 PPG (Golden State Warriors)
Durant’s second season with the Golden State Warriors once again ended in success, as he captured his second-straight NBA championship. The superstar small forward could not be contained, finishing 6th in the league in scoring despite playing alongside Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Durant fit seamlessly into Golden State’s offense because he was an unselfish scorer that could nail outside shots alongside the “Splash Brothers” and also create in the clutch when the offense broke down.
2018-19 - Paul George - 28.0 PPG (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Paul George had the best season of his career with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2019, posting 28.0 PPG on 43.8% from the field, 38.6% from three, and 83.9% from the free-throw line. PG13 was an absolute superstar during the season, also chipping in 8.2 RPG. 4.1 APG, and 2.2 SPG. One of the best two-way players in the league, George has yet to score the ball as he did in 2019.
2019-20 - Kawhi Leonard - 27.1 PPG (Los Angeles Clippers)
Mainly known as a defensive superstar and sidekick scorer, Kawhi Leonard proved his worth as arguably the best-scoring wing player in 2020. After all, does Leonard have a weakness? The Claw can nail outside shots, back down his defenders, and also attack the rim with force. He is not only a physical specimen but is very efficient because he nailed 47.0% of his shots from the field, 37.8% from three, and 88.6% from the free-throw line. We are waiting for Kawhi to return to this level, and he could return from his nagging injuries as soon as the 2023 season.
2020-21 - Jayson Tatum - 26.4 PPG (Boston Celtics)
Jayson Tatum was certainly one of the contenders for the scoring title in 2021 because he finished 12th in the league in scoring at the young age of 22 years old. The Celtics forward has the best years of his career ahead of him, because he can space the floor and create his own shot with ease. We could be seeing the next version of Kevin Durant because Tatum has the ability to take over games with ease.
2021-22 - Jayson Tatum - 26.9 PPG (Boston Celtics)
This season, Jayston Tatum finished 7th in the NBA in scoring by putting up 26.9 PPG on 45.3% from the field, 35.3% from three, and 85.3% from the stripe. Tatum started the season very slowly, but eventually caught his groove by nailing shots around the court and also taking over in the clutch. The future is very bright for Jayson Tatum because he has the skills to do what he wants on the offensive side of the floor.