* Please note you will not see any rookies on this list, due to the fact that they have yet to play a single minute in the NBA.
#30 DeMarre Carroll (Brooklyn Nets)
2016-17 Stats: 9 PPG, 4 RPG, 1 APG, 1.1 STL
(40% FG) (34% 3 Pt.) (76% FT)
Carroll was recently traded to the Brooklyn Nets this offseason. Carroll isn’t the greatest offensive player in the world, but he gets the job done on the defensive end and usually guards the opposing teams best player. He’ll provide an abundant veteran presence for a young Nets team this upcoming season.
#29 Terrence Ross (Orlando Magic)
2016-17 Stats: 10 PPG, 3 RPG, 1 STL
(44% FG) (38% 3 Pt.) (82% FT)
Ross is another player that works his butt off on the defensive end of the floor. Like DeMarre Carroll, he’ll get you the basic garbage points in a ball game and guard the opposing teams best player, but he doesn’t offer much as a scorer or distributor. He’s a serviceable starter, but he’s much better coming off the bench than he is in a starting lineup, in my opinion.
#28 Joe Johnson (Utah Jazz)
2016-17 Stats: 9 PPG, 3 RPG, 2 APG, 1 TO
(44% FG) (41% 3 Pt.) (82% FT)
The old man can still get it done at the age of 36. Johnson is coming off of his worst season in 15 years but he’s exactly the Utah Jazz needed coming off the bench last season. He’s not the scorer he used to be, but when the Jazz needed a bucket in crunch time last season Joe Johnson stepped forward.
#27 Luol Deng (Los Angeles Lakers)
2016-17 Stats: 8 PPG, 5 RPG, 1 APG, 1 STL
(39% FG) (31% 3 Pt.) (73% FT)
An excellent defender that’s getting a little long in the tooth. At this point in his career, Luol Deng is best off coming off the bench. He serves as an excellent veteran presence on a young Lakers team that’s looking to find there way again. Deng isn’t much of a shooter or a scoring threat in general but he can piece together quality minutes, play great defense, and grab rebounds. It wouldn’t surprise me if Deng becomes trade bait mid-way through the season as the Lakers continue to rebuild their team through the draft.
#26 Maurice Harkless (Portland Trail Blazers)
2016-17 Stats: 10 PPG, 4 RPG, 1 APG, 1 STL
(50% FG) (35% 3 Pt.) (62% FT)
Meet Luol Deng Jr. Moe Harkless gets you your garbage buckets in the paint, plays great defense, and pulls down rebounds. Not much of a shooter, but he takes quality shots and makes half of them. With guys like Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum on your team that’s all, you can ask for from a guy like Moe. Lock down the opposing teams best player and take your shots when your open. A great quality player who has yet to reach his ceiling.
#25 Kent Bazemore (Atlanta Hawks)
2016-17 Stats: 11 PPG, 3 RPG, 2 APG, 1.2 STL, 1.7 TO
(41% FG) (35% 3 Pt.) (71% FT)
More of a slasher than a shooter. If Bazemore was more consistent throughout the season he’d be a lot higher on this list. With Dwight Howard gone, he’ll likely get a lot more touches this season on the floor. As long as he can take care of the ball, he should end up being a lot higher on this list in 2018. Baze will also be relied on heavily as a go-to scoring threat in Atlanta this year.
#24 Al Farouq-Aminu (Portland Trail Blazers)
2016-17 Stats: 9 PPG, 7 RPG, 2 APG, 1 STL
(39% FG) (33% 3 Pt.) (71% FT)
Al won the Blazers’ “Hustle Award” last season and for good reason. Not only does he work his butt off on the defensive end of the floor but he grabs an enormous amount of rebounds for a small forward coming off the bench. Maurice Harkless is the starter in Portland, but Farouq-Aminu is the better player, in my opinion.
#23 Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Charlotte Hornets)
2016-17 Stats: 9 PPG, 7 RPG, 1 APG, 1 BLK, 1 STL
(48% FG) (11% 3 Pt.) (78% FT)
It’s odd to see a guy like MKG play the 3 spot and never shoot any 3-pointers. Not many small forwards in the league play the game like MKG does. He plays the 3 spot, but his game is more suited like a 4. The Hornets drafted Malik Monk and brought in Michael Carter-Williams to help out with some outside shooting this offseason because MKG isn’t a threat from beyond the arc. Don’t get me wrong though…he’s a great player and his game is pretty well rounded outside of his perimeter shooting.
#22 Brandon Ingram (Los Angeles Lakers)
2016-17 Stats: 9 PPG, 4 RPG, 2 APG, 1.5 TO
(40% FG) (29% 3 Pt.) (62% FT)
I don’t like placing Brandon Ingram this low because this kid isn’t even close to reaching his peak as a player. A lot of scouts and analysts compared Ingram to Kevin Durant coming out of college. When Durant was asked about the Ingram comparison last year, he said that Brandon Ingram is way farther ahead of him than when he was at Ingram’s age. With the addition of a floor general like Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram will be getting plenty of shots this upcoming season and I expect him to be in the 10-15 range in 2018.
#21 Andre Iguodala (Golden State Warriors)
2016-17 Stats: 8 PPG, 4 RPG, 3 APG, 1 STL
(53% FG) (36% 3 Pt.) (71% FT)
Some won’t agree with this ranking and state that it’s probably too low, which is fine. Andre Iguodala is still playing at a serviceable level but he’s on the back half of his career and playing with guys like Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green increases his productivity as a player. It makes everything easier. Iggy still plays great defense for his age and many teams would be lucky to even have him as a starter…instead he’s coming off the bench looking for his 3rd NBA championship in 2018. Go figure…
#20 Justise Winslow (Miami Heat)
2016-17 Stats: 11 PPG, 5 RPG, 4 APG, 1.4 STL, 1.8 TO (18 Games)
(36% FG) (20% 3 Pt.) (62% FT)
If Justise Winslow can stay healthy, year 3 is going to be a lot of fun. After getting his feet wet in his first season he came out and played really well last season until he got hurt. Miami’s bench isn’t anything exciting but if Winslow can stay healthy this season, he’ll play a key role in Miami’s success, which of whom I believe to be a very underrated team in the East. Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters, Justise Winslow, James Johnson, and Haasan Whiteside is a solid starting lineup.
#19 Dario Saric (Philadelphia 76ers)
2016-17 Stats: 13 PPG, 6 RPG, 2 APG, 2.3 TO
(41% FG) (31% 3 Pt.) (78% FT)
Dario Saric was my pick for rookie of the year last season. Saric was the 12th overall pick in the 2016 draft out of the country of Croatia. He’s not much of a defender and he’s careless with the ball at times but that’s expected with most rookies. He provides the 76ers with a reliable scoring threat on the offensive end of the floor and he’ll play a crucial part on a very young 76ers team in 2017.
#18 Trevor Ariza (Houston Rockets)
2016-17 Stats: 12 PPG, 6 RPG, 2 APG, 1.8 STL
(41% FG) (34% 3 Pt.) (74% FT)
Trevor Ariza has gone as the unnoticed guy throughout his entire career. He’s not going to put up large gaudy numbers like most small forwards do, but he does the dirty work for his respective teams, plays great defense, and occasionally catches fire from three-point land. He deserves more credit than people give him considering how many minutes he plays while usually defending the opponent’s best offensive player.
#17 TJ Warren (Phoenix Suns)
2016-17 Stats: 14 PPG, 5 RPG, 1 APG, 1.2 STL
(50% FG) (27% 3 Pt.) (77% FT)
TJ Warren is a really good player who’s likely lost his starting spot to the 3rd overall pick in Josh Jackson (Kansas). The Suns have so much firepower on the offensive side of the ball but have failed to get the job done on the defensive end. Warren will serve as a great scoring option coming off the bench this season. For those that don’t remember, TJ Warren averaged 25 points per game in his final season at North Carolina State. He has no issue putting the ball through the hoop.
#16 Robert Covington (Philadelphia 76ers)
2016-17 Stats: 13 PPG, 6 RPG, 1 APG, 1 BLK, 2 STL, 2 TO
(40% FG) (33% 3 Pt.) (82% FT)
I actually think that Covington is a better overall player than his teammate Dario Saric, but from it sounds like Saric will replace him in the starting lineup according to the rumor mill. The two plays are relatively close in rank so you could obviously make an easy argument for which is better. The offensive games are a close call but Covington is a better defender than Saric, in my opinion. Thus….the higher rank.
#15 Jae Crowder (Cleveland Cavaliers)
2016-17 Stats: 14 PPG, 6 RPG, 2 APG, 1 STL, 1.1 TO
(46% FG) (40% 3 Pt.) (81% FT)
Jae Crowder was recently a member of the trade that sent Kyrie Irving from Cleveland to Boston. Crowder has played the 3 spot for the majority of his career, but he’ll likely play the 4 in Cleveland with Kevin Love now being moved to Center. Crowder hits nearly half of his shots and now he’s playing with the best player on the planet in LeBron James. His game and production are only going to get better.
#14 Otto Porter Jr. (Washington Wizards)
2016-17 Stats: 13 PPG, 6 RPG, 1 APG, 1 STL
(52% FG) (43% 3 Pt.) (83% FT)
OPJ doesn’t get the credit he deserves because he plays with 2 all-stars in John Wall and Bradley Beal, but he’s low-key one of the most serviceable small forwards in the league. A great shooter who makes over half the shots he takes. He’s not as flexible as some other guys as a passer and defender but he’s more than worthy of a starting spot. The Wizards will be competitive again this season in the East and Porter Jr. will play a big part in how far the team goes in the long run.
#13 Tobias Harris (Detroit Pistons)
2016-17 Stats: 16 PPG, 5 RPG, 2 APG, 1.2 TO
(48% FG) (35% 3 Pt.) (84% FT)
This 13th spot is where things start to get tough to grade out. I’m not the biggest fan of the Detroit Pistons roster but Harris is entering a 2017 season in which he’ll probably be one of the focal points of the Detroit offense. Harris doesn’t get the respect that he deserves, being one of the most well-rounded forwards in the league. It’s unknown whether or not he’ll be a starter or not yet with Stanley Johnson on the roster, but in my opinion, Harris is the better overall player.
#12 Wilson Chandler (Denver Nuggets)
2016-17 Stats: 16 PPG, 6 RPG, 2 APG, 1.6 TO
(46% FG) (34% 3 Pt.) (73% FT)
Why Wilson Chandler requested a trade from the Nuggets last season is beyond me. The Nuggets are a fun team on the uprise who would’ve made the playoffs last season if it weren’t for Russell Westbrook being Russell Westbrook. Chandler will play an important veteran role for the Nuggets this season and can go off on the offensive end when he wants to. However, his biggest fault is that he can’t seem to stay healthy for an entire season to save his life. Chandler has missed a ton of games over the course of his career, but he gets the job done when he can put a 100% body on the floor.
#11 Danilo Gallinari (Los Angeles Clippers)
2016-17 Stats: 18 PPG, 5 RPG, 2 APG, 1.3 TO
(45% FG) (39% 3 Pt.) (90% FT)
Danilo Gallinari can put the ball through the hoop. This 11th spot is where the guys with the high-end offensive games start to separate themselves from the rest of the crowd. When you look at the Clippers’ roster you may start to think that they might not be as bad as people thought they’d be, after the departures of Chris Paul and JJ Redick. Danilo Gallinari has an excellent offensive game and he’s a terrific shooter. The Clippers lost two scoring threats at point guard and shooting guard, so they had to find a way to add some production in that area. Gallinari fits the bill.
#10 Harrison Barnes (Dallas Mavericks)
2016-17 Stats: 19 PPG, 5 RPG, 1 APG, 1.3 TO
(47% FG) (35% 3 Pt.) (86% FT)
With Dirk Nowitzki entering what could arguably be the last season of his career, it’s a good thing the Mavericks have guys like Harrison Barnes and Dennis Smith Jr. to fall back on. Harrison Barnes has a great mid-range game and he’s great in isolation when his team needs to put some points on the board. His greatest weakness, which trails all the way back to his days at North Carolina include hitting the “clutch” shot under pressure. It may sound like I’m contradicting myself but there is truly a huge difference between hitting a shot in isolation when your team needs a bucket and hitting a shot at the end of the game when your team needs a basket to tie or for the go-ahead lead. Barnes is just entering the prime seasons of his career in season #6.
#9 Rudy Gay (San Antonio Spurs)
2016-17 Stats: 19 PPG, 6 RPG, 3 APG, 1 STL, 2.5 TO
(45% FG) (37% 3 Pt.) (85% FT)
Yes, Rudy Gay only played 30 games in 2016 before an Achilles injury ended his season, but I still believe him to be a top 10 small forward in the game today. Gay signed with the San Antonio Spurs this offseason to give Kawhi Leonard some help on the offensive end of the floor. The Spurs probably won’t rush him back to the floor right away, so we’ll likely see his minutes increase as the season goes on and he feels closer to 100%. Greg Popovich always competes with the players he has, and with a deadlier offensive team this season, the Spurs should be a lot more competitive in the western conference than people make them out to be with the powerhouse franchises of Golden State, Oklahoma City, Houston, and Minnesota. Rudy Gay makes things fun again in San Antonio.
#8 Andrew Wiggins (Minnesota Timberwolves)
2016-17 Stats: 24 PPG, 4 RPG, 2 APG, 1 STL, 2.3 TO
(45% FG) (36% 3 Pt.) (76% FT)
A good majority of my friends are Timberwolves fans, so I may take some heat for not having Wiggins higher on this list but I feel that it’s a respectable ranking entering his 4th season in the league. Wiggins just signed a max extension with Minnesota that’s valued at $148 million dollars over the course of five years, and he’s worth every penny to that franchise. Wiggins is just entering his prime and that’s a really scary thing to think about considering he just came off a season in which he averaged 24 points per game in just his 3rd year in the league. The core of Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Jimmy Butler is about to make some noise in the West…and I can’t wait to watch them.
#7 Gordon Hayward (Boston Celtics)
2016-17 Stats: 22 PPG, 5 RPG, 3 APG, 1 STL, 1.9 TO
(47% FG) (40% 3 Pt.) (84% FT)
Gordon Hayward is reunited with his old college coach at last. I expect Hayward’s numbers to fluctuate towards the roof this year. He’s never really played with a solid backcourt in his career like he’s going to this season. Kyrie Irving is going to see his fair share of double teams so that should open things up for Hayward. In Utah, Gordon Hayward was usually the guy seeing double teams. He’s now no longer the best offensive player on his team and I’m sure he’s more than ok with it. He’ll see a lot of 1 on 1 matchups this season and I expect him to take advantage of those.
#6 Carmelo Anthony (Oklahoma City Thunder)
2016-17 Stats: 22 PPG, 6 RPG, 3 APG, 2.1 TO
(43% FG) (36% 3 Pt.) (83% FT)
I’m really not that big of a fan of Carmelo Anthony’s game. Basketball fans disrespect Kobe Bryant’s game at times and called him a “ball hog” when this guy has been doing exactly THAT for 15 years. There’s no denying it. Melo is still a great offensive player…probably still one of the best in the league…but he’s cost his teams as many games as he’s one won for them. Melo has a positive history of hitting the big shot in a clutch moment when his team needs a bucket for the win. He can put the ball in the hole whenever he wants and he rebounds well for a guy that’s 6’8″. What he doesn’t do is play defense and make his teammates better. Has Carmelo Anthony ever actually elevated the play of his teammates? There’s an argument to be made there. There’s a reason he’s never once gone deep in the playoffs in 15 seasons. I’m not convinced this “big 3” is going to work out in OKC, but I do love Russell Westbrook so we’ll see what he can do with the addition of two new superstars.
#5 Paul George (Oklahoma City Thunder)
2016-17 Stats: 24 PPG, 7 RPG, 3 APG, 2 STL, 2.9 TO
(46% FG) (39% 3 Pt.) (90% FT)
After his devastating injury a few years back, PG-13 is coming off of the best season of his career. Unfortunately, Paul George was unhappy with the direction the Pacers franchise was headed and he made it known….thus the trade to OKC. The top 5 small forwards in the game are the most well-rounded players in the league and #5 starts with Paul George. I can’t wait to see how Westbrook, George, and Anthony gel together on the floor. Paul George has been the focal point of his team his entire career and now he’s sharing the floor with 2 more superstars. If anyone can beat the Warriors in the West…it’s the Thunder.
#4 Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs)
2016-17 Stats: 25 PPG, 6 RPG, 3 APG, 2 STL, 2.1 TO
(49% FG) (38% 3 Pt.) (88% FT)
I know what you’re thinking. This guy is crazy for putting Kawhi Leonard at #4 on this list. I know…but hear me out. I won’t argue with anyone that wants to put Kawhi Leonard anywhere on this list from #2-4. He’s the only player in the league that LeBron James gets frustrated with when he’s matched up with him. He’s arguably the most underrated player in the league yet again and he’s finally taken full reigns as the leader of the San Antonio Spurs. There’s not really a weakness in Leonard’s game, the only problem is that the 3 guys in front of him on this list have better offensive games. Kawhi Leonard is my preseason pick for the 2017-18 NBA MVP.
#3 Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks)
2016-17 Stats: 23 PPG, 9 RPG, 5 APG, 2 BLK, 1 STL, 2.9 TO
(52% FG) (27% 3 Pt.) (77% FT)
Nicknamed “The Greek Freak”…and rightfully so. Antetokounmpo was born in Athens, Greece in 1994 and has made his way to NBA stardom in just 4 seasons. Standing at 6’11” not many humans on this planet can score, rebound, and pass like Giannis does. How many guys in the NBA do you know besides LeBron James that can play spots 1-4 at a high level? Now you’re currently asking yourself why he’s higher on this list than Kawhi Leonard…which is normal. But I believe Giannis is the better overall player by a smudge. He’s not a better shooter than Kawhi but I think he has an easier time putting the ball in the hole due to his outstanding God-given size. He makes over half the shots he takes and he can lock down defenders and protect the rim like a center. This season will be the Greek Freak’s first chance to prove that he’s capable of being the most valuable player in this league. He’s just opening the lid of what he’s capable of accomplishing in the NBA.
#2 Kevin Durant (Golden State Warriors)
2016-17 Stats: 25 PPG, 8 RPG, 5 APG, 1 BLK, 1 STL, 2.2 TO
(54% FG) (38% 3 Pt.) (88% FT)
The top two spots on this list are as clear as they come. Kevin Durant is arguably the best offensive player in the league. There’s not a person on this planet that can guard a guy who’s 6’10” and has a deadly fadeaway incorporated into his game. Adding him to the most talented team on the planet isn’t exactly fair either. The Warriors have so much firepower on the offensive end of the ball it’s figuratively impossible to stop them. Not only can Durant score at will, but he rebounds with the best of them, displays great court vision, and can nail the big shot for his team on a regular basis. There’s only one guy that’s more deserving of being higher on this list than KD and there’s no debate about who it is.
#1 LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers)
2016-17 Stats: 26 PPG, 9 RPG, 9 APG, 1 STL, 4.1 TO
(55% FG) (36% 3 Pt.) (67% FT)
Yes…King James. Not only is LeBron James number one on this list, he’s number one in the league, and he’s number one on the planet. Whether you hate LeBron James or not, you can’t deny his greatness…and if you’re not appreciating his greatness than you don’t appreciate the game of basketball. We’ve never seen another player like LeBron. He’s a rare breed. You won’t find many human beings on Earth at 6’9″ that can jump through the roof, run as fast as a wideout, and display court vision and peripheral vision like LeBron can. Yes, not even the greatest player of all time (Michael Jordan) had the intangibles that LeBron James possesses. He’s the most well rounded player in the league and has single-handedly willed some of his teams deep into the playoffs and sometimes even into the Finals. Does every player have a weakness? Yes. There are things LeBron James could do better. His perimeter shooting has improved over the years but his 3 point shooting still isn’t as deadly as some of the other players on this list and his free throw shooting is still below average, but he makes up for it by willing himself to the bucket whenever he wants, pulling boards down consistently every game and getting his teammates involved. He makes everyone on his team better and no one can argue that. LeBron is still in his prime, but I firmly believe he’ll hit a decline soon enough. He’ll be 33 years old at the end of December. Now when I say “decline” I’m talking about averaging 22 points per game instead of 26-28 points per game. I think James still has 3-4 more prime seasons left before he’ll begin to think about walking away. Most of the greats have, around ages 37-38. But for now…just enjoy watching one of the greatest players this game has ever seen.