Best Small Forwards of All-time

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A significant milestone was achieved by Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant last December 18, Philippine time, when he scored a free throw in the final minute of the second period against the Memphis Grizzlies.

That was Durant’s 21,792nd point of his NBA career, surpassing Bird’s 33rd best career accumulated score then.

It also put him closer to the top of elite small forwards, the top of which is occupied by Lebron James to this date.

It is a wonderful opportunity for my generation got to be able to watch the top three forwards of all-time in my opinion, with due respect to Julius Irving, Elgin Baylor, Scottie Pippen, John Havlicek, and Rick Barry.

Here’s how they stack up against each other statistically (stats as of December 21, 2018):

Stat  Bird  James  Durant
Regular season
Games played            897       1,174         803
Total points       21,791     31,905     21,836
Points per game         24.29      27.18      27.19
Total rebounds         8,974       8,659       5,736
Rebounds per game         10.00        7.38        7.14
Total assists         5,695       8,245       3,223
Assists per game           6.35        7.02        4.01
Total steals         1,556       1,905         918
Steals per game           1.73        1.62        1.14
Total blocks            755         911         889
Blocks per game           0.84        0.78        1.11
Total turnovers         2,816       4,074       2,540
Turnovers per game           3.14        3.47        3.16
FG percentage         0.496      0.504      0.491
FT percentage         0.886      0.738      0.884
3-pt percentage         0.376      0.345      0.383
Playoffs
Games played            164         239         127
Total points         3,897       6,911       3,656
Points per game         23.76      28.92      28.79
Total rebounds         1,683       2,122       1,012
Rebounds per game         10.26        8.88        7.97
Total assists         1,062       1,687         503
Assists per game           6.48        7.06        3.96
Total steals            296         419         126
Steals per game           1.80        1.75        0.99
Total blocks            145         232         151
Blocks per game           0.88        0.97        1.19
Total turnovers            506         866         395
Turnovers per game           3.09        3.62        3.11
FG percentage         0.472      0.491      0.471
FT percentage         0.890      0.743      0.860
3-pt percentage         0.321      0.332      0.344
Miscellaneous
Championships won 3 3 2
Playoffs appearances 12 13 8
All-star game appearances 12 14 9
Season MVPs won 3 4 1
Finals MVPs won 2 3 2
NBA First Team makes 9 12 6
All NBA Team makes 10 14 8
1st defensive team makes 5
All defensive team makes 3 6
Rookie of the year won 1 1 1

(Stats from Land of Basketball.com and Basketball Reference.com)

Who is the best of the three, four if we are to include Irving?

It really depends on preference and perception.

In my opinion, James would be more difficult to stop or limit on the floor, Bird possess the best basketball talent, while Durant is the best floor spacer.

It would be difficult for any coach to find a match for James because he has the perfect body built and athletic ability to create a mismatch no matter who is guarding him.

The way Bird plays displayed an array of basketball savvy that could be hardly match by any forward, James included.

Observe how he passes even to teammates behind his back, how he fires shots even with people in front of him, how he follows his own shot, the way he handles the ball, how he positions for a rebound, the way he plays team defense.

He even rebounds better than his two more athletic contemporaries, Durant is also taller, and that is no accident. It talent and IQ that allows him to do so.

Both Durant and Bird are excellent and efficient shooters but Durant’s ability to drive to the basket and dunk forces his defender to be more straight and honest than Bird’s.

If I were a GM to form a team, these three would make my list in determining the foundation of my team.

By: ARMANDO M. BOLISLIS

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