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NBA Position Rankings: Small Forward

The small forward position arguably has the biggest collection of players with different play styles in the entire league. There are a myriad of wings who each serve a different role to their respective team, as some are offensive juggernauts, others are purely lockdown defenders, and some are shooting specialists. And then there’s some guys who can do it all. The small forward position is one of the easiest to build around in the modern NBA, as their size and mobility combined with their overall skillset and attributes is something each and every team is thirsty for.

Not only that, but the small forward position is arguably the most stacked of any position in the NBA. From seasoned vets and proven champions like LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard, to young studs like Jaylen Brown and Brandon Ingram, this position includes some of the best players on the planet. The depth for this position isn’t eye popping, but the quality of the top guys outweigh the quantity of the list in its entirety. With that being said, it’s time to rank.

30. James Ennis (Orlando Magic)

I'm going to come out with energy': James Ennis III provides needed spark  in his Magic debut – The Athletic
Kim Klement/USA Today Sports

2020-21 Stats- 4.1 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 1.3 APG, 1.0 TOV, 38.2 FG%, 23.1 3PT%, 100.0 FT%, 42.6 EFG%, 46.1 TS%, 19.1 MPG

The Orlando Magic have been in what many call “NBA Purgatory” for the past few years now. They’ve been stuck in the center of mediocrity; not good enough to make noise in the postseason, but not bad enough to get a top draft pick. This year is no different for this franchise, as despite countless injuries, they have a group of guys who are good enough to will them to the playoffs but not good enough to make them do anything when they get there.

Nikola Vucevic is having a silent All-Star season, Evan Fournier has provided solid scoring in the games he’s played, Terrence Ross is quite literally the human spark plug off the bench, Aaron Gordon continues to round out his game into a solid professional, Cole Anthony has had a good rookie season thus far, and Steve Clifford is one of the most quick-witted coaches in basketball. And then there’s James Ennis.

James Ennis has never necessarily been a good professional. In the past, he’s been a capable shooter, but since being dealt to Orlando last trade deadline, he’s been abysmal in that aspect, shooting a career worst 25.8% from 3. His defense isn’t very notable either; he’s average on that end but nothing special. Despite the cons in his game, he’s a solid athlete who also provides exceptional hustle which warrants at least a bench role. Ennis isn’t good at too much, so when ranking him alongside the best of the best he won’t find himself high, however, he brings enough to a team to have a role off the bench for 15-20 minutes a contest.

29. Isaac Okoro (Cleveland Cavaliers)

2020-21 Stats- 8.6 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.8 TOV, 39.7 FG%, 33.3 3PT%, 62.5 FT%, 45.9 EFG%, 48.1 TS%, 37.4 MPG

Isaac Okoro came into the 2020 NBA draft with significant praise. He was regarded as the best defender in the class as his perimeter defense wasn’t matched by any other prospect, but on the other side of the ball, his play wasn’t particularly noteworthy. His athleticism gave him slashing potential, but as a shooter & scorer, he lacked nearly everything needed. Despite this, his defense was so good to the point where it made teams think hard about selecting him high despite the risk it may include, and Cleveland took that risk as they drafted him 5th in the 2020 draft. 

Okoro hasn’t done much as a pro. He got injured to start the year, and in the games he’s played, he hasn’t looked great statistically. This was expected, as he was incredibly raw coming out of college, and with a shortened training camp, preseason, and no summer league at all, most rookies were expected to struggle early. But watching the games, Okoro looks like he’s made some strides since his college days. He still isn’t anything good offensively, but his passing vision & patience has looked solid for a rookie, and his form for his jump shot looks improved. And as a defender, Okoro hasn’t disappointed, as his defensive skillset looks advanced for a 19 year old. Okoro is by no means a good NBA player just yet, but he has shown signs of potential for the future. 

28. Danny Green (Philadelphia 76ers)

2020-21 Stats- 9.7 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.7 TOV, 38.2 FG%, 38.0 3PT%, 72.7 FT%, 52.7 EFG%, 53.7 TS%, 28.4 MPG

Danny Green is having his stereotypical regular season that he has every year. In a new environment in Philadelphia, the three time champion has been asked to provide three things; shooting, defense, and veteran leadership, and thus far he’s provided all of that. Despite his horrendous postseason, Green is shooting 38% from 3 on 7 attempts a game while bringing along solid defense.

Despite his resurgence season, his glory days are still behind him. He’s no longer one of the best role players in the league nor is he one of the best 3&D players in the game. The Danny Green who was fingertips away from a finals MVP in 2014 isn’t here anymore, as his playoff performance in 2020 was historically bad despite walking out with the hardware. Green, despite having a solid year, isn’t what he once was, and ranks in the bottom 3.

27. Jae’Sean Tate (Houston Rockets)

2020-21 Stats- 8.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.3 TOV, 49.4 FG%, 33.3 3PT%, 68.0 FT%, 54.0 EFG%, 56.6 TS%, 26.2 MPG

There are a number of rookies who have been receiving grand praise thus far this season. LaMelo Ball, Tyrese Haliburton, James Wiseman, among many more. But there’s one rookie who’s flown completely under the radar, and that’s Jae’Sean Tate. He declared for the 2018 NBA draft where he unfortunately went undrafted. He played overseas in the NBL in the 2019-2020 where he averaged an impressive 16 PPG and 6 RPG on a crazy efficient 66% from the field. He was then signed by the Houston Rockets, who this season have taken chances on multiple players such as John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Victor Oladipo, Christian Wood, and recently, Kevin Porter Jr. And Tate fits right into that category.

Houston picked him up as a low risk, high reward player. Best case scenario, he shows out and integrates himself into the core they’re building. Worst case scenario, they’d simply just bench him. And luckily, the former occurred.

Tate has had a remarkable year so far. The numbers are solid, but they don’t paint the full picture. The former Ohio State Buckeye is a versatile prospect who can play & guard 1-3. He can run the floor & push the pace at a high level as well due to his speed and mobility. He does all the little things; boxing out bigger players, diving for loose balls, communicating with his teammates. These are all important factors that contribute to winning. He’s a physically demanding defender who holds his own in the post and on the perimeter. Tate is a bulldog on the court; his ceiling isn’t much higher than it is now since he’s 25 years old, but every team needs a player like Tate.  

26. Deni Avdija (Washington Wizards)

2020-21 Stats- 7.0 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 2.2 APG, 0.6 APG, 45.2 FG%, 45.7 3PT%, 62.5 FT%, 58.1 EFG%, 58.8 TS%, 23.2 MPG

During the draft process, Deni Avdija was without a doubt the draft’s premier point forward. His facilitating and decision making skills were on full display in Israel, and his passing was pristine as he could read the defense like a book. Deni’s raw numbers could be much better, but the main problem with this is how he’s been used thus far. Scott Brooks has transformed the 6’9 point forward into a spot up shooter for Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal.

On this Washington team, Avdija should be in a playmaking role, preferably off the bench where he can have more ball time, but Brooks hasn’t let this happen. However, in this role, Deni has exceeded, as he’s shooting a remarkable 46% from three and has shown to be a promising shooter off the catch as his ability to use his legs to get into his shot as well as time his shot perfectly is unprecedented for a rookie. He’s also silenced critics on the defensive end, as he’s shown to be a positive due to his overlooked post defense. Despite being put into the absolute wrong role, Avdija has still been able to thrive and find success in the early part of his career.

25. Dorian Finney-Smith (Dallas Mavericks)

2020-21 Stats- 9.3 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.5 TOV, 41.5 FG%, 32.6 3PT%, 85.7 FT%, 52.3 EFG%, 54.3 TS%, 29.4 MPG

Dorian Finney-Smith has been a very underrated part of Dallas’ success over the past few years. On the offensive end, he doesn’t provide too much value; he can hit 3’s at an average clip, but doesn’t wow you with his offensive production. However, for Finney-Smith, the name of the game is on the defensive side of the ball. He’s a well above average defender who brings value on the interior and perimeter as he has excellent mechanics and great core strength which prevents him from being bullied down low. Finney-Smith helps with the defensive identity in Dallas which is something they’ve lacked in the Luka Doncic era, so his services cannot be understated.

24. Derrick Jones Jr (Portland Trail-Blazers)

LOOK: Blazers' Derrick Jones Jr. misses badly on dunk-of-the-year attempt -
Adam Pantozzi/2020 NBAE

2020-21 Stats- 6.9 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 0.6 APG, 0.7 TOV, 43.9 FG%, 25.7 3PT%, 55.6 FT%, 49.4 EFG%, 51.1 TS%, 27.2 MPG

Derrick Jones Jr is a hard player to rank. Starting with the upsides, he’s an out of this world athlete who can jump out of the gym and is a threat to dunk on anyone at any given time. He’s a slightly above average defender as he uses his freakishly long wingspan and speedy hands to be successful on the perimeter, and due to his athleticism, he’s able to jump passing lanes for steals pretty often. Not only that, but he’s a solid shot blocker for a wing as well due to his length and athleticism.

Despite this, there isn’t much else noteworthy about the 23 year old. He’s not a good shooter or passer, he’s extremely inefficient for someone who gets a boatload of their looks at the rim, and other than his abnormal athleticism, there isn’t one thing in his game that truly stands out to the rest. Jones is solid at best, however, he’s not good enough to rank in the top half of the list. 

23. Patrick Williams (Chicago Bulls)

2020-21 Stats- 9.7 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.6 TOV, 47.2 FG%, 46.7 3PT%, 83.3 FT%, 53.7 EFG%, 57.4 TS%, 26.1 MPG

When Patrick Williams was selected 4th overall to the Chicago Bulls in the 2020 draft, there were mixed opinions. Some loved the pick, and others not so much. It’s only been 14 games, but Williams has certainly proven the doubters wrong. From the second he walked into the league, Williams has showcased the versatility he provides that scouts clamored about. He’s an excellent shot creator as he’s already elite at finding his spots in the mid range due to his exquisite foot work. He’s also great in catch and shoot situations, as he uses his picture perfect form to make defenders pay from beyond the arc. 

Defensively, he’s also proven everyone right. In college, he exhibited the ability to guard all 5 positions at a high rate. Although he hasn’t translated that to the pros just yet, his defense has been fabulous. He’s been able to guard smaller and faster players, as well as guard some bigger guys down low. Williams hasn’t blown away anyone in the stat sheet, but the rookie shows tremendous upside in his short tenure as well as incredible patience and poise for a 19 year old. Look for Williams to fly up the ranks in the coming years.

22. Doug McDermott (Indiana Pacers)

2020-21 Stats- 12.9 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.9 TOV, 48.6 FG%, 39.0 3PT%, 75.0 FT%, 58.9 EFG%, 61.0 TS%, 25.8 MPG

In the past few years, Indiana has faced a lot of adversity. They’ve had injury after injury, and despite that, they’re still able to stand pat and look like one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference. This year has been no different, as TJ Warren went down with an injury and is out indefinitely as well as finding a mass in Caris LeVert’s kidney right after trading one of their star players for him. And despite all of this, they still sit as the 3rd seed in the Eastern conference with a record of 9-6. 

Due to the injury of TJ Warren, Doug McDermott has had to step up into the role of starting small forward, and he has not disappointed. McDermott brings valuable spacing, as he’s one of the best wing shooters in basketball. He also possesses the ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the rim or make good passes to weak side shooters. McDermott has been forced to step up with the absence of TJ Warren, and he has exceeded expectations for an Indiana team that needed him to.

21. Josh Okogie (Minnesota Timberwolves)

2020-21 Stats- 6.4 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.1 TOV, 47.6 FG%, 20.0 3PT%, 80.0 FT%, 51.2 EFG%, 55.0 TS%, 23.6 MPG

Josh Okogie is one of those players who you have to watch to truly understand their impact. He does have limitations offensively, as he’s a poor shooter and overall bad scorer, but he is a solid finisher. On the other end, he makes up for it due to his undervalued defensive abilities. Okogie has looked like an all-defensive caliber player this year, as he’s taken on a major responsibility as the Wolves’ only reliable defender. If Okogie can develop a somewhat dependable three point shot, he would fly up the ranks and easily be regarded as one of the best role players in the association. However, he hasn’t made any strides in his career in that department, which ultimately hurts his ranking.

20. Kyle Anderson (Memphis Grizzlies)

2020-21 Stats- 12.5 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 4.1 APG, 0.8 TOV, 42.0 FG%, 33.3 3PT%, 80.0 FT%, 48.6 EFG%, 52.2 TS%, 29.7 MPG

Kyle Anderson has made quite the improvement so far this season. Despite a 10 minute increase from last year, he’s still putting up far improved stats as he’s seen an increase in every department, as he’s gone from averaging 6 PPG, 4 RPG, and 2 APG to 12 PPG, 7 RPG, and 4 APG. Despite the statistical increase, it has come at the cost of his efficiency, as he’s down in every category but 3PT% for that department. Anderson has made some on court improvements as well; his defense continues to improve and he’s gone from one of the slowest players in the league to somewhat fast. Anderson is a swiss army knife, as he can do it all on the court, and he’s been an integral piece to Memphis’ 7-6 start.

19. Kelly Oubre Jr (Golden State Warriors)

2020-21 Stats- 11.9 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.4 TOV, 35.5 FG%, 20.3 3PT%, 74.4 FT%, 40.2 EFG%, 44.3 TS%, 28.3 MPG

You would think that playing alongside the greatest playmaker of all time in Stephen Curry would ultimately make you a better player with improved efficiency. For Kelly Oubre Jr, the complete opposite has happened since being traded to Golden State. To put it lightly, Kelly Oubre Jr has been horrific this season. He’s a good slasher and solid defender, but this role is not made for him. Oubre hasn’t been able to hit a shot, as he’s shooting 10% less from the field than last year, and a staggering 15% less from 3 than last year, all on close to the same attempts per game.

In Phoenix, he struggled with consistency, but he looked really, really good. His slashing was top notch, his shooting was solid, and his overall perimeter play was satisfactory. This year, that’s not the case at all. It could be a mental block standing in the way of Oubre’s success, or he could’ve just gotten worse all around. Whatever the case may be, Oubre has been far worse than last year.

18. Bojan Bogdanovic (Utah Jazz)

2020-21 Stats- 13.5 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1.6 TOV, 38.8 FG%, 37.8 3PT%, 81.8 FT%, 49.2 EFG%, 52.5 TS%, 30.1 MPG

Despite Utah’s recent success, Bojan Bogdanovic has been in a pretty bad slump to start the season. Coming off a strong 2019-2020 campaign where he averaged 20 points a contest, Bogdanovic has seen a smaller role with Jordan Clarkson and Mike Conley taking the honors of 2nd and 3rd scoring options behind Donovan Mitchell. In this reduced role, Bojan hasn’t succeeded, as he has the worst FG% of his entire career. His 3PT% is still solid, shooting 38% on 6 attempts, but it’s nowhere near last year’s where he shot 41% from 3 on 7 attempts a night. Bogdanovic has had to take a backseat for the team to succeed which is admirable, but he’s overall just been worse. 

17. Harrison Barnes (Sacramento Kings)

2020-21 Stats- 15.9 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 3.4 APG, 1.4 TOV, 47.8 FG%, 39.0 3PT%, 83.8 FT%, 54.2 EFG%, 60.6 TS%, 34.9 MPG

Harrison Barnes gets a lot of flack as he’s one of the most overpaid players in basketball, however, his on court production is still enough to label him an above average player in today’s NBA. Barnes has been one of the most consistent role players in the league for quite some time, as he’s averaged 14 or more points since the 2016-2017 season, and since being traded to Sacramento, he’s never shot less than 45% from the field and 38% from 3. He’s a solid scorer who can put the ball on the floor and create for himself while also having the ability to be effective without the ball. He’s one of the only half decent defenders in Sacramento as he’s comfortably average on that end, and he’s also a solid passer who makes the right reads. Barnes has routinely been one of the best veteran role players in basketball, and that trend doesn’t seem like it’s going to slow down anytime soon.

16. Joe Harris (Brooklyn Nets)

2020-21 Stats- 14.1 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 1.9 APG, 0.8 TOV, 50.0 FG%, 48.1 3PT%, 54.5 FT%, 64.0 EFG%, 64.0 TS%, 30.4 MPG

Joe Harris quite literally personifies the perfect offensive role player. He’s a top 10 shooter in basketball who can make tough, contested shots with 2 defenders in his face, and he’s one of the best off ball players in the league as he’s constantly relocating off of the ball to get open looks. Whether he’s moving off a screen or just running around willingly, Harris is constantly moving.

An underrated aspect of his game is his ability to put the ball on the floor; he’s not a shot creator by any means, but if needed, he can get to the rim as he has a pretty soft touch around it as well. This past offseason, Joe Harris was paid $72 million over the course of the next 4 years strictly due to his shooting ability, and his shooting is also the sole catalyst of why he ranks this high. 

15. RJ Barrett (New York Knicks)

2020-21 Stats- 18.0 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.9 TOV, 41.2 FG%, 25.7 3PT%, 76.2 FT%, 44.5 EFG%, 49.5 TS%, 36.9 MPG

Coming out of college, RJ Barrett was known as a physically demanding three-level scorer who got his buckets at will, and so far in his career, that’s exactly what he’s been. Unfortunately for him though, he was drafted in quite possibly the worst situation for his play style. Last year, the Knicks were the worst team in the NBA in terms of spacing, which is the worst situation to plug a player like Barrett in.

This year, despite New York being a solid team, Barrett is still locked into an unfortunate situation where the Knicks are still a bottom 7 spaced team. Despite this, Barrett has still shown off his scoring potential this year. Even though his efficiency is way below par, he’s an elite shot creator who’s best at getting to the mid range and attacking the rim with force. His scoring versatility is something every team needs, and with more reps, his efficiency will jump up.

14. Luguentz Dort (Oklahoma City Thunder)

2020-21 Stats- 13.8 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 0.9 APG, 1.1 TOV, 48.9 FG%, 43.6 3PT%, 75.8 FT%, 61.3 EFG%, 63.7 TS%, 28.5 MPG

After going undrafted in 2019, Luguentz Dort was picked up by the Oklahoma City Thunder. It has been evident that OKC has an eye for talent as they are one of, if not the best drafting team in basketball. In this case, they stumbled upon a hidden gem in Luguentz Dort.

He didn’t put up pretty numbers in 2019-2020, but he came in and won the starting shooting guard spot almost right away, and in the playoffs, he was an integral piece to Oklahoma City pushing Houston to 7 games, as he held James Harden, one of the best scorers in league history, to 17-for-54 from the field and 10-for-38 from beyond the arc, all while putting 30 points on his head in game 7.

This year, the 21 year old has gotten even better. Last season, he was an inefficient shooter and overall, he was a negative from downtown. However, this year he’s turned that negative into an extreme positive, as he’s shooting 44% from 3 on 5 attempts a game. His slashing has also improved, as he’s physical getting to the rim due to his strength and under the radar athleticism. Defensively, he’s gotten better in every facet, as he’s consistently looked like an all defensive 1st team caliber player. Dort went from undrafted prospect to solid starter to one of the best role players in all of basketball; it seems like the sky’s the limit for Dort in the future.

13. OG Anunoby (Toronto Raptors)

2020-21 Stats- 13.9 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.7 TOV, 47.7 FG%, 40.9 3PT%, 73.0 FT%, 59.5 EFG%, 61.7 TS%, 35.0 MPG

OG Anunoby has made one of the more under the radar improvements this year. Despite starting off slow, the Missouri native has averaged 15 PPG and 5 RPG in his last 10, and has been even better in his last 5, tallying 17 PPG and 6 RPG. His shooting has improved every year as a pro, as he’s gone from a 37% shooter as a rookie, to 39% last year, and this year he’s shooting 40% from beyond the arc (not counting 2018-2019 due to injuries).

In the Orlando bubble, he showed flashes of slashing potential, and this year those flashes are even more evident as he’s been attacking the rim ferociously thus far. Defensively, he leaves nothing to be desired as he’s one of the best wing defenders in basketball, as he’s an elite man to man defender as well as a great interior & help defender. The 23 year old still has room to grow, but he continues to show he’s one of the best 3&D wings in basketball. 

12. Michael Porter Jr (Denver Nuggets)

2020-21 Stats- 17.0 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.2 TOV, 55.0 FG%, 40.0 3PT%, 87.5 FT%, 65.0 EFG%, 66.9 TS%, 27.2 MPG

It was evident that the breakout of Michael Porter Jr was inevitable, and so far that has been the case. He’s in the school of guys like Kevin Durant and Brandon Ingram, as he’s a 6’10 forward with the skillset of a guard. He can shoot the 3 from anywhere on the court, and he uses his height and size to shoot over defenders. He’s displayed the ability to create a shot out of nothing as well as being effective without the ball. To fully show how good Porter Jr is on offense, his offensive rating is 136 which is unheard of. 

Where Porter Jr’s takes a fall is on the defensive side. In the playoffs, he was nothing short of a liability on that end, as he couldn’t guard a brick wall. In his short sample size this season, he has shown some flashes of defensive promise, but his defensive shortcomings still far outweigh the positives he has on that end. Despite this, his offense is still too good to rank him any lower. Expect the 22 year old to continue climbing the ranks.

11. Deandre Hunter (Atlanta Hawks)

2020-21 Stats- 16.3 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.5 TOV, 50.6 FG%, 39.1 3PT%, 87.0 FT%, 58.8 EFG%, 64.1 TS%, 31.7 MPG

DeAndre Hunter was widely regarded as one of, if not the best 3&D prospect in the 2019 draft process, and thus far he’s lived up to that. Hunter is an extremely well rounded player on both ends, as offensively, he’s a great spot up shooter who knocks down a good chunk of his threes, and he’s a very underrated shot creator as he can find his spots in the mid range with ease. The arc on his shot is something not many players have, let alone a second year player.

Defensively, he’s a phenomenal perimeter defender, and on the interior, he uses his strength to prevent players from making easy looks. He’s an extraordinary team defender, as he always gives the extra hand when needed. Hunter is only getting better; his ceiling isn’t as high as other 2nd year players due to the fact that he’s 23, but as of now, he’s on track to become an NBA star.

10. Mikal Bridges (Phoenix Suns)

2020-21 Stats- 15.4 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.5 TOV, 51.4 FG%, 47.5 3PT%, 80.6 FT%, 64.6 EFG%, 67.3 TS%, 33.2 MPG

It would be an understatement to say that Mikal Bridges is your ordinary 3&D wing. He’s managed to make significant strides in his game every year. Although he has been benefited by the presence of Chris Paul, his shot creation & shot selection are both more advanced than ever, and his slashing has been very promising for a Suns team who needed it after trading their best slasher in Kelly Oubre Jr. He’s also a phenomenal off ball and catch & shoot player, which perfectly compliments the star backcourt Phoenix has. Mikal also has an offensive rating of 135, which is by far a team best for Phoenix.

What’s crazy is that Mikal’s offensive game isn’t even the best aspect of his game. Mikal is one of the best defensive players in all of basketball, as he uses his length and footwork to be a pest for the other team’s best perimeter player. He’s an extremely patient defender who plays to his opposition’s pace in order to get the best of them. If the season were to end today, Mikal would without a doubt be named a member of one of the All-Defensive teams. Mikal’s all around game has completely flown under the radar, and is playing like a near All-Star talent.

9. DeMar DeRozan (San Antonio Spurs)

2020-21 Stats- 20.9 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 6.7 APG, 1.6 TOV, 45.9 FG%, 32.1 3PT%, 89.2 FT%, 48.1 EFG%, 57.5 TS%, 34.3 MPG

DeMar DeRozan quite literally has everything needed to be labeled a perfect offensive player outside of one thing; a three point shot. His other worldly slashing combined with his elite mid range shot creation and overall bucket getting ability are all elite. He’s a very underrated passer as he averaged 6 assists a night in 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 each respectively, and so far this year he’s rounded that out to 7 per contest. He uses his eyes to find the open man frequently, and he rarely turns the ball over.

If DeMar incorporated a 3 point shot into his game, he would be widely considered one of the 10 or so best offensive players in the league, however, that’s something he’s never been able to develop. Defensively, he should be at the very worst average due to his physical attributes, but that’s also something he’s failed to develop over his 11 year career which ultimately hurts his ranking. His perimeter play and bucket getting ability are both elite, but those other two aspects hurt his ranking a good amount. 

8. Gordon Hayward (Charlotte Hornets)

2020-21 Stats- 23.1 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 3.7 APG, 2.1 TOV, 50.2 FG%, 40.3 3PT%, 91.2 FT%, 56.5 EFG%, 61.9 TS%, 34.6 MPG

The past few years of Gordon Hayward’s career have been a rollercoaster ride. After signing with the Boston Celtics in the 2017 offseason, he suffered a gruesome injury 2 minutes into his first game which ultimately sidelined him for the entirety of the season. In his return in 2018-2019, he was trying to get his groove back as well as settling into a new role, so he had arguably the worst year of his career. Last season, he adjusted to his role and seemed comfortable in it, averaging 17 PPG, 7 RPG, and 4 APG.

In a brand new situation this year in Charlotte, Hayward has started this season stronger than ever as he’s completely bounced back from his injury and is having a career year. He’s elite offensively as he can shoot the 3 at a high clip, and he’s also one of the best at getting to his spots in the league as he’s patient at finding looks for his sweet spot in the mid range. He’s a great playmaker, despite only averaging 4 assists, and he’s an above average passer who finds cutters and weak side shooters often. He’s shooting on crazy good efficiency this year as he’s on pace to join the illustrious 50/40/90 club. Hayward has gotten his rhythm back fully, and if he can stay healthy, he’s only going to get better in his prime. 

7. Jerami Grant (Detroit Pistons)

2020-21 Stats- 25.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.5 TOV, 46.2 FG%, 39.6 3PT%, 84.9 FT%, 53.4 EFG%, 58.9 TS%

It was evident that when Jerami Grant signed with the Detroit Pistons he was just hungry for more shots, and most people expected him to put up an empty 18-20 points a night. However, Jerami Grant has been even better than that, posting a surprisingly good 25 points per contest, and it’s not like this is old Denver Nuggets Jerami Grant filling up the stat sheet on a bad team, Jerami Grant has made legitimate improvements to his game that have helped him get to the 25 PPG club.

In the bubble, he showed signs of attacking the rim, and this season he’s made that a staple to his offensive game, as he’s now an aggressive slasher who attacks the rim with might. He’s not a great shot creator, but it’s clear that he’s improved in that aspect as he has become at least respectable in that aspect.

Defensively, he’s still elite as he can legitimately do it all on that end. He was extremely impactful on that end last year for Denver as he was the anchor to their defense, and now, seeing their defense pretty much collapse with his loss, it’s clear as day how impactful he was for them. Grant bet on himself when signing with Detroit, and it’s clear that he won that bet. 

6. Brandon Ingram (New Orleans Pelicans)

2020-21 Stats- 22.9 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 4.8 APG, 2.8 TOV, 46.1 FG%, 38.2 3PT%, 83.3 FT%, 52.0 EFG%, 57.3 TS%, 34.9 MPG

Brandon Ingram is one of the only players in basketball with a perfect offensive repertoire. He’s one of the league’s best three level scorers as he can shoot over virtually any defender due to his height and length, he’s a top tier shot creator, and is all around one of the most skilled players in basketball. He’s an underrated playmaker who passes with fluidity and uses his eyes to read defensive sets and find the open man. Ingram does have a major flaw, as he’s overall a negative defensively when he really shouldn’t be, but his offensive game is too good to ignore.

5. Jaylen Brown (Boston Celtics)

Boston Celtics: looking back on Jaylen Brown's underrated season
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

2020-21 Stats- 26.9 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 3.7 APG, 2.9 TOV, 52.4 FG%, 41.6 3PT%, 76.5 FT%, 59.1 EFG%, 61.8 TS%

Jaylen Brown is a rare example of a player who consistently adds to their game every year. It seems like every game, Jaylen improves at something. He’s an elite scorer with some of the best footwork in the league with a full arsenal of moves to get buckets at will. He can score at all three levels, whether it’s attacking the rim with his athleticism or getting a mid range or three pointer up against bigger players, Brown can score in any way you need him to. He’s elite with his back to the basket which is rare for a wing, and he can get fadeaways over defenders with ease.

Defensively, Jaylen Brown is a menace, as he’s an elite post defender who’s also annoying to deal with on the perimeter. He jumps passing lanes frequently to get open fast break looks as well. Brown is without a doubt an All-Defensive caliber player in this league, and combining that with his scoring skillset is a recipe for stardom.

4. Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks)

2020-21 Stats- 21.9 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 5.7 APG, 2.6 TOV, 51.9 FG%, 44.3 3PT%, 92.0 FT%, 60.2 EFG%, 64.0 TS%, 32.9 MPG

Khris Middleton is widely regarded as Giannis’ sidekick, but in actuality, he’s way more than that. Middleton is a supremely talented off ball player who plays off MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo to perfection. He’s widely thought of as just an off ball player, but he’s also the most underrated shot creator in basketball. Middleton can create from beyond the arc and from the mid range as he finds his spots to perfection, and he’s also great out of the pick & roll as not only a creator, but also as an initiator. He’s an underrated playmaker who shares the duty of lead playmaker with Giannis, and as a defender, he’s very well above average and is treading elite territory. Middleton is arguably the most underrated star in basketball today, and is more than just the Robin to Giannis’ Batman.

3. Jimmy Butler (Miami Heat)

2020-21 Stats- 15.8 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 5.3 APG, 0.7 TOV, 44.2 FG%, 0.0 3PT%, 93.1 FT%, 44.2 EFG%, 52.9 TS%, 29.0 MPG

Before going down with what seems to be COVID, Jimmy Butler had a mediocre start. He did have a few solid outings, but really struggled early on. Despite this, everyone knows that we don’t see the best version of Jimmy Butler until the postseason rolls around. Jimmy is a dog on the court; he’s cut from the same cloth as guys like Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan. He uses his body very well to get to the rim and draw contact, he’s an elite on ball playmaker, and he’s an elite defender. Jimmy is the best leader and tone-setter in basketball, as he was able to unleash the inner “dog” in everyone upon arriving at South Beach. He’s not a good shooter by any stretch of the imagination, but he does everything else at a high rate, slotting him in the top 3.

2. Kawhi Leonard (Los Angeles Clippers)

Kawhi Leonard dishes on apple trees and problems with big hands |
Jim Poorten/NBAE via Getty Images

2020-21 Stats- 25.4 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 5.6 APG, 1.9 TOV, 49.8 FG%, 41.5 3PT%, 89.7 FT%, 55.0 EFG%, 60.5 TS%, 34.4 MPG

Just like Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard sort of coasts in the regular season, and when the playoffs roll around, Kawhi is a different monster. But Kawhi coasting is still 25 PPG, 5 RPG, and 6 APG with elite defense. Kawhi is one of the best shot creators in basketball as he can create a shot out of nothing, he’s an above average shooter but not elite, and ferocious when attacking the rim. Even though he has gotten worse defensively from his days in San Antonio due to the fact that more of his energy is used on the offensive end now, he’s still an elite defender and will likely stumble his way into another All-Defensive selection.

Kawhi is a proven winner as well, as he’s a 2 time finals MVP, one being when he was in San Antonio and had a lesser role, and the other being when he had one of the best playoff runs in NBA history with Toronto where he was the catalyst for their championship. Many people’s opinion on Kawhi have soured after the Clippers blew a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets this past postseason along with Kawhi having a lackluster game 7, but it doesn’t change the fact that he’s one of the best players of not just today, but of all time. 

  1. LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers)
LeBron James Agrees to Contract Extension with Lakers Worth $85M |
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

2020-21 Stats- 24.4 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 7.6 APG, 3.6 TOV, 48.3 FG%, 39.6 3PT%, 72.5 FT%, 55.5 EFG%, 58.7 TS%

A trend throughout the position rankings so far is that the number 1 player at each position is far and away the best, and that trend continues here with LeBron James finishing 1st. Widely regarded as the 2nd best player in NBA history, and to some, even 1st, father time still hasn’t found a way to catch up to the 36 year old King. The 4 time champion is an elite scorer who attacks the rim like no other, he’s a solid shooter and can catch fire occasionally, is an elite rebounder, the best on ball playmaker ever, and an underrated defender at this stage of his career. King James looks to capture his 5th NBA championship this season months after snagging his 4th.

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