Top NBA Small Forwards All-Time and 2022
The small forward position in basketball, also known as the three, is typically played by one of the more dynamic and athletic players on a basketball team. Small forwards are responsible for doing just about everything on the stat sheet- from scoring, to rebounding the basketball, and sometimes using their athleticism to defend the best player on the opposing team.
This list ranks the greatest small forwards in NBA history, and is followed by a list of the best small forwards from the NBA’s 2021-2022 season.
Greatest Small Forwards in NBA History
1. LeBron James
Notable Accolades: 4x NBA Champion; 4x NBA Finals MVP; 4x NBA MVP; 18x NBA All-Star; 13x All-NBA First Team; 2nd all time scoring
LeBron James is considered by some to be the greatest basketball player to ever play the game, so it is no surprise he is at the top of this list. James' ability to score the basketball and make players around him better, combined with his insane athleticism and basketball IQ,, make him one of the most all-around skilled players the game has ever seen.
2. Larry Bird
Notable Accolades: 3x NBA Champion; 2x NBA Finals MVP; 3x NBA MVP; 12x NBA All-Star; 9x All-NBA First Team; 3x NBA Three-Point Contest Champion; 2x 50-40-90 club
Larry Bird is among the best all-around players in NBA history, as his playmaking ability and legendary shooting skills helped lead the Celtics to multiple Finals' appearances throughout the 1980s.
3. Kevin Durant
Notable Accolades: 2x NBA Champion; 2x NBA Finals MVP; 1x NBA MVP; 12x NBA All-Star; 6x All-NBA First Team; 4x NBA Scoring Champion; 1x 50-40-90 club
Kevin Durant is widely considered to be the greatest scorer that the game has ever seen, as his 7-foot frame allows him to get anywhere on the floor and rise above defenders to create shots for himself anytime he wants.
4. Julius Erving
Notable Accolades: 1x NBA Champion, 2x ABA Champion, 1x NBA MVP, 11x NBA All-Star, 5x All-NBA First Team
Dr. J is one of the most athletic players to ever play the game of basketball, as he is responsible for some of the most iconic layups and dunks in the league's history.
5. Elgin Baylor
Notable Accolades: 1x NBA Champion, 11x NBA All-Star, 10x All-NBA First Team
Elgin Baylor is one of only ten players in NBA history to be named to the All-NBA First Team ten times despite never winning an MVP in his career.
6. Scottie Pippen
Notable Accolades: 6x NBA Champion, 7x NBA All-Star, 3x All-NBA First Team, 8x All-NBA Defensive First Team
Scottie Pippen is best known as being Michael Jordan's sidekick, but his own defensive and playmaking abilities land him at No. 6 on this list.
7. John Havlicek
Notable Accolades: 8x NBA Champion; 1x NBA Finals MVP, 4x All-NBA First Team; 5x All-NBA Defensive First Team
John Havlicek is one of the best players to ever play in a Boston Celtics uniform, helping the team to eight championships during the '60s and '70s while becoming the franchise's all-time leading scorer.
8. Dominique Wilkins
Notable Accolades: 9x NBA All-Star, 7x All-NBA, 2x Slam Dunk Champion
Dominique Wilkins is best known for his dunking ability, but scoring over 26 points per game over a ten-year period is not something that should be overlooked.
9. Rick Barry
Notable Accolades: 1x NBA Champion, 1x NBA Finals MVP, 8x NBA All-Star, 5x All-NBA First Team, NBA Scoring Champion
Rick Barry is one of the most underrated players in NBA history, as his dominant scoring ability lead him to average over 35 points per game in the 1967 season.
10. James Worthy
Notable Accolades: 3x NBA Champion, 1x NBA Finals MVP, 7x NBA All-Star
James Worthy is responsible for one of the greatest Game 7 performances in NBA history, totaling 36 points, 16 rebounds, and 10 assists to win the 1988 Championship for the Lakers.
Best Small Forwards of the 2021-2022 NBA Season
1. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets
2021-22 Stats: 29.9PTS, 7.4REB, 6.4AST
Kevin Durant again showed why he is one of the most lethal scorers in NBA history- averaging nearly 30 points per game while shooting just under 52% from the field. While the Nets had several distractions throughout the season, Durant was one bright spot that kept them in playoff contention all season long.
2. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
2021-22 Stats: 30.3PTS, 8.2REB, 6.2AST
LeBron James had one of the best years of his career at the age of 37. While the Lakers could never put it all together and consistently win games, James himself averaged the second most points in a season in his entire career.
3. DeMar DeRozan, Chicago Bulls
2021-22 Stats: 27.9PTS, 5.1REB, 4.9AST
DeMar DeRozan shined with the Chicago Bulls this season, and at one point was a legitimate MVP candidate. At one point billed as the 'worst offseason signing,' DeRozan showed that he can still produce in this league- and at an extremely high level.
4. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
2021-22 Stats: 26.9PTS, 8.0REB, 4.4AST
Jayson Tatum is one of the brightest young stars in the NBA, and he was a pivotal piece of the Celtics success over the second half of the season that earned them the No. 2 seed going into the playoffs.
5. Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat
2021-22 Stats: 21.4PTS, 5.9REB, 5.5AST
Jimmy Butler did what Jimmy Butler always does: his effectiveness on the defensive end was again complemented by a solid offensive season, and he lead the Heat to the No. 1 overall seed in an extremely tight eastern conference.