Who are the top 10 small forwards in the league?

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Who are the top 10 small forwards in the league?

Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2010
11:53 AM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

A historic summer for the NBA has passed and for the Bulls, while they didn't acquire quite the star power many expected andor hoped for, optimism runs high, both within the organization and throughout the team's fan base. With the offseason coming to an end, the time to fully delve into the upcoming NBA season is here. Instead of a traditional season preview, issues both throughout the league and in Chicago will be probed daily here on CSNChicago.com up until the squad officially convenes for training camp toward the end of September.

8. Who are the top 10 small forwards in the league?

1. LeBron James, Miami Heat (2009-10 averages: 29.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 8.6 assists, 1.6 steals, 50.3 field-goal percentage, 33.3 three-point percentage in 76 games): Even if his scoring numbers slightly decrease, don't be shocked if "King James" averages a triple-double as a Magic Johnson-Oscar Robertson hybrid in his new place of residence and confirms his status as the NBA's best player in retaliation for the continued backlash he's endured.

2. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder (2009-10 averages: 30.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.4 steals, 47.6 field-goal percentage, 36.5 three-point percentage in 82 games): Still 21, Durant might not be quite ready to take over the crown as the league's top dog, but his exploits in the World Championships demonstrate he's the game's best pure scorer and the Thunder could be prepared to take the next step.

3. Carmelo Anthony, Denver Nuggets (2009-10 averages: 28.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.3 steals, 45.8 field-goal percentage, 31.6 three-point percentage in 69 games): A byproduct of Anthony's statuses as an upcoming free agent and reported relocation desires will be increased scrutiny and a judgment on whether he's fit to lead a team to the promised land -- regardless of what city he's in.

4. Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics (2009-10 averages: 18.3 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.2 steals, 47.2 field-goal percentage, 41.4 three-point percentage in 71 games): Pierce is no longer dominant on a nightly basis, but "The Truth" still capable of taking over individual games and serving as the front man for an aging Boston band's last few tours.

5. Gerald Wallace, Charlotte Bobcats (2009-10 averages: 18.2 points, 10.0 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.5 steals, 48.4 field-goal percentage, 37.1 three-point percentage in 76 games): Never the prettiest player, under the tutelage of Larry Brown, the relentless Wallace has rounded out his game, upgraded his perception around the league and led the Bobcats to their first-ever postseason appearance.

6. Danny Granger, Indiana Pacers (2009-10 averages: 24.1 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.5 steals, 42.8 field-goal percentage, 36.1 three-point percentage in 62 games): Considered to be on the cusp of elite the season before last, a disappointing campaign put the onus on Granger to improve -- defense and shot selection, in particular -- especially after a humbling national-team experience.

7. Rudy Gay, Memphis Grizzlies (2009-10 averages: 19.6 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.5 steals, 46.6 field-goal percentage, 32.7 three-point percentage in 80 games): Armed with a hefty contract extension that raised eyebrows around the league, Gay, coming off a productive summer with USA Basketball, will be expected to take his game -- and team -- to the next level.

8. Luol Deng, Chicago Bulls (2009-10 averages: 17.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.9 steals, 46.6 field-goal percentage, 38.6 three-point percentage in 70 games): Taking more of a background role on a team capable of taking things a step or two further in the postseason might actually help Deng receive much-deserved credit for his quiet and polished game.

9. Caron Butler, Dallas Mavericks (2009-10 averages: 16.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.6 steals, 42.8 field-goal percentage, 29.0 three-point percentage in 74 games): Adjusting to the Mavericks after years of immense freedom in Washington has been a process, but he's still one of the more versatile and dangerous players at his position.

10. Corey Maggette, Milwaukee Bucks (2009-10 averages: 19.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.7 steals, 51.6 field-goal percentage, 26.0 three-point percentage in 70 games): Maggette is one of the league's top gunners, but perhaps the prospect of playing for the Bucks, who have the potential to make a deep playoff run, persuades him to be more team-oriented, while still contributing his scoring prowess.

Next 10 (in alphabetical order):

Ron Artest, Los Angeles Lakers: Artest is no longer the all-around threat he was last decade, but his toughness, lockdown defense, timeliness in the clutch and ability to blend into the team concepts are major reasons the Lakers won the title.
Trevor Ariza, New Orleans Hornets: Ariza wasn't exactly a great fit in Houston, but playing alongside Chris Paul should afford him plenty of easy opportunities to succeed, as his athleticism and defense are attributes the Hornets have long desired.
Wilson Chandler, New York Knicks: Although Chandler often flies under the radar, his athleticism, slashing style and high motor have earned him respect in the Big Apple.
Danilo Gallinari, New York Knicks: While the young Italian needs to round out his game, his uncanny combination of size, deep range and deceiving toughness will continue to be a centerpiece of the Knicks' attempted resurgence.
Richard Jefferson, San Antonio Spurs: Hopefully Jefferson's abysmal debut with the Spurs will be a distant memory with the opportunity to fully adjust and the security of a surprising contract extension.
Andrei Kirilenko, Utah Jazz: The versatile Kirilenko will be forced to produce like the "AK-47" of old if Utah is expected to remain among the West's elite following a summer of player turnover.
Tayshaun Prince, Detroit Pistons: After an injury-riddled season, Prince should return to a semblance of his old form on a more consistent basis, but whether or not he finishes the season in Detroit is a different story.
Hedo Turkoglu, Phoenix Suns: Playing in the freedom of Phoenix's offense -- and with Steve Nash -- should enable Turkoglu to bounce back from a disaster of a season in Toronto.
Terrence Williams, New Jersey Nets: Williams, who started his rookie campaign slow and ended it strong, may actually playing both backcourt positions, but his versatility and athleticism could allow for more favorable mismatches at the three.
Thaddeus Young, Philadelphia 76ers: Despite regressing a bit last season, Young has all the tools to thrive in a new system -- and his natural position -- under new Sixers coach Doug Collins.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Celtics trade for Jimmy Butler?

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Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Celtics trade for Jimmy Butler?

On the latest edition of the Bulls Talk Podcast, Kevin Anderson, Vincent Goodwill and Kendall Gill welcome in SB Nation's Ricky O'Donnell to discuss the Celtics' motivation to trade for Jimmy Butler. 

The guys also break down whether the league is undervaluing the Bulls All-Star. 

Later, they debate the contant Lebron James vs. Michael Jordan comparison and ask if it's fair after the King's poor showing in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals. O'Donnell also analyzes the NBA Draft. He believes Terrance Ferguson is the right pick for GarPax. 

Finally, a behind the scenes look at Goodwill vs. Kendall on the court, and Kendall on the right way to parent a young athlete. 

Listen to the Bulls Talk Podcast below. 

NBA Buzz: Financial and competitive realities could lead to Jimmy Butler trade for Bulls

NBA Buzz: Financial and competitive realities could lead to Jimmy Butler trade for Bulls

Watching LeBron James tear through the Eastern Conference playoffs the way Michael Jordan used to do in his prime, it's become increasingly apparent other teams in the East will be chasing James and the Cavaliers for the next 3-5 years.

With that in mind, you have to wonder what kind of conversations are going on inside the walls of the Advocate Center as the Bulls' front office prepares for the June 22nd draft and the start of free agency on July 1st. 

Jimmy Butler earned third-team All-NBA honors on Thursday, putting him in position to earn the Designated Veteran Player Extension with another All-NBA selection in either 2018 or 2019. Under terms of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, that could mean a contract starting at $42 million in 2019-20 with a total five-year value of over $246 million.

Are the Bulls prepared to pay that kind of money to a player who has logged big minutes over his career and will turn 30 just before the 2019-20 season?

If not, the best time to deal Butler would be right now. Butler is coming off the best season of his NBA career, including a starting spot for the Eastern Conference in the All-Star game. Plus, he still has two more guaranteed years on his contract at far below market value for one of the top 15 players in the league.

Tuesday's draft lottery pretty much eliminated Boston from a potential Butler trade. Celtics' GM Danny Ainge loves Washington point guard Markelle Fultz and is locked in to drafting him with the number one pick. Boston's future couldn't look brighter after finishing with the best regular season record in the East, advancing to the Conference Finals, and winning the lottery.

The Celtics will add Fultz and still have enough cap room to offer a max deal to free agent swingman Gordon Hayward, who played collegiately for Boston coach Brad Stevens at Butler. How does a starting line-up of Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford, Hayward, Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley sound, with a second unit of Fultz, Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Kelly Olynyk? It might not be good enough to take down the Cavs or Warriors, but should position the Celtics for a long run as a serious contender.

So, if the Celtics are out, where would the Bulls look for a possible Butler deal? Phoenix probably holds the best combination of assets, starting with the No. 4 overall pick. If point guards Fultz, Lonzo Ball and De'Aaron Fox go 1-2-3, the Bulls could grab Kansas forward Josh Jackson, an Andrew Wiggins-clone who could wind up being the best player in this draft.

The Suns also have a pair of intriguing young power forwards in Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender, both top 10 picks a year ago. Plus, Phoenix could include 23-year-old small forward T.J. Warren and Chicago native Tyler Ulis in the package going back to the Bulls.

Suns GM Ryan McDonough is reportedly under pressure to show significant improvement next season after winning just 47 games combined over the last two years. Adding another young player to the roster isn't the best way to improve the team immediately, so don't be surprised if the Suns make a pitch to acquire Butler in the days leading up to the draft.

Similar story in Philadelphia, where the Sixers own the third overall pick next month. Under former GM Sam Hinkie, the "trust the process" approach led to a roster purge and the acquisition of lottery picks. Right now, the Sixers are overloaded with young players like Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, Justin Anderson and Nik Stauskas.

Would current GM Bryan Colangelo be willing to trade the pick, along with Okafor and Anderson in a package for Butler? The Bulls could choose between Jackson and Kentucky's lightning-quick point guard Fox with the draft pick they’d acquire, potentially adding three young starters to a new-look line-up. 

Given all the trade rumors surrounding Butler in the past, you can expect a number of teams will be calling the Bulls leading up to the draft, including Tom Thibodeau's Timberwolves, coming off a disappointing season with assets to offer like Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the seventh overall pick. 

Ultimately, it comes down to which direction the Bulls' front office wants to go. Try to build a contender around Butler, or use him as the trade asset to start a full re-build. We should get our answer in the days leading up to the draft.

Around the Association

Thursday's All-NBA announcement could lead to a pair of All-Star forwards changing teams this summer. We already mentioned Hayward's situation in Utah. Without the designated veteran player extension, he might be seriously tempted to join his old college coach in Boston. 

Hayward could sign a one year contract with a player option for a second season in Utah with hopes of earning the DVPE next summer, but if Hayward hits the open market, it's clear he'll be the number one target for the Celtics this off-season. 

Paul George also could be in play after failing to make one of the three All-NBA teams. The Pacers were hoping to sign their All-Star forward to a max five-year extension at over $200 million, but George isn't eligible now. George still could sign an extension with Indiana, but not at the dollars he would have received had he made All-NBA. 

Rumors of George's desire to join his home-state Lakers in free agency after the 2017-18 season continue to grow, especially with Magic Johnson likely to add dynamic point guard Lonzo Ball in next month's draft. The Pacers might be forced to trade George to get some assets now, rather than let him walk away for nothing in free agency next summer.

Back to the Bulls, who will bring in dozens of prospects to Chicago to work out at the Advocate Center before the draft. Unless they make a major trade to move up, the front office almost has to go "best player available" with their picks at Nos. 16 and 38. Look for them to focus on an athletic wing in the first round with Louisville's Donovan Mitchell, Indiana's OG Anunoby, Duke's Harry Giles and Australian pro Terrance Ferguson among the likely options. 

But if the team decides to part company with restricted free agent Niko Mirotic, that could open the door for the Bulls to select a power forward like Cal's Ivan Rabb, Wake Forest's John Collins, Utah's Kyle Kuzma or UCLA's T.J. Leaf. They could even draft an athletic young center like Jarrett Allen of Texas, Creighton's Justin Patton or UCLA's Ike Anigbogu.

In Round 2, the Bulls might look to add another young point guard to the mix like Oklahoma State's Jawun Evans, Iowa State's Monte Morris, Villanova's Josh Hart, Gonzaga's Nigel Williams Goss or Big 12 Player of the Year Frank Mason from Kansas.

Quotes of the Week

The Celtics might have edged Cleveland out for the top seed in the East during the regular season, but after watching Game 1 Wednesday night, it's clear Brad Stevens’ team will be lucky to get a win in the series.

This from Stevens about the NBA's version of Benjamin Button, LeBron James. "It's hard to believe, but he's better than when I got into the league. A lot better."

Still, Celtics' star Isaiah Thomas isn't about to concede the series just yet, saying, "We're not afraid of Cleveland. They're not the Monstars."  

Well, Thomas might be right about the rest of the Cavs. But if you remember the movie "Space Jam", I'm pretty sure James would be a good fit in that Monstars line-up. And the Celtics don't have Michael Jordan, Bugs Bunny or Bill Murray!