7 Best Small Forwards of All Time You Ought to Know

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The best small forwards of all time are quick on the ball and have a proven track record for scoring, performing defensive duties, creating spaces for other players and anticipating rebounds. 

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Over the years, we’ve seen great small forwards in the National Basketball Association (NBA) who’ve played a crucial role in their team’s success. In this post, we’ll list the best small forwards of all time. 

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Adrian Dantley

Adrian Dantley’s highlights. Video Credit: Forgotten Player Profiles

Dantley’s efficiency on the court made him one of the best small forwards of all time. He scored all kinds of shots, three and two-pointers from different angles. This can be seen by the statistics he made. The player averaged 24.3 points per game, 54% shooting percentage and 5.7 total rebounds. 

Although he never won the NBA Championship, Dantley was a six-time NBA All-Star, won the NBA Comeback Player of the Year and the NBA Rookie of the Year in 1977. In his career, Dantley scored 23,177 points, over 5,400 rebounds and 2,800 assists. 

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Elgin Baylor

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Elgin Baylor playing for the LA Lakers. Source: Wikimedia licensed by Public domain

Most NBA fans talk about Michael Jordan’s gravity-defying skills but forget about Elgin Baylor, who always pulled the tricks on the floor. Baylor was as elegant as they come and his numbers tell the story. 

The player averaged 27.4 points per game, 13.5 rebounds per game and 4.3 assists, he wiped the opponents on the floor with his offense and defense. 

Unfortunately, Baylor never won the NBA Championship but was an 11-time NBA All-Star and Rookie of the Year when he joined the league in 1959. 

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Kawhi Leonard

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Kawhi Leonard in a game. Source: Wikimedia licensed by CC-BY-2.0

Leonard is still in the NBA, playing for the Los Angeles Clippers. He’s been out of the game due to multiple injuries, with his most recent coming in April 2023 during the playoffs. However, when he’s on the floor, the small forward is unplayable. 

He averages 19.9 points per game, 3.0 assists per game and 6.4 total rebounds. Leonard is a two-time NBA champion and Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP) with the San Antonia Spurs and the Toronto Raptors.

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Julius Erving

Julius Erving’s game highlights. Video Credit: Back Rim Basketball

Erving learnt from previous NBA small forwards and added athleticism and style to his game. He wasn’t just the player who rebounded, scored and defended. He did all that with flair in his dunk and movements. 

Erving won the NBA with the Philadelphia 76ers in 1983 and was the Most Valuable Player in the league in 1981. His career statistics stand at 30,026 points, 10,525 rebounds and 5,176 assists. 

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Kevin Durant

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Kevin Durant playing for Oklahoma in the NBA. Source: Wikimedia licensed by CC-BY-SA-2.0

Durant’s on-court positioning and ball-handling skills together with his scoring record make him one of the best small forwards of all time. 

He’s comfortable doing it from anywhere, within range, from a three-point or two-point position, when the ball leaves his hands, he almost always puts it in. 

This has seen his career averages match the best. He averages 27.3 points per game, 50% field goal percentage, and 7.0 total rebounds. 

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Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce’s highlights. Video Credit: Clutch Time Highlights

Paul Pierce established himself as one of the best small forwards of all time during his 19-year career in the NBA. He played for four teams and racked up impressive numbers. 

By the time he left, he scored 26, 397 points, made over 7,500 rebounds and more than 4,700 assists. His skills came to the fore during the Celtic’s win of the NBA Championship in 2008, their last to date, and was a first in 22 years.

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Scottie Pippen

Scottie Pippen’s career highlights. Video Credit: Goatness

This list of the best small forwards of all time wouldn’t be complete without Scottie Pippen. Pippen is credited for revolutionizing the small-forward position. He combined the offence and defence duties while creating opportunities for his team to score. 

Pippen’s mastery of this position led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA Championships, including a three-peat between 1991 and 1993. He finished his career with 18,940 points, over 7,400 rebounds and more than 6,100 assists. 

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The best small forwards of all time have all been a pleasure to watch. They aren’t one-sided players who only want to score but are also highly involved in other aspects of the game. Which small forward do you think should make the list and hasn’t? 

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