The NBA: Position Battle: The Best Small Forwards Right Now

Unlike the league’s current best bigs, the best swingmen of the past week or so won’t really shock people. Almost every name on this list is expected to be here, with the exception of one Paul George. This is arguably the most stacked position in the league, and don’t be surprised to see some eye-popping numbers.

5) Rudy Gay (MEM) - 19.0ppg, 9.0rpg, 2.0spg, 1.6bpg, 19.6 EFF
Gay is still a breath away from being mentioned in the same sentence as the top three guys on this list, but he doesn’t mind as long as the Grizzlies remain dangerous. He’s put up nearly double-double numbers the past five games, but even his great performances have only been good enough to give Memphis wins over lowly teams Phoenix and New Orleans. A few days after, Phoeniz got right back at them and beat the Grizz in Arizona.

4) Paul George (IND) - 24.4ppg, 7.6rpg, 3.8apg, 1.4spg, 26.8 EFF
If another Indiana Pacer makes the East All-Star squad this year, it should be this guy. George just on his third year, but he’s well on his way to becoming the most important player of this team. His production’s jump from last year is noticeable, especially on the offensive end, but I hope it’ll translate into more wins for the Pacers, who dropped 2 of their last 3 games

3) Carmelo Anthony (NYK) - 34.0ppg, 4.7rpg, 1.7spg, 27.0 EFF
Why, yes, Melo, and NOT Durant, is the highest scorer on this list. The Knicks, cruising on a 3-game winning streak after the upset loss to Chicago, are on top of the East, and it looks like there’s hardly anything that can stop them. Melo is having his best season in the Big Apple, and, if things continue to go well, he might be worthy of being in the MVP conversation.

2) Kevin Durant (OKC) - 30.0ppg, 7.8rpg, 4.0apg, 30.4 EFF
As good as KD was last season, he’s still finding ways to further improve his game. His scoring has dipped a little, but every other major category has seen increased production. His shooting has been more spot-on, too (43% from beyond the arc and nearly 90% from the line). Consequently, the Thunder are in the midst of a 9-game winning run, and are enjoying the best record in the whole league.

1) LeBron James (MIA) - 27.8ppg, 7.6rpg, 7.6apg, 2.2spg, 32.4 EFF
It’s almost impossible to imagine a guy do as many things so well, but LBJ does just that. He continues to defy the norms of the sport by registering a near triple-double on nearly every night. Sure, the Heat have lost 3 of their last 5 contests, but one cannot help but continue to feel anxious at how dangerous this team CAN STILL BECOME. James is a beast (he looks like one, too – sorry, couldn’t help taking a stab haha).

LBJ's game continues to rise even as
the Heat endure some stumbles.
(image by Issac Baldizon/Getty Images)

Honorable Mention: Paul Pierce (BOS), Danilo Gallinari (DEN), Luol Deng (CHI)

Game Recaps (courtesy of the Sports Network and the Associated Press):
December 11:
New York 100, Brooklyn 97
Brooklyn-native Carmelo Anthony carried the scoring load for New York with a season-high 45 points, but it was Jason Kidd who put the dagger in his former-team. Kidd, who missed the first matchup against the Nets two weeks ago, shot 6-of-8 from downtown and buried the deciding triple late in fourth to lift the Knicks to a 100-97 victory over Brooklyn to even the season series. Anthony shot 15-of-24 from the field, including 5-of-7 from three-point range while Kidd totaled 18 points, six assists and six rebounds for New York, which has won six of its last seven games since losing to the Nets on Nov. 26. Deron Williams tallied 18 points and 10 assists for Brooklyn, which lost its fifth straight game and has won just twice since beating New York. Andray Blatche led the Nets in scoring with 23 while Gerald Wallace and Joe Johnson followed with 17 and 16 points, respectively, in the loss.

Cleveland 100, LA Lakers 94
Kyrie Irving dropped in 28 points and handed out 11 assists in his return to the hardwood on Tuesday as the Cleveland Cavaliers knocked off the Los Angeles Lakers, 100-94, at Quicken Loans Arena. Irving saw his first game action since fracturing his left index finger in a Nov. 18 loss at Philadelphia. C.J. Miles buried five three-pointers en route to 28 points, while Anderson Varejao contributed 20 points, nine boards and five assists for the Cavs, who snapped a five-game skid. Kobe Bryant went off for a game-high 42 points on 16-of-28 shooting to go with five rebounds, while Dwight Howard added 19 points and 20 boards for the free-falling Lakers, who have lost eight of their last 11 games. Metta World Peace finished with 13 points and nine rebounds for the visitors, who played without forward Pau Gasol for the fifth consecutive game.

Denver 101, Detroit 94
Ty Lawson and the Nuggets bench helped Denver overcome an early deficit and down the Detroit Pistons, 101-94, at the Palace of Auburn Hills. The Nuggets trailed by 17 just 6:38 into the game, but quickly recovered and never trailed in the second half, thanks in part to Lawson scoring 26 points with seven assists and no turnovers. Denver's reserves also contributed to the turnaround, as Corey Brewer had 15 points, JaVale McGee 12 and Andre Miller 11 with seven assists to pull the Nuggets even on their five-game road trip with one test remaining. Jason Maxiell logged 18 points, six rebounds and six blocks for Detroit, while Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey added 20 and 17 points, respectively, in defeat.

Washington 77, New Orleans 70
Jordan Crawford scored 26 points on 24 shots to lead the Washington Wizards to their first road victory of the season in a 77-70 decision over the New Orleans Hornets. The Wizards lost their first eight games away from the nation's capital, but held the Hornets to 28 second-half points to overcome a double-digit deficit and win for the third time this season. Bradley Beal netted 15 points and Nene chipped in 10 points and 10 rebounds for the victors. Not even the return of Anthony Davis could prevent New Orleans from losing their fourth in a row. The No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft had missed 11 games with a stress reaction in his left ankle and put up 13 points, eight rebounds, three blocks and three steals in 25 minutes off the bench Tuesday. Ryan Anderson led the Hornets with 17 points and 11 boards.

LA Clippers 94, Chicago 89
Blake Griffin had 22 points and 10 rebounds in the Clippers' seventh straight victory, a 94-89 triumph over the Chicago Bulls. Chris Paul added 18 points for Los Angeles, which is in the midst of its longest winning stretch since 1991-92 when the Danny Manning-led squad won a team-record eight consecutive contests. Carlos Boozer tallied 24 points and 13 boards for Chicago, which had their three-game winning streak snapped.

December 12:
Golden State 97, Miami 95
Draymond Green made a layup with 0.9 seconds left to give the streaking Golden State Warriors a 97-95 win over the Miami Heat on Wednesday night.
Klay Thompson tied a season high with 27 points to lead the Warriors, who have won five straight. LeBron James led Miami with 31 points, reaching the 20-point mark for the 25th consecutive game — the longest current streak in the NBA. Warriors guard Jarrett Jack dribbled the ball at the top of the key as the clock ticked down before finding Green, who caught a quick pass from Jack underneath the basket and made the layup. James then missed a baseline jumper, sending Miami to only its second loss in 12 home games. David Lee had 22 points and 13 rebounds, and Jack added 20 points for the Warriors. Chris Bosh had 21 points and 13 rebounds for Miami, but Dwyane Wade was limited to 14 points on 5-for-11 shooting and had five turnovers.

La Clippers 100, Charlotte 94
Chris Paul had 19 points and 10 assists to help the Clippers extend their longest win streak in two decades to eighth with a victory over Charlotte. Blake Griffin and Matt Barnes also scored 19 points for the Clippers, who maintained sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division. Byron Mullens had 19 points and eight rebounds, and Kemba Walker chipped in with 17 points to lead the stumbling Bobcats, who have lost nine straight since starting the season 7-5. The Bobcats trailed 78-71 entering the fourth quarter and got as close as three before Barnes scored on a fast break dunk and hit a 3-pointer to push the lead back to eight.

Brooklyn 94, Totonto 88
Joe Johnson scored 23 points, and Andray Blatche had 14 points and nine rebounds to help Brooklyn end a five-game losing streak with a win over Toronto. C.J. Watson scored 16 points and Deron Williams added 12 as the Nets won for the first time since Nov. 30 at Orlando. Former Raptors Reggie Evans and Kris Humphries both had big games for the Nets. Evans had nine points and 11 rebounds, while Humphries scored 11 points, making nine of 10 free throws. Ed Davis matched his career high with 24 points and added 12 rebounds, while Jose Calderon had 10 points and 15 assists for the Raptors, who have lost six straight and 12 of 13.

Chicago 96, Philadelphia 89
Joakim Noah scored 21 points, and Luol Deng added 19 points and 12 rebounds to help Chicago win its fourth in a row on the road with a victory over Philadelphia.
Less than 24 hours after losing to the Los Angeles Clippers by five points at United Center, the Bulls traveled to Philadelphia and appeared more rested than the Sixers, who had Tuesday off. Marco Belinelli had 16 points and Nate Robinson, starting in place of guard Kirk Hinrich, had 14 for Chicago. Hinrich injured his left knee in the loss to the Clippers and is listed as day-to-day. Jrue Holiday scored 26 points, Evan Turner added 16 and Thaddeus Young 13 for Philadelphia. Reserve Spencer Hawes chipped in with 10 points and 10 rebounds, and Nick Young also scored 10.

Indiana 96, Cleveland 81
Paul George scored 27 points to help Indiana overcame a 16-point deficit in a win over Cleveland. David West added 18 points and nine rebounds, and George Hill scored 17 points for the Pacers, who snapped a two-game skid. Indiana, third in the NBA in scoring defense and No. 1 in opponent field-goal percentage coming in, held the Cavaliers to 23 points on 8-for-41 shooting in the second half — Cleveland’s lowest-scoring half of the season. C.J. Miles had 28 points, while Kyrie Irving was held to nine on 4-for-12 shooting for the Cavs.

Atlanta 86, Orlando 80
Josh Smith and Jeff Teague scored 16 points apiece, Al Horford added 13 points and 13 rebounds, and Atlanta Hawks held off a late charge to beat Orlando. Atlanta extended its regular-season win streak against Orlando to eight with its second win over the Magic this season. Arron Afflalo scored 16 points and J.J. Redick added 13 for the Magic, who were able to dig out of a huge first-half hole couldn’t overcome 16 turnovers that led to 24 points. Orlando also struggled from the field, connecting on only 31 of 81 shots, in dropping its fourth straight home game. The Magic get a chance to end the skid Friday against Golden State.

December 13:
Atlanta 113, Charlotte 90
Devin Harris poured in a game-high 20 points and Josh Smith added 18 points to lead the Atlanta Hawks to a 113-90 win over the Charlotte Bobcats on Thursday. Ivan Johnson netted a career-high 16 points to go with eight rebounds and Lou Williams had 13 points and nine assists for the Hawks, who have won five of their last six. Kyle Korver had 13 points and Al Horford chipped in with 11 points in the win. Gerald Henderson dropped in a team-high 17 points and Ramon Sessions scored 16 for the Bobcats, who have dropped 10 straight games. Kemba Walker scored 13 points and dished out six assists in the setback.

New York 116, LA Lakers 107
Carmelo Anthony scored 22 of his 30 points in the first quarter before leaving with a sprained left ankle, as New York jumped out early and staved off every Los Angeles charge in a 116-107 victory at Madison Square Garden. Anthony was a scoring machine, shooting over and driving through a porous Lakers defense, pushing the Knicks to a substantial first-quarter lead. He didn't do it all alone, as Raymond Felton added 19 points and eight assists, while Tyson Chandler and J.R. Smith each donated 18 points. The game was fitting of two teams going in different directions. The Knicks posted their third straight win and eighth in the last nine games, improving to 9-0 at home this season, while the Lakers lost their fourth straight. Kobe Bryant led the way with 31 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, while Dwight Howard recorded 20 points and seven rebounds and Metta World Peace filled the stat sheet with 23 points and six boards.

Can anybody stop Carmelo Anthony and the streaking Knicks?
(image by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Portland 98, San Antonio 90
Damian Lillard filled the stat sheet with 29 points, seven rebounds and six assists in the Portland Trail Blazers' 98-90 victory over the San Antonio Spurs. LaMarcus Aldridge added 22 points and six boards, while J.J. Hickson recorded a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds for the Blazers, who have won two in a row and four of their last six games. Luke Babbitt registered 12 points and Nicolas Batum had 11 points and eight assists in the win. Tony Parker tallied 21 points and five assists for San Antonio, which dropped back-to-back contests for the first time this season. Tim Duncan had 16 points and six boards in defeat.

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