The NBA: January 2013 Position Battle – The Top 5 Small Forwards Right Now

Kevin Durant replaces LeBron James as the best swingman to start 2013, while two others creep up the rankings with superb all-around production. It is worth noting that this set of players is the toughest to rank, since, as you will see, the very best ones really fill up the stat-sheet. These guys are, in a manner of speaking, bona fide stat demons, or, as my students are wont to say – stat whores. (Stats as of January 10, 2013 – Manila time; these stats are from each team’s last 5 games only; source –

5. Paul George (IND) - 19.8ppg, 10.4rpg, 3.6apg, 2.4spg, 20.8 EFF
The Indiana Pacers are withstanding the absence of Danny Granger mainly because of George’s meteoric rise. The high-flying forward is growing his game beyond expectations, and, reportedly, is still growing in the most literal sense of the word, too. Some sources say George is closing in on being 6’11. And this is a guy who plays shooting guard at times.

4. Nicolas Batum (POR) - 18.2ppg, 5.0rpg, 5.2apg, 1.2spg, 1.2bpg, .900 FT%, 22.2 EFF
One of the big reasons the Blazers beat the Heat in their last game was because Batum outplayed LeBron. LBJ was just one dime away from a triple-double, but he shot just 38% from the field and 40% from the line. Batum finished with a 28-7-5-2-1 stat-line while making 53% of his field goals and all but 2 of his 11 freebies. Now THAT is efficiency.

3. Carmelo Anthony (NYK) - 32.0ppg, 6.0rpg, 4.5apg, 25.8 EFF
For the first time since Decmber 9, 2012, an opposing SF outplayed Melo when Paul Pierce unloaded a 23-3-6-1-0 line while shooting 56% from the floor. In contrast, Melo’s 20-3-5-1-0 production was hampered by his anemic 6-of-26 FG shooting. Melo has really hit a snag of late, and the Knicks have been affected significantly. New York has lost 3 of its last 5.

Melo missed his last game against the Pacers, but he's
still one of the best SFs in the game.
(image by Kathy Willens/AP)

2. LeBron James (MIA) - 24.6ppg, 8.0rpg, 6.2apg, 1.4spg, 1.0bpg, .506 FG%, 26.8 EFF
Still the most dangerous triple-double machine in the game today, but the more curious thing is that his team isn’t piling the Ws as much as it should. Miami has dropped 3 of its last 5 matches, and they’re now just half a game ahead of New York in the Eastern standings. LBJ, though, isn’t really to blame if you look at his numbers. He’s been doing everything for Miami, and he’s making a good case to be the MVP of the season’s first half.

1. Kevin Durant (OKC) - 26.0ppg, 6.6rpg, 5.2apg, 2.0spg, 1.0bpg, .557 FG%, .892 FT%, 30.0 EFF
As all-around magnificent as LBJ has been, KD has owned OKC’s last five games. The Thunder did lose shockers to Brooklyn and Washington, but they still lead their division by a mile, and no opposing SF has managed to outplay KD since Christmas. With him missing the MVP trophy last year, it seems like Durant has made it his personal mission to show the whole world just how much he’s grown as an NBA superstar and all-around awesome player. The numbers speak for themselves.

Game Recaps (courtesy of the Sports Network):
January 9
Utah 112, Charlotte 102
Al Jefferson poured in a game-high 26 points and pulled down eight rebounds and Paul Millsap added 19 points as the Utah Jazz stomped the Charlotte Bobcats, 112-102, on Wednesday. Gordon Hayward chipped in with 14 points, Alec Burks scored 12 and DeMarre Carroll and Derrick Favors added 10 points apiece for the Jazz, winners in four of their last five. Ben Gordon scored 20, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist dropped in 15 and Kemba Walker added 14 points and six assists for the Bobcats, losers in 20 of their last 22 games.

Cleveland 99, Atlanta 83
Kyrie Irving poured in a game-high 33 points on Wednesday, including 18 in the third quarter, to help the Cleveland Cavaliers claim a 99-83 victory over the Atlanta Hawks at Quicken Loans Arena. Alonzo Gee knocked down five 3-pointers en route to 15 points, while Tyler Zeller and Tristan Thompson each posted double-doubles for the Cavs, who had lost five of their last six coming in. Zeller finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds, while Thompson tallied 11 points and 14 boards. Josh Smith stuffed the stat sheet with 17 points, eight rebounds, six blocks and four assists for the Hawks. Jeff Teague donated 15 points and eight assists in the setback, Atlanta's fourth in a row.

Toronto 90, Philadelphia 72
Amir Johnson recorded a double-double with 19 points and 12 rebounds, as the Toronto Raptors beat the Philadelphia 76ers, 90-72, on Wednesday. DeMar DeRozan added 19 points for the Raptors, who snapped a two-game skid. Ed Davis donated 17 points and nine boards, while Jose Calderon scored 14 points and dished out 11 assists. Jrue Holiday and Thaddeus Young ended with 16 points apiece for the Sixers, who have lost five straight. Evan Turner tallied 10 points and seven boards.

Boston 87, Phoenix 79
Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger and the rest of the Boston Celtics' bench helped fend off the Phoenix Suns in an 87-79 victory on Wednesday. Green scored 14 points, Sullinger recorded a double-double with 12 points and 16 rebounds and fellow reserve Jason Terry netted 13 points in Boston's fourth straight victory. The Celtics' bench outscored their starters (47-40), as Kevin Garnett's 10-point effort paced the starting five. Luis Scola led Phoenix with 16 points, while Jared Dudley added 14 points and 10 rebounds in the club's 11th straight road loss.

Milwaukee 104, Chicago 96
Brandon Jennings scored 35 points with six rebounds and six assists as the Milwaukee Bucks took a 104-96 win over the Chicago Bulls at United Center on Wednesday. Mike Dunleavy scored 16 points and Monta Ellis added 14 points, five boards, five steals and five helpers for the Bucks, who have won their past two games. Larry Sanders had 12 rebounds and seven blocks as Milwaukee moved to 2-0 under interim head coach Jim Boylan thanks in part to 15 blocked shots in the game. Carlos Boozer had 22 points and 11 boards while Nate Robinson added 19 points, five rebounds, six assists and five steals for the Bulls, who had a three-game winning streak snapped.

New Orleans 88, Houston 79
Greivis Vasquez, Jason Smith and Roger Mason Jr. each netted 17 points in the New Orleans Hornets' 88-79 win over the Houston Rockets. Vasquez added 11 assists and Smith pulled down 10 rebounds for the Hornets, who outscored Houston 29-10 in the fourth quarter. New Orleans has won three in a row and five of its last eight contests on the heels of an 11-game losing streak. James Harden had 25 points, but registered seven of the Rockets' 23 turnovers as Houston saw its five-game winning streak come to an end.

Oklahoma City 106, Minnesota 84
Kevin Durant scored 26 points and grabbed eight rebounds as the Oklahoma City Thunder rolled to a 106-84 decision over a short-handed Minnesota Timberwolves squad at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Russell Westbrook accumulated 23 points, eight rebounds and seven assists to help the Thunder bounce back from Monday's startling 101-99 setback at league-worst Washington, with Kevin Martin contributing 19 points off the bench to the rout. Minnesota, which was without head coach Rick Adelman for a second straight night due to a personal matter and lost All-Star forward Kevin Love for an extended period last week, received 18 points from Alexey Shved and a 17-point, 10-rebound effort from Nikola Pekovic. Derrick Williams finished with 14 points and 11 boards in the loss, the Timberwolves' fifth in their last six outings on the road.

Kevin Durant and OKC lost a shocker to Washington, but they
rebounded nicely by beating the T-Wolves.
(image by Alex Brandon/AP)

San Antonio 108, LA Lakers 105
Tony Parker scored 24 points on 10-of-16 shooting and the San Antonio Spurs held off the Los Angeles Lakers, 108-105, on Wednesday. Manu Ginobili had 19 points, including a key 3-pointer with 43 seconds remaining, and pulled down eight rebounds for the Spurs, who bounced back from a loss to the New Orleans Hornets on Monday. Tiago Splitter tallied 14 points and 14 boards for San Antonio, which improved to 15-2 at home this season. Kobe Bryant ended with 27 points for the Lakers, who have lost five in a row. Metta World Peace added 23 points, eight rebounds and seven steals, while Earl Clark had 22 points and 13 boards.

Denver 108, Orlando 105
Kenneth Faried scored 19 points and pulled down 19 rebounds to help the Denver Nuggets edge the Orlando Magic, 108-105, at the Pepsi Center on Wednesday night. Ty Lawson had 19 points and eight assists, Andre Miller donated 18 points and Danilo Gallinari chipped in with 15 points, eight rebounds and four assists for the Nuggets, who have won three straight. Jameer Nelson poured in 20 points to go with eight assists and J.J. Redick added 17 points off the bench for the Magic, losers in 10 straight. Andrew Nicholson and Arron Afflalo scored 12 points apiece, DeQuan Jones added 11 and Nikola Vucevic recorded a double-double with 10 points and 14 boards in the setback.

Memphis 94, Golden State 87
Zach Randolph finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds and Rudy Gay chipped in 18 points, as the Memphis Grizzlies edged the Golden State Warriors, 94-87, at Oracle Arena. Mike Conley chipped in 16 points for the Grizzlies, who wrapped up a perfect three-game road trip with their eighth straight win over the Warriors. Stephen Curry paced Golden State with 24 points, while Klay Thompson logged 20 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in the setback. The Warriors fell to the Clippers last Saturday and dropped back-to-back games for the second time this season.

LA Clippers 99, Dallas 93
Chris Paul scored 19 points and handed out 16 assists on Wednesday to help the Los Angeles Clippers earn a hard-fought 99-93 victory over the Dallas Mavericks at Staples Center. Matt Barnes also tallied 19 points to go with seven rebounds and Blake Griffin recorded a double-double with 15 points and 13 boards for the Clippers, who have won three straight and improved to 18-3 at home. Darren Collison led the Mavericks with 22 points and six assists, while O.J. Mayo and Dirk Nowitzki donated 17 and 15 points, respectively, in the setback, Dallas' fourth in a row and 10th in their last 11 games.

January 10
Indiana 81, New York 76
Paul George did a little bit of everything Thursday, totaling 24 points, 11 rebounds, six steals and five assists as the Indiana Pacers took advantage of Carmelo Anthony's absence in an 81-76 victory over the New York Knicks at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Ian Mahinmi was the only other Indiana player who finished in double figures, adding 13 points off the bench in the club's third straight win and fifth in six games. The Pacers held the Knicks to 26 points below their average two days after limiting the reigning NBA-champion Miami Heat to 77 points. Anthony was serving a one- game ban handed down by the league for confronting Boston's Kevin Garnett following Monday's loss against the Celtics. Without the league's second leading scorer, New York shot 35 percent from the field to drop back-to-back games for just the third time this season. J.R. Smith scored a game-high 25 points, while Tyson Chandler added 12 points and 15 rebounds in the setback.

Dallas 117, Sacramento 112 (OT)
O.J. Mayo had 24 points, 10 rebounds and five assists to give Dallas a 117-112 overtime win against Sacramento on Thursday. Vince Carter scored 23 points and added five rebounds while Shawn Marion posted 19 points with 10 rebounds for the Mavericks, who snapped a four-game slide. DeMarcus Cousins scored 29 points and added nine rebounds for the Kings, who have dropped their past three games. Tyreke Evans had 20 points and seven boards off the bench in the loss.

Portland 92, Miami 90
Although they were outplayed for most of the night, the Portland Trail Blazers kept their home winning streak intact. Wesley Matthews nailed a pair of 3-pointers in the final minute, including the go-ahead triple with 26.9 seconds left in the Trail Blazers' 92-90 win over the Miami Heat. It was Portland's ninth straight home win. Nicolas Batum had 28 points, seven rebounds and five assists for Portland, which hasn't dropped a home decision since Dec. 8 against the Sacramento Kings. LeBron James finished with just 15 points, the first time all season he's been held below the 20-point barrier. James was 12 games away from matching the most consecutive 20-point games to start a season since the NBA-ABA merger at 45, held by George Gervin in 1981-82. Chris Bosh netted 29 points to lead the Heat, who have dropped three of their last four games.

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