#FIBAAsia2015: The TOP FIVE FIBA Asia Small Forwards Right Now

Less than two months remain between now and the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship in Changsha, China. As of this writing, most of the perceived title contenders have already begun training for the all-important competition that will reward just one country with an outright berth in the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. 

As a run-up to that tournament, I will be posting a series of articles focusing on key players with whom we need to be familiar. These range from the newcomers, the breakout ballers, the tried-and-tested veterans, the local stars, and even the naturalized players. Naturally, we will also look at the top cagers per position, which is what we will do here.

In the previous post in this series, we looked at the TOP FIVE FIBA Asia Shooting Guards. These are the players who more commonly known as the best snipers in the continent.

In this post, we will look at perhaps the most crowded position in FIBA Asia, at least in terms of sheer talent. There are just so many big names and great players who play small forward. This is mainly because, prototypically, a small forward is one of the heavy-hitters or scorers of a basketball team. The reason for this is that SFs, or swingmen, usually have a good combination of size, quickness, and shooting – all of which are extremely important especially in the international game.

Without further ado, I present to you my TOP FIVE FIBA Asia Small Forwards right now:

*These rankings are based solely on my observations and analyses. I’ve only included those who have played in the 2014 FIBA World Cup or at least one of the last three major continental tournaments (2013 FIBA Asia Championship, 2014 FIBA Asia Cup, and 2014 Asian Games) or are certainly playing in the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship.

Anatoliy Kolesnikov – Kazakhstan, 26 years old, 6’7
Current club & stats: BC Astana (Division 1, Eurochallenge, & VTB United): 5.8ppg, 4.1rpg, 1.2spg, 47.5 FG%
2014 Asian Games: 13.9ppg, 8.1rpg, 1.4apg, 1.4spg, 39.2 FG%
- Many hoop nuts look at Kazakhstan and see Anton Ponomarev and Jerry Johnson as its main cogs, but half-Australian Anatoliy Kolesnikov is supposed to be the next in line to take over as one of the Snow Leopards’ leaders. Kolesnikov burst into the scene in the 2014 Asian Games, helping push Kazakhstan to a top four finish. They are in a tough group in #FIBAAsia2015, but if this guy catches fire, the Kazakhs may just be good enough to advance to the next round.

Samad Nikkhah Bahrami – Iran, 32 years old, 6’7
Current club & stats: Petrochimi Bandar Imam (Superleague): 20.2ppg, 4.4rpg, 5.3apg, 1.8spg, 1.7 triples per game, 33.7 3pt%, 44.2 FG%
2014 FIBA World Cup: 16.0ppg, 4.4apg, 1.8rpg, 1.4spg, 2.2 triples per game, 40.0 FG%
- For the past 8 years or so, Bahrami has been the best small forward in Asia, and I don’t think he’s the type who will let that go easily. Despite already being 32, Bahrami can still hack it. He can still attack the basket with impunity, still shoot from anywhere on the floor, and still cause match-up problems against much smaller teams. Give him too much space, and he’ll burn you. Stick too close to him, and he’ll go around you. He’s has always been too good. 

Fadi El Khatib – Lebanon, 36 years old, 6’6
Current club & stats: Foshan Long Lions (CBA): 25.6ppg, 6.9rpg, 3.6apg, 1.0spg, 1.8 triples per game, 41.0 3pt%, 50.9 FG%
2010 FIBA World Cup: 15.4ppg, 4.4rpg, 1.0apg, 30.8 3pt%, 48.8 FG%
- It has been 6 years since The Tiger graced any FIBA Asia basketball court, but he’s bound to make a triumphant return this year as he joins the Cedars for maybe one final time in Changsha. El Khatib is the iconic Lebanese cager, and even in his advanced age, he remains a top-level forward. His numbers in the CBA speak for themselves, and his most recent performance in the 2015 WABA Championship has reinvigorated expectations for the Lebanese national team. Expect El Khatib to dominate proceedings anew for his squad as they try to regain their stature in Asian hoops.

Khalid Suliman Abdi – Qatar, 28 years old, 6’6
Current club & stats: Al Sadd (QBF Div. 1): 15.3ppg, 7.3rpg, 3.9apg, 1.9spg, 1.4 triples per game, 40.0 FG%
2013 FIBA Asia Championship: 5.0ppg, 2.8rpg, 1.0apg, 23.8 FG%
- Don’t let his paltry numbers in the last FIBA Asia Championship fool you. Abdi has emerged as Qatar’s top local offensive weapon, especially now that living legend Yaseen Musa has confeeermed his retirement from international basketball. At 6’6, Abdi has great size for a wingman, and his offensive repertoire is quite enviable. He can put the ball on the floor and finish well around basket, but he can also stroke from long range. He’s pretty much like Bahrami, only less dominant and not consistently aggressive. His production was severely limited two years ago because of the presence of Jarvis Hayes, but with Qatar probably going with Boney Watson as its naturalized player this year, look for Abdi to take on a very big role.

Moon Tae-Jong – Korea, 39 years old, 6’6
Current club & stats: Changwon LG Sakers (KBL): 12.0ppg, 4.4rpg, 2.5apg, 1.0spg, 1.7 triples per game, 36.2 3pt%, 45.2 FG%
2014 FIBA World Cup: 10.0ppg, 2.0apg, 1.0rpg, 2.2 triples per game, 45.8 3pt%, 50.0 FG%
- It’s a shame Moon Tae-Jong won’t see action in Changsha, but it’s also understandable given how he will turn 40 by the end of this year. Still, it’s uncanny how this guy seems to defy Father Time when he’s playing on the court. He may as well be to the KBL what Asi Taulava is to the PBA. Moon is, hands down, one of the best shooters to ever don Korea’s tri-colors, and he will be sorely missed. Taking over for him as the Taegu Warriors’ naturalized player is his younger brother, Moon Tae-Young. How good is he? Well, think MVP-caliber Kelly Williams with a sick three-point shot. Kaboom.

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