The small forward position in the NBA boasts the two best players in the league in Kevin Durant (left) and LeBron James (right). After that? It's slim pickings. There are some rising stars and fading stars, but few great players in their primes. Check out our 10 best small forwards in the league today.
Nic Batum, Portland Trail Blazers
One of the best perimeter defenders in the league, Batum is also a good 3-point shooter and smooth athlete. But Portland's decision to match Minnesota's four-year, $46 million offer for the 23-year-old Frenchman was based more on potential than performance. The Blazers hope Batum develops into a more assertive player who puts his stamp on each game. He's been a role player, but now he's paid like a star.
Gerald Wallace, Brooklyn Nets
With Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez as teammates, Wallace figures to be Brooklyn's fourth offensive option. But that should allow him to do what he does best: hustle and play defense. The Nets want to be a gritty, tenacious team as they move into their new home, and it's Wallace who most embodies that attitude.
Danilo Gallinari, Denver Nuggets
One of many weapons in Denver's high-octane offense, Gallinari seems to fit the stereotype of a sweet-shooting but soft European swingman. Yet he's willing to do the dirty work of drawing fouls and playing defense. The key for the 24-year-old Italian is staying healthy and continuing to expand his game. If so, he could become an All-Star and the Nuggets may emerge as contenders in the West.
Danny Granger, Indiana Pacers
Granger was a prolific scorer on bad Pacers teams early in his career. His role has diminished as Indiana has improved, but he remains the team's No. 1 offensive option and a deadly 3-point shooter. The rest of his game hasn't developed enough to make him an elite player, which is a little disappointing for a team that could really use a genuine star.
Rudy Gay, Memphis Grizzlies
Gay is like many of the small forwards on this list. A very good player, but not quite a star. He's stayed at roughly the same level for five years, averaging between 18.9 and 20.1 points each season. Now, at 26, the question is whether he'll ever take the next step. He has the ability to do it, and after his Team USA snub he says he has the motivation. The Grizzlies sure hope so. We'll see.
Luol Deng, Chicago Bulls
Deng has been a consistent and efficient scorer for most of his eight-year NBA career, but a wrist injury caused his shooting percentage to plunge last season. He elected not to have surgery in order to represent Great Britain in the London Olympics, leaving doubts about his health, but the Bulls will be relying on him to take on a bigger role as Derrick Rose recovers from a torn ACL.
Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics
He can't create his shot quite as easily as before, but Pierce, 34, still has plenty of game. The step-back jumper remains deadly, as does his 3-point stroke. He's also as cocky as ever and as dangerous as anyone in the league with the ball in his hands late in a game. And that's The Truth.
Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
'Melo remains one of the most unstoppable scorers in the world, as he showed again during the London Olympics. In nine NBA seasons, he's never averaged fewer than 20 points. At the same time, he's only won two playoff series in his career and been knocked for his defense and shot selection. Unless he figures out how to mesh with Amar'e Stoudemire and do the little things necessary to win, he and the Knicks will be underachievers.
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
It's not just his three straight scoring titles that make Durant a special player. It's also his fervent desire to improve every aspect of his game. Last season Durant was a much better rebounder, passer and defender in leading Oklahoma City to the NBA Finals. Still only 24, it may not be long before he's a champion and the best player in the world. But right now, those attributes belong to the No. 1 guy on this list.
LeBron James, Miami Heat
Calling LeBron the best small forward in the league doesn't do justice to his versatility and dominance as a player. He's always been more of a point forward, leading his team in assists. Last season he played more than ever at power forward, flaunting an improved post game, and defended every position on the court. With his first ring to go along with three MVP awards, there's no longer anything small about James' stature in the sport.