Words by Phlip
Would you look at that, I am about to NOT blame Stockton and Malone for this one.
Names that immediately jump to mind are Scottie Pippen, Dominique Wilkins and Dr. J for the reasoning why kids come through wanting to play small forward these days. Names at the top of the league like Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Kevin Durant show that playing to that position will be done for profit.
Historically, the Small Forward was the guy with a similar skillset as the shooting guard, but could take the ball to the post when an opposing coach was dumb enough to guard him with a shooting guard. That in mind, the Small Forward would be 6’5”-6’8” and rarely outside of that range.
If Dr. J and Elgin Baylor were the prototype for how to play the position for the generation that birthed the one we’re in, Dominique and Pippen defined it for the one immediately after them. So much did Dominique inspire LeBron that he has somewhat fashioned his career after him. Creating your own shot, ballhandling skills enough to bring the ball up the court unbothered and length to bother the guy you’re tasked to defend are all among the cost of entry for the position. Players like LeBron and Carmelo can do all of those, even if Carmelo won’t be bothered to play defense up to what his physical attributes might allow. Paul Pierce is what would Melo would be with a commitment to defense, right up to and including the prepubescent attempt at facial hair.
What was once a largely overlooked position in the NBA is another of the ones that is generally filled with players who are at least serviceable to their position in their team’s starting lineup, with the exception of the teams in the cellars of the league. Teams like Atlanta and Minnesota have plenty to spare, as to my Lakers, who need to jettison any two of Ron Artest, Matt Barnes and Luke Walton with Walton being the control in that experiment, meaning he will be the one who IS gone, while Barnes and Artest are up to the quality of the deal received.
Now don’t get me wrong, the league’s coffers are not running over with Small Forwards the same way it happens to be with Power Forwards and Point Guards, but trust it is much easier to name 5-10 decent Small Forwards than it was to do the same with Shooting Guards.
I cannot act like the exposure of having arguably 3 of the top five (okay, seven; the number is still arguable though) players in the league playing the same position and another two playing LIKE they play the position hasn’t made us subconsciously more aware of the position on the whole.
This year’s MVP will be either LeBron James or Kevin Durant (unless the Lakers go 32-0 to finish the season). Unless LeBron does something runaway spectacular to close the award out for himself, the LiberalMedia (it’s an election year, I had to) is waiting to remind him that he is not forgiven for “The Decision” and Durant’s MVP will be quite lopsided, especially if the Thunder’s good fortunes hold out.
Similarly to the previously discussed abundance of Point Guards and Power Forwards and compared to the dearth of Shooting Guards and to-be-discussed centers, this is a sign of the times, as NCAA Ball is also crawling with small forwards, some of whom by virtue of size will be moved up or down to a more natural position if they make the NBA.
Next, the series will close with the discussion of NBA Center, who is becoming as rare as the white Rhino.