The NBA’s Top 10 Young Small Forwards

Here’s a quick list of the top 10 small forwards under the age of 26, ranked in the order of a combination of current performance and trade value (regardless of salary).

I’ll also list the player’s age and his Player Efficiency Rating.

1. LeBron James, Cavs
Age: 23
PER: 33.28

27.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 6.4 assists on a 20-4 team – can you spell M-V-P?

2. Carmelo Anthony, Nuggets
Age: 24
PER: 18.50

The Nuggets are sitting atop the Northwest with a 16-7 record and with the arrival of Chauncey Billups, ‘Melo is starting to play defense, as evidenced by his career-high 8.2 rebounds.

3. Danny Granger, Pacers
Age: 25
PER: 18.67

His boards are down, but his points and assists are up. I bet that the six teams that drafted other guys ahead of him – Magic (Fran Vasquez), Clippers (Yaroslav Korolev), Bobcats (Sean May), T-Wolves (Rashad McCants), Nets (Antoine Wright) and the Raptors (Joey Graham) – are all wishing they could have that draft back.

4. Rudy Gay, Grizzlies
Age: 22
PER: 16.54

I’d like to see better assist numbers (1.7), but he’s still scoring at a terrific clip even though ROY candidate O.J. Mayo is in town. But what’s up with that three-point percentage (29%)?

5. Luol Deng, Bulls
Age: 23
PER: 13.41

It’s not good to see your FG% take a dive (to 43%) the season after you sign a fat contract. Even though his minutes are about the same, Deng’s production is down across the board.

6. Thaddeus Young, Sixers
Age: 20
PER: 13.32

Philly is asking a lot more of Young this season, which is why his run has taken a 12-minute jump. Predictably, his numbers are all up, but he’s not as productive on a per-minute basis, which has a lot to do with the dip in his FG% (-6.6%).

7. Trevor Ariza, Lakers
Age: 23
PER: 19.45

It’s not clear why the Knicks and Magic let him go – well, Isiah is to blame in one case – but their inability to see Ariza’s promise worked to the Lakers’ advantage. Defensively, he’s a terror. If he could only shoot the long ball, he’d be the answer to the team’s problem at small forward.

8. Al Thornton, Clippers
Age: 25
PER: 13.37

Thornton’s numbers are up across the boards thanks to increased minutes (+10.4) and better accuracy from the field (+2.6%).

9. Brandan Wright, Warriors
Age: 21
PER: 20.80

Wright is wildly productive in the 17 minutes of playing time he gets each night, but one wonders why Nellie is barely playing him? It’s not like the Warriors have a ton of great players; they’re 7-17 for Pete’s sake.

10. Jeff Green, Thunder
Age: 22
PER: 14.47

Green has made a big jump from his rookie season. His points (15.6), rebounds (5.5) and assists (2.4) are all up, but more importantly, he’s shooting with increased accuracy from the field (+3.2%) and long range (+13.7%). After looking like a bit of a bust last season, he now looks like he’s capable of being Kevin Durant’s sidekick for the long haul.

Who am I missing? Before you jump all over me for leaving someone off, be sure to check the player’s age – all these guys are 25 or younger.

Other lists:

Top 10 Young Point Guards
Top 10 Young Shooting Guards

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