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dirno2000
09-03-2004, 10:45 PM
Preseason Player Rankings: Small forwards



By Mike Kahn, SportsLine.com Executive Editor



He is the conundrum of the NBA, an incredibly tough defender of up to four positions, a solid ball-handler and passer, with shooting range out to 3-point range. And he's also unpredictable every moment he steps onto the floor.

He is Ron Artest of the Indiana Pacers, the top small forward in the SportsLine.com Preseason Player Rankings.

"There are only about four or five guys in this league that are great two-way players, and Ron is one of them," Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. "Not only is it hard to score on him when he's defending, but he wears you down with his strong body while you're trying to guard him. No question he's one of the top players in the league."

That's not to say he's alone, head and shoulders above the rest. Paul Pierce of the Boston Celtics, presuming you consider him a small forward and not a shooting guard, is the toughest inside/outside scorer at this position.

And then there is Sacramento Kings forward Peja Stojakovic, who coincidentally has often been mentioned in a swap for Artest while begging for a trade because of the constant barrage of negative commentary from teammate Chris Webber. Although not the defender or ball-handler, most believe Stojakovic to be the pre-eminent shooter in the NBA today -- something that cannot be underrated in a league where shooters are at a premium.

"Peja has gotten better every year," said Kings president Geoff Petrie, who chuckled at the notion of Stojakovic trade rumors. "It's not just his shooting, everything has improved. You can use any kind of productivity system you want on him, and he's in the top three."

Last year's top small forward, Jamal Mashburn, fell back into the mire of injuries that has too often dominated his career, and it's tough to know where to put him with such a balky knee. Young All-Stars like Shawn Marion and Richard Jefferson are right on the heels of the top two.

Perhaps the best all-around player of them all might be Lamar Odom, who was forced to play power forward last season with the Miami Heat but could flourish at small forward should his new team -- the Los Angeles Lakers -- move him back to his natural position.

But when you really contemplate the future, even if it's a "point forward" who not only is a primary scorer but ball-handler in offensive sets, it's tough to get past the league's two young stars -- LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Denver Nuggets' Carmelo Anthony.

James is much more the spectacular playmaker, capable of playing point guard and running the fast break or coming down the wing for a tomahawk slam. The 2004 Rookie of the Year, like Anthony, he played sparingly on the controversial Olympic team but still showed flashes of why people have compared him to Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan in varying degrees.

"Based on all of his abilities, it's hard to actually place a position on LeBron," Cavs president Jim Paxson said. "The Olympic experience can only be a positive for him being around all those All-Star caliber players and a coach who stresses fundamentals like Larry Brown does. But if you look at LeBron's skill set and put him at three, he can score inside, outside, handle the ball, pass and rebound. And we know he'll get better defensively."

Anthony doesn't have the ball-handling or passing skills but is a much more refined scorer. He can explode to the basket or bury 3-pointers, and despite what appeared to be growing disenchantment with his Olympic experience, Nuggets president Kiki Vandeweghe believes it will only help him grow. One of the great scoring forwards of his era for 13 seasons beginning in 1980, Vandeweghe sees how Anthony has the potential to change the perception of the position.

"Definitely," Vandeweghe said. "He is working very, very hard to get better. He's committed to being a great player in this league and helping his team be successful. He's completely wrapped up in our success -- he calls me during the draft and during free agency just to be up to speed on what we're doing. You've got to love a player that cares so much."

Not to mention the fact that he can actually play the game.

Ranking the small forwards:

1. Ron Artest, Indiana Pacers: He is incredibly strong and versatile on both ends of the floor, with the only question being if he can keep his head.

2. Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics: His strength and ability to score inside or outside are unparalleled, and it will be interesting to see how he copes with the ever-changing roster of the Celtics.

3. Peja Stojakvoic, Sacramento Kings: The best pure shooter in the game and a much stronger rebounder/defender than people think, but he has struggled in the postseason.

4. Shawn Marion, Phoenix Suns: His unorthodox shooting style and relaxed demeanor often belie his impact on the game, although his name continues to float in trade rumors.

5. Lamar Odom, Los Angeles Lakers: He is a blossoming superstar, with more size and natural tools than any of these players, but how will he adjust to his third team in three years?

6. Richard Jefferson, New Jersey Nets: There are people who love him because he defends consistently, but his shooting and ball-handling are very erratic.

7. Antawn Jamison, Washington Wizards: He is a great scorer who has extended his shooting range and is a much better offensive rebounder than people recognize.

8. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers: The pressure for him to rise above as the next superstar in the league is immense, but he has the demeanor and skill to meet the challenge.

9. Carmelo Anthony, Denver Nuggets: He is a natural scorer inside and outside, with an improving floor game. He, too, has great expectations.

10. Jamal Mashburn, New Orleans Hornets: This is a long shot, because nobody is sure if and when he will play again. But if he does, he is the total package.

Also receiving consideration: Tim Thomas, New York Knicks; Wally Szczerbiak, Minnesota Timberwolves; Rashard Lewis, Seattle SuperSonics; James Posey, Memphis Grizzlies; Mike Dunleavy, Golden State Warriors; Tayshaun Prince, Detroit Pistons.

grndmstr_c
09-03-2004, 11:15 PM
I've sort of been waiting for somebody to post this. Kahn deserves to be flogged with a flaming whip made of all the money he's set to earn this year for leaving AK off this list.

dirno2000
09-03-2004, 11:31 PM
That's a pretty big oversight. Obviously he just forgot about Kirilenko since he's not even on the honarable mention list.

It's also interesting to see Artest listed above Peja when, by all accounts, the Kings have refused to trade Peja for Artest.

MavsFanFinley
09-03-2004, 11:33 PM
I wonder if he's listing AK as a pf??

dirno2000
09-03-2004, 11:35 PM
Nope...he wasn't on the PF list either.

grndmstr_c
09-03-2004, 11:54 PM
I consider Artest/Peja to be something of a push, myself. A couple guys on the honorable mention list that belong in the top 10, IMO, are Lewis and Posey. Both were better than the triumverate of LeBron, Melo, and Mash last year.

fin4life
09-03-2004, 11:58 PM
id keep lebron and caremelo... but take off mash. Lewis is better than him. Posey may not be as good as melo/lebron

grndmstr_c
09-04-2004, 12:32 AM
Posey won't be as good as melo/lebron in a couple years. Last year he was unquestionably a better player. Better defender, far more efficient scorer, and better +/- rating.

4cwebb
09-04-2004, 06:25 AM
Originally posted by: grndmstr_c
I've sort of been waiting for somebody to post this. Kahn deserves to be flogged with a flaming whip made of all the money he's set to earn this year for leaving AK off this list.

Completely agree. Since AK wasn't on the PF list, he should have clearly been included here, and I'd venture to say he could have easily been ranked in the top three seeing the rest of this list, with #4 being the lowest option.

Fidel
09-04-2004, 07:40 AM
The world acording to Mike Kahn:

http://flatrock.org.nz/topics/money_politics_law/assets/world_according_to_america.gif

The guys a joke, as is the sportsline site.
His hatred for non US players is well known.
I donīt know why people keep posting his stuff on this board.

Chiwas
09-04-2004, 09:45 AM
7. Antawn Jamison, Washington Wizards: He is a great scorer who has extended his shooting range and is a much better offensive rebounder than people recognize. Is it the same guy that won the 6th man award last season? The player that was replaced by Stackhouse -as 6th man- in the Mavs rotation? He is higher in this list than Carmelo, Lebron, and Mashburn; the Wizards must be happy.

LRB
09-04-2004, 04:08 PM
The complete abscense of AK47 totally invalidates this list.

cheesestar
09-04-2004, 05:00 PM
added to the fact that jamal mashburn is on it

FilthyFinMavs
09-04-2004, 05:32 PM
AK47 should replace Odom and Odom should be kicked off the list and put in honorable mention.

StvNash13
09-06-2004, 02:01 AM
The worst thing about this list is Artest at #1. The only purpose for having Artest on the team should be taking out the opposing team's player in a fight.

poohrichardson
09-06-2004, 03:36 PM
Originally posted by: StvNash13
The worst thing about this list is Artest at #1. The only purpose for having Artest on the team should be taking out the opposing team's player in a fight.

That's funny.

Artest is one of the most talented players in the league, temper notwithstanding. Basketball doesn't have enforcers; that's hockey.

dalmations202
09-06-2004, 04:26 PM
Basketball doesn't have enforcers; that's hockey.

Then how did Charles Oakley or Kurt Rambis ever play in the NBA? ? ?

grndmstr_c
09-06-2004, 04:33 PM
The worst thing about this list is Artest at #1. The only purpose for having Artest on the team should be taking out the opposing team's player in a fight.Artest is one of a handful of guys who belong in the debate about who the best SF in the league is. I don't know that I'd have him at #1 in my list, but I can certainly understand why someone else might have him at #1 in theirs.

sike
09-06-2004, 09:21 PM
he's third on mine...paja...ak47.....artest

alby
09-07-2004, 12:02 PM
peja is too one dimensional..

ak
artest
peja

poohrichardson
09-07-2004, 03:57 PM
Originally posted by: dalmations202

Basketball doesn't have enforcers; that's hockey.

Then how did Charles Oakley or Kurt Rambis ever play in the NBA? ? ?

Being a physical defender is a different thing altogether from being an enforcer..

sike
09-07-2004, 10:35 PM
Originally posted by: alby
peja is too one dimensional..

ak
artest
peja
first off, that is a all too common misconception about the guy....he averaged over six boards a game...those dont just fall in your lap if all you do is hoist bombs....while I get your point, lets not deminish the fact that he the best shooter in the league. Yes, he is primarily an offensive threat...but that threat is so strong it is overwhelming to the rest of his game....for me(this is a pretty subjective list) I take the best shooter in the league.....the one of the game's most well rounded palyers in AK47, then the ticking time bomb i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif

grndmstr_c
09-08-2004, 12:39 AM
I'm not usually one to discount a guy for being (relatively) one dimensional. Some players, such as Peja, are so good in that one dimension that they're still considerably more effective than even many good players who are more balanced in their contributions. That said, AK's my pick for best SF. His disruptive defensive ability at SF is unparalleled, even when compared to Artest (and is IMO as good as Peja's offense). He's an absolutely fantastic rebounder at his position, and a very solidly efficient scorer, even if he's not really a go-to offensive threat.

dalmations202
09-08-2004, 10:13 AM
Originally posted by: poohrichardson

Originally posted by: dalmations202

Basketball doesn't have enforcers; that's hockey.

Then how did Charles Oakley or Kurt Rambis ever play in the NBA? ? ?

Being a physical defender is a different thing altogether from being an enforcer..

Different thing yes, same role.........yes.

The physical defenders are the enforcers on the court. Neither of the players I listed had offensive games worth talking about, but both were very physical defenders who enforced the physical stuff, if you played MJ tough or Kareem tough.

poohrichardson
09-08-2004, 10:21 AM
Originally posted by: dalmations202

Originally posted by: poohrichardson

Originally posted by: dalmations202

Basketball doesn't have enforcers; that's hockey.

Then how did Charles Oakley or Kurt Rambis ever play in the NBA? ? ?

Being a physical defender is a different thing altogether from being an enforcer..

Different thing yes, same role.........yes.

The physical defenders are the enforcers on the court. Neither of the players I listed had offensive games worth talking about, but both were very physical defenders who enforced the physical stuff, if you played MJ tough or Kareem tough.

Fair enough.. we just have different interpretations of the term.

My take here is:
Artest's defense is just as good as Peja's offense
Artest's offense is far superior to Peja's defense

The only way Peja can take another superstar out of a game is by shooting the lights out, which isn't ever a for-sure thing, even for him. Artest, on the other hand, brought the D every single game he played and it's just a fact that he forced superstars to put up low numbers. Artest over Peja is a no-brainer to me.

dalmations202
09-08-2004, 10:44 AM
Fair enough.. we just have different interpretations of the term.

My take here is:
Artest's defense is just as good as Peja's offense
Artest's offense is far superior to Peja's defense

The only way Peja can take another superstar out of a game is by shooting the lights out, which isn't ever a for-sure thing, even for him. Artest, on the other hand, brought the D every single game he played and it's just a fact that he forced superstars to put up low numbers. Artest over Peja is a no-brainer to me.

I won't argue too much, but I also wouldn't call it a no-brainer. For the most part, you are correct about Peja, Artest. I just don't think Nellie could coach Artest defense, where I think Nellie can coach Peja offense, (at least Nellie seems to know offense better than D). Peja, Artest, and AK47 are all right there together with Peja being the best at O, Artest the best at D, and AK the best overall, IMO. Next level down probably has Pierce, Lewis, Marion, Odom, Jefferson, James, Anthony. The next Jamison, Mashburn, Van Horn. This position has lots of talent at it.

My wise-crack was about enforcers. I remember watching LA-Boston play in the championships in the 70's. Boston was killing them with basically a layup line. Pat Riley sent in (bench warmer) Kurt Rambis and told him to not let another dunk or layup happen. He fouled out in like 6 minutes, but LA went from behind to ahead. They never looked back and beat Boston that year. Rambis during that series was an enforcer. Charles Oakley did that for MJ at times as well. Now, if a team doesn't have a person or persons that do it, they are called "soft".

alby
09-08-2004, 05:03 PM
the problem of being one dimensional? peja is living proof of it..

in the playoffs, defensive schemes and gameplans can take away what you are really good at no matter HOW good of a shooter you are, Bird excelled during the playoffs not only because of his shot, but because of the rest of his game. i know artest did not have a great post season this year, but generally.. if you are a well-rounded ball player, times when you are not playing up to your offensive standards or hitting your shots.. you can always have your defense to pick up some of the slack. peja averages 6 boards because ultimately he is a pretty big SF at 6' 9" .. ak47 is no doubt the most versatile SF in the L if not the most versatile player, outside and inside.. that includes offense and defense..

still defense wins championships and artest is probably the best defensive player in the NBA