Bulls

Who are the top 10 small forwards in the league?

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Who are the top 10 small forwards in the league?

Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2010
11:53 AM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

A historic summer for the NBA has passed and for the Bulls, while they didn't acquire quite the star power many expected andor hoped for, optimism runs high, both within the organization and throughout the team's fan base. With the offseason coming to an end, the time to fully delve into the upcoming NBA season is here. Instead of a traditional season preview, issues both throughout the league and in Chicago will be probed daily here on CSNChicago.com up until the squad officially convenes for training camp toward the end of September.

8. Who are the top 10 small forwards in the league?

1. LeBron James, Miami Heat (2009-10 averages: 29.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 8.6 assists, 1.6 steals, 50.3 field-goal percentage, 33.3 three-point percentage in 76 games): Even if his scoring numbers slightly decrease, don't be shocked if "King James" averages a triple-double as a Magic Johnson-Oscar Robertson hybrid in his new place of residence and confirms his status as the NBA's best player in retaliation for the continued backlash he's endured.

2. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder (2009-10 averages: 30.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.4 steals, 47.6 field-goal percentage, 36.5 three-point percentage in 82 games): Still 21, Durant might not be quite ready to take over the crown as the league's top dog, but his exploits in the World Championships demonstrate he's the game's best pure scorer and the Thunder could be prepared to take the next step.

3. Carmelo Anthony, Denver Nuggets (2009-10 averages: 28.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.3 steals, 45.8 field-goal percentage, 31.6 three-point percentage in 69 games): A byproduct of Anthony's statuses as an upcoming free agent and reported relocation desires will be increased scrutiny and a judgment on whether he's fit to lead a team to the promised land -- regardless of what city he's in.

4. Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics (2009-10 averages: 18.3 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.2 steals, 47.2 field-goal percentage, 41.4 three-point percentage in 71 games): Pierce is no longer dominant on a nightly basis, but "The Truth" still capable of taking over individual games and serving as the front man for an aging Boston band's last few tours.

5. Gerald Wallace, Charlotte Bobcats (2009-10 averages: 18.2 points, 10.0 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.5 steals, 48.4 field-goal percentage, 37.1 three-point percentage in 76 games): Never the prettiest player, under the tutelage of Larry Brown, the relentless Wallace has rounded out his game, upgraded his perception around the league and led the Bobcats to their first-ever postseason appearance.

6. Danny Granger, Indiana Pacers (2009-10 averages: 24.1 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.5 steals, 42.8 field-goal percentage, 36.1 three-point percentage in 62 games): Considered to be on the cusp of elite the season before last, a disappointing campaign put the onus on Granger to improve -- defense and shot selection, in particular -- especially after a humbling national-team experience.

7. Rudy Gay, Memphis Grizzlies (2009-10 averages: 19.6 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.5 steals, 46.6 field-goal percentage, 32.7 three-point percentage in 80 games): Armed with a hefty contract extension that raised eyebrows around the league, Gay, coming off a productive summer with USA Basketball, will be expected to take his game -- and team -- to the next level.

8. Luol Deng, Chicago Bulls (2009-10 averages: 17.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.9 steals, 46.6 field-goal percentage, 38.6 three-point percentage in 70 games): Taking more of a background role on a team capable of taking things a step or two further in the postseason might actually help Deng receive much-deserved credit for his quiet and polished game.

9. Caron Butler, Dallas Mavericks (2009-10 averages: 16.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.6 steals, 42.8 field-goal percentage, 29.0 three-point percentage in 74 games): Adjusting to the Mavericks after years of immense freedom in Washington has been a process, but he's still one of the more versatile and dangerous players at his position.

10. Corey Maggette, Milwaukee Bucks (2009-10 averages: 19.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.7 steals, 51.6 field-goal percentage, 26.0 three-point percentage in 70 games): Maggette is one of the league's top gunners, but perhaps the prospect of playing for the Bucks, who have the potential to make a deep playoff run, persuades him to be more team-oriented, while still contributing his scoring prowess.

Next 10 (in alphabetical order):

Ron Artest, Los Angeles Lakers: Artest is no longer the all-around threat he was last decade, but his toughness, lockdown defense, timeliness in the clutch and ability to blend into the team concepts are major reasons the Lakers won the title.
Trevor Ariza, New Orleans Hornets: Ariza wasn't exactly a great fit in Houston, but playing alongside Chris Paul should afford him plenty of easy opportunities to succeed, as his athleticism and defense are attributes the Hornets have long desired.
Wilson Chandler, New York Knicks: Although Chandler often flies under the radar, his athleticism, slashing style and high motor have earned him respect in the Big Apple.
Danilo Gallinari, New York Knicks: While the young Italian needs to round out his game, his uncanny combination of size, deep range and deceiving toughness will continue to be a centerpiece of the Knicks' attempted resurgence.
Richard Jefferson, San Antonio Spurs: Hopefully Jefferson's abysmal debut with the Spurs will be a distant memory with the opportunity to fully adjust and the security of a surprising contract extension.
Andrei Kirilenko, Utah Jazz: The versatile Kirilenko will be forced to produce like the "AK-47" of old if Utah is expected to remain among the West's elite following a summer of player turnover.
Tayshaun Prince, Detroit Pistons: After an injury-riddled season, Prince should return to a semblance of his old form on a more consistent basis, but whether or not he finishes the season in Detroit is a different story.
Hedo Turkoglu, Phoenix Suns: Playing in the freedom of Phoenix's offense -- and with Steve Nash -- should enable Turkoglu to bounce back from a disaster of a season in Toronto.
Terrence Williams, New Jersey Nets: Williams, who started his rookie campaign slow and ended it strong, may actually playing both backcourt positions, but his versatility and athleticism could allow for more favorable mismatches at the three.
Thaddeus Young, Philadelphia 76ers: Despite regressing a bit last season, Young has all the tools to thrive in a new system -- and his natural position -- under new Sixers coach Doug Collins.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Reflective Jimmy Butler looks back on time in Chicago during All-Star weekend

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USA TODAY

Reflective Jimmy Butler looks back on time in Chicago during All-Star weekend

LOS ANGELES — Jimmy Butler was absent from the scoresheet of the All-Star Game, unless you count a “DNP-Coaches’ Decision” as activity. Whether due to the All-Star festivities of the weekend or even the grinding minutes he plays under Tom Thibodeau, it wasn’t truly surprising to see him want to have a night off of sorts.

But what was mildly surprising was the reflection he displayed on Saturday at All-Star Media Day in reference to his time with the Chicago Bulls. Usually, Butler’s armor is up because of his feelings surrounding his draft-night departure.

“I learned a lot in Chicago,” Butler said. “Just all through the season and life in general. What to do, what not to do and how to adapt to any situation that you’ve been in. I’ve done that to the best of my abilities. I have a ways to go in that.”

It’s clear he’s still grasping the weight of his words as the best player on a team, or at least, the player whose words impact everything around him.

“A people pleaser? No, I just didn’t say much,” Butler said. “Now I just don’t care. I never talked whenever I was in the league at an early age. It really didn’t matter, nothing I did was gonna make or break us when it comes to losing a game. Now it does and I have a lot to say. Half the time it’s not the right time or right way to say it but it’s okay.”

Whether it was the battles with Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg or the internal struggles in the Bulls’ locker room through his ascension from bench warmer to rotation player to impact player to now, a legitimate star, he’s modifying his approach—just a tad.

“I’ve never been the best player on my own team. I was in Tomball,” he joked, in reference to his beginnings in small town Texas. “I wasn’t in junior college. At Marquette I wasn’t. I’m probably not now. In Chicago I wasn’t. You just pick up on it, watch others and learn.”

He admitted to writing in a journal and reading self-help books now that he’s in Minnesota. The novel he’s reading now, “Faith, Forward, Future” is authored by Chad Veach, a Los Angeles pastor and the subtitle of the book says “Moving past your disappointments, delays and destructive thinking.”

Whether he started the book following a slow start with the Timberwolves in November, where his nightly numbers looked like one of a high-level role player, he took some self-evaluation before leading the charge since, playing like an MVP candidate with 25.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.3 assists on 49 percent shooting since the start of December.

“It’s relatively new. Yeah, basketball is still basketball but it’s hard when somebody else is coming in and roles change overnight,” Butler said. “You gotta see where you fit in with the group. At the end of the day you gotta win. I didn’t feel the way I was playing was our best opportunity to win games.”

Bringing along the likes of Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, with Towns being a fellow All-Star for the first time, has been a process.

“I’ve never actually had to be a leader,” Butler said. “I just always done what I was supposed to do, didn’t say much and played hard. Now you know, everybody wants to call someone a leader.”

He disputes taking a softer hand, especially as Towns and Wiggins seem to struggle with sustaining concentration at critical moments. The Timberwolves won’t be able to make those mistakes during the playoffs, but he’s being more selective with his words.

“I’m not soft,” he said. “If I see something wrong, I speak on it. If you don’t like it, oh well. You’ll get over it.”

One thing he could take a bird’s eye view of was the aftermath of LeBron James and Kevin Durant’s comments to the “Uninterrupted”, where they were criticized by cable news hosts for speaking out against President Donald Trump.

No stranger to criticism, Butler would likely have the same approach if he dipped his toes into that arena.

“I like it. You got the right to say what you want and you speak on what you think is right,” Butler said. “Good for them. And they are magnified in a very big way. They embrace it and they’re doing the right thing, I’m all for it.”

And if the day comes where he doesn’t stick to sports, Butler’s directness and lack of diplomacy would certainly cause an interesting reaction.

“I don’t care. Whatever I believe in, I believe in,” Butler said. “Everybody else does it. You see everybody on Twitter and the Internet doing it and saying what they want to say. We just have a different job than the person to our left and right.”

Well, not quite a warm and fuzzy Jimmy Butler.

Anthony Davis could be the lone torch-bearer for Chicago at All-Star weekend in 2020, and object of recruitment

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AP

Anthony Davis could be the lone torch-bearer for Chicago at All-Star weekend in 2020, and object of recruitment

There were no Lakers or Clippers in the 2018 All-Star Game, but Los Angeles was well-represented with plenty of homegrown talent, plenty of historians with Los Angeles ties and all the pageantry L.A. can provide.

Russell Westbrook, Paul George and James Harden are among the All-Stars who came home to put on the biggest show of entertainment the league has to offer, and the new format featuring captains LeBron James and Stephen Curry produced one of the most competitive finishes in recent All-Star history as the spectacle wasn’t lost on DeRozan, who plays for the conference-leading Toronto Raptors.

“It was a dream come true,” DeRozan said. “I’ll forever be a part of this, and to come out and be a starter in my hometown, it was a dream come true.”

With Chicago hosting the event in 2020, one wonders if the city or the Bulls will be as represented.

“What better time to do it than in Chicago?” Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen said about his aspirations of being an All-Star sooner rather than later.

New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, to this point, is the only Chicagoan carrying the torch as an All-Star. For years, Chicago could claim their homegrown talent rivaled the likes of Los Angeles and New York, the self-proclaimed “Mecca”.

But now they’ve fallen behind in the way of star power, as Derrick Rose has gone from MVP to one of the biggest “what if” stories in modern-day sports. Jabari Parker was expected to be next in line but his future as a star is murky due to the same dreaded injury bug.

“I didn’t know that. But there’s a lot of great players (from Chicago),” Davis said Saturday during media availability. “Jabari is just coming back, Derrick is going through what he’s going through. That’s fine. D-Wade is getting older. We have a lot of great guys. Guys have been hurt, in D-Wade’s case he’s just getting up there in age now (laughs).”

Davis is arguably the league’s most versatile big man, keeping the New Orleans Pelicans afloat while DeMarcus Cousins is out with an Achilles injury. He’s had to watch the likes of George deal with free agent questions about the prospect of coming home to L.A., even after he was traded from Indiana to Oklahoma City in the offseason.

It still hasn’t stopped the chants from Lakers fans, panting after George in the hope he’ll be a savior of sorts. And even though his contract isn’t up for another few seasons, teams are lining up in the hope they can acquire him through free agency or trade.

It could very well be him getting the chants when the All-Star party comes to Chicago and he could be joined by the likes of Markkanen and Zach LaVine in the big game.

LaVine was in Los Angeles for the weekend and Markkanen opened eyes around the league with his showing in the rising stars game as well as the skills challenge.

Davis could wind up being the object of everyone’s affection and could find himself being recruited by the likes of LaVine.

Even though 2021 is a long way away, a guy can dream, right?

“I mean, I’m cool with a lot of dudes in the NBA. I feel like I’m a likeable guy,” LaVine told NBCSportsChicago.com about recruiting star players to the Bulls franchise. “I can talk about situations like that, it would be my first time being put in a position. It would be a little bit different but I think I can handle it.”

LaVine has his own contract situation to take care of this summer, being a restricted free agent but understands the Bulls’ salary cap position and their long-term goals.

“Yeah I think once the offseason comes and everybody settles down, and I’m comfortable, and I know the position I’ll be in,” LaVine said to NBCSportsChicago.com.

“I think we’ll start having those conversations because we want to get the franchise back to where it was, on that high plateau. That’s what it’s supposed to be.”

“I’m trying to solidify myself in the league to a certain degree. Once you start reaching those points you can talk to anybody to get to where you want to get to.”

LaVine attended several events over the weekend and shared the same space as several All-Stars in non-media settings. It’s easy to see why he would think he could have that affect with his peers.

Being careful about the rules on tampering, he said about a potential sit-down with Davis, “I would bring some Harold’s chicken to the meeting and we’ll be all good.”