You can never start a new NBA season without ranking the top players at each position. As December 22 looms closer, we take a deep look at each position and rank the top-10. Let’s continue with the small forwards.
10. Gordon Hayward
To put it bluntly, don’t get too high on a Gordon Hayward emergence. After his injury in 2017, Gordon hasn’t been the same. He was overpaid by the Hornets but should still play an integral role on the team. In all honesty, he could rise to be the best player on the entire team. That still keeps him low on this list though. The number one thing for Hayward this season is to prove he is worth every penny Michael Jordan gave him. If not, he’ll be the topic of trade talks.
9. Khris Middleton
Khris Middleton is an amazing fit for the Bucks’ squad. Some of Milwaukee’s success has and will continue to rely on the play of Khris Middleton. Naturally, if Jrue Holiday plays as we expect, that should relieve pressure off Middleton. More so, it may open up more opportunities for him. He averaged a career-high 21 points. Like his MVP teammate, Giannis Antetokounmpo should increase it.
8. Brandon Ingram
Brandon Ingram comes into the season as the reigning Most Improved Player. Ingram has the abilities to make him a star in this league and even with a loaded west, can earn himself an all-star appearance. He can create his own shot consistently. He can score from all over the court. It is to the point where you can call him the near second-coming of Kevin Durant. The Pelicans are banking on him and Zion Williamson to be among the best duos in the league real soon. This season is where that begins.
7. DeMar DeRozan
Demar DeRozan has fallen off the map of many fans due to the team he plays on. While the Spurs have always been relevant, they have fallen off their pedestal of postseason greatness. The Spurs are not considered a threat in this league but do let that shy you away from the player DeRozan has been the past few seasons. Averaging 22 points is solid but he is capable of so much more. In his last contract year, he will need to ball out if he wants a contender to pay him the big dollars.
6. Jayson Tatum
Jayson Tatum is approaching stardom in this league. 2021 will be no different. He’s “only 19” and is getting better each year. Tatum is expected to make the jump to being one of the league’s elite players after this season. He has notched a couple of conference finals appearances with Boston but has failed to get over the hump each time. If Tatum wants to further his legacy as a legend in the city, Boston needs to make it to the NBA FInals. What better time than now? You can give Tatum more slack and expectations because he is in a better situation than most of the younger players in the league.
5. Jimmy Butler
Jimmy Butler earned more respect than any player last season. Why? Because he led an NBA Finals run with no superstars. Many will say he earned the title himself. Butler was absolutely sensational for the NBA’s bubble stint. The biggest question for him will be whether or not he can put up those performances each and every night this season. To our estimate, he can’t. Sure he has a stretch fueled with jaw-dropping performances. However, it will be hard to replicate that success with the level of competition in the conference.
4. Kevin Durant
This is perhaps the most controversial ranking so far. However, hear out the justification. No one knows how Kevin Durant will return to the court. But to make a fair estimate, he will still be better than most of the league. Not enough to be a top-3 small forward in this league. The common stigma surrounding the former MVP is at 80% Durant is better than some players at 100%. That is where this ranking comes in. It may take some time for him to gt back to his final form. But for now, putting him at #4 on this list is fair.
3. Paul George
Paul George is a former MVP candidate and one of the best two-way players in the league. The Clippers came into the year with sky-high expectations and failed. That may have put a shot in George’s legacy but put respect on his name. George is another all-world scorer who may grow to be even better than his ‘PG13%’ name ensues. He has a new coach, new pieces, and the same trainer as his MVP-candidate season. Prepare for a bounceback season and silencing at the hands of the all-star.
2. Kawhi Leonard
This is an obvious pick. Kawhi Leonard took a huge blow to his legacy after losing to the Nuggets in the playoffs. That doesn’t prevent his standing among the league’s best forwards. When LeBron isn’t taking plays off like so many enjoy telling the world, Leonard is the best two-way player in the NBA. He is an established superstar that, with his contract ending soon, needs to capture a championship in the City of Angels. For a while, he has been in the shadow of the player at number one. Let it be known, it will stay that way this season.
1. LeBron James
The King reigns supreme. Coming off this fourth NBA Championship, LeBron’s standing on this list is undeniable. There is no justification for not having the Akron native at the top of your top small forward list. He is aging slower than pretty much everyone in NBA history. There is no much to be said besides sit back and enjoy the greatness that is LeBron James.
That wraps up our list for the top-10 centers in the NBA for the 2020-21 NBA season. Check back soon for the shooting guards list. Did we get these rankings right? Let me know below.