S : Best in the game (LeBron)
A+ : Right on heels of best player (Durant)
A : Top 5 player
A- : Top players at their position/Potential All-NBA players
B+ : All-Stars
B : Good starters/fringe All-Stars
B- : Good starter
C+ : decent starter
C : fringe starter/bench player
C- : good bench player
D+ : average bench player
D : Fringe rotation player
D- : bad player
F : not NBA caliber
Factors: production+efficiency+talent (emphasis on this year but whole career taken into account)
*Note: There is no specific order within each tier
For the purpose of these grades/rankings, I am not looking at last season in a vacuum. I am trying to give an idea of where each of these players stands in regards to each other after last season. One poor season doesn't sink a player's stock if the rest of his career paints a different story, the exact opposite is true as well. However, I am not factoring potential into my rankings, meaning rookies are graded as NBA players and do not garner special consideration because of their youth.
I'm probably making this more complicated and subjective than it needs to be, but I suppose that only makes for more discussion. With that being said, on to the rankings.
I think we can all agree at this point that LeBron James is the best player in the NBA ...
... and that Kevin Durant isn't far behind.
Melo is a bit of a controversial player, with some fans loving his talent and others hating the way he uses it. He's not on the same level as James or Durant, but he is a step above everyone else at his position.
This tier is pretty easy. It corresponds with the three small forwards (not already listed) that made the All-Star Game this year, and all three were deserving. All three are two-way players who were key pieces to really good teams last year.
Paul Pierce was a tough call here. At 35 years old, is he still on the legit All-Star tier or not? I decided not, although it's still pretty close. The defensive side of the ball is what mad the difference for me, as the three in the tier above are all great defenders as well as good offensive players.
This tier includes two vets who are winding down their careers but still productive, a productive player in his prime, an two productive young players on the way up. You can sort out who's who on your own.
Korver and Dudley are elite shooters and really smart players overall, even though they have their athletic limitations. Thad Young has no such limitation, although his skill level isn't on the same level as those two. Jimmy Butler is a young versatile player with great advanced stats. And Rudy Gay... well, he's one of those guys I wasn't quite sure where to place.
These players can start and play a decent role on the right teams, but might be even better coming off the bench. Barnes and MKG are young players that should make a jump this coming season, but neither one was all that great on a consistent basis during their rookie year.
Shooting, defense, athleticism, energy... all these players bring something to the table. But none of them are complete players or big difference-makers. It's pretty impressive that P.J. Tucker was able to go from out of the league to being considered not only a rotation-worthy player, but a good one at that.
This is a tier of young players trying to find their place in the league and older ones closing in on the ends of their careers. All of them are bench players at this point, but they all can bring something to a team's rotation. Even Mook, who has shown the ability to at least do something, and probably would have played more last year and shown that under a different coach.
These players all have skills that they have used to make rotations and contribute at one point or another during their careers, but none of them did much last season.
I still can't believe Stack was on a roster last year...
You guys watched last season. I don't think I need to offer any explanation for this tier.
An there you have it. My take on the small forward position in the NBA. This position is as strong and as deep as any in the NBA today, and looking at next year's draft projections, it's going to continue to get deeper.
What do you think about my rankings? Who do I have too high? Who am I too low on? Did I nail the Suns small forward hierarchy at least?