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The best small forwards of the 21st century: A look back at the NBA’s most dominant position

The best small forwards of the 21st century: A look back at the NBA’s most dominant position

Since 2000, the NBA has undergone a huge transformation, as a faster and more rhythmic style of play has emerged. In this change, the small forward position has become more prominent than ever. In fact, most of the NBA Finals MVPs in this period have been awarded to the small forwards of each team, who have been the decisive factors in the outcome of the games.

While guards often face physical limitations in intense games, and centers are limited by their roles, small forwards can take on multiple tasks on the court. They usually have excellent physical qualities, and can shine in the most critical moments.

Let us review the best small forwards of the 21st century, and see if the NBA was really dominated by them.

2001-2004: Paul Pierce

During this time, Paul Pierce became the leader of the Boston Celtics, winning two championships and earning the Finals MVP in 2007-08. He was a true scoring machine, averaging over 25 points per game in those two seasons, providing steady output for his team.

2005-2013: LeBron James

This period marked the official peak of LeBron James’ career. He not only won four regular season MVPs, but also two championships, and two Finals MVPs. He was not only the best small forward, but also the ruler of the NBA at that time.

2014: Kevin Durant

In this year, Kevin Durant won his only MVP award in his career. In his several seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder, he showed his amazing scoring ability, averaging over 30 points per game. Whether it was scoring, efficiency or versatility, Durant was outstanding, shooting over 50% from the field and 39.1% from three-point range. He was the scoring pillar of the Thunder.

2015-2018: LeBron James

James returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers and became the leader of the team, both as a scorer and a playmaker. He led the team to three consecutive Finals appearances, and finally won the championship.

The best small forwards of the 21st century: A look back at the NBA’s most dominant position

2019: Kawhi Leonard

In one season, Kawhi Leonard decided everything. He spent this season with the Toronto Raptors, ending the Golden State Warriors’ dynasty dream. He averaged 26.6 points per game and had brilliant performances in the playoffs, leading his team to beat the Philadelphia 76ers and the Golden State Warriors, winning the championship and earning the Finals MVP.

2020: LeBron James

Even when people thought he was old, James came to the Los Angeles Lakers and proved his strength and wisdom again. He helped the Lakers win their 17th championship, tying with the Boston Celtics for the most championships in history.

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2021: Jayson Tatum

Jayson Tatum achieved his career-high scoring average this season, contributing 26.4 points per game. His various statistics prove that he has grown into a complete player. Meanwhile, James was plagued by injuries this season.

2022-2023: LeBron James

This season, James averaged 30.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game, and broke the scoring record. He is still an excellent scorer and a powerful playmaker.

These small forwards not only shaped the history of the NBA in the 21st century, but also proved their indispensability in the games.

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