Sporting News released their rankings of the NBA's top small forwards and the Brooklyn Nets have not one, but two players on their list. Paul Pierce comes in at No. 4 overall and Andrei Kirilenko is ranked 14th overall.
Of course at the top of the list sit LeBron James and Kevin Durant, arguably the two best players in the NBA, so there's little debate there. At No. 3 on the list is Carmelo Anthony who led the league in scoring last season.
Sean Deveney compiled the list, and of Pierce he writes:
There are plenty of footsteps from some promising young forwards coming up behind Pierce, who turns 36 next month, but for now, they are still behind him. Pierce has never been a very explosive athlete, but he is a master of changing speeds, rocking his defender to sleep before shuffling past him for a good look at the rim.
He did shoot only 42.6 percent last year, his worst showing in nine seasons, and he will have to sacrifice his numbers now that he is in Brooklyn. But he is still one of the most reliable scorers in the league.
Pierce is ahead of young small forwards like Paul George and Kawhi Leonard and veterans like Andre Iguodala, Josh Smith and Luol Deng.
Further down on the list is Kirilenko, who really can be described as a combo-forward, capable of playing both forward positions.
Kirilenko missed 18 games last year, but for the most part, made a successful return to the NBA after two years in the Russian Federation (Editors Note: it was only one). He shot 50.7 percent from the field, was a good floor leader capable of running the offense from the forward spot and was, as usual, a top-flight defender.
He is joining the Nets and will have to settle into a smaller role, but at age 32, that might not be a bad idea.
Part of what drops Kirilenko is that his role has yet to be defined in Brooklyn, which is something we'll have to see play out on the basketball court.
For now, though, you have to like the respect Pierce is getting -- and continues to get elsewhere -- on this list seeing as it's quite tempting to want to put younger forwards with plenty of potential ahead of the 36-year-old future Hall of Famer.
- NBA position rankings: The league's best small forwards - Sean Deveney - Sporting News