If NBA general managers used the classified ADS to get small forwards, they would have a hard time settling on a job description.
Consider the Utah Jazz's Karl Malone (page 72), in whom we see all the possibilities of the small-forward position—and all the contradictions and limitations of it, too. How can Malone, a 6'9", 254-pound giant of a man, be a small anything? Which leads us to these questions: Where does the term small forward come from, anyway? And does it have meaning anymore?
There are small forwards who are very tall, like the Chicago Bulls' 7-foot Brad Sellers, and small forwards who are relatively short, like the Detroit Pistons' Adrian Dantley, who's listed as 6'5" but probably isn't more than 6'4".
There are small forwards who are stocky, like the Dallas Mavericks' 6'6", 235-pound Mark Aguirre, and small forwards who are very lean, like the Denver Nuggets' 6'7", 190-pound Alex English.
There are small forwards who can jump out of the gym, like the Portland Trail Blazers' Jerome Kersey, and small forwards who seem nailed to the floor, like the Charlotte Hornets' Kelly Tripucka.
There are small forwards who at times play point guard, like the Milwaukee Bucks' Paul Pressey, small forwards who can play shooting guard, like Golden State's Chris Mullen, and small forwards who frequently play power forward, like the Phoenix Suns' Tom Chambers, Cleveland's Larry Nance and Malone. There even are small forwards who occasionally play center, like Seattle's young Derrick McKey.
And finally, there are small forwards like these: the Atlanta Hawks' Dominique Wilkins. the Boston Celtics' Larry Bird, the Los Angeles Lakers' James Worthy, the Philadelphia 76ers' Charles Barkley and, again, Malone. They're the Big Five, a group so elite that the extraordinary likes of English, Dantley and Milwaukee's Terry Cummings aren't in it. No other position can claim so many marquee attractions. Once you get past guards Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and Isiah Thomas, which players do the fans pay to see? Small forwards. They're the NBA's best and brightest.
Moreover, in recent seasons, small forwards have had more impact on the game than players at other positions. Consider:
Though Magic and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar obviously have a big role in determining the Lakers' destiny, it's the play of Worthy, Laker insiders feel, that ultimately decides their fate. When Worthy is uninspired, so is his team. When he's worthy, as he was during his team-high 28-and 36-point performances in Games 6 and 7 of last season's playoff finals against Detroit, L.A. is O.K.
What Bird has done for Boston since he came into the league in 1979 is well-known and indisputable. Period. It took longer for Wilkins to establish himself as an all-around team player, but once he did, the Hawks soared. All Barkley did last season was lead the 76ers in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage, minutes played, personal fouls, technical fouls, foul outs and foul comments. It has been said that Philly can't live with him; maybe so, but what's incontestable is that the Sixers can't live without him.