Versatility is key for small forwards

The small forward position is probably the most diverse position in basketball, with many different types of players filling the role. Many times, the small forward is the most athletic player in a team's starting lineup. He must be athletic enough to defend his position, fast enough to get out on the break and strong enough to rebound the ball.

A small forward must be able to defend. He must be athletic, strong and tough-minded enough to guard many excellent one-on-one players. Versatility is also important for a small forward. If he can guard his position and also move over and guard either shooting guards or power forwards, he gives his coach more options and his team a better chance of winning.

Small forwards need to be able to score and do it in different ways. Some small forwards can shoot and stretch the defense, some are slashers -- guys who can drive the ball to the rim and score or get fouled -- and some are bangers, who utilize their strength and athleticism to score in the paint and on the glass.

Small forwards who can pass and handle give a team three ball-handlers to attack in the half court, making it almost impossible to press or trap.

Small forwards who can rebound at both ends of the court are extremely valuable. Small forwards may not be as big as power forwards or centers, but some are great rebounders because they are athletic and have a tremendous nose for the basketball.

The small forward position in the NBA may one of the most valuable positions on the court. Players like Paul Pierce, Carmelo Anthony, Ron Artest and Shawn Marion are all different, but each has tremendous versatility and can score in different ways and defend to some extent while also rebounding their position.

Small Forward Grading System

Recruiting Nation will evaluate small forwards on the following criteria:

1. Scoring: Can the player score in different ways? Can he shoot it or put it on the floor and create his own shot? Is he athletic and physical enough to score in the paint or in traffic?

2. Athleticism: What type of athlete is this prospect? What is his vertical leap, length and quickness? Can he get out on the fast break and finish at the rim?

3. Shooting: What type of shooter is the player, and can he stretch the defense with his perimeter shot?

4. Defending: Does the prospect have the strength, quickness and toughness to defend one of the most difficult positions on the court?

5. Ballhandling: Does he have the ability to dribble and pass against pressure? Can he grab a rebound and push the ball on the break? Does he make good decisions?

6. Rebounding: Does the prospect have a quick jump? Does he have the toughness to mix it up on the glass at both the offensive and defensive ends of the court? Does he have a nose for the ball?

7. Versatility: Does the player have the versatility to move over one position and guard either a shooting guard or a power forward?