The Whiteboard: Situational NBA small wing rankings

Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports /

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The biggest recent NBA news is Rajon Rondo signing with the Lakers to fill their final roster spot. That is to say, there’s not much going on right now. Which, of course, means it’s ranking season — filling the void in the absence of any real news with arbitrary, qualitative lists. Our big collaborative ranking project, the 25-under-25, will be coming in a few weeks but I’m messing around with some positional rankings here in The Whiteboard.

I find a generalized ranking of players based on fluid and largely obtuse positional rankings to be pretty pointless, so I’ve gone more granular. I have already ranked point guards and big men based on specific situations like isolating on a final possession, defending at the point of attack, getting post-up touches or setting screens. Here, I’m tackling small wings (players who primarily spend time at the 2 and 3. Tomorrow we’ll do big wings (your Kevin Durants and Kawhi Leonards).

As always, make sure to let me know everything I got wrong.

NBA small wing rankings: Who do you want running a high pick-and-roll?

It’s the most basic creation scenario for most primary scorers but wings need to be able to play-make as well. Ideally, you want a go who can score at all three levels to take what the defense hives him in the pick-and-roll, but also with the vision and creativity to find an open teammate. The best combine craft, skill and vision with outlier athletic tools.

1. Luka Doncic
2. James Harden
3. Devin Booker
4. Paul George
5. Donovan Mitchell

NBA small wing rankings: Who do you want spotting up for a catch-and-shoot 3?

Catch. Shoot. Repeat.

1. Joe Harris
2. Seth Curry
3. Klay Thompson
4. Bogdan Bogdanovic
5. Duncan Robinson

NBA small wing rankings: Who do you want defending at the point of attack?

Defending at the point of attack requires quickness, strength, technique and tenaciousness. You want a guy who can pick-up a ball-handler at halfcourt, can fight over the top of screens and stay attached to his man if they get beat initially.

1. Paul George
2. Mikal Bridges
3. Lu Dort
4. OG Anunoby
5. Jaylen Brown

NBA small wing rankings: Who do you want running endlessly around off-ball screens?

This is about gravity as much as a shooting ability, a willingness to occupy the defense with constant motion and to never rest until they’ve found that sliver of open space.

1. Duncan Robinson
2. Joe Harris
3. Bradley Beal
4. Klay Thompson
5. Devin Booker

NBA small wing rankings Who do you want creating a clutch scoring opportunity?

Down two with under a minute left. Who is the guy you want reading the defense, orchestrating the offense and making sure your team gets a high-quality scoring opportunity, whether it’s pulling-up, driving to the basket, getting to the line or dumping it off?

1. Luka Doncic
2. James Harden
3. Donovan Mitchell
4. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
5. Zach LaVine

NBA small wing rankings: Who do you want pulling up off the dribble?

The pull-up jumper is a very specific shot and it has become arguably the most important in the arsenal of elite creators. It is ideally used sparingly but the ability to make it reliably is what separates the best from merely the very good. It’s not just about the skill to make the shot, it’s also about the awareness of when to use it and the ability to create enough space to get it off.

1. Zach LaVine
2. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
3. James Harden
4. Luka Doncic
5. Klay Thompson

NBA small wing rankings: Who do you want trying to grab-and-go in transition?

On a fast break, with the ball in their hands, you want a guy who can do a little bit of everything — explode to the basket with speed, power or craft, pull-up for a quick 3, manipulate the defense to create an easy look for a teammate and, most importantly, not turn the ball over.

1. Luka Doncic
2. James Harden
3. Devin Booker
4. Bradley Beal
5. Collin Sexton


Who do you want to go tubing with on Lake Mead? Klay Thompson.

Who do you want to pound a couple Coors Lights with? Klay Thompson.

Who do you want with you for the Bassmaster Team Championship? Paul George.

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