#NBLrank The Greatest Players of All Time – Small Forwards

#NBLrank The Greatest Players of All Time – Small Forwards

With less than a month until the launch of the NBL season, the Aussie Hoopla staff has put together a list of the best NBL players of all time.

 

All-Time #NBLrank continues with this article ranking the best small forwards in NBL history.

 

Click here to see our top five point guards in NBL history.

Click here to see our top five shooting guards in NBL history.

Click here to see our top five one and done players in NBL history.

 

To create all-time #NBLrank, the Aussie Hoopla writing team have all voted on the greatest players to play at each position as well as a few select other criteria.

 

logo3Each Aussie Hoopla writer has made their decisions, but now we want to hear from YOU!

 

We will be unveiling the results of each position week by week but be sure to vote for whom you think should be #1 at each position below or tweet us your thoughts by using hashtag #NBLrank.

 

5. JAMES ENNIS

Played for:

  • Perth Wildcats 2013-14

 

One question that always inevitably arises from greatest of all time rankings is, “what constitutes greatest?”  Is it a player that played a long, illustrious career but was not in the elite echelon?  Or maybe it was the superstar that burned the brightest for a year or two and left for greener pastures?  In short, quantity versus quality.

 

James Ennis is a prime example of an all-time great ‘one and done’ player in the league.  In fact, Aussie Hoopla named him the greatest one and done player ever.  A dynamic scorer, a ferocious rebounder, and a charging bull on the fast break, Ennis’ season was one for the ages.

 

After a successful college career at Long Beach State which nblgrandfinalgame1perthvadelaidenq2cnd6roltlincluded being named Big West (Conference) Player of the Year and an honourable mention All-American award.  After being selected in the second round of the NBA draft, Ennis signed with the Perth Wildcats.

 

His only season was a revelation, not only winning games but winning the admiration of fans all over the country.  Doing everything necessary on the court, Ennis led the league in total points and was also top five in rebounds, steals, and blocks.  This stellar performance earned him All-NBL First Team honours as well as the Gordon Ellis Medal for Perth’s Most Valuable Player.

 

With a supporting cast that included Shawn Redhage, Tom Jervis, Matthew Knight, Jesse Wagstaff, Jermaine Beal and Damian Martin there was a good chance that the Wildcats were going to win the championship.  It also means that Ennis’ statistics weren’t as gaudy as one would expect from a player on this list.  However, for those who watched him play it was evident that Ennis was a generational player and if he stayed in the NBL he would have revered.

 

Unfortunately for Australian basketball, Ennis was snatched up by the NBA where he finished last season extremely strong with the New Orleans Pelicans.  His success in the NBA reiterates his phenomenal talent and instead of bemoaning his short stay, fans should look back and remember just how good he was.

 

Career Statistics (per game averages in brackets)

Points – 699 (21.2)

Assists – 68 (2.1)

Rebounds – 235 (7.1)

Steals – 47 (1.4)

Blocks – 28 (0.8)

Shooting Percentages – 47% FG, 35% 3P, 77% FT

 

Awards:

  • NBL Champion (2014)
  • All-NBL First Team (2014)

 

4. LARRY SENGSTOCK

Played for:

  • St Kilda Saints 1979-1981
  • Brisbane Bullets 1982-1989
  • Gold Coast Cougars/Rollers 1990-1992
  • North Melbourne Giants 1993-1996

 

Playing in the inaugural NBL season as a fylojp5pkc-ga4zn4xmdoxoja4mtsign19-year-old, Sengstock was often dwarfed by larger opponents.  He had to go up against bigger and stronger players every game.  For a normal teenager, that would usually mean an end of the bench seat and garbage minutes.  That’s not Larry Sengstock.

 

Off the back of his 33 points in 1979 grand final, he won the first ever NBL Grand Final MVP and championship with the now defunct St Kilda Saints.  Unfortunately, there was no Rookie of the Year award in 1979, but it would have been likely that Sengstock would have won, averaging 17.6 points on 50% shooting for the season.

 

He would go onto to win the championship the next season with the Saints before moving to Brisbane in 1982.  Success followed him to the Bullets, winning titles in 1985 and 1987 and averaging over nine rebounds a game in a Bullets uniform from the small forward position.

 

Another title arrived in 1994, his second year with the North Melbourne Giants.  In short, Sengstock knew how to win.  Not only was he instrumental in five NBL championships with his all-around play, but he was also famous for his integrity and sportsmanship, here and overseas.  Playing nearly 300 games for Australia, his demeanour and strength of character endeared himself to the Australian basketball community and led him to play in four Olympic Games for the Boomers.

 

For his successful career in the NBL as well as his attitude towards expanding the game of basketball of Australia, the Grand Final MVP award was named in his honour in 1999.  He was also named Chief Executive Officer of Basketball Australia from 2009-2012.

 

Larry Sengstock has been many things for the NBL: a fantastic player who got the league up and running from year one, an unmatched winner and a great ambassador for the game who will be forever integral to the league.  Those accolades make him worthy of being an all-time great.

 

Career Statistics (per game averages in brackets)

Points – 5,466 (12.0)

Assists – 824 (1.8)

Rebounds – 3,221 (7.1)

Steals – 395 (0.9)

Blocks – 296 (0.6)

Shooting Percentages – 46% FG, 31% 3P, 60% FT

 

Awards:

  • 5x NBL Champion (1979, 1980, 1984, 1986, 1994)
  • NBL Grand Final MVP (1979)
  • All-NBL First Team (1982)
  • 4x Olympian (1980, 1984, 1988, 1992)
  • NBL Hall of Fame member (2001)
  • Basketball Australia Hall of Fame member (2006)
  • 13th All-Time in Rebounds
  • Number retired by Brisbane
  • Grand Final MVP award named after Sengstock

 

3. SAM MACKINNON

Played for:

  • South East Melbourne Magic 1994-1998
  • Townsville Crocodiles 1999-2001
  • West Sydney Razorbacks 2002-2005
  • Brisbane Bullets 2005-2008
  • Melbourne Tigers 2008-2010

 

One of the most notable high flyers in the league, Sam Mackinnon became a household name in the mid-1990s and was a major reason why the NBL was so popular at that time.  His strength, athleticism, and defensive acumen made him a force in the league and a fan favourite.

 

Starting his career on the right track, Mackinnon won the 1994 Rookie of the Year award with the South East Melbourne Magic and achieved the championship in 1996.  He stayed with the Magic for another two years before the team folded in 1998 and he was forced to move to another club.

 

In 1999 he signed with the Townsville Crocodiles and the impact on his game was instant spt_basketball0403230as he averaged career highs in most categories.  His next season with the Crocs was even better, garnering him an All-NBL First Team selection and thrust him into the superstar category.

 

In 2001 Mackinnon again led from the front for Townsville.  With the help of Rob Rose, Pat Reidy, Mike Kelly and Andrew Goodwin, the team won the minor premiership with a 27-10 record and made it all the way to the Grand Final series.  Unfortunately, Mackinnon would not play in the series due to injury.

 

Another grand final series would arrive for Mackinnon, this time with the West Sydney Razorbacks.  Spurning north Queensland for the western suburbs of Sydney, he was named the captain of the team and continued his fine form.  Sadly, he again tasted finals defeat, losing to the Razorbacks’ rivals the Sydney Kings.  It was not all in vain as Mackinnon received another selection to the All-NBL First Team in 2004.

 

It wasn’t until he moved to Brisbane where “Slammin’” became an all-time great.  In the 2006-07 season, he became the second ever player to ‘sweep the pool’ at the awards night and only one other player has done so since.  Mackinnon won the awards for Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year, Grand Final MVP, All-NBL First Team and the championship in the same year, and at the time a feat only achieved by Leroy Loggins in 1987.

 

An injury-marred season followed and then two mediocre seasons with the Melbourne Tigers finished off Mackinnon’s career in 2010.  And what an incredible career he achieved.  A two-way player who excelled at both ends of the court, he finished in the all-time top ten in rebounds, assists, steals and blocks and represented Australia at the Olympic Games three times.

 

He may have been known for his “Slammin” Sam Mackinnon high flying acrobatics, but his skills told a deeper story of a legend of the game.

 

Career Statistics (per game averages in brackets)

Points – 6,483 (14.1)

Assists – 1,940 (4.2)

Rebounds – 3,580 (7.8)

Steals – 734 (1.6)

Blocks – 488 (1.1)

Shooting Percentages – 50% FG, 35% 3P, 56% FT

 

Awards:

  • NBL Rookie of the Year (1994)
  • 2x NBL Champion (1996, 2007)
  • 3x All-NBL First Team (2000, 2004, 2007)
  • All-NBL Second Team (2006)
  • 2x Gaze Medal winner (2006, 2007)
  • NBL Most Valuable Player (2007)
  • NBL Defensive Player of the Year (2007)
  • NBL Grand Final MVP (2007)
  • 3x Olympian (1996, 2000, 2004)
  • 9th All-Time in Steals
  • 10th All-Time in Rebounds
  • 10th All-Time in Assists
  • 10th All-Time in Blocks

 

2. ANDREW VLAHOV

Played for:

  • Perth Wildcats 1991-2002

 

When it comes to the Perth Wildcats, no 1379478014760man has had a bigger impact on the club than Andrew Vlahov.  He encapsulates the traits and beliefs of the club perfectly, not only in his playing career but also after retirement.  Strength, tenacity, hard work and sportsmanship has made him a celebrated name in Australia but his ferocious passion for all things Perth has caused all Western Australians to see him as a son of the city.

 

Joining the club in 1991, he won the Rookie of the Year award with 15 points and 8 rebounds a game.  He also collected his first NBL championship and the team’s second title.  After Mike Ellis retired in 1993, and only three years into his career, Vlahov was named team captain, which he would hold until his retirement in 2002.

 

He would lead the Wildcats to two more championships in 1995 and 2000, the former coming with the Grand Final MVP award and an All-NBL First Team selection, cementing himself as an elite player and captain.  He was also selected to play for Australia in four Olympic Games, making it to the bronze medal match three times.

 

Bigger and stronger than most small forwards, Vlahov was a threat from all over the court.  Combining with Scott Fisher and James Crawford, the trio could arguably be the best front court starters in NBL history.  In 1994, all three averaged 20 points and nine rebounds per game which is unprecedented.  Vlahov was named on Perth’s 30th Anniversary Team at SF, joined by Fisher and Crawford.

 

A threat from three as well as closer to the basket, Vlahov could do it all.  His defence and rebounding were top notch.  At over 200cm and 108kg he was deceptively nimble, averaging nearly two steals per game on his career.

 

Player, captain, owner.  Andrew Vlahov has done it all for the Perth Wildcats and in doing so, made a permanent mark on the NBL and basketball in Australia.

 

Career Statistics (per game averages in brackets)

Points – 5,665 (16.2)

Assists – 1,252 (3.6)

Rebounds – 3,068 (8.8)

Steals – 635 (1.8)

Blocks – 240 (0.7)

Shooting Percentages – 48% FG, 37% 3P, 73% FT

 

Awards:

  • 3x NBL Champion (1991, 1995, 2000)
  • NBL Rookie of the Year (1991)
  • 2x Gaze Medal winner (1991, 1993)
  • Grand Final MVP (1995)
  • 2x All-NBL First Team (1992, 1995)
  • Member of NBL’s 20th Anniversary Team
  • 4x Olympian (1988, 1992, 1996, 2000)
  • Order of Australia recipient
  • Top five in points, assists, rebounds, steals, blocks and games played for Perth Wildcats
  • NBL Hall of Fame member
  • Number retired with Perth

 

1. LEROY LOGGINS

Played for:

  • Brisbane Bullets 1981
  • West Adelaide Bearcats 1982-1983
  • Brisbane Bullets 1984-2001

 

Leroy Loggins is without a doubt the best import to ever play in the NBL, and arguably the second best player to ever suit up in Australia.

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Arriving in Australia in 1981 at the age of 24, Loggins had an immediate impact with the Brisbane Bullets.  Averaging 22 points a game, the Bullets made it to the NBL semi-finals before losing to Launceston City Casino.

 

Citing various reasons for the decision, Loggins then moved to the West Adelaide Bearcats for two years and kept on winning.  Not only did he win his first NBL championship in his first year there, both seasons produced All-NBL First team selections.  As the Grand Final MVP award was not awarded between 1981 and 1985 Loggins did not add to his trophy case but he did score 32 points in the final, earning him the ‘player of the match’ award.

 

Moving back to Brisbane in 1984, his return would pay dividends.  Averaging 29.5 points, 10.6 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 3.4 steals and 1.8 blocks per game, it was an easy choice to honour Loggins with the league’s MVP.

 

His career with Brisbane was of longevity and stellar performances.  In 1987 he became the first player to win consecutive MVP awards and won another two championships in 1985 and 1987.  The 1987 season was one for the ages, as Loggins was the first player to ‘sweep the pool’, winning the league MVP, Grand Final MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, All-NBL First Team and the championship in the same season.  It has only been done twice since.

 

He was named to the All-NBL First Team ten times, second only to Andrew Gaze.  He captained the Bullets from 1990 to his retirement in 2000-01 and even at 43 years of age, Loggins was still an instrumental part of the team.  Averaging 16.6 points per game, he was fifth in the league in steals at two per contest.

 

Loggins’ legacy is and always will be immense and is without a doubt the best import to play in the NBL.  Top ten all time in points, steals, rebounds, blocks and games played and his number has been retired by the Bullets.  He opened the door for imports and showed them that playing in the NBL can be a full time career and there is potential to be a lasting influence on a country’s basketball community.

 

Career Statistics (per game averages in brackets)

Points – 13,106 (23.1)

Assists – 1,547 (2.7)

Rebounds – 3,897 (6.9)

Steals – 1,221 (2.2)

Blocks – 537 (0.9)

Shooting Percentages – 50% FG, 39% 3P, 82% FT

 

Awards:

  • 3x NBL MVP (1984, 1986, 1987)
  • 3x NBL Champion (1982, 1985, 1987)
  • NBL Grand Final MVP (1987)
  • 2x NBL Defensive Player of the Year (1987, 1990)
  • 10x All-NBL First Team (1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1990, 1993, 1994)
  • Member of NBL’s 20th Anniversary Team
  • Member of NBL’s 25th Anniversary Team
  • NBL Hall of Fame member
  • 1x Olympian (1992)
  • 2nd All-Time in Points
  • 2nd All-Time in Steals
  • 3rd All-Time in Games Played
  • 7th All-Time in Blocks
  • 8th All-Time in Rebounds
  • Number retired with Brisbane

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Author: Kyle Abbott (80 Posts)

Kyle has barracked for the North Melbourne Giants, Victoria Titans, Victoria Giants and the South Dragons. He’s hoping the Melbourne United don’t fold like the rest of them