Former Piston Adrian Dantley the fifth best small forward of the last 30 years

So far, we’ve had Pistons represented in each of Dennis Velasco’s lists of the 10 best players at each position over the last 30 years. Point guards and shooting guards have already been unveiled and this week, Velasco’s list of small forwards is up at The Basketball Jones. It includes former Piston Adrian Dantley, who played a key role in the team ascending to title contender status before he was traded for Mark Aguirre:

5. Adrian Dantley, Buffalo Braves (1976-77), Indiana Pacers (1977-78), Los Angeles Lakers (1978-79), Utah Jazz (1979-1986), Detroit Pistons (1986-89), Dallas Mavericks (1989-1990), Milwaukee Bucks (1990-1991)
955 G; 24.3 PPG; 5.7 RPG; 3.0 APG; 0.0 3PTM; 54.0 FG%; 81.8 FT%; 1.0 SPG

When I think of an old school scoring basketball player, I somehow always think of Dantley. I’ll admit that he was to some degree a ballhog, but when you shot as well as he did, could you blame him? A.D. could work the post, dribble down from the top of the key, give a spin move, sell a shot fake and had a myriad other ways to score. I personally thought he got the shaft when the Detroit Pistons traded him to the Dallas Mavericks for Isaiah Thomas’ best bud, Mark Aguirre, but such is life. Dantley was in the twilight of his career, but still scoring 20 on the regular, and the Pistons went on to win a couple of titles because no one was there to challenge Zeke’s control of the team.

Dantley led the league in scoring for two seasons (1980-81 at 30.7 PPG; 1983-84 at 30.6 PPG). He finished in the top seven in scoring average in six seasons and has the 17th best all-time PPG average. Dantley is 21st overall in total points (23,177), has the 22nd best field-goal percentage of all-time, the seventh most free-throw makes (6,832) and 11th most free-throw attempts (8,351). He was the 1976-77 NBA Rookie of the Year and made six All-Star games, as well as two All-NBA squads. Dantley finished with a 21.5 PER and 119 ORtg.

Maybe Pierce should be in front of Dantley, but check the numbers and watch that video link. They don’t make scorers like that anymore, and because I’m old, I have to give a shout-out to the geriatrics.

Dantley was one of the toughest guys in the league to define positionally. Size-wise, he was a three. But he did much of his damage offensively in the paint, out-muscling much taller and more athletic players. He was simply one of the craftiest players who ever played.