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April 14, 2023

Ranking every Sixers small forward ever

Who's the best Sixers small forward of all time? We rank them.

Looking back at the best small forwards in Sixers history creates an interesting stroll down memory lane. 

Using a 200 game minimum threshold to build our rankings (roughly three seasons with the team), there were 18 players at the position we deemed eligible for this list. Some were NBA champions. Some were reminders of some pretty big failures in judgement for the franchise. And some players might make you smile because you haven't heard their names in ages.

Either way, our sports staff had fun compiling the ranks below — following our rankings of the best centers and power forwards ever to lace it up for the 76ers. 

Before we reveal our rankings, here's a look at some small forwards whose tenure in Philly wasn't long enough to make our list:

Jerami Grant1448.2 ppg
Danny Green1317.8 ppg
Tim Thomas949.8 ppg
Tony Kukoc1149.8 ppg
George Yardley8819.6 ppg
Orlando Woolridge7412.7 ppg
Marco Belinelli2813.6 ppg
 Jimmy Butler5518.2 ppg

If there was no games played limit, would you put Jimmy Butler in the top 10? The top 5? We had to narrow the field to make the number of players manageable.

Our sports staff ranked the following players at the 3 spot in the lineup. Here's how we think they should be quantified:

1. Julius Erving (1976-87)

22.0 PPG | 6.7 RPG | 11 All-Star, NBA MVP, 7 All-NBA, 1983 NBA title | NBA HOF

Shamus Clancy: Julius Erving changed the game. How many athletes in any sport can say that? Dr. J took basketball above the rim, brought the excitement of the ABA to the NBA and turned in the most storied Sixers career ever. Legend. People will be wearing No. 6 Erving jerseys at the Jersey Shore until the end of time. 

2. Billy Cunningham (1965-72, 1974-76)

20.8 PPG | 10.1 RPG | 4 All-Star, 4 All-NBA, 1967 NBA title | NBA HOF

Evan Macy: Cunningham might be better known as the coach who led the Sixers to the promised land in the 80s, coaching Dr. J and company. But he was a talented young scorer for the Sixers title team in '67, and was third in the NBA in scoring in 1969 and fourth in 1970. 

3. Chet Walker (1962-69)

16.2 PPG | 7.9 RPG | 3 All-Star, 1967 NBA title | NBA HOF

Nick Tricome: Anywhere else, he very well could've been "the guy," but as the Sixers built up to the '67 championship team, he was completing a lineup with Wilt Chamberlain, Hal Greer, Wali Jones, and Billy Cunningham. And that's no sleight to Walker at all, far from it. That '67 team was absolutely stacked, and his play at both ends of the floor was a big reason why. Everyone on that team commanded respect, especially him. 

4. Andre Iguodala (2004-12)

1.3 PPG | 5.8 RPG | All-Star

Shamus: Miscast as a No. 1 option, Andre Iguodala was a super utility man, a Swiss Army knife point forward who had the unfortunate task of leading the Sixers during their most irrelevant period ever. There may have been no better 1-on-1 perimeter defender in the league than Iguodala during his peak with the Sixers. 

5. Robert Covington (2014-19)

12.9 PPG | 5.6 RPG | All-defense

Evan: I actually really liked RoCo as a player and a person when I covered the Sixers over at MetroPhilly during the lowly Process era. He was a really good 3-and-d player who was a luxury item on a crappy team and the Sixers not surprisingly eventually traded him. I often wonder how The Process would have panned out had the team held onto players like Covington, Dario Saric, Landry Shamut, Jermai Grant, Richaun Holmes and other guys who went on to be better with other teams.

6. Steve Mix (1973-82)

11.3 PPG | 5.6 RPG | All-Star

Nick: A steady presence for the Sixers through the '70s and then early '80s, Mix had been through it all with the team during that era and every crushing Finals defeat. Then, when they finally broke through and won it all in '83, he was on the other side of the floor with the Lakers. Brutal. 

7. George Lynch (1998-01)

8.8 PPG | 7.3 RPG

Shamus: A complete inverse of power forward Bobby Jones, George Lynch absolutely could not play the three in today's NBA. Still, Lynch worked well as a defense-first forward on a top-five unit during the Sixers' run to the 2001 NBA Finals. 

8. Ron Anderson (1988-93)

13.3 PPG

Nick: A veteran role player by the time he got to Philadelphia, he enjoyed the statistically best years of his career by far with the Sixers. 

9. Kyle Korver (2003-08)

10.5 PPG

Shamus: If only Kyle Korver came along 10-to-15 years later as a Sixer. He's the type of sharpshooter who found himself on contenders and would've been a great fit with some damn good Sixers teams. The Sixers as a franchise were so behind the curve on being progressive and shooting a lot of threes. Korver might have been really the only player to do it until the Process era? A fun wrinkle to his time in Philly: The Nets, through the transitive property, basically traded him to the Sixers for a fax machine the night of the 2003 NBA Draft

10. Dave Gambee (1960-67)

11.5 PPG | 5.7 RPG | 1967 NBA title

Shamus: Hand up... I'm not going to pretend I know a lot about Dave Gambee. He did, however, play 12 minutes per game for the Sixers' 1967 championship team, the franchise's first title in Philadelphia. That makes for a nice story, right? 

The rest...

11Ed Conlin12.1 PPG, 5.9 RPG
12Matisse Thybulle2 All-defense
13Hollis Thompson7.3 PPG
14Furkan Korkmaz7.4 PPG
15Evan Turner11.5 PPG 
16Earl Lloyd8.3 PPG, 6.4 RPG
17Rodney Carney5.7 PPG
18Wally Osterkorn7 PPG, 6 RPG

Shamus: I spent my college years taking classes on Edgar Allan Poe, working at Smokey Joe's Cafe and defending Hollis Thompson's status as a legitimate NBA role player with great fervor on Twitter. 

Evan: It's interesting to see that — of 18 players all time since the 1950s who played 200 games as a Sixers small forward — there are so many Process-era guys. Thybulle, Thompson, Korkmaz and of course Covington below all were with the team within the last eight years.

Nick: Man, Philly had such a huge love affair with Thybulle because of his defense up until that Toronto series, and then it just stopped (and I get why). The NBA moves along so fast.

Follow Evan on Twitter:@evan_macy

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