My rankings of the small forwards is based on my projections of how they’ll do in this 2016-17 season. However, there are certainly other factors involved instead of just purely based on stats alone. The rankings below are for 9-cat leagues. Many players are eligible in multiple positions but I’ll only include them according to their positions listed on Yahoo!’s depth chart.
For all you lazy folks that can’t be bothered to read the lengthy post, there’s a TL;DR section all the way at the bottom of the page.
Let’s all agree to this. Durant has the skill-set of one of the all time greats to play this game. Mentally, he’s weak and hinders his greatness. That weakness will cause him to defer a lot and be really unselfish, maybe too unselfish. Fantasy wise, he’s going to have less attempts which will result in a drop in scoring. He’ll still have his fair share of rebounds and assists as Warriors are going to play some position-less basketball, where everyone is going to run around screens and make plays. There’s also a real possibility that he’s going to be more efficient this year which is ridiculous considering how insanely efficient he already is. He’s locked in as my fourth pick in 9-cat.
The back-to-back defensive player of the year took a huge step forward in his offensive game last season. He had a career high in points and was the third best player in 9-cat leagues. He was able to accomplish these feats even with the addition of LaMarcus Aldridge playing the power forward spot. I still think the small-ball four is Kawhi’s best position and hopefully he’ll play more of that this coming season. I would consider picking him up as high as pick 5 in head-to-head leagues and he’s probably the most 9-cat friendly player there is this season.
I was going to say I would definitely pick Giannis over Chris Paul this season but Yahoo! updated their rankings with the Greek Freak at rank 7, right behind Leonard. Truthfully, I agree with this placement and especially with Middleton missing six months, Giannis’ is going to have some big usage and will try to do everything for the team. Prepare to see some Westbrook-lite usage rate from Giannis and he’s going stuff the stat sheet night after night. His eligibility for PG/SG/SF also makes him even more enticing. This is finally the Giannis break out year we’ve all been expecting, have fun owning him!
There are so many small forwards available in the first or second round of the draft. Paul George adds to that list. With the Pacers changing personnel in the coaching department, Nate McMillan aims to increase the pace of the team a little bit more. That could lead to an inflation of stats for George. He already had a career high in points last season even though he returned from a broken leg. He played 81 games which was the most he ever played in the regular season. His field goal percentage is worth concerning about and if you’re drafting him towards the turn of the first round, you might want to consider punting your field goal percentage for your team.
James has learnt the art of pacing himself in the regular season. It’s kind of scary that his autopilot mode is still worthy of a late first-round pick. I’d be more comfortable with LeBron at the start of the second round only because you know he’s going to have DNP-Rest towards the end of the season, which is crunch time for fantasy owners. He’s also a good punt free throw guy to build around with. A LeBron plus Hassan Whiteside combo would be a good starting point for that strategy.
Shooting Guard Tiers and Projections
Comparing tiers 1 and 2 with tier 3, there’s a noticeable gap in between. The drop-off in quality is pretty big and these are players you might want to target in the third round of your draft if they’re still there. I really like Anthony’s outlook this season especially after winning the gold in the Olympics and new teammates to form a “super team”, he should be motivated to get it rolling. He hasn’t reached top-25 value in the last couple of seasons but with the Knicks being more relevant to win this season, he might have a mini-bounce back campaign. His scoring is elite, and he’s been dropping more dimes last season. Considering his Yahoo! rank is at 34, he’s a little bit of a sleeper candidate and I would pick him as high as the start of the third round in 12-team leagues.
Butler finished the year as the 15th best player in 9-cat. His assists last season were a career high and it helped increased his value. With Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade in the fold, Butler’s assists numbers are probably going to take a hit. In his 5 years in the NBA, Butler has never played more than 67 games in 4 out of the 5 seasons he had. He’s a bit injury prone and fantasy owners should be cautioned of that. He’s a good efficient player in both percentages when he was in the shooting guard position but now he’s at small forward, he’s up against bigger and longer players so you have to wonder whether Butler can keep up his efficiency. He’s a little overrated in my books and I’d drop him down to the third round but he’s probably gone by then.
For the last three seasons, Ariza was ranked 38, 35 and 25 in 9-cat leagues. This year Yahoo! ranked him 41 which is a bit strange. With Mike D’Antoni coming in, Ariza is the perfect swingman or small ball four that would fit in his system. Even at the age of 31, I can see his value take a boost this season and could potentially have career highs in steals and threes. You could still have some value in picking him in the late third rounds or early fourth as I don’t think that would be his ceiling. All I’m saying is that there’s a big chance Ariza is going to have a career year this season.
Wiggins’ value has been outside the top-100 for his first two seasons in the NBA. His scoring is elite but that’s pretty much the only category he contributed in. Towards the last month of last season, Wiggins found something that works in his game and had top-65 value during that span. The stage is set for him to have a career year under Thibs. Apart from seeing his scoring and efficiency improve, let’s hope he improved on his 3-point shot, and uses his athleticism to grab more boards. Grabbing Wiggins in the fourth round is probably where he’s going to go but I think having him inside the top-40 is probably his ceiling for this season.
Crowder finished with third round value last season and surprised everybody with his stellar play for the Celtics. He cooled off towards the last month of the season but that’s mainly because he was bothered by his injury. Owners shouldn’t worry much about Horford’s arrival as Horford is only going to make players around him better. If you miss out on Ariza, Crowder is a good contingency plan. His source of threes and steals along with his low turnovers are still good enough to be picked just inside top-50.
I have to say I think Gay is being slept on this season. Yahoo! listed him at rank 73 but he finished the year having top-50 value even when he was playing with Rondo last season. Gay averaged a career low in assists and that’s what playing with Rondo will do to you. His assists numbers should spike up along with his usage. He’s a fantasy friendly player and won’t hurt you in any of the categories. His ability to contribute to the triple one is what appeals me the most. He’s a solid mid-round player with some decent upside (he was once a top-25 player 2 seasons ago) now that Rondo is out of town. The only downside to Gay is the trade rumours that’s surrounding him. He’s a sleeper candidate and his value should increase even more if he’s being utilised heavily as a small ball four.
I really like investing a pick in Gordon this year. He’s Frank Vogel’s second project after Paul George and if he can work his magic again, Gordon is going to be a steal in many drafts. I can’t envision him being a Paul George player just yet, he’s not really a creating his own shot type of player. I see his potential to be Shawn Marion type of player and he definitely has the ability to rack up the triple ones. If you don’t know, the Matrix has been the number 1 ranked player in ’04 to ’07 and ranked within the top-6 in ’00 to ’07. If Gordon can reach any of his potential, you’re going to be looking at double-doubles with triple one stats, high percentages and low turnovers. That’s a fantasy gold mine. He’ll finally get some heavy minutes this season but he’ll be played out of position. Hopefully that won’t affect him much but rebounds probably won’t be at double digits just yet. He has top-50 upside this season and I’d probably pick him somewhere in that vicinity.
Point Guard Tiers and Projections
When he’s healthy, Parsons is an early round player and has top-35 upside. Picking Parsons is really based on whether you’re risk adverse or a risk taker. He’s been bothered by his knees since two years ago and hasn’t been a top-50 player since his Houston days. The Grizzlies took a bet on his knees and gave the 28-year old a 4-year contract. With David Fizdale, a first time head coach, wanting to run a lot of things through Parsons as a three or a small ball four, can his knees hold up the usage that he’s about to get? Parsons still questionable for opening night. He has no training camp under his belt and preseason games to shake off the rust, he’s going to start off slow again and minutes are probably restricted. Yahoo! listed him at 64 and he’s the only pure small forward around pick 60-70 vicinity. I would draft him if he slides to the late sixth or early seventh round.
Hollis-Jefferson is climbing my rankings and I’ve grown fonder of him as each day passes. He broke his ankle last season and missed a big chunk of games. He’s already an elite defensive player who racks up a ton of steals, boards and blocks the occasional shot. He has decent percentages and low turnovers and all these contributions can make up for his lack of scoring. He’s definitely someone you want if you’re punting points or threes on your team but at the same time he’s not going to fit in some teams. He’s going to be utilised heavily this season for the Nets since they’re lacking in talent. He’s ranked 81 in Yahoo! leagues and his ADP is catching up real quick. You might want to grab him a round earlier but he’s probably gone by then too, the hype surrounding him is growing ever so quickly.
Hayward’s a type of player where you can’t really go wrong with drafting him in the mid rounds. Unfortunately he broke his finger on his non-shooting hand and is out 4-6 weeks. I’m ranking him here assuming leagues don’t have IL spots. If you do have an IL spot then maybe you can have him a round earlier for a stash. I’m not really a big fan of Jazz players this year. The pace of their offense is the slowest in the league under Quinn Snyder, which means less possessions resulting in less fantasy goodies. When Hayward returns, he’s going to be an all-rounded player with not much weakness in his game but with the arrival of George Hill and Dante Exum returning, I think his assists numbers will take a hit. I don’t think Hayward would slide to the seventh round but that’s where I will take him.
Covington really plays a big part in the Sixers’ team this year. He provides some elite floor spacing which the Sixers really is in need of. It sucks that coach Brett Brown decided to go with Gerald Henderson-Ben Simmons-Dario Saric to start the season before Simmons was hurt. Now that Simmons is out for 10-12 weeks, we probably won’t see him return near Christmas or the start of 2017. This means Covington has the green light to bomb threes on opposing teams. I was worried that Covington won’t get a chance to play more than 30 minutes per game but now at least he has a couple of months to show what he’s made of. He brings a good source of threes, steals and boards but owners need to be warned by his low field goal percentages. If you’re punting field goal on your team, you should definitely keep track of Covington in the draft.
In every season that Gallinari played in the NBA, he missed at least 11 games of the season. He only played more than 70 games once in the last 5 years. I like Gallinari’s game but he’s literally made out of glass and can’t catch a break from injuries. When he’s healthy, he has top-50 upside with some scoring, threes, low turnovers and elite free throw contribution. At this point of the draft, it’s hard to find someone who can have a positive impact on your free throws like Gallo can. It’s another risk averse vs risk taker kind of situation and between him and Parsons, I prefer the latter even though they both have similar games and injury prone. Yahoo! listed him at rank 67 but you’re definitely going to see the Rooster miss a chunk of games and that’s going to be too expensive for me to spend a sixth round pick.
I’m not a big believer in Porter. I thought he was a bust when he was drafted as the third overall pick in the ’13 draft. He had decent improvements last season and ranked within the top-60 in 9-cat leagues. But he’s only ranked so high because of his super low turnovers that increases his value. He doesn’t contribute much to anything else apart from some threes and steals which you could pick up from the waiver wire or in the late rounds. Porter is also in a positional battle with Kelly Oubre and I do think he needs to be concerned about Oubre taking over the starting gig. He’s ranked 60 in Yahoo! leagues and his ADP is even higher than that. I have Porter way lower, possibly until the 80th pick. With Wall, Beal and Morris carrying majority of the load for the Wizards, hard to see Porter growing leaps and bounds this season.
The big money move that Dallas made this offseason was to sign the reject from the Warriors. Barnes is going from being the fourth option to possibly being the second. With that promotion, he’s going to have a lot more usage in the offense which he might or might not be ready for. He’s only shown glimpses of being capable of handling this role but never for long stretches. It’s only the preseason but he’s looking pretty bad already for the Mavericks. Barnes has never been a top-100 player in 9-cat in all the years he’s been in the NBA. He doesn’t really contribute to assists, steals and blocks. His shooting from the line isn’t spectacular. Also with the expected increase in usage rate, it might result in lower efficiency from the floor. There’s definitely risk involved with picking him and it’s basically whether you’re a believer or a non-believer of Barnes. He’s ranked 94 on Yahoo! which is a reasonable time to invest a pick on him, though you could make a case for reaching him a round earlier.
DeMarre Carroll was a disappointment to the fantasy owners who used a draft pick on him. Before his big time move to the Raptors, he was Jae Crowder before Jae Crowder had his excellent season last year. But because of injuries that only made him play 26 games, he couldn’t bounce back to the Carroll that we all loved when he was in Atlanta. This season, there’s a risk involved with picking Carroll. Aside from the injuries, he might see Norman Powell eating into his minutes but I’m not too concerned about this. He’s ranked 84 in Yahoo! leagues and I would consider drafting him somewhere in that vicinity. Just a reminder for Carroll’s ability, he was ranked within top-60 two seasons ago.
Deng had himself a solid year with the Heat playing as the small ball four. He had top-60 value after the All-Star break and really flourished when Chris Bosh went down with blood clots. Now he’s with the Lakers playing the three and being a veteran voice for the young fellas on the team. He’s a fantasy friendly player with low upside. He won’t hurt you in any categories and he’ll bring some solid percentages, rebounds, steals, threes and low turnovers. That’s a really good bargain towards the end of the draft. I won’t worry much about Brandon Ingram eating into his minutes as he’s still a project for the Lakers and is just too skinny to play in the NBA this year. Deng’s ranked 111 in Yahoo! leagues and I’m going to bump that number up to 90. Picking him somewhere between the eight and ninth round is good value.
Bazemore surprised a lot of owners last year with his play. The question everybody is asking is whether he can keep this up or take a step forward? I’m not that big of a believer in Bazemore this year. He cooled off the towards the last couple of months of the season and was had stretches where he was not worth owning. The Hawks also have quite a lot of depth in the wing positions and when Bazemore is on a cold streak, I won’t be surprised to see coach Budenholzer to go with alternative options. He’s still a low-end guy with some solid threes and steals that’s worth picking up in the ninth round.
I think Warren might be a sneaky sleeper this year. He had to have surgery to repair his broken foot in February and it caused him to miss 35 games. He’s back healthy and is the starting small forward on opening day.He made significant improvements to his defense and shooting range last year. Heading into this season, Watson is going to tweak his offense and instil a philosophy called “Point-five mentality”. This consists of passing, driving, shooting, don’t hold the ball, cut to the rim, sacrifice cuts and play with pace. This sounds like a system that fits perfectly for Warren. With P.J. Tucker injured and going to miss significant time, this is the chance for Warren to step in to the starting gig permanently and I believe he will be successful in doing so. He’s ranked 143 at Yahoo! and is definitely a sleeper pick for your late round picks.
Winslow is going to be given heavy minutes this season with Heat’s roster looking a little thin. He’s going to be playing the three or the four and he reminds me a little of Kawhi Leonard. He’s already an outstanding defensive player in his first year in the NBA and let’s hope for a second year break out from Winslow. His numbers last season weren’t fantasy friendly but let’s hope he can make some improvements to his offensive game. He definitely has some upside to him and having a late-round pick for Winslow isn’t that bad of an idea.
I’m not that big of a fan of MKG like others are. Aside from his rookie year, he’s been missing a lot of games and that’s not good for his development. He’s an awesome rebounder at the small forward position and an elite defender but it doesn’t really translate to steals and blocks. He’s never averaged more than a steal or a block per game in his career. So his value really does come from turnovers and rebounds, which isn’t much. With Courtney Lee gone, he’s going to get a lot of run in the wing positions and let’s hope he worked on his threes this offseason.
Hill is another sleeper pick that you might want to keep an eye on this season. With Holiday and Evans out, Hill might need to be more aggressive with his scoring. He’s already a good wing defender and could also play the small ball four with Anthony Davis at center. He’s going to be receiving a lot of minutes in this thin Pelicans roster and if he increases his steal and threes up, he’s going to have good value for a pick towards the end of the draft.
- Tier 1: Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Giannis Antetokounmpo
- Tier 2: Paul George, LeBron James
- Tier 3: Carmelo Anthony, Jimmy Butler
- Tier 4: Trevor Ariza, Andrew Wiggins
- Tier 5: Jae Crowder, Rudy Gay, Aaron Gordon
- Tier 6: Chandler Parson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Gordon Hayward
- Tier 7: Robert Covington, Danillo Gallinari
- Tier 8: Otto Porter, Harrison Barnes
- Tier 9: DeMarre Carroll, Luol Deng, Kent Bazemore
- Tier 10: T.J. Warren, Justise Winslow, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Solomon Hill
I hoped this was useful for you all and remember to follow me @BFantasyHoops on Twitter. Stay tuned for the tier rankings of power forwards!