The small forward position is as strong at the top as any, and possibly more top heavy than all the rest with 3 sure fire top 10 guys and 2 more second round guys, maybe 3 if you count Iguodala. However after the top tier is taken there is a drop off, and after Gay and Pierce there are a lot of question marks to how this position will shake out. Here is the way I see things going, and a couple sleepers and a bust for you to consider as well.
- Kevin Durant – Oklahoma City Thunder
- Lebron James – Miami Heat
- Danny Granger - Indiana Pacers
- Carmelo Anthony – Denver Nuggets
- Gerald Wallace – Charlotte Bobcats
- Andre Iguodala – Philadelphia 76ers
- Rudy Gay – Memhpis Grizzlies
- Paul Pierce – Boston Celtics
- Danilo Galinari – New York Knicks
- Luol Deng – Chicago Bulls
- Caron Butler – Dallas Mavericks
- Rashard Lewis – Orlando Magic
- Andrei Kirilenko – Utah Jazz
- Trevor Ariza – New Orleans Hornets
- Michael Beasley – Minnesota Timberwolves
- Lamar Odom – Los Angeles Lakers
- Hedo Turkoglu – Phoenix Suns
- Nicolas Batum – Portland Trail Blazers
- Boris Diaw – Charlotte Bobcats
- Corey Maggette – Milwaukee Bucks
- Tayshaun Prince – Detroit Pistons
- Ron Artest – Los Angeles Lakers
- Shawn Marion – Dallas Mavericks
- Thaddeus Young –Philadelphia 76ers
- Josh Howard – Washington Wizards
- Peja Stojakovic – New Orleans Hornets
- Travis Outlaw - New Jersey Nets
- Richard Jefferson – San Antonio Spurs
- Linas Kleiza – Toronto Raptors
- Carlos Delfino – Milwaukee Bucks
- Marvin Williams – Atlanta Hawks
- Dorell Wright – Golden State Warriors
- Shane Battier – Houston Rockets
- Reggie Williams – Golden State Warriors
- Grant Hill – Phoenix Suns
- Martell Webster – Minnesota Timberwolves
- Ryan Gomes – Los Angeles Clippers
- Omri Casspi – Sacramento Kings
- Ersan Ilyavosa – Milwaukee Bucks
- Mickeal Pietrus – Orlando Magic
- All the trade talk about Carmelo seems to be dying down and unless something starts back up, it looks like he is going to be playing for the Nuggets this year. Carmelo doesn’t ever mentioned among the first round guys, but he isn’t as far off from that group as people might think. He’s an elite scorer who contributes in nearly every category but blocks. Denver didn’t do anything to add much scoring help so Carmelo should come close to matching his point total from last year and he could go over seven rebounds per game as well with Al Harrington stepping in at power forward, as Harrington isn’t the most skilled rebounder.
- It’s time for Rudy Gay to close the gap between tier 1 and tier 2 of small forwards. He’s been solid for three years straight now, but he hasn’t really taken the next step beyond that. The only difference between Gay’s fourth year in the league and his second is that he made less three’s. Somebody has to step up and be the star on Memphis and all eyes are on Rudy Gay to be the man, from a real basketball and fantasy basketball perspective.
- It seems clear cut that Amare is the number one option in New York, but every star needs a second in command and the Knicks will be looking to Gallinari to step up and be their second option. Gallinari is a premier 3-point marksman, but it’s time for him to add a couple more tools to the belt. Gallinari is being touted as a top 50 guy this year for fantasy basketball, but to live up to that he’s going to need to use that 6-10 frame and up his rebounds a bit as well as blocks and start scoring more than just on the long range shot. He’s capable of doing it and separating himself from the pack of guys at small forward who are right there together, it’s just a matter of he’s ready to take that step.
- Last year Rashard Lewis looked an awful lot like an aging star who has seen the better part of a 12 year career go by him. Most people are ready to write him off as being done, but I’m not there quite yet. I think he really just needs to find that scorer’s instinct that he seemed to have lost last year. He’s the best pure scorer on this team, but he was to content last year to stand by and watch the game unfold around him on the offensive end. Hopefully a full season with a healthy Jameer Nelson will help and we’ll see Lewis take more than the 11.2 shots he settled for last year. If he gets back to shooting the ball 15 times a game and getting to the line a bit more he can still get 16 – 17 points per game.
- Michael Beasley is one of those guys I have let myself fall in love with this preseason. Beasley is out of Miami and the shadow of Dwayne Wade and into Minnesota where he is going to be scoring option 1B alongside Kevin Love in the frontcourt. It feels like Beasley has been around longer than he has, but this is just his third season and what should be his first season logging over 30 minutes. He improved on his rookie season last year and showed flashes of dominance. With this ranking I am counting on those flashes being a bit longer stretches this year as I think Beasley will get close to 17 – 18 points a game this year.
- Corey Maggette had a quietly strong year last season and put up very nice totals, including a much improved FG% of 51.6%. Part of the reason for the increase in FG% was better shots and better looks at the hoop as Maggette stopped shooting so many threes and started getting to the basket. While it hurts to lose some of his range, the boost in percentage helps, and it also helps that Maggette is an excellent free throw shooter who regularly gets to the line 8 times a game. He’s going to be the number one option in the Bucks offense most likely, but the supporting cast is good enough to where defenses can’t key in on just him. Should be another solid year for Maggette.
- Someone in Golden State is going to have a surprisingly nice year, I just can’t decide if it will be Dorrel Wright or Reggie Williams, but either way this is a key battle to keep an eye on this preseason. I think Reggie Williams is the higher upside pick as he showed what he can do at the end of last year. But if Wright is getting the minutes he could be a late round flier pick if you need 3’s.
Sleeper: Travis Outlaw. He was a big time prospect coming out of high school who just needed a couple years to refine his game at the NBA level. This will be his eighth season and he is still looking for his chance to shine. This could be the year for him. Outlaw is penciled in as the New Jersey Nets starting small forward and once again fantasy basketball guys are raving about his potential, myself included. Outlaw has the ability to put up a stat line of 15 points, 6 boards, 2 three’s, 1 block and 1 steal, and that isn’t his ceiling, that’s actually what I expect from him if he remains the starter and logs over 30 minutes a game, he could do even better.
Deep Sleeper: Austin Daye. This one is for deep leagues, and for guys in standard leagues to keep an eye on. Scouts rave about the potential this guy has, and it might be put on display earlier than expected. There is a log jam on the Pistons depth chart, and they could conceivably run 12 deep this year with everyone seeing some kind of significant playing time at some point or another. Because of that it’s hard to buy too much into Detroit players, but with the injury to Jerebko, Daye may get a chance to put in 20 minutes a game for a while, and he has the potential to make that stick if he plays up to his ability. The question is if he is physically ready for significant playing time in the NBA as he still has filling out to do, as well as skills polishing. He’s worth keeping an eye on though, especially in keeper leagues.
Bust: Ron Artest. Ron Ron’s draft value comes largely on the merits of name value alone. And he is one of those guys that just means a lot more to his real team than any fantasy team that he is on, unless your league counts defensive stops. His stats took a hit last year and I don’t expect them to jump back up this year. I don’t see him as being more than a 12 point per game guy who can contribute in steals and threes (if he takes enough of them). But he will hurt your FG% and if this year is anything like last he’ll hurt your FT% too. There are better high upside picks that can be used at the same time as you would take Artest.
What do you think of the small forwards? Do you agree with these rankings? Who are your sleepers and busts? And as always, just let me know if there is someone you want to see some more in depth discussion on and I will do my best to make it happen.
To view other positional breakdowns check out these links: