Tiering is one of the most popular ways to prepare for a Fantasy basketball draft. Within each position group, separating players into tiers is an effective means of projecting general value and keeping organized during your draft. If you're in a position where you need to make a quick decision, consulting a set of tiers can help settle the debate between two players who are relatively close in value.
Entering the 2020-21 season, the NBA's talent pool is incredibly deep, so going into your drafts with a plan is more imperative than ever. Here are our small forward tiers, which can serve as a general guide for those playing in standard leagues.
Tiers assume eight-category settings. Each player only appears in one set of tiers. Players are assigned to the position at which they're likely to play the most.
Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
Tatum had a breakout 2019-20 campaign. He turned the corner in mid-January and during his final 19 appearances before the season's hiatus, Tatum averaged 28.3 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.9 threes, 3.2 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.0 blocks. This season, Tatum is locked in as the No. 1 option for the Celtics, especially with the departure of Gordon Hayward to Charlotte.
Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers
Leonard had a strong first season with the Clippers alongside Paul George, setting career highs in scoring (27.1 points per game), free-throw efficiency (88.6 percent) and passing (4.9 assists per game). Leonard's role should be concrete, and Fantasy managers won't have to worry about a drastic change of pace for the 29-year-old. When considering drafting Leonard, keep in mind that his load management schedule will cap his overall production.
Paul George, LA Clippers
After a brief two-year stint with the Thunder, George joined forces with Leonard last season. He took on a reduced role compared to his borderline-MVP campaign the year prior, seeing about seven fewer minutes per game and missing 24 games between pre-season double shoulder surgery and a hamstring injury in January. George's role should be similar heading into the 2020-21 season, though the Clippers made some waves by firing coach Doc Rivers. Optimistic Fantasy managers might bank on new coach Tyronn Lue giving George more minutes.
Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat
Butler put together an excellent campaign as the Heat's No. 1 option, though injuries remained an issue as he missed 15 games during the regular season. Butler's real-life stock is as high as ever after leading Miami to the NBA Finals against the Lakers and forcing six games, but from a fantasy perspective, it would be surprising if we saw the 31-year-old make any legitimate strides in his game.
Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans
Ingram had a breakout 2019-20 season, his with the Pelicans, and the result was his first All-Star selection at just 22 years old. Even though Ingram's stats took a slight dip after Zion Williamson's debut, he will remain a key piece of New Orleans' rebuild going forward, and he's still young enough to continue making real strides to his game, especially as a playmaker and defender.
Gordon Hayward, Charlotte Hornets
After three seasons in Boston, Hayward will find himself in Charlotte after signing a massive contract with the Hornets. Hayward is on a team where he'll be the clear-cut best player after often being the third or fourth option in Boston. Health and age are a concern since Hayward missed 32 games last season between the regular season and playoffs, but he'll unquestionably be in position to have one of his best seasons if he can remain on the court.
Robert Covington, Portland Trail Blazers
Covington split last season between the Timberwolves and Rockets, putting up strong all-around numbers with both. Now in Portland, Covington figures to be the Blazers' starting small forward, so he should occupy a role similar to what he's seen as of late and makes for a good Fantasy option around the 50th pick in most drafts.
Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks
Middleton had another strong season in Milwaukee, nearly putting together a 50/40/90 shooting season. In 2020-21, Middleton's role should be safe as the Bucks' clear No. 2 option behind Antetokounmpo, though the Bucks did make a move to add Jrue Holiday, who could take some ballhandling responsibilities away from Middleton.
OG Anunoby, Toronto Raptors
Anunoby had a strong third NBA season, averaging career highs nearly across the board, posting 10.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 2.1 combined steals-plus-blocks in 29.9 minutes. Anunoby could see his stock continue to rise in the 2020-21 season with the departure of both Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol. However, it's unlikely he'll progress past a three-and-D role.
Michael Porter Jr., Denver Nuggets
Porter made his NBA debut last season after missing all of 2018-19 due to a back injury, and he showed his upside when he was given extended run. In the nine games (regular season and playoffs) where he played 30-plus minutes, he averaged 23.1 points (55/51/94 shooting splits) and 9.9 rebounds. This season, he's expected to start at one of the forward spots for the Nuggets. Fantasy managers need to keep in mind Porter's injury history dating back to high school, but he could be in store for a breakout.
TJ Warren, Indiana Pacers
Warren's first season with the Pacers proved to be a success. He exploded during bubble play, kicking off the festivities with a 53-point eruption and at least 32 points in three of his next four games. With Victor Oladipo out of the lineup for most of the season and Malcolm Brogdon in and out as well, Warren had the advantage of increased usage, though that's likely to take a hit in 2020-21.
Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics
Brown's emergence is coinciding with Gordon Hayward's departure -- a move that should create even more opportunities for Brown, who already averaged 20.3 points in 33.9 minutes last season. Add quality rebounding and Brown could be knocking on the door of his first All-Star appearance, especially if Kemba Walker's knee problems persist.
Kelly Oubre, Golden State Warriors
Last season with the Suns, Oubre averaged career bests essentially across the board. For this upcoming season, Oubre should again have a big role -- this time with the Warriors. Following the news that Klay Thompson suffered a season-ending Achilles tear and will miss a second straight campaign, Golden State went out and traded a protected first-round pick for Oubre. He figures to start on the wing next to Andrew Wiggins and should see plenty of action, as the Warriors bench remains desperately thin.
Obi Toppin, New York Knicks
Considered by some to be a potential top-five selection, 22-year-old Toppin went to the Knicks at No. 8 and is expected to start at small forward. He finished his career at Dayton as a redshirt sophomore and averaged 20.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.0 steal and 1.2 blocks while shooting 63.3 percent overall and 39.0 percent on three-point attempts.
Mikal Bridges, Phoenix Suns
Bridges continued to serve as a formidable defensive presence while improving in several other categories during the 2019-20 season, and he's now primed for a starting small forward role. Bridges prepped for the role last season when Oubre missed the last 15 games of last season with a knee injury, posting averages of 13.3 points on 52/41/88 splits, 4.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.9 threes and 2.0 combined steals-plus-blocks. He makes for a strong under-the-radar option for the seventh round and beyond.
Bojan Bogdanovic, Utah Jazz
Bogdanovic is a dead-eye from three-point range, as he's eclipsed 40 percent from deep in each of the past three years (41.4 last season). The hot shooting should continue to be effective on the Jazz, who made no major offseason changes.
Evan Fournier, Orlando Magic
Fournier had a strong 2019-20 campaign in what was arguably the best season of his career, ranking 63rd in fantasy on a per-game basis. Fournier's role in 2020-21 should be nearly identical to his role last season, so aside from some normal variance, we should expect him to put up similar numbers.
Otto Porter, Chicago Bulls
It was a lost season for Porter in his first full year with the Bulls due to a left foot injury that limited him to 14 games. If he can stay on the court in 2020-21, he has a chance to bounce back. Over the prior two seasons, he averaged 14.4 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.8 threes and 2.0 combined steals-plus-blocks across 30.9 minutes.
- Will Barton, Denver Nuggets
- Joe Ingles, Utah Jazz
- Danuel House, Houston Rockets
- Miles Bridges, Charlotte Hornets
- Jae Crowder, Phoenix Suns
- Matisse Thybulle, Philadelphia 76ers
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