The 2023-24 season is around the corner and that means fantasy drafts are even closer. What better way to prepare than looking at the tiers of talent at each position? Here are the best small forwards heading into the upcoming campaign. Priority has been given to production and skill rank. However, it is always important to consider the expected availability of a player throughout the season.
Jayson Tatum, BOS
Tatum is coming off a monstrous season, but the Celtics had a disappointing postseason finish after reaching the NBA Finals a year prior. The fact that he has already accomplished so much and is just now entering his prime is amazing, but Tatum is still seeking his first championship and should be able to put up MVP numbers once again.
Kevin Durant, PHX
Durant may be nearing the end of his prime, but he proved last season that he still has a lot to offer and remains one of the most unstoppable scorers in the league. Durant delivered three 40-plus scoring performances and reached the 30-point mark in 22 of his 47 games played. His impact across the stat sheet also cannot be overlooked, though he's been susceptible to long absences in recent years.
Kawhi Leonard, LAC
It has now been three seasons since Leonard played at least 60 games, the last being when he led the Raptors to a championship in 2018-19. However, he continues to show that when he is healthy, he is one of the most efficient players at his position, shooting exactly 51.2 percent from the field in each of the last two seasons.
Jimmy Butler, MIA
Last season, Butler led the overachieving Heat to the NBA Finals. Butler lifted his squad by stepping up as one of the league's most impressive playoff risers, averaging 26.9 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.8 steals and 0.6 blocks through 22 postseason games. He also shot a career-best 53.9 percent from the field last season.
Paul George, LAC
George has been held back by injuries over the last few seasons, but he is still able to dominate multiple areas of the game when healthy. Assuming he is back to full strength for the beginning of the season, he should pick up as one of the most devastating scorers and impactful players at the wing position.
LeBron James, LAL
James has shown little interest in slowing down, as he is coming off the fifth-highest scoring season of his career in terms of points per game. However, the main reason that he is not higher on the list is that he played only 55 games last season, which is the second-fewest of his career, and it is reasonable to consider that he may continue to face some physical limitations moving forward.
DeMar DeRozan, CHI
DeRozan is a player who manages to come back every season with noticeable improvement in at least one part of his game. He has always been a strong scorer, but he made major advancements to his all-around style over the last few years by becoming a much better playmaker. He has also shot better than 49 percent from the field for four consecutive seasons.
Mikal Bridges, BKN
Bridges got off to a solid start last season, which marked his fifth year with the Suns. However, it was after being traded to the Nets that Bridges grabbed everyone's attention, as he averaged 27.2 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.6 blocks through 26 games in Brooklyn, including 12 games with at least 30 points and three games with more than 40.
Brandon Ingram, NOP
Ingram is coming off a season hampered by injuries. Nonetheless, he showed that when healthy, he is one of the league's most talented scorers, delivering a minimum of 30 points in 13 games last season, including a season high of 42 points on 16-for-28 shooting. He also shot an efficient 48.4 percent on the year, including an impressive 39.0 percent from long range.
Lauri Markkanen, UTA
Markkanen shocked the league by taking a massive leap in his sixth season (first with the Jazz), as he increased his points per game by 10.8 over the previous campaign. With the addition of John Collins to the frontcourt, Markkanen should continue to focus on his scoring and have a great advantage over smaller opponents while playing small forward.
Jerami Grant, POR
Grant inked a five-year, $160 million deal with the Trail Blazers this offseason, a testament to the ability he has shown and the level to which they expect him to rise. He hit the 30-point mark seven times in 2022-23, including a season-high 44 points.
Scottie Barnes, TOR
Barnes did not show a great improvement over his rookie year, but he continued to make a strong impact across the stat sheet. He is set to remain a significant offensive presence for the Raptors, especially with the departure of Fred VanVleet, who handled a majority of the playmaking opportunities for Toronto in recent years. Barnes' hustle and all-around play style usually help him offset an occasional poor shooting night.
Franz Wagner, ORL
Wagner caught the league's attention last season by emerging as a leader for the Magic while showing significant improvements over his rookie campaign. He also helped lead Germany to their first FIBA World Cup championship this offseason. Based on his trajectory, he should take another leap in his third season and has the room to do so as part of the Magic's young core.
Andrew Wiggins, GSW
Despite injuries last season, Wiggins continued to develop as a reliable offensive option for the Warriors. He reached the 20-point mark in 14 games while shooting an impressive 54.6 percent from the field in those outings. He is likely to see slightly increased responsibility in the offense thanks to his youth relative to teammates, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Chris Paul.
OG Anunoby, TOR
Anunoby is an unassuming offensive force, averaging just 13.2 field-goal attempts last season. However, his hot shooting makes him very effective, as he hit 38.7 percent from long range last season, and he will continue to be relied upon as a go-to three-point option for the Raptors. His efforts on the defensive end also boost his value, as he led the league in steals per game last season.
RJ Barrett, NYK
Barrett continues to grow into a leadership role with the Knicks and has shown that he can back it up on the court. He is coming off back-to-back seasons averaging over 19.0 points and 5.0 free-throw attempts per game. He will likely find it easier to compete against the top defenders now that he is entering the early part of his prime, benefitting from extra strength and savvy.
Bojan Bogdanovic, DET
Bogdanovic quietly remains one of the most efficient scorers at his position, averaging at least 18.0 points and 44.0 percent shooting in four of the last five seasons. He is coming off a career season in his debut campaign with the Pistons and has a great chance to pick up where he left off, as the young squad will need him to carry the offensive load on some nights.
Khris Middleton, MIL
Middleton is coming off a season where he was largely hampered by injuries. However, he averaged more than 20.0 points per game in the previous three seasons while being a key part of the Bucks' championship title in 2021. He will likely re-emerge as an efficient and dominant scorer with a fresh start around many familiar faces.
Tobias Harris, PHI
Harris remains a consistent contributor for the 76ers, despite sometimes finding himself as a third or even fourth option on offense. Nonetheless, he often is able to step up and shine when called upon and remains efficient in his efforts, shooting over 50 percent from the field last season, including 38.9 percent from deep.
Cameron Johnson, BKN
Johnson benefitted from a significant increase in his role after being traded from the Suns to the Nets midway through last season. He averaged 16.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.4 steals and 0.3 blocks in 30.7 minutes per game with the Nets, and he is in line to build on that heading into his first full season with the team.
Michael Porter, DEN
Porter was a key player during the Nuggets' championship run last season, averaging 2.3 made three-pointers on a 35.1 percent clip throughout the playoffs. He benefits from great size at his position and has an ability to score in multiple ways while prospering off of excellent playmaking from Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray.
Keldon Johnson, SAS
Johnson stood out as a go-to option for the lowly Spurs last season. However, with the addition of top draft pick Victor Wembanyama, Johnson will likely have to take a step back in the offensive hierarchy. Regardless, Johnson has proven himself as a formidable scorer, shooting better than 45 percent from the field through his first four seasons in the NBA.
Best of the rest
- De'Andre Hunter, ATL
- Miles Bridges, CHA
- Brandon Miller, CHA
- Dillon Brooks, HOU
- Jaden McDaniels, MIN
- Harrison Barnes, SAC