By RotoRob and McCade Pearson
Next up with our series of 2014-15 Fantasy basketball cheat sheets in the three slot. So while you 76ers fans bask in the afterglow of your first win of the season, let’s review the top 40 small forwards.
Small forward is the most intriguing position in our opinion. Mostly because it is so deep, yet so shallow. At the top you’ve got LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant. Kawhi Leonard is in the next tier along with Nicolas Batum and Rudy Gay. Straight up small forwards are hard to come by these days. Almost every three is also eligible at either shooting guard or power forward it seems. The only ones here that aren’t are Durant, Gay, Chandler Parsons, Jabari Parker and Trevor Ariza.
There are also some big questions coming out of this position. How do James, Parsons, Thaddeus Young, Aaron Afflalo and Luol Deng (and if you want to include Parker) fit into their new homes? Can Leonard prove the Finals wasn’t a fluke? Do Paul Pierce and Andre Iguodala have anything left? And with rumours suggesting that Paul George is already taking jump shots, is he worth a late flyer, especially if you have IR spots in your league? This will be an interesting position to watch as there is a lot of flexibility that comes with it.
Last year’s rankings are in parentheses.
1. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder (2): Durant (foot) had missed all season, but returned recently, and wasted no time getting on the scoresheet (see video below). Yet he’s still atop our list here. Why? Well, last season was KD’s finest as he continued to play big minutes, sunk more buckets than ever and enjoyed career bests in assists and points per game. Durantula may have some rust when he returns, but he’ll be dominating in no time. — RR
2. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers (1): Since returning to Cleveland, LBJ’s big nights have been a little more sparse, yet he remains the Cavs top scorer and also leads the team in assists. He’s come under fire given the team’s less than inspiring start, and there’s no doubt he hasn’t exactly been playing the best ball of his career. But the King is a four-time MVP for a reason. Last season, his buckets were down a tad, but he attempted and sunk more treys. Early on this season, James is playing more minutes and shooting better from downtown, but his rebounding and scoring are down. The Cavs made more noise this offseason than anyone, and that puts the pressure squarely on James’ shoulders to deliver. His legacy will definitely be affected one way or the other depending on how this homecoming plays out. — RR
3. Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks (3): The self-described “most underrated superstar in the NBA,” Anthony has dealt with some back spasms that have forced him to miss some time this season. Last season, Melo didn’t get to the line quite as often, yet still enjoyed his finest campaign yet. This season, his PT is down, he’s not sinking as many treys and his rebounding has dipped substantially. Is it all related to his back? Time will tell. — RR
4. Rudy Gay, Sacramento Kings (5): We thought Gay would wind up in Charlotte, but the Kings wound up keeping him. He’s dealt with an Achille’s injury this season, so hopefully it’s an issue that won’t prove problematic long-term. Last season, Gay wasn’t seeing quite as much PT in Toronto before getting dealt to Sacramento, where he didn’t hoist as many treys, but wound up scoring more points at the line. Overall, he shot much better last season. This season, Gay is canning slightly more three-pointers, but with less accuracy. — RR
5. Gordon Hayward, SF/SG, Utah Jazz (18): Some may have wondered if Hayward was worth the max deal that Utah had to give him to keep him from signing with the Hornets, but so far this season, he’s justified the big bucks. Last season, he continued his steady upward trajectory by sinking more buckets and getting a couple more blocks — although this isn’t a big part of his game in the least. This season, Hayward has taken it to a new level with better rebounding work and more steals. He’s become a key part of the rebuilding process in Utah. — RR
6. Luol Deng, Miami Heat (14): We thought Deng would wind up with the Hornets, but he took his talents to South Beach instead. Now he has the not-so enviable task of replacing James in Miami. The fact that Deng had to deal with a wrist injury early on this season didn’t make it any smoother a transition. Last season, he was sinking more buckets for the Bulls before getting dealt to Cleveland, where he sunk more treys, but his overall game suffered. This season, Deng is doing a better job taking care of the rock, and is starting to put up the kind of offensive numbers lately that we’re used to seeing from him. — RR
7. Tobias Harris, Orlando Magic (13): Part of a strong Magic frontcourt, Harris leads the team in scoring and is second in rebounding. Last season, he enjoyed a breakout campaign, despite sinking fewer three pointers and not getting to the charity stripe quite as often. This season, Harris’ bucket count is up, he’s again canning a trey per game, and his FT shooting has bounced back. As good as he was last season, he’s taken his game to a new stratosphere this season. As the Magic fall further out of playoff contention, it will be interesting to see if it deals the free agent to be. — RR
8. Nicolas Batum, Portland Trail Blazers (6): We were worried about Batum this season, and so far, our concerns have been valid as he’s experienced the first regression of his career. He’s still one of the most versatile players in the league in terms of across-the-board-production, but there’s no doubt his numbers have dipped. Last season, Batum stayed completely healthy, and although his PT and touches dipped, he really improved his shooting and took it to the next level as a rebounder. This season, he’s not sinking as many buckets, and his points from the line have cut in half. It doesn’t help that Batum has periodically been prone to hurling bad passes, but so far, it does not reflect in his turnover rate. — RR
9. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs (9): Leonard was one of our sleeper picks heading into last season, and it was a good call as he took another step forward in his development. A dominant defender, last season he set a career high in games played (although he again couldn’t avoid injury), but his treys and free throws dipped. This season, Leonard is playing even better, although he’s struggled with his touch from beyond the arc. Good health from this dude is the key to the Spurs making yet another title run. — RR
10. Chandler Parsons, Dallas Mavericks (11): When we slotted Parsons 11th last year in our Small Forward Rankings, we talked about what a huge leap he had taken the season before. Well, he took yet another step up last season, hence his cracking the top 10 now. Dallas brought Parsons in this season to beef up an already potent offense after he regressed a tad with his outside shooting, but did a better job of getting to the line and on the glass. This season, he isn’t sinking as many buckets, but is doing a better job of staying out of foul trouble and protecting the pumpkin. Lately, Parsons has been a tad inconsistent with his shooting touch. — RR
11. Tyreke Evans, New Orleans Pelicans (10 at SG): Evans dealt with some ankle problems in January, and wound up missing 10 games in all (yet the injury prone swingman actually tied a career high in games played). Last season, he had more touches and dropped more dimes, but his scoring was down as his overall performance continued to dip since his brilliant rookie effort way back in 2009-10. This season, Evans is back to being a full-time starter and is getting way more touches, but has never shot worse. On the plus side, his scoring has bounced back a tad, and with 40 points over his last two games, he’s heading in the right direction in that regard.
12. Danilo Gallinari, Denver Nuggets (30): Gallinari is returning from ACL surgery this season, and as a result, he’s been on a minute restriction early on. Recently, however, he’s starting to see bigger minutes, approaching and in one case topping 30 minutes. The Nuggets are really taking things slowly after Gallinari missed all of last season. Injuries have been a constant for this talented shooter; if the former Knick can stay healthy, he has major upside. — RR
13. Jeff Green, Boston Celtics (8): When we slotted Green eighth in last season’s Small Forward Rankings, we said we were expecting him to get more touches. Sure enough, that was the case as he stayed completely healthy for the first time in five years and scored more points from the line than ever before. Unfortunately, Green’s FT shooting dipped for the second straight season and he committed more turnovers. This season, he’s been getting frustrated — which has led some to believe he wants to be dealt. Still, he’s taken his game to a new level and is doing a better job of protecting the pumpkin. It’ll be interesting to see if Boston winds up dealing Green. — RR
14. Paul Pierce, Washington Wizards (7): As strange as it is to see him in anything but green, Pierce is now supplying veteran leadership in Washington. Last season with the Nets, he sat a bit more and saw his PT dip substantially. Pierce’s touches dropped, as did his three-pointers and attempts. This season, he’s sinking fewer buckets and his three-point accuracy has dropped, but he’s sinking his FTs at his highest rate since 2010-11. Celtics fans are still in shock that The Truth didn’t finish his career in Beantown. — RR
15. Josh Smith, Detroit Pistons (4): Smith has struggled to find his place since coming to Detroit, as when the Pistons start him, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond in the frontcourt, it just doesn’t work well. Last season, he saw more PT and got more touches, but his overall level of play slipped. This season, J-Smoov’s been inconsistent, and is sinking fewer buckets on fewer touches, while also taking much fewer treys (and really struggling to hit from downtown). How the hell the Pistons have started 3-14 with all that talent is a mystery, but there’s no doubt they are struggling to make this team gel. — RR
16. Harrison Barnes, Golden State Warriors (22): Barnes was a waiver wire recommendation last month, and although he didn’t jack up as many treys last month, the rest of his numbers — even his assists rose — were sweet. Playing under new head coach Steve Kerr has really helped him. As a sophomore, Barnes sunk slightly more buckets, but his rebounding dipped a tad. This season, his game has reached a new level as his shooting touch has been amazing, both from inside and outside the arc, where he’s taking — and sinking — more long bombs. Barnes is also getting to the line more often while doing a better job taking care of the ball. After spending most of last season coming off the bench, he’s back to starting full-time, and the results speak for themselves. — RR
17. Nick Young, Los Angeles Lakers (NR): Sure, Young’s getting more press these days for his relationship with Iggy Azalea, but how about that career season he put up off the Lakers bench in 2013-14? He sunk more buckets, shot better, hoisted up more treys than ever, got to the line more often, sunk his freebies at a better rate and even improved his paltry rebounding and assist numbers. This season, with Kobe Bryant back in the fold, Young has gone back to exclusively playing off the bench, and his shooting has gone into the crapper, while he’s not canning as many treys and his FT shooting has regressed. But hey, he’s living in Selena Gomez’s old crib, so life can’t be that bad, right? — RR
18. Trevor Ariza, Houston Rockets (NR): After having an awesome season in 2013-14 and leading the Wizards to the playoffs in a contract year, Ariza signed a big contract to go back and play with Houston, which needed a replacement for Chandler Parsons. Ariza averaged 14 points and six rebounds while shooting 40 per cent from downtown. With Dwight Howard being a better option than Nene or Howard’s old backup — Marcin Gortat — this could open up the floor for Ariza. Was Ariza’s contract season a fluke and can he fit in with the Rockets offense are two big questions heading into the season. So far, his play has not been quite as good as he’s sinking fewer buckets, but he’s jacking up and sinking more treys than ever. — MP
19. P.J. Tucker, Phoenix Suns (NR): What a comeback story for Tucker. After playing only 17 games in his rookie season way back in 2006-07, he had to go play overseas. Now after fighting his way back to the league, Tucker has turned into a really good role player for a really good team. He’s a decent scorer and a really good rebounder (especially on the offensive end), that can spread the floor and shoot well enough to be a threat. His steals and turnovers roughly cancel out. The only question we have with Tucker is that with the Morris twins both signing contract extensions, the Suns may give them more minutes. Nonetheless Tucker is one of the safest players. He doesn’t offer a lot of upside but you know what you’re going to get. — MP
20. DeMarre Carroll, Atlanta Hawks (NR): After having a breakout season with the Jazz as a hustle guy in 2012-13, former first round pick Carroll took it to the next level when he got the starting job in Atlanta last season. He was able to prove he can do more than just hustle and can actually play big minutes consistently. Carroll isn’t the best shooter, but he only takes smart shots, therefore he maintains pretty good shooting percentages. As we said, he is a hustle guy, so he gets a good amount of steals and offensive rebounds. Carroll is consistent and isn’t a bad plug and play option this season. — MP
Others to Consider
21. Terrence Ross, Toronto Raptors (NR)
22. Andrew Wiggins, SF/SG, Minnesota Timberwolves (NR)
23. Wesley Johnson, Los Angeles Lakers (34)
24. Matt Barnes, Los Angeles Clippers (28)
25. Vince Carter, SF/SG, Memphis Grizzlies (27 at SG)
26. Corey Brewer, Minnesota Timberwolves (31)
27. Andre Iguodala, SF/SG, Golden State Warriors (12)
28. Gerald Henderson, SF/SG, Charlotte Hornets (17 at SG)
29. Maurice Harkless, Orlando Magic (16)
30. Otto Porter Jr., Washington Wizards (25)
31. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte Hornets (24)
32. Gerald Green, SF/SG, Phoenix Suns (NR)
33. Wilson Chandler, Denver Nuggets (NR)
34. Marcus Morris, SF/PF, Phoenix Suns (NR)
35. Doug McDermott, Chicago Bulls (NR) (currently out after knee surgery)
36. Anthony Morrow, SF/SG, Oklahoma City Thunder (NR)
37. Solomon Hill, Indiana Pacers (NR)
38. Hollis Thompson, SF/SG, Philadelphia 76ers (NR)
39. Evan Turner, SF/SG, Boston Celtics (20)
40. T.J. Warren, Phoenix Suns (NR)
Now it’s your turn. Let us know in the comments below who’s too high or too low or missing.