Ranking The League’s Starting Small Forwards

After a week hiatus we’re back with the 30 projected starting small forwards.  In our last post we ranked the projected starting shooting guards, which I will definitely say is the thinnest of the five positions, talent-wise.  Small forward is the exact opposite.  It was fun to write about three of the five best players in the league—Lebron James, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard.

A quick refresher: Ryan, Jeremy, and I ranked the 30 projected starters at each position.  We took the average of our three rankings to create the list you see now.  Our only guideline for the rankings was to answer the question, “who is the better player.”  If you missed out click here for our point guard rankings and here for shooting guard.  

Our small forwards were interesting.  We all had a similar top-6, but then we differed on a lot of players.  Ryan is all-in on Giannis Antetokounmpo, I was much higher on Danilo Gallinari than the other two, and Jeremy was diggin’ Andrew Wiggins.  Ryan and I tried our hardest to get Otto Porter a high ranking while Jeremy gave us a nice argument in favor of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (see below).  Without further ado, our ranking of the starting small forwards.  —Charlie

THE RANKINGS

Looking to win a championship in 2017? You probably need a superstar level small forward.
Looking to win a championship in 2017? You probably need a superstar level small forward.

THE TOP 10

1. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers

For years I rooted against Lebron James.  It started because he knocked the Wizards out of the playoffs three consecutive years (how foolish I was to think we had a chance, I should have known when he dropped a triple double in his first ever playoff game).  Then I rooted against him for the same reason I like Batman more than Superman—because Superman is so invincible it’s not even interesting.  I was more compelled by the storylines of the aging Spurs and the Garnett Celtics.  Then when he returned to Cleveland two years ago, I changed my stripes and became a Lebron fan, and I wish I had been all along.  I never got to watch Magic or Kareem or Chicago Jordan, but I’ve gotten to watch Lebron his entire career.  His evolution from prep school prodigy to best player in the NBA to arguably the most powerful athlete team sports has ever seen, has paralleled my own evolution from tween to young adult to the immature 25 year old I am today.  The last couple years some pundits have said that he’s lost a step. Four months ago popular opinion was that Steph Curry was the best player in the world.  That’s why I found myself rooting harder for the Cavs than I have in an NBA finals in at least a few years.  Let me throw this at you—over the last two years Lebron’s played 41 playoffs games and averaged 28.1 points/10.4 rebounds/8 assists/2 steals/1.3 blocks per game.  He is still the best player alive.  As President Obama told him after his first championship, “It’s your world, man.” – Charlie

2. Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors

Durant had a lot of questions to answer this past season, after only playing 27 games during the 2014-15 season because of foot injuries.  People wondered if he’d break down, if he’d be less aggressive, and if he’d possibly take a backseat to Russell Westbrook.  Instead, Durant had probably the second best season of his career, only second to his 2013-14 MVP campaign.  KD averaged a career high 8.2 rebounds, and had a mind boggling 63% true shooting.  In fact, Durant has posted over 60% TS for the last five seasons, and the 39% he shot on threes last year was tied for his worst over that time frame.  As of today, only 7 players in the Basketball Hall of Fame have averaged over 60% TS during their career, and Durant is at 60.5%.  His move to the Warriors should only help here.  

Not to get too statistical, but the highest TS% in one season by a contributing  perimeter player, was 69.9 by Kyle Korver two seasons ago, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Durant approached those numbers.  The fact that Draymond Green or Klay Thompson is the team’s fourth best player is absurd and although I’ll resent KD for years to come, this should undoubtedly be one of the top offensive teams in history.  If there’s room for growth for Durant, he can improve on his 6.9 free throw attempts last season.  Before the injury, he had two straight seasons with 9.3 and 9.9 respectively, and free throw attempts can certainly be a measure of aggressiveness.  KD showed this summer with Team USA that he doesn’t mind being aggressive and taking over on a superstar laden team, and hopefully he takes that same mindset with him to The Bay. – Ryan

3. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs

Ever since the new era of superstars started to enter the NBA, pioneered by the legendary 2003 NBA draft featuring Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, etc., it has been pretty clear to most who the top NBA wings are, being some order of Lebron, Durant and Carmelo. Kawhi Leonard put a wrench in people’s thinking last year as he established himself as the unquestioned best player on one of the best franchises in NBA history being the San Antonio Spurs. Leonard is not flashy, and he will rarely do anything on the court to wow fans the way Lebron might, but he is one of the rare individuals who will do anything and everything to help his team win. When the Spurs need scoring, he will score. When they need defense, he will lock down anyone on the opposition or die trying. And, when the spurs need him to rest, he will rest… the latter is likely why is stats (21.2 PPG, 6.8 Rebs, 1.8 STLS) are a bit low for a true superstar. Leonard’s other accolades however, (NBA defensive player of the year and 2nd in MVP voting) show+ that he brings intangibles to the table like nobody else in the NBA. Deciding which SF was the prince to King James’ crown between Leonard and Durant was one of the hardest decision I had to make in these rankings. – Jeremy

4. Paul George, Indiana Pacers

George was a feel good story last season, the comeback player of the year.  To put his 23.1 points per game—10th in the league—in context we have to go back to 2014 when he snapped his leg (medical terms) while representing the United States.  After a year off he returned to be a better player than before the injury as he dragged a rag-tag Pacers team to the playoffs.  He was the best player in a 7-game loss to the Raptors in round 1.  On this blog, John Wall is the 2nd best player in the East, but it would be easy to argue George is.  I haven’t forgotten the 2014 playoffs when he outplayed Wall and Beal.  The Pacers revamped over the offseason by bringing in Nate McMillan, Jeff Teague, Al Jefferson, and Thad Young, but they will still only go as far as George takes them. – Charlie

5. Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls

One of the premier two-way wing players, Butler will make the move from shooting guard to small forward this season, but it really shouldn’t cause many issues for the 2x All-Star.  Butler had probably his best individual season statistically, but with the Bulls not making the playoffs he can’t be happy with the way things played out last year.  With the departure of Derrick Rose, Butler looked to be the focal point of the 2016 iteration of Chicago, but the arrival of Dwyane Wade certainly complicates that somewhat.  Still, Butler should have the ball in his hands plenty, and be trusted to get a lot out of his offense, which seems to lack offensive scoring options.  One pain point for Chicago will be outside shooting, considering new backcourt pieces Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade are two of the worst three point shooting players of all time.  Butler will have to be more consistent from three this season, after shooting 32% last season following 38% the season before on the same amount of attempts.  Another point to watch will be Butler’s usage rate.  His increase from 16.8% three years ago to 21.6% the next, and 24.4% last season, was important for his growth and to his game, but Chicago certainly had more success in those previous two seasons, when his usage was lower.  Rondo and Wade love to pound the ball, so Butler may have to work on his off ball skills during training camp. – Ryan

6. Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks

Carmelo Anthony is a tough player to figure these days. He has shown throughout his career of being one of a handful of NBA players who can truly carry an NBA franchise to the playoffs and beyond. In his last two years for New York, however, he has seemed to be either hurt or unmotivated. He averaged only 21.8 PPG last season which was his lowest since his sophomore campaign. Some analysts contribute this lack of production to a player with a scorers mentality having to adjust to the triangle offense where the ball is known to be shared more throughout all five players on the court. I don’t buy this argument however as two of the most lethal scorers in NBA history, Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan, thrived under the triangle and I see no reason why Melo can’t emulate their playing style. This summer’s Rio Olympics got me thinking that maybe Melo is not selfish, or incapable of being productive while sharing the ball (like Team USA certainly did), but maybe he simply needs to have meaningful games to be motivated. The past two seasons the Knicks have had few meaningful games to offer their star as they have been essentially knocked out of playoffs by December both years. Hopefully with the Knicks new acquisitions this offseason, Carmelo can find reasons to play again and return to his top-tier form. – Jeremy

7. Gordon Hayward, Utah Jazz

Utah is getting tons of hype right now and a lot of that is people finally realizing how good Hayward is.  Last year Hayward and Derrick Favors were good enough to drag the Jazz to a league average offense (16th in efficiency)—which is all they need if paired with an elite defense.  Utah’s been stuck in point guard purgatory since they traded Deron Williams, and Hayward has stepped up as their perimeter creator.  The addition of George Hill should take some pressure off of him while fitting perfectly with Utah’s defensive identity.  With Rodney Hood also capable of handling the ball in the starting lineup, I expect Hayward to see a boost in efficiency.  Will they actually finish ahead of the Clippers like predicted by ESPN’s RPM?  I’ll tell you when we finish these rankings… – Charlie

8. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

The Greek Freak!! New reports say that MCW may come off the bench, so maybe Giannis will actually start at point guard.  Whether he starts at PG or SF, Giannis will have the ball in his hand, and has an opportunity to put up monster numbers.  His usage rate reached a high of 22% last year, 24% after the All-Star game, and this should only increase with Jason Kidd giving the keys to the fourth year player.  Pre ASG Giannis averaged 15.9 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 2.8 assists, while post ASG, when he played more of the PG position, Giannis averaged 18.8 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 7.2 assists in 28 games.  The Bucks had nearly an identical record before and after the break, so simply putting the ball in Greek Freak’s hands won’t be enough to get Milwaukee back into the playoffs, but it seems to be a nice start.  – Ryan

9. Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves

A lot of people questioned Andrew Wiggins as a future NBA star after his lone season at Kansas made people doubt his durability, work-ethic, toughness, and shooting stroke. Wiggins has proved many wrong in his first two seasons which have launched him into our top ten rankings for his position. Wiggins has proven tough and durable as he has only missed one NBA game over two seasons. His solid improvement as a low post scorer last year has shown he has good work-ethic and ability to improve and his field goal percentage of 45.9% last season shows he can put the ball in the hoop at a consistent rate although he does need to improve his range out to the NBA three point line. The Timberwolves have a very solid young core and Wiggins is establishing himself as one of the go-to guys for this group. Many argue that Wiggins’ size and athleticism should lead to more rebounds (only 3.6 last year) and that he needs to be a better playmaker (only 2.0 assists per game) but his ability to score the basketball and defend makes him similar to a young DeRozan with the potential to be much better. – Jeremy

10. Chandler Parsons, Memphis Grizzlies

“You’ve spent two full seasons in Dallas, have suffered injuries in both years, and have failed to show you can be the second best player on a playoff team.  You are asking for max money but have not produced like a max player.  And for that reason I’m out.” –Mark Cuban to Parsons in a Shark Tank-style negotiation.  Portland and Memphis both offered Parsons the max money despite health concerns.  He chose a Grizzlies team that has a clear core in place with a recent history of winning.  He shot well last year—49% from the field, 41% from deep—and is the best Grizzlies wing since Rudy Gay.  Last year he played a third of his minutes at power forward (per Nylon Calculus), which is interesting for the Grizzlies with Zach Randolph playing fewer minutes. – Charlie

THE MIDDLE 10

The middle 10 includes key contributors who could climb into the top 10 by season's end - Pic by AFP's Maddie Meyer
The middle 10 includes key contributors who could climb into the top 10 by season’s end – Pic by AFP’s Maddie Meyer

11. Jae Crowder, Boston Celtics

To be a true contender in the East you obviously need to have a very talented wing defender to defend LeBron James.  The Celtics feel that have that player in Crowder, who notoriously has outperformed expectations after being part of the Rondo trade to the Mavericks.  He may be relegated to 4th option on offense with the addition of Al Horford, but Crowder should quickly find his role, and execute it.  Many readers clamor for advanced stats, so I’ll throw in this tidbit:  Only 5 small forwards last season posted at least 7 win shares, a VORP above 2.5, and a true shooting percentage above 56%.  Crowder was one.  The other 4? Durant, Kawhi, LeBron, and Giannis. – Ryan

12. Harrison Barnes, Dallas Mavericks

At only 11.7 PPG and 4.9 Rebs a ranking of 12 for Harrison Barnes seems high on the surface. I mean, this is a guy who many believe is worse than his team’s 6th man being Andre Iguodala. People have to realize however, that when Barnes was on the Warriors he had to compete for playing time and shots with players like Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green etc. Considering Barnes had to fight to find a niche on a loaded team he did quite well as he earned a starting spot and played 30.9 minutes per game both at the 3 and 4 position. Barnes will see an immediate increase in minutes and scoring opportunities in Dallas as he plays only behind Dirk Nowitzki. The writers of this blog are assuming Barnes will thrive in this new role and up his scoring to around 20 ppg. While it is true that an increased role can sometimes hinder young players as defenses focus on them more, Barnes seems to have the skills and mentality to thrive rather than implode. – Jeremy

13. Danilo Gallinari, Denver Nuggets

It’s fitting that I’m the one writing about Gallo since I had him ranked much higher than Ryan or Jeremy.  I have the Italian as my 8th ranked small forward because of his 19.5 points per game last year and his 19 PER (6th among SF’s).  He was somehow tied with DeMarcus Cousins for 3rd in the league in free throws made per game (after Harden and DeRozan) with 7.1.  He was also one of three players (along with Bosh and Kawhi) to average at least 19 points per game and 1.5 or fewer turnovers.  It seems unlikely that he can match those career highs next season, but if he can come close he deserves to be ranked higher than 13th.  The Nuggets have a deep team with a mix of young players and mid-20’s veterans and Gallinari is maybe the only player we can guarantee will play 30 minutes a game. – Charlie

14. Rudy Gay, Sacramento Kings

I’m not sure Rudy Gay has ever been appropriately valued in the NBA.  Overrated at many times in Memphis, Gay has flown somewhat under the radar in Sacramento, underrated mostly because of playing in Sacramento, and being extremely overpaid in his 2 seasons in Toronto.  Last season, Rudy averaged 17.2 pts, the second least of his career, 14.4 shot attempts, the second least of his career, and 1.7 assists, also the second least of his career.  Yet, much of that dip in production seemed to align with Rajon Rondo’s presence on the team.  Rondo spent much of his time pounding the ball looking to force assists, meaning Gay had less control over the offense, leading to a lower usage rate of 22.4%.  Guess where that ranked? Yep, the second least of his career.  I still believe in Gay’s skills, but he’s made it pretty clear that it’s not going to work out in Sacramento.  Hopefully, he finds a new home soon because after 10 years in the league, and at age 30, I’m not sure how many more seasons Gay has before he becomes a below average player.  Additionally, expect to see a promising season from Gay because he can opt out of his deal next summer, and sign possibly his final large contract. – Ryan

15. Brandon Ingram, Los Angeles Lakers

When I look at Brandon Ingram’s physique ( 6’9 with a 7’3 wingspan and under 200 lbs)  and playing style I can’t help but think “Oh, this is the next Kevin Durant.” The two certainly draw comparisons but experts say Ingram is a more active and disciplined defender but lacks the shooting and playmaking Durant had at the same age. With these reports in mind, and the fact that Ingram will be asked to carry the scoring load on a developing Lakers team, I am not shy to say Ingram is deserving of this 15 spot as a rookie. He will likely average close to 20 ppg on inefficient scoring numbers as he gets used to opposing NBA players size and talents. Ingram and the Lakers should have a long and successful relationship however, and I trust the Lakers will throw as much money as they need to at the young star to ensure he doesn’t follow in Durant’s footsteps in every way possible… – Jeremy

16. DeMarre Carroll, Toronto Raptors

I’ll never forgive Carroll for the three 20 point games he had in the Wizards 6-game series against the Hawks in 2015.  But I will attest to his value.  Last year was a wash for Carroll in Toronto, which means the 3&D wing is basically being added to the 55-win Raptors.  The hope is that he can also play some of the minutes at power forward that Luis Scola was playing last year.  Carroll is a very capable wing defender who can be put on a first scoring option. – Charlie

17. Kent Bazemore, Atlanta Hawks

Kent was one of my favorite free agents coming into this offseason, but the Wizards couldn’t afford him in today’s market, instead making the right move to go all in on Al Horford.  It’s amazing that Baze was an undrafted free agent and now is playing on a 4yr/$70 million contract, but the same qualities that made him so great at Old Dominion have transferred over to his NBA career.  Kent took advantage of the unfortunate leg injury to former starting small forward Thabo Sefolosha, starting 68 of 75 games last season at small forward, and was a prototypical 3 and D guy.  His 6’5” height may give people pause, but his elite wingspan allows him to guard taller and bigger wings.  Bazemore is a player who does a little of everything, which will be great for a team that expects to stay in the playoffs, without its former starting point guard and center.  Expect to see Baze be the secondary ball-handler, improve on his 36% three point percentage, and average over 30 minutes per game for the first time in his career. – Ryan

18. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte Hornets

For anyone who knows me well they would find it no surprise that I had my fingers crossed I would be the person to write about my favorite player, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. I had Gilchrist ranked 13th among small forwards (and while we are being frank, I truly think he is higher but I needed my reputation to remain intact) while Ryan and Charlie had him ranked 21 and 22 respectively, leaving him at 18 for these rankings. I am open-minded enough to listen to and even understand why Gilchrist is considered by some a lower tier forward, I will explain these arguments and then explain why he is actually a top 10 SF in the NBA.

First for the bad. Any kid who has had a couple of years of rec league basketball under their belt can look at MKG’s shooting form and say “he’s doing it wrong”. While the stroke has improved dramatically over the last 3 years he still looks like the Pokemon Magikarp using a splash attack every time he lines up the laces to shoot. As a wing player in today’s NBA, MKG’s shot definitely limits him, and Hornets Head Coach Steve Clifford has even publicly said that Gilchrist is unplayable at times, especially at the end of games, because he make defenses pay for how they guard him. While some point to the fact that Gilchrist is actually a very good ball handler and passer for his size, these skills become obsolete when defenses can just stand 3-4 feet off him in the paint.

Now for the good. Gilchrist is one of the hardest playing players in the NBA. Hornets team leaders of seasons past like Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker have both said Gilchrist is the heart and soul of the team and his effort inspires others to play harder. Not only does this effort make him a great individual defender but it also makes the Hornets exponentially better as his defense makes his teammates defend harder. This phenomena shows in the numbers. In MKG’s last significant season (as he only played 7 games last season due to injury) the Hornets had a defensive rating of 107.6 without MKG (28th in NBA) and 97.4 with MKG (1st in NBA). This shows that Gilchrist’s mere presence on the court boosts the Hornets from a terrible defense to a great one.

So some might think, okay… MKG is a great defender and terrible offensive player. Makes him average right? I still disagree. While Gilchrist’s shot is not good, he is still an effective offensive player. His last two seasons MKG has averaged 11.4 PPG on 47.8% shooting from the field in under 30 minutes per game. Most of this production comes in fast break situations, but the efficiency cannot be ignored.

I have been dancing around the stat about MKG that is simply astonishing and has had Ric Bonnel from the Charlotte Observer wonder why MKG can’t be considered an MVP candidate. Since the 2012-2013 NBA season, the Charlotte Hornets have had a winning percentage of .275 without Gilchrist in the lineup and a winning percentage of .525 with Gilchrist in the lineup. This win difference rivals that of the NBA’s most elite players… and while I understand Gilchrist certainly has some holes in his game that, while improving, still hold him back, his negatives are certainly outweighed by the positives he brings to the table. – Jeremy

19. Trevor Ariza, Houston Rockets

A3riza was the only small forward last season to average at least 2 threes and 2 steals a game.  He and Steph Curry are the only two players to hit at least 550 threes and nab at least 425 steals over the last three seasons.  Anyone who scores 30 points in a playoff game in a Wizards uniform earns my gratitude, and I just can’t rank Ariza below Porter like Ryan did (yet).  Ariza is an elite 3&D wing who won a ring starting for the 2009 Lakers.  His deceptively long wingspan lets him get in passing lanes and the Rockets ask him to guard anyone 1-4.  I foresee he and Mike D’Antoni getting along well. – Charlie

20. Otto Porter Jr., Washington Wizards

The 2013 #3 overall pick will hopefully step up and be the third best player on the Wizards this season, as he’s entering the final year of his rookie deal.  For Washington to return to form, Porter is going to have to improve on what was a good, but inconsistent season from Porter.  Porter showed after the All-Star break that he can be an efficient three point shooter (44.7%), and brings a lot of intangibles to the court, including great offensive rebounding.  Porter has a knack for the ball, is comfortable in his role, can run the floor, cuts hard to the basket and is becoming more and more comfortable matching up against starting small forwards.  I’m expecting Scott Brooks to let Porter do more creating this year, which will separate him from some of the other starting small forwards in the game. – Ryan

Lotto Pick Otto is the only member of the Wizards core not under contract for at least the next three years.  He will be a restricted free agent in 2017 and is eligible for an extension before this season starts.  Reports say the two sides are unlikely to come to an agreement, and extensions haven’t been Ernie Grunfeld’s style since Andray Blatche’s death-tension.  But if I were the Wizards, I would make Porter an offer.  He showed a lot of NBA skills last year as the starting small forward and will be entering an even crazier free agent market than Beal just did.  From Porter’s perspective he has really only had one good season and one good playoff run and might be tempted by guaranteed money.  If no extension gets signed then Otto is betting on himself, and that’s the kind of small forward I want on the team. – Charlie

THE BOTTOM 10

Many
The bottom 10 includes young players who will be starting for the first time, and consistent, though underwhelming, veterans. – Pic by Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

21. Marcus Morris, Detroit Pistons

I remember when the Morris twins were coming out of Kansas in the 2011 NBA draft and they seemed identical in more ways than just their physical appearance. They played the same position, had the same statistics throughout college on the same team, and so it was no surprise that they went back to back on draft night. What did surprise me however, was that early on in their careers Markieff Morris emerged as by far the superior twin on the court. Perhaps this just came from lack of opportunity from a poorly run Phoenix Suns franchise however, because Marcus Morris flourished this past season in Detroit. His ability to defend power forwards but still spread the floor offensively fits perfectly with Pistons Coach Stan Van Gundy’s schemes, which allowed Morris to play a career high 35.1 minutes per game. As a proud fantasy owner, I saw first hand how Marcus Morris showed the ability to put up huge numbers often clipping the mid 20’s in scoring and double digits in rebounds. His wildly inconsistent play however, lends him to mediocre numbers for his position at 14.1 PPG and 5.1 Rebs. If Morris can become more consistent in his high level play he will shoot up the rankings in years to come. – Jeremy

22. Evan Turner, Portland Trail Blazers

Ah Evan Turner, I once felt bizarrely threatened by the player selected one spot after Wall.  Six years later I’ve mostly gotten over my Wall-related insecurities—I can even appreciate other point guards now.  But I do get a little joy every time Wall crushes Turner.  I guess I should mention that even though the Blazers gave $70M to Turner we don’t know who the their starting small forward will be.  They also paid $75M to Allen Crabbe and $40M to Mo Harkless, who was the starter last year.  Of course that’s nothing compared to the $225M they’ve paid to their backcourt, CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard.  Anyway, Turner was effective as a creator off the bench for Boston and Terry Stotts might want to use him in a similar role. If that is the case the Blazers will have the most highly compensated backup wings in the league. – Charlie

23. P.J. Tucker, Phoenix Suns

It’s hard to believe Tucker has only been in Phoenix for 4 seasons.  It feels like he’s been a constant on the ever changing Suns roster, but I’m skeptical of his future on the squad.  I’d still love to see Devin Booker start at the 3, but Tucker has 40 lbs on him, so Booker may need to start at the 2, with Knight coming off the bench, or be the sixth man himself.  Some impressive notes on Tucker though:  Although, not getting a consistent opportunity until age 27, he has started 80% of his games in these four years in Phoenix, and his 35% three point shooting allows him to be considered a 3-and-D player.  In addition to Booker playing some minutes at SF, Tucker has TJ Warren clawing at him for minutes as well.  Luckily, his salary for next season was completely guaranteed on July 1st, meaning the Suns are serious about his role on the team. – Ryan

24. Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic

When Aaron Gordon was coming out of Arizona 3 years ago, I remember analysts and fans alike getting excited about the idea of him being the next Shawn Marion. His high motor paired with his freakish athleticism and strength for his size makes him seem like an ideal power forward for a team playing small ball. Unfortunately for Gordon, the Orlando Magic have been loaded up at the power forward spots since Gordon has joined the team forcing Gordon to take on a much less natural role for him on the wing. Gordon’s lack of ballhandling and shooting ability has held him back as a wing player. While Gordon certainly has time to develop these skills and become a more potent small forward, I still believe his full potential will be reached when he can be moved to the 4 spot. Whether it’s with the Magic or a different franchise will remain to be seen. – Jeremy

25. Justise Winslow, Miami Heat

Winslow was selected All-Rookie 2nd team last year because he played 28.6 minutes a game for the 48-win Heat.  He didn’t produce on the offensive end, averaging 6.4 points per game with an 8.4 PER, but he stayed on the court because of his defense.  He remained in Miami’s rotation in the playoffs and should have a much bigger role this year following the departure of Wade, Deng, and Joe Johnson. – Charlie

26. Andre Roberson, Oklahoma City Thunder

Roberson actually played pretty well in the playoffs this year, and with the departure of KD can move from the 2 guard to small forward.  His 6-7 frame can certainly guard 3s, although he could stand to add some weight to a 210 lb. body.  Any reasonable fan does have to wonder though how the Thunder will space the floor with a starting lineup of Russell Westbrook, Victor Oladipo, and Roberson.

27. Solomon Hill, New Orleans Pelicans

I assure you readers, I follow the NBA very closely. I pride myself in knowing back stories, histories, stats, and having strong opinions on even the most obscure NBA players. That being said I know a shockingly small amount about Solomon Hill. He had a promising sophomore campaign for the Pacers as he replaced Paul George in the starting lineup averaging 8.9 PPG and 3.8 Rebs that year in just under 30 minutes a game. Going to a new team as the starting SF for the New Orleans Pelicans I expect similar numbers which are far from impressive for a starter. It is unlikely he will benefit from a huge role on the Pelicans as Dante Cunningham and Tyreke Evans will both probably see a lot of minutes at Small Forward as well. – Jeremy

28. Wesley Johnson, Los Angeles Clippers

How have the Clippers seriously still not found a small forward?  This will be Chris Paul’s 6th year in Los Angeles and they’ve started a replacement level small forward every year.  I thought Paul Pierce would be that guy last year but he was very much not. Doc Rivers alternated between starting Luc Mbah a Moute, Pierce, Jeff Green, and Johnson on the wing, but would like to find a full-time starter.  I’m dubious Johnson can be that guy. – Charlie

29. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Brooklyn Nets

This is probably a fair ranking for RHJ, but undoubtedly he loses points for playing for the Nets, as every player thus far has.  Still, he’s only played 29 career games after missing much of the season, and will certainly have a chance to show off with Jeremy Lin and Brook Lopez the only two unquestioned starters ahead of him in the pecking order.  RHJ will mostly be asked to defend firstly, but as is usually the case, young players who show intensity and energy on defense will be rewarded on offense. – Ryan

30. Robert Covington, Philadelphia 76ers

I will tell the story of Robert Covington’s NBA career with an interlude to my own College Career. My sophomore season at Bard College was statistically my most impressive. I averaged close to 8 PPG and led the team in 3 pointers made. Some might look at those stats from a college sophomore and say “wow, hes gonna be pretty good by his senior year.” What Bard fans who followed the team more closely during that 2012 campaign would say is “Wow, this Bard team really sucks.” We were not competitive. Most of my points came when we were down 30 by halftime and I was freely launching threes against defenses that were giving 50% effort at best. I believe that the last two years for Robert Covington are similar to my sophomore season at Bard. He has numbers to argue he belongs much higher up this list as he averages around 13 PPG on close to 40% shooting behind the arc. The writers of this blog see however that these stats only come from games that don’t matter. As the 76ers get better in the next few years with their finally healthy young core I expect Covington’s role to diminish significantly or become non-existent. If Covington ever buries a three pointer late in the 4th quarter of the playoff game I will be the first time admit I was wrong… but I doubt that day will ever come. – Jeremy


Each Writer’s Individual Rankings

Charlie                        Ryan                            Jeremyscreen-shot-2016-09-06-at-6-17-16-pm

 

 

          

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