RotoExperts Draft Kit: Top 25 Small Forwards

Durant edges LeBron as the NBA's top flag football player

From the RotoExperts 2011-12 NBA Draft Kit

These rankings were written on Dec. 16 and published a day later. Derrick Williams is flying up draft boards, while Corey Maggette has been available late. Andrei Kirilenko’s future remains cloudy; rumors persist that he will sign with New Jersey but nothing is official yet. Austin Daye looked strong in the Pistons’ first exhibition game and has more upside than Tayshaun Prince. Watch that situation closely. 

Positional eligibility is important to consider when building your Fantasy basketball team. The top sites usually vary in terms of positional leniency, and the games played at a position is much foggier than in, say, Fantasy Baseball. For the purposes of the RotoExperts Top 25 positional rankings, we limited players to one list only; namely, the position they play most of the time. Under these circumstances, the small forward position is very top-heavy, with stars like LeBron James and Kevin Durant heading the list. The talent drops off significantly, so it is crucial that, depending on your league’s positional rules, you check to see what shooting guards and power forwards could also slot into your SF spot.

In general, drafting based on positional depth is a solid strategy, and true small forwards and true centers are in shorter supply this season than the three other positions. It’s just something to keep in mind while you are drafting; it might be a good idea to get one of the top SFs on this list before it’s too late.

The following rankings are based on a nine-category, head-to-head league format (PTS, REB, AST, STL, BLK, 3FG, FG%, FT%, TO), using Yahoo!’s positional eligibility. We break down players into tiers as well to help you organize them within your overall cheat sheets. These rankings take into account not just stat projections, but injury risk, competition for minutes and other intangibles.

ROTOEXPERTS.COM SMALL FORWARD RANKINGS

TIER 1

1. Kevin Durant, OKC

Projected Stats: 28.6 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 2.7 APG, 2.0 3FG, 1.1 SPG, 1.0 BPG, 2.9 TO, 46.5 FG%, 89.6 FT%

He’s Fantasy Basketball’s 1A to LeBron’s 1B. Who you choose comes down to, perhaps, personal preference (do you dislike rooting for LeBron because of “The Decision”?) or, if you are a cold and calculating Fantasy player, or league format. In rotisserie scoring, Durant is the clear No. 1 overall pick because of his incredible free throw percentage at such a high volume. In H2H formats, it is more of a toss-up. Durant turns it over less than LeBron, has that better free throw percentage, and even bests him in blocks. He’s also easier to root for. There’s your tiebreaker!

2. LeBron James, MIA

Projected Stats: 27.0 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 6.9 APG, 1.3 3FG, 1.6 SPG, 0.7 BPG, 3.5 TO, 48.9 FG%, 76.2 FT%

Those are still some stupendous numbers. James gives you a solid foundation in nearly every category, which is all you can ask for from the No. 2 overall pick.

TIER 2

3. Carmelo Anthony, NYK

Projected Stats: 27.8 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 2.9 APG, 1.7 3FG, 0.8 SPG, 0.5 BPG, 2.6 TO, 45.3 FG%, 86.4 FT%

Anthony has always been a bit overrated in Fantasy circles because of his lack of defensive stats. This season, playing a full year in Mike D’Antoni’s system, he could challenge for the league scoring title. He’s adding threes to his repertoire and already provides great free throw value. Melo is a clear second-round pick, and the perfect complement to a first-round point guard like Chris Paul or Deron Williams.

4. Rudy Gay, MEM

Projected Stats: 19.0 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.1 3FG, 1.6 SPG, 1.0 BPG, 2.5 TO, 47.5 FG%, 79.8 FT%

Gay brings a ton to the table; he’s like a poor man’s Durant, scoring and rebounding less but providing at least a three, steal and block per game. Before his injury last year, Gay was one of the very best players in Fantasy, and there’s no reason to believe that won’t continue to be the case.

5. Danny Granger, IND

Projected Stats: 21.2 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 2.6 APG, 2.2 3FG, 1.2 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 2.5 TO, 43.2 FG%, 85.1 FT%

Granger stumbled en route to his worst Fantasy season in years, so he may turn out to be a little undervalued in drafts. Going by these projections, he is neck-and-neck with Gay and a solid option late in the second round. There are a few more question marks surrounding Granger, however. He has shown an inability to stay healthy, and his field goal percentage is always his albatross. There should also be concern about his role. WithDavid West in town, the Pacers might not need Granger to score as much. Be prepared for more muted offensive numbers.

TIER 3

6. Paul Pierce, BOS

Projected Stats: 18.4 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.5 3FG, 1.0 SPG, 0.5 BPG, 2.2 TO, 48.4 FG%, 85.0 FT%

He’s getting up there in age, always a concern in a 66-game schedule like the one upcoming, but Pierce’s overall numbers are too good to just write him off. While he’s a better roto player than H2H, thanks to those percentages, he sprinkles in solid stats in most categories while keeping his turnovers down to a reasonable number compared to his peers. The Celtics’ roster hasn’t changed enough to envision Pierce not continuing to be their go-to scorer.

7. Andre Iguodala, PHI

Projected Stats: 15.1 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 5.6 APG, 0.8 3FG, 1.4 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 2.1 TO, 44.4 FG%, 71.0 FT%

Iggy remains a great Fantasy player but he is what he is at this point. He’s not going to overachieve and average 20 points or 2-plus steals anymore. That’s okay. He provides solid third-round value if you can handle the less-than-stellar percentages. Iguodala is like having another point guard on your team. Keep in mind he is a candidate to get moved at the deadline as the Sixers will want to open up playing time for Evan Turner while trying to improve their big men.

8. Gerald Wallace, POR

Projected Stats: 15.4 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.0 3FG, 1.6 SPG, 0.9 BPG, 2.2 TO, 48.3 FG%, 74.6 FT%

Despite the myriad of wing players on Portland, Wallace was a great fit upon his trade to Rip City last season. He’s locked in as the starter here at small forward, and could even see run at the ‘4’ spot if the Blazers play a small lineup. If Wallace stays healthy, he could return excellent value as a well-rounded fourth-round pick capable of a 3-pointer, steal and block per game.

TIER 4

9. Dorell Wright, GSW

Projected Stats: 14.2 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 2.8 APG, 2.0 3FG, 1.4 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 1.5 TO, 43.9 FG%, 80.0 FT%

Be very careful here. Wright had a career year last season, putting up incredible numbers for the first time ever. Golden State has a new coach and likely a new system that could result in less possessions per game for the Warriors thanks to a more deliberate style. Wright should continue to see all the minutes he can handle, but rookie Klay Thompsoncould start eating into his playing time if Thompson is as good as advertised. Reaching for Wright based on last year’s numbers is not recommended.

10. Danilo Gallinari, DEN

Projected Stats: 16.0 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.9 3FG, 0.8 SPG, 0.5 BPG, 1.6 TO, 42.0 FG%, 83.3 FT%

All signs are pointing up on Gallinari, who will play big minutes for a Nuggets team that won’t have Wilson Chandler until March, if at all. Gallinari is more than a three-point bomber as well; he takes the ball to the rim with more authority now and getting to the line with greater regularity is only going to make him more valuable.

11. Luol Deng, CHI

Projected Stats: 16.8 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.3 3FG, 1.0 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 1.8 TO, 46.4 FG%, 75.0 FT%

Deng is simply a solid all-around player who should put up predictable numbers for Chicago this season. He’s also the last of the strong small forwards on this list, so if you are in a draft and he’s the last option left for your empty SF spot, you might want to jump on him.

TIER 5

12. Trevor Ariza, NOR

Projected Stats: 12.1 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.4 3FG, 1.8 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 1.8 TO, 39.1 FG%, 69.7 FT%

Ariza is a Fantasy specialist, and one you have to have a plan for if you draft him. If you have constructed a team of good shooters from both the field and the line, you can afford to add Ariza to your squad if you need steals and threes. There’s some concern for the new-look Hornets lineup and Al-Farouq Aminu stealing playing time from Ariza. A more likely scenario is that Ariza anchors the small forward position for New Orleans and provides a secondary offensive option alongside Eric Gordon. It isn’t always pretty with Ariza, but he does enough to help Fantasy teams.

13. Caron Butler, LAC

Projected Stats: 14.5 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.1 3FG, 1.3 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 2.0 TO, 44.9 FG%, 80.2 FT%

Butler finds himself in an ideal situation from a Fantasy perspective, alone at the small forward spot for a Clippers team now run by Chris Paul at the point. Butler won’t be able to corral many rebounds next to Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, but he will be able to focus on defense and spot scoring, making him an intriguing middle-round selection. As always with Butler, his knack for getting hurt should weigh on the mind of any Fantasy owners feeling optimistic on draft day.

14. Nicolas Batum, POR

Projected Stats: 12.3 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.7 3FG, 1.1 SPG, 0.7 BPG, 1.4 TO, 44.7 FG%, 84.6 FT%

There’s a lot to like about Batum from a Fantasy standpoint. He fills up the box score with steady if unspectacular numbers. In the middle rounds of your draft, you could do much worse. The red flag with Batum is his opportunity. Coming off the bench behind Wallace is his likely role, and now the team added Jamal Crawford. There are only so many stats to go around, and Batum might end up too inconsistent an option from game to game.

TIER 6

15. Derrick Williams, MIN

Projected Stats: 13.6 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.3 3FG, 1.0 SPG, 0.7 BPG, 2.1 APG, 46.5 FG%, 73.7 FT%

The No. 2 overall pick in the NBA Draft last year, Williams has the talent to win Rookie of the Year – but he doesn’t quite have the clear path to 35 minutes a game. Alas, Williams is stuck behind Michael Beasley on the T-Wolves depth chart as part of GM David Kahn’s plan to have two or three clones of the same player at every position. As you can see from our optimistic projections, Williams is capable of nice things in the box score. Keep a close eye on him; you’ll want him on your team when he breaks out.

16. Corey Maggette, CHA

Projected Stats: 17.8 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 2.1 APG, 0.6 3FG, 0.4 SPG, 0.1 BPG, 2.4 TO, 44.3 FG%, 84.1 FT%

Casual players might wonder how a potential 18-point scorer like Maggette could fall so far on our list. Casual player, meet Corey Maggette. He’s the J.D. Drew of Fantasy hoops, never able to stay on the court for more than a few games at a time. In the upcoming 66-game grueling schedule, Maggette will be lucky to play in 45 contests. The Bobcats do plan to run their offense around him, which I assume means having four players stand in one spot while Maggette puts his head down, drives and tries to get fouled. Who said basketball in Charlotte won’t be exciting? In the games Maggette does play, he’ll put up some mouth-watering 13-for-14 free throw games, and not much else.

17. Chase Budinger, HOU

Projected Stats: 13.1 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.4 3FG, 0.6 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 1.1 TO, 43.9 FG%, 86.1 FT%

Budinger follows in the footsteps of J.R. Smith, a player who can leap out of the building but makes their living as a three-point specialist in the NBA. You gotta love a long-range bomber who can throw down an alley-oop with the best of them. Budinger is still finding himself at the pro level, but he certainly has a chance to take a huge step this year. The problem is that he remains the fourth or fifth option among the starting five, and his value lies in threes and not much else. We’d love to see Budinger become a more well-rounded guy this year, but are holding off anointing him an every-week Fantasy starter until we see it with our own eyes.

18. Carlos Delfino, MIL

Projected Stats: 9.8 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.7 3FG, 1.4 SPG, 0.1 BPG, 1.1 TO, 40.9 FG%, 81.2 FT%

It hasn’t been the best offseason for Delfino as the Bucks have added Stephen Jackson and Mike Dunleavy, two players who are likely to play legitimate rotation minutes. Delfino is still holding on to his starting small forward job for now, but just playing alongside Jackson and Brandon Jennings will limit his touches. Delfino is still a nice Fantasy option because he hits threes and provides steals, but there are too many wild cards here to count on him outside of deeper leagues.

19. Andrei Kirilenko, TBA

Projected Stats: 10.9 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 2.4 APG, 0.4 3FG, 1.1 SPG, 1.4 BPG, 1.6 TO, 47.1 FG%, 75.2 FT%

Kirilenko has done his thing over the last four years, playing around 30 minutes a game for the Jazz and averaging between 11 and 12 points, around five boards and over a steal and block per game. This year’s a bit different; as of this writing, Kirilenko doesn’t have a home. The free agent is playing in Russia and making enough coin in his home nation that he can afford to be picky about coming back to the NBA. He’s been linked to New Jersey, which actually wouldn’t be a bad fit for him. We’re prepared to move Kirilenko up or down based on where he ends up, but until we know something – and that could be well after the season starts – he’s best left as a late-round flier.

20. Hedo Turkoglu, ORL

Projected Stats: 10.5 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 4.4 APG, 1.4 3FG, 0.8 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 1.7 TO, 44.3 FG%, 71.8 FT%

Does Turkoglu have anything left? He turns 33 this year and has a bad contract. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him shipped out somewhere else if the Magic blow things up. Right now he’s just a forward who hits a few threes and can pick up assists. Certainly nothing to get excited about.

TIER 7

21. Tayshaun Prince, DET

Projected Stats: 13.5 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 2.9 APG, 0.4 3FG, 0.5 SPG, 0.5 BPG, 1.1 TO, 47.9 FG%, 71.1 FT%

Prince re-signing with the Pistons was one of the more dumbfounding developments of the last couple of weeks. He signed a four-year deal, no less, on a team that should be trying to free up playing time for the talented Austin Daye. Both players will produce, perhaps in a platoon-type situation, but Prince is going to start and be who he is: a below-average offensive and defensive statistical performer who limits his turnovers.

22. C.J. Miles, UTA

Projected Stats: 13.3 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1.5 3FG, 1.0 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 1.3 TO, 42.2 FG%, 79.0 FT%

With the departure of Kirilenko, and Raja Bell another year older, Miles was looking like a great sleeper going into this season. But the Jazz had to go and sign Josh Howard, clouding everything. Miles will probably be in a four-way time-share with Howard, Bell and Gordon Hayward, and that’s assuming rookie Alec Burks isn’t ready to crack the rotation yet. Miles is the most explosive of the bunch, and he should still put up nice overall numbers. Expect him to be streaky in getting there.

23. Grant Hill, PHX

Projected Stats: 12.5 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 2.5 APG, 0.5 3FG, 0.7 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 1.6 TO, 47.8 FG%, 81.7 FT%

The Suns brought Hill back for another year, and with good reason. He still has plenty left in the tank. As a Fantasy player, however, Hill leaves a lot to be desired. He’s efficient, sure, but he isn’t going to win you any championships. In deep leagues, he’s not a terrible choice to plug into your lineup. Expect the 39-year-old Hill to struggle with the schedule this season, and lose some minutes to Jared Dudley and Shannon Brown.

24. John Salmons, SAC

Projected Stats: 11.8 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.0 3FG, 0.9 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 1.5 TO, 42.8 FG%, 80.7 FT%

Salmons had success earlier in his career in Sacramento, but now that the Kings have Tyreke EvansMarcus ThorntonJimmer Fredette and even Francisco Garcia around to vulture playing time, not to mention several bigs who need touches, Salmons is a long shot to be a great Fantasy play.

25. Shawn Marion, DAL

Projected Stats: 11.8 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 1.4 APG, 0.1 3FG, 0.9 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 1.5 TO, 50.9 FG%, 75.6 FT%

The Matrix no longer fills up the stat sheet on a consistent basis, and while he provides Dallas with solid real-world value, he’s a hail mary in Fantasy drafts. With Lamar Odomnow in town to steal minutes from Marion, things are looking bleaker than ever for him. Let someone else draft the 33-year-old.

On the bubble: Paul George, IND; Rashard Lewis, WAS; Jan Vesely, WAS; Metta World Peace, LAL

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