Who are your top five small forwards for the upcoming 2022-2023 season?
This is based on how they played this season and how I think they will do next year. There also may be a player on here who you don’t think is a small forward; either because of ESPN’s depth chart, or I’ve used them in a different position ranking. Keep in mind this is also before the draft or free agency:
30: Josh Primo, San Antonio Spurs
Another low ranking for the Spurs, but that happens when you aren’t very good. They also have many forwards/guards who move around a lot, so Primo got the selection. He is pretty athletic, with solid defense so he could turn into a good player in a few years. But for now, he hits bottom.
29: Jarrett Culver, Minnesota Timberwolves
Culver was an absolute superstar at Texas Tech for the Red Raiders. So good, he was worthy of the sixth pick in the 2019 draft. Culver is a highly talented guard with solid defense and good athleticism. He is still young, so he has time to grow with this young Timberwolves squad. But in terms of small forwards, he ranks towards the bottom.
28: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Washington Wizards
Pope has always been more of a role player. He gets the edge over the previous two’s because he is a certified role player. The other two still lack the experience or notoriety that he has. Pope has also been a consistent shooter and won a ring with the Lakers two years ago.
27: Danny Green, Philadelphia 76ers
This man has had the same role for every team he plays his entire career. Whether it was with the Spurs, Raptors, and now 76ers, he has always shot the long ball. He has a near 40 percent average from there, his best coming in 2019 with Toronto where he shot 45 percent. But Green is getting old. He only averaged six points last year. I think his time in the NBA is coming to an end.
26: Luguentz Dort, Oklahoma City Thunder
A few people may be perplexed on why Dort is so far down this list. He is a solid defender and a good shooter, but his game lacks many vital elements outside of that. He lacks playmaking, he can’t dribble all too well, and his general basketball IQ isn’t anything to write about. he will get better with time, but he stays down here for now.
25: Isaac Okoro, Cleveland Cavaliers
Okoro is a very similar player to Dort in how they play. But as a small forward, he plays incredibly smart. His perception of the court is almost on the level of his teammate, Darius Garland. He is also a strong defender and contains a shot. However, he will continue to grow and is one of my favorite breakout candidates next year.
24: Harrison Barnes, Sacramento Kings
Where do I start with Mr.Barnes? He is a decent scorer sometimes when he knows how to play basketball. He can’t shoot consistently; from what we’ve seen, he isn’t a very good leader. He is also a defensive liability and should not be eating up nearly as much cap space as he is. Barnes should have been traded instead of Hield.
23: Reggie Bullock, Dallas Mavericks
Bullock is another borderline small forward, but he makes a list because that’s where he played most of the season. Bullock got traded and did decently in his time so far with Dallas. He isn’t a top contributor but has been a solid role player. He also had a decent role in the Mavericks’ success this season.
22: Herbert Jones, New Orleans Pelicans
He got his chance to shine after they traded for CJ McCollum and slammed it out of the park. Jones was excellent this past year as he came out of nowhere and proved to be one of the best defenders in all of the NBA. If Zion Williamson loses some weight, Ingram can stay healthy, and Jose Alvarado progresses, this Pelicans team will be scary for years to come.
21: Buddy Hield, Indiana Pacers
I like Hield from his time at Oklahoma; he was a star. A star bright enough to get drafted with the sixth pick back in 2016. But sadly, he has never truly lived up to the hype he received. He is an excellent shooter, with the potential to shoot 40 percent from beyond the arc every year, but he hasn’t done that, and his window for greatness is closing.
20: Franz Wagner, Orlando Magic
The former Michigan standout had a very productive year on a not-so-effective team. As the team’s starting small forward for most of the season, he averaged 15, 5, and 3 assists. He also stands at an insane 6’10, unheard of at the small forward spot. This Magic team has a lot of potential in the future, and he will be a vital part of that.
19: Josh Hart, Portland Trailblazers
Hart is another player forced into a forward role this year who had not played it. Hart got sent to Portland in the trade that sent CJ McCollum to New Orleans. In a loaded backcourt with Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons, it was clear he wouldn’t be able to play there. So, he moved. He averaged 20 points, five rebounds, and four assists—an excellent season.
18: Saddiq Bey, Detroit Pistons
It felt like Bey came out of nowhere for a struggling Pistons team and just performed. This past season, he averaged 16 points, five rebounds, and three assists. The thing that separates him and Hart is his incredible defensive presence. It seems he can go out and lock down some of the best players reasonably consistently. If Detroit keeps him, they could be scary.
17: Gordon Hayward, Charlotte Hornets
This name has lost some fear to it, in the sense that he used to scare opponents. Hayward used to be an elite scorer for the Jazz and Celtics but was bombarded entirely with injuries that sadly derailed his career. He has done a solid job repairing it in Charlotte but still deals with injury concerns. But now, he is mainly a mentor to the young core growing in Charlotte.
16: Michael Porter Jr., Denver Nuggets
This will have some people up in arms, but it must be done. I can’t put MPJ any higher due to inconsistency. He is constantly injured, and you never know what you’ll get when he is on the court. He is talented and very well-rounded, but he can’t be top ten yet. His comparison to me is Grant Hill. For more than just one reason.
15: Eric Gordon, Houston Rockets
As I’m typing this, the Rockets have decided to try and trade the veteran. He averaged 13 points for the Rockets this past season while shooting 41 percent from three, but it is clear it won’t work anymore. The Rockets just have too loaded of a roster there to keep him. There is also a good chance they draft Paolo Banchero, and that is where he’d slide in.
14: Deandre Hunter, Atlanta Hawks
Hunter was a high-profile college player who immediately went from winning the NCAA tournament straight to the NBA. He possesses length, incredible defense, and a very consistent shot. All are attractive enough to be selected with the fourth overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft. He is working with a relatively young Hawks team, so with growth, who knows how far this team can go.
13: Evan Fournier, New York Knicks
This is another reasonably complex player to rank due to flashes. The Frenchmen is a good option but should never be the first, except on some nights, it looks like he could be. He averaged 14, 3, and 2 this past season for the Knicks but it’s unsure where he will be playing next year. By no means is he bad, but he is not quite elite. Hence why he is here.
12: Bojan Bogdanovic, Utah Jazz
A very unspoken about player who deserves more recognition: Bogdanovic averaged 18-4-2 this season for the Jazz, and it shows. For the past three seasons, he has been the only trustworthy source of consistency for them outside of Donovan Mitchell. Rudy Gobert has been very inconsistent, and Bojan has been a massive part of keeping the Jazz afloat during those times.
11: Mikal Bridges, Phoenix Suns
An almost prototype small forward, and it shows with his brother as well. He is exceptionally lanky and a great defender for the position. He is also a solid shooter and would fit nicely into almost every offense. He was a crucial part of the Suns the past few seasons, of course being the small forward for the year they made the finals. His future is uncertain, though, as no one knows what will happen.
10: Dillon Brooks, Memphis Grizzlies
The man who became a menace this postseason. He had a hard foul on Andrew Wiggins in the second round and was dubbed as such. Outside of that, the forward has been excellent for the Grizzlies during his career so far. He averaged 18-3-3 this past season as he was a top contributor to a team that made it to the second round, before losing to the future champion Warriors. Regardless of his status, he has a bright future in the league.
9: OG Anunoby, Toronto Raptors
It has been a slow grind, but OG has developed into an awesome starting small forward for the Raptors. He averaged 17 points, five rebounds, and three assists to go along with one and a half steals per game. He was also very good in the playoffs when matched on James Harden although they did lose the series. He is in Toronto for a while, and he should only get better.
8: Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks
Talk about another developmental player. This small forward got the ultimate trust in him, and it paid off. This past season, he averaged 20-5-5 for the Bucks. He did end up getting injured and missing the Boston series, which likely the bucks would have won with him playing. The multiple-time all-star has been great for the Bucks and should hopefully stay that way.
7: Andrew Wiggins, Golden State Warriors
This was probably the most significant rise of the season. There is one more man who has jumped drastically, but it was expected; this was a shocker to everyone. Coming to the league, everyone knew Wiggins had the potential. Of course, he was called the “Maple Mamba” but struggled for a while. He could never get it right in Minnesota, but it clicked in Golden State. He finally put it all together and helped the Warriors win a title. Hopefully, he keeps it up next year.
6: DeMar DeRozan, Chicago Bulls
This is another almost surprise this past season. After he was traded to San Antonio in the Kawhi Leonard trade, it looked like his career was over. He wouldn’t return to being a star or his team being competitive. Then, he went to Chicago. He averaged 28 points to go with five assists and five rebounds a night. He suddenly was back in the Playoffs, and then he was in the MVP conversation. He has earned his rank on this list.
5: Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat
Speaking of Chicago and earning it, we get to Jimmy Butler. Butler may be one of the funniest and hardest-working guys in the NBA. He is also very damn good. So good he took his young team to the finals back in 2020. But his best attribute is his work ethic. It’s so good; he is insulted when other players are wrong. Let’s remember when he wanted out of Minnesota. So he beat the starting five with bench scrubs, walked out, and yelled, “trade me.” That is legendary.
4: Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers
For the sake of his career and every young fan, I hope he comes back and plays the way he did. The robotic man is a monster when on the court. Sadly, he didn’t get to touch it this year as he was out for all of it. In 2021, he averaged 25 points, seven rebounds, and five assists to go along with a steal and a half. When he plays, there is not a player he can’t guard. I hope he comes back healthy.
3: Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
Was it expected he’d be this high after the playoffs? Absolutely. He and the entire Celtics team had an abysmal first half of the season. So bad they weren’t in the playoff picture at the all-star break. But he turned it up, averaging over 30 points a game in the second half. He played so well he took his team to the finals before falling to the Golden State Warriors. Tatum has a bright future for him. But he’s got to chill with the Kobe Bryant stuff.
2: Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets
The greatest scorer to ever live, and it isn’t particularly close. No one can guard him in all of history. This season, he averaged 30 points per game, seven rebounds, and six assists. The only thing you could have asked more out of him for was a better playoff, but that wasn’t his fault. He played exceptionally, but the Nets were outcoached and had far worse depth. The small forward could only do so much.
1: LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
He is the greatest player ever to live, proving it this season. He played in 56 games, and in those games, he averaged 30 points, eight rebounds, and six assists without his second-best player majority of the time. LeBron was also close to another MVP and scoring title; if it were based on average, it would have gone to him. You can only argue that he didn’t make the playoffs. But while it is true, his second option most of the year was Malik Monk. LeBron is the best small forward still, at age 37.