Alex Rikleen, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
Before we get into the 2017-18 small forward tiers, here are a few notes to keep in mind:
Overall, the tiers cover players projected to rank roughly among the top 120 overall. Within each tier, players are generally listed in the order in which they should be drafted. Of course, come draft night, team construction and roster constraints must be take into account.
Unless otherwise noted, players are listed only within the positions at which they are currently eligible in Yahoo Fantasy Basketball leagues. Tiers and season rankings are tailored to nine-category league settings.
Most players are ranked within the tiers at more than one position, rather than only their primary position, which is oftentimes arbitrary. Players who do not have multiple-position eligibility are denoted with an asterisk.
Tier I: Possible No. 1 Overall Picks
Antetokounmpo is currently eligible at power forward and small forward, but he could add point guard and shooting guard eligibility as the season goes on, a possibility that would increase his value even further. Durant has been a top-five player every year since his rookie season, and has achieved the top overall per game fantasy producer spot five times. Leonard has put together back-to-back top five seasons, and the new schedule changes by the NBA should reduce the number of late-season games he misses for rest.
Tier II: Top-15 Upside
There is a big gap between the top two small forward tiers. While the first tier featured possible first overall picks, this tier features guys who shouldn’t be considered until the start of the second round. These three players are directly impacted by the offseason’s three blockbuster trades, with Butler and George finding new homes, and James acquiring a new point guard and a backup who would start on almost any other team. When elite players change teams, there is often an adjustment period, during which stats could suffer. But all three of these players are top-15 NBA talents, and that will probably be reflected in their box scores by the end of the season – if not earlier.
Tier III: Foundational Building Blocks
Though unlikely to be the best player on a fantasy roster, all three of these could be the second-best on a championship squad. These powerhouses don’t kill you in any one area and can each carry a team in a specific category. Hayward is the least specialized of the three, but he is a near-elite free-throw shooter, and only four players who finished above him in fantasy scoring recorded fewer turnovers per game. Thompson is one of the best three-point shooters in the league, and he was one of the four to finish ahead of Hayward with fewer turnovers. Green is a defensive stalwart, who ranked third in the league in combined steals-plus-blocks per game.
There is a massive gulf between Tier III and Tier IV. In a standard 12-team draft, all of Tier III could go in the second round, while the first player from Tier IV isn’t taken until the late-fourth. If you want an elite option at small forward, you must grab a player from one of top three tiers.
Tier IV: Productive Veterans
With the exception of DeRozan, this tier consists of well-balanced players likely to see a ton of minutes. Minutes won’t be an issue for DeRozan, but he’s hardly balanced – almost all of his fantasy value comes from his scoring and free-throw shooting. His only major drawback is a near-complete lack of three-point production, and he provides merely replacement-level help in rebounds and steals.
Middleton stands out from this group as a player who could significantly outperform the rest of this group. He only saw action in 29 games last season while recovering from a torn hamstring, but he didn’t miss a beat when he returned in February.
Tier V: High-Risk, High-Reward
All eight players in this tier also carried power forward eligibility last season, so to avoid redundancy we won’t go into too much depth.
Just know that Tier V is home to a few players with concerning injury histories — Parker, Gallinari, Gay — as well as concerns about where they’ll fit in. Covington could end up as the odd man out of the starting five in Philadelphia — as could Crowder in Cleveland — though both players will play significant roles, regardless of whether they start.
Barnes and Anthony are perhaps the two safest options, though neither offers much outside of scoring production and average rebounding.
Tier VI: Still Unproven
Markieff Morris, Wizards
Andrew Wiggins, Timberwolves
These two don’t have much in common, other than that they should be drafted between tiers five and seven. Wiggins still possesses seemingly unlimited potential but is yet to post a top-100 fantasy season in his three-year career. He’s likely to repeat as one of the league-leaders in minutes, and that alone should warrant optimism. If these two share anything, it is an expectation for significant playing time, as Morris averaged 31.2 minutes per game last season, and the Wizards’ bench looks to have only gotten worse.
Tier VII: Low-end Starters
Marvin Williams, Hornets
Thad Young, Pacers
Josh Richardson, Heat*
Taurean Prince, Hawks*
Young and Prince are preseason favorites to emerge as “good stats/bad team” guys. Young has already shown his strength in this area as a member of the 76ers and Nets, while Prince will be a newcomer to the role. Richardson and Williams are good players with strong, fantasy-friendly games, but both face a rotation that appears far more crowded now than it did in April.
Richardson and Prince carry an additional drawback – they’re two of only a handful of players without eligibility at multiple positions. Richardson has a better chance at adding shooting guard than Prince has at adding any second eligibility.
Tier XIII: Question Marks with Upside
We’re past the point where teams are likely to grab a fantasy stud, so this tier is all about players who should have enough opportunity to make an impact.
Gordon and Fournier will be staples in the Magic’s starting lineup, but Fournier may have reached his ceiling, while Gordon has been up-and-down while shuffling between both forward spots. The arrival of No. 6 overall pick Jonathan Isaac could once again force Gordon to play out of position, at times.
Tier IX: Low-end Roster Filler
Wesley Matthews, Mavericks
T.J. Warren, Suns
Ersan Ilyasova, Hawks
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Nets
Joe Ingles, Jazz
Tim Hardaway, Jr., Knicks
Kent Bazemore, Hawks
Jayson Tatum, Celtics*
Rodney Hood, Jazz
Late in the draft, managers should be looking for upside – after all, most of these players are likely to be waiver fodder after a few weeks.
These players have some potential to earn a longer stay on fantasy rosters. Most are draft-worthy, though none inspire a ton of confidence. The top group has more upside than the bottom group, as you’d expect. A more conservative approach to the end of the draft would result in a noticeably different ordering of these 14 players.
Tier X: The Rest
Wilson Chandler, Nuggets
Dion Waiters, Heat
Brandon Ingram, Lakers
Will Barton, Nuggets
Jaylen Brown, Celtics
Josh Jackson, Suns