Position Primer: Small Forward

Justin Phan
Yahoo Sports

Position Primers: PG | SG | SF | FC

There’s plenty to like at the small forward position, starting right at the top with the 1-2 of LeBron James and Kevin Durant. That pairing will give you a pretty good idea of what to expect as you scan through this list - a melting pot of shooting guard and power forward eligible players who offer diverse skill sets and a wide range of statistical contributions. You’ll find your scorers (Granger, Gay, Johnson, DeRozan), your rebounders (Smith, Wallace, Odom), your distributors (Iguodala, Diaw, Turkoglu), and a little bit of everything in between.

By way of Basketball Monster, here’s a projection of the value distribution for the top 30 small forwards this season:

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Position averages, top 25 small forwards in year-end Yahoo! rank
10-11 - 46% FG, 79 FT%, 1.3 3PM, 15.7 PTS, 5.7 REB, 2.7 AST, 1.8 TO, 1.1 STL, 0.7 BLK
09-10 - 46% FG, 81% FT, 1.2 3PM, 18.2 PTS, 5.8 REB, 2.9 AST, 2.1 TO, 1.2 STL, 0.6 BLK

The rankings below are for nine-category roto leagues. “ADP” numbers are as of 12/19 and “10-11” denotes a player’s year-end rank from the 2010-11 season

Tier 1 10-11 ADP NOTES
LeBron James 4 2.2 Will miss out on elite PGs at the 1-2 turn; LBJ's 7 APG becomes crucial
Kevin Durant 1 1.4 Best value on the board, but lack of dimes means you're reaching later
Tier 2 10-11 ADP NOTES
Carmelo Anthony 21 16.1 Is 42% 3PT sustainable? Added threes catapult him into first round
Tier 3 10-11 ADP NOTES
Gerald Wallace 53 26.0 Dramatic improvement in Portland; will thrive in new up-tempo system
Josh Smith 27 21.9 Dominant defensive force; shot selection only thing holding him back
Rudy Gay 61 23.7 One of two to average one steal/block/three; top-10 value before injury
Paul Pierce 8 31.0 Has only gotten better with age; only Celtic who can create his own shot
Manu Ginobili 12 34.8 Burden shifts to Spurs backcourt to carry load as Duncan declines
Tier 4 10-11 ADP NOTES
Danny Granger 26 24.5 Loses even more looks with additions of West, Hill; efficiency drag
Dorell Wright 15 30.0 Managed 3000+ minutes, more than previous three seasons combined
Andre Iguodala 74 42.3 Point forward transformation complete; needs to attack the basket more
Danilo Gallinari 78 59.7 Buying the breakout; deadly 3PT shooter also led all SF's in FTA/FGA
Tier 5 10-11 ADP NOTES
Luol Deng 44 52.7 Finally took that extra step back, converting inefficient long twos to threes
Joe Johnson 99 49.0 3PT% will normalize, but Iso Joe in decline and poor fit for motion offense
Jason Richardson 39 62.5 Mostly a catch-and-shoot 3PT shooter now, which is fine given 40% mark
Wesley Matthews 37 71.6 Jack of all trades on offense; Crawford signing poses no imminent threat
Tier 6 10-11 ADP NOTES
Lamar Odom 34 65.9 Career-highs in FG%, 3PT% will regress; versatility will be huge for DAL
Nicolas Batum 51 98.5 Still waiting on the breakout; won't happen if he remains overly passive
DeMar DeRozan 84 80.7 His ceiling is lower than you'd think with such a limited all-around game
Boris Diaw 66 97.4 Led all PF's in pure point rating; will get all the minutes he can handle
Tier 7 10-11 ADP NOTES
Tony Allen 95 81.1 Led the league in steal rate; avg'd 2.9 spg, 0.9 bpg in 29 mpg as a starter
Thaddeus Young 68 126.2 Only 23 and still plenty of room for growth; avg'd 11.6 pts per 40 at rim
Chase Budinger 136 113.4 Starting gig, bulk of minutes now his; productive after Battier deadline deal
Tier 8 10-11 ADP NOTES
Hedo Turkoglu 71 84.2 Still deadly off the catch from deep; 2nd amongst SF's in pure point rating
Paul George 182 119.3 So much untapped potential here; has the ability to fill up a stat sheet
C.J. Miles 98 95.2 Scores at high rate, but needs to cut down threes (32%), long twos (37%)
Stephen Jackson 107 80.7 Spare yourself the headache; unhappy w/ contract, back/hammy injuries
Jared Dudley 72 88.3 Outlook clouded by return of Hill, but still has sneaky multi-cat potential
Antawn Jamison 132 79.1 Want no part of him, but dearth of scorers in CLE keeps him relevant
Carlos Delfino 148 103.8 Combination of threes and steals is hard to beat; willing and able passer
Caron Butler 264 118.3 Lands in a favorable situation, but 31 and coming off a serious knee injury
Trevor Ariza 103 118.8 1.6 spg keeps him relevant; shot just 30% on threes, 26% on long twos
Corey Maggette 231 120.3 See: Jamison, Antawn
Andrei Kirilenko 87 116.4 Worth speculating on in case he ends up in NJ; plenty of AST/REB/BLK
Tier 9 10-11 ADP NOTES
Nick Young 133 93.1 Points, threes largely negated by minus- efficiency; too one-dimensional
Anthony Morrow 163 118.2 Three-point specialist will thrive playing alongside Deron Williams
Shawn Marion 69 136.1 Evolved into post-up threat; posted highest FG% since '06-07 season
Landry Fields 62 131.7 If he can recapture that first half magic, well worth the investment here
Grant Hill 79 142.1 Plenty of mileage left at 39; all-around game highlighted by efficiency
Austin Daye 178 96.6 Inexplicable return of Prince a major buzzkill, but still value to be had
Derrick Williams N/A 123.5 Inability to guard opposing SF's limits him to PF, where Love resides
Michael Beasley 127 88.3 Undeniable scoring talent, but does nothing else; total headcase too
Rashard Lewis, John Salmons, Mike Dunleavy, Wes Johnson, Gordon Hayward, Ersan Ilyasova, Jonas Jerebko, Richard Hamilton, Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson, Marvin Williams, Shane Battier
Matt Barnes, Carl Landry, Shawne Williams, James Johnson, Shannon Brown, Omri Casspi, Evan Turner, Thabo Sefolosha
Players to Target

Danilo Gallinari – The line of thinking with Gallinari is similar to that of Arron Afflalo. Both will be asked to step into expanded offensive roles this season with Wilson Chandler and J.R. Smith bound to their CBA contracts, and both have progressed enough on that end for me to buy into a breakout. For Gallinari, it’s his newfound ability to draw fouls at an incredible rate – one that led all small forwards. He took his free throw attempt per field goal attempt ratio from 1:3 to 3:5, nearly doubling it in just one season. One thing to keep an eye on is his three-point percentage, which fell for the second straight year. If it slides below 35 percent, Gallo will become an awfully one-dimensional scoring threat as his mid- range jumpers (30 percent) aren’t falling either.

Wesley Matthews – When the Blazers signed him to a five-year $34 million deal last summer, they were thought to have overpaid for a role player who was merely a spot -up shooter with the ability to defend multiple positions. Looking back now just one year removed, they might’ve gotten a bargain. Matthews has grown into a potent scorer – averaging just short of a point every two minutes – who can score in a variety of ways, whether it be off cuts, coming off screens, or in isolation situations. There’s still breakout potential here, even with the recent signing of Jamal Crawford.

Hedo Turkoglu / Boris Diaw – This is more about categorical scarcity than any sort of feigned optimism that either one will suddenly change course and have a standout season. The going gets tough in the mid-to-late rounds for those looking for some help in the assists department, and having Turkoglu and Diaw there as safety valves affords you the option of not extending yourself too far to reach for a point guard while getting the requisite help (4-5 assists per game) needed to stay competitive in the category.

Players to Avoid

Danny Granger - In years past he’s been able to get away with a workload usually reserved for superstars (~20 shots a game, ~30 percent of total possessions), but now that the Pacers have actually added legitimate talent around him (West, Collison, Hill, Hibbert), that simply won't happen anymore. Granger is still the team’s de facto first option, but the upgrade from Josh McRoberts to David West at power forward alone will cost him a few looks. For a player more reliant on volume than he would lead you to believe, and one who managed a -2.6 pure point rating as a catch-and-shoot option, this certainly doesn't bode well for his value.

Joe Johnson – His decline didn’t come as much of a shocker, considering his isolation-heavy style didn’t exactly mesh with Larry Drew’s newly installed motion offense. Johnson saw his three-point percentage dip by more than seven percent, a statistical anomaly that should normalize and add an extra point per 40 minutes to his scoring average. With that said, his best days are behind him, and he's already shown signs of decline as he enters his 30s. Johnson struggles to consistently get by defenders nowadays, and when his jump shot is no longer falling, there isn’t a whole lot for him to fall back on.

Dorell Wright - Let me be clear: last season was no fluke. Wright did, more or less, what he had been doing for most of his career – this time with added minutes and volume. And that’s where I’m a bit skeptical. He’s had durability issues from the get-go, and before last season had played a total of 211 games and 4,124 minutes over a seven-year period. To put it into perspective: Wright played more minutes last year than the previous three combined. There’s little doubt that he’d be able to at least come close to matching his '11 numbers if he plays over 2,500 minutes (prorated) this season, but the question is: will he even get there?

Upside Picks

Chase Budinger - Oh, what could’ve been. Budinger was looking at an expanded role this season regardless with a starting job and bulk of the minutes at small forward to himself, but the original Chris Paul trade that was killed by the NBAleans Hornets would’ve been a major boon to his value (the Rockets were set to deal Kevin Martin and Luis Scola for Pau Gasol). A deadline deal that saw Shane Battier dealt to Memphis enabled him to rebound from a painfully slow start, and he’ll look to build upon a strong post-break finish this season.

Pre All-Star: 18.1 mpg, 7.8 ppg, 1.0 3PM, 3.4 rpg, 1.4 apg, 42 FG%, 80 FT%, 31 3PT%
Post All-Star: 31.7 mpg, 14.4 ppg, 1.5 3PM, 4.1 rpg, 2.5 apg, 44 FG%, 90 FT%, 35 3PT%

Paul George – Though the numbers might not reflect it just yet, there were plenty of indicators in his rookie season that hinted at George’s breakout potential. The biggest area he’ll have to improve upon is his three-point shooting (29.7 percent), which shouldn’t be a problem given his fluid shot mechanics and the fact he hit an impressive 43 percent of his long twos. George already does a number of things well – he’s a proficient finisher around the rim (66 percent), rebounds quite well for his position (7.1 rebounds per 40 minutes), and ranked third in steal rate last year among small forwards. He may be another year away from a true breakout, but you can still expect some substantial growth across the board in his second season.

C.J. Miles – The Jazz will likely lose free agent Andrei Kirilenko to the Nets, which frees up the path for Miles to stake his claim on the starting small forward job. The lack of range is still a problem, as he shot just 34 percent from beyond 16 feet. Miles still managed the eighth-best scoring rate at his position despite that, mainly because he can blow by defenders with ease and consistently finish in the basket area (67 percent).There’s certainly room for growth, and even marginal improvement on his jump shot would go a long way.

Deep-League Flyer

Jonas Jerebko - I touted him last year and I’ll do it again this year. Jerebko lost his entire second season to an Achilles injury, a real shame considering the promise he exhibited as a rookie. He’s felt no lingering effects from the injury so far in camp and has been at full strength for months now, so we can table the health concerns for now. Jonas' game is built on athleticism and moving off the ball; he’s got some range (34 percent from beyond 16 feet), but does most of his work around the basket area (61 percent). Charlie Villanueva is the incumbent starter at the 4 at the moment, but Jerebko is the simply the better option both short- and long-term, and is the better complement to the other four starters. Expect him to beat out Villanueva at some point, and sooner rather than later.


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