Introductions are like foreplay…necessary, but you just want to get to the good stuff. So I'll keep this brief.
Want to hear something sexy? NBA training camps are open in less than two weeks and we'll have preseason action in less than three.
Now that you are turned on, I present my small forward fantasy basketball tiers. Oh, and check out my point guard and shooting guard tiers if you haven't already.
To prevent confusion, the players in my tiers are listed in the position which they appear in Rotowire's depth charts. Underneath each tier you will find a paragraph with my thoughts and comments on those particular players.
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- Kevin DurantOklahoma City Thunder
- LeBron JamesCleveland Cavaliers
Kevin Durant, when healthy, is clearly a better fantasy player than James, however, they are both top 8 picks in all formats and therefore belong in the same tier.
Durant has the most talked about foot in the league and reports suggest he will be fit and healthy for training camp. I have no issue taking him inside the top 5 and a 75-80 game season could easily see a motivated Durant regain his title as the best fantasy player in the league.
The 'limiting LeBron's playing time' talk may be easier said than done depending on Kyrie Irving's knee. His supporting cast is as strong as ever though, and the Cavaliers should fairly comfortably secure the number 1 seed in the East. I am predicting his decline in efficiency last season, including a free throw percentage which was worse than Blake Griffin, was an anomaly and he should get back above 50 percent from the field and 75 percent from the free throw line this season.
- Kawhi Leonard San Antonio Spurs
Apart from steals, Kawhi Leonard does not give you a distinct advantage in any particular category. What he does do, is provide slightly above average contributions in points, rebounds, threes, blocks and both percentage categories.
The addition of LaMarcus Aldridge shouldn't impact Kawhi too much so his output should be similar to last season. Leonard still comes with durability concerns so draft him in the early-mid second round and give him a bump in nine category leagues due to his low turnover count.
- Carmelo AnthonyNew York Knicks
- Rudy GaySacramento Kings
- Paul GeorgeIndiana Pacers
Carmelo Anthony was a straight out 'bust' last season playing just 40 games before a knee injury ended his season. He will still be an elite scorer and after that does enough in rebounding, threes and free throw percentage - without giving your team a big advantage in any category other than points. I have never been that high on him and in my opinion Anthony gets drafted a lot higher than he should.
Rudy Gay does pretty much everything that Anthony does with slightly less scoring. He is a threat to average a three, steal and a block per game and should definitely be off the board by the end of the third round.
In early drafts so far I have seen Paul George regularly selected inside the top 15. There is no reason to take on that risk, that early in a draft, given the uncertainty associated with him coming back from one of the most horrific injuries ever seen. If George plays more than 70 games I would be very surprised and unfortunately I cannot see him being productive enough to be a top 20 player this season.
- Gordon HaywardUtah Jazz
- Giannis AntetokounmpoMilwaukee Bucks
- Tyreke EvansNew Orleans Pelicans
- Andrew WigginsMinnesota Timberwolves
Gordon Hayward is still criminally underrated in fantasy circles. Victor Oladipo gets a lot of fanfare, but Hayward offered better production in every category except steals last season. It is not unreasonable to expect a slight increase in assists for Hayward this season, as the Jazz may run more of their offence through him as they do not have a recognised point guard. If Hayward is still available in the fourth round, do not hesitate to draft him.
I am an unashamed Giannis Antetokounmpo (or GiAnt as I call him) fan, and if anyone is in line for a third year breakout, it is him. He finished last season off strong (see March numbers) and with another offseason in the bank, he is looking bigger and stronger than ever. Antetokounmpo should see more time at power forward early in the season with Jabari Parker easing back into NBA life. Playing closer to the basket should aid his rebounding and field goal percentage and there is no reason why Giannis couldn't improve his steals and blocks as well.
Over the final two months of last season Tyreke Evans was a top 30 player. There are still question marks over Jrue Holiday's health heading into this season, but regardless Evans should be in line for a big season. Coach, Alvin Gentry, think Evans will be the biggest beneficiary of his up-tempo offence, meaning he could return close to his rookie season stats of 20 points, five rebounds, five assists and 1.5 steals.
Andrew Wiggins played the second most minutes in the league last season (just 12 minutes behind James Harden), so the chances of him seeing more court time are about as likely as DeAndre Jordan making a free throw blindfolded. Wiggins can score, but his efficiency, ability to hit threes and collect assists will ultimately dictate his value.
- Chandler ParsonsDallas Mavericks
- Trevor ArizaHouston Rockets
- Danilo GallinariDenver Nuggets
- Kobe BryantLos Angeles Lakers
- Tobias HarrisOrlando Magic
- DeMarre CarrollToronto Raptors
- Robert CovingtonPhiladelphia 76ers
Chandler Parson is yet to resume running or cutting after having knee surgery in May. He maintains he will be ready for opening night and can be a useful weapon when healthy. If Parsons can play 70 games he will be good value for owners drafting him just outside the top 50.
By now, we should all be familiar with Trevor Ariza's lethal steals and three point combination. He will hurt your field goal percentage so plan accordingly as his production shouldn't change much this season.
As a result of a strong finish to last season - averaging 18 points, five rebounds, two assists, 1.3 steals and 2.8 threes post All-star break - and a positive offseason where he has impressed for Italy, Danilo Gallinari is gathering some serious hype. The Nuggets will rely heavily on his scoring ability and he could be a guy drafted in the mid-rounds who jumps up into the top 50 come seasons end.
It is testimony to Kobe Bryant that a 37 year old coming off an Achilles injury still has some fantasy relevance. His counting stats will still be valuable on a per game basis, but a poor field goal percentage and susceptibility to missing games at his age will limit his overall value.
It is incredible to think that Tobias Harris is coming into his fifth season and he is still only 23 years of age. Unfortunately injuries have stopped us from seeing Harris at his best. He has all the skills in place to be a quality wing asset and is 75 healthy games away from jumping up the rankings.
DeMarre Carroll moves to Toronto where he should see ample minutes at small and power forward. Expect a line similar to last season in a career year with the Hawks.
Robert Covington came from nowhere last season to do his best Trevor Ariza impression, offering a lethal combination of steals and threes, let down by poor field goal percentage. Even with Nick Stauskas in town, Covington will once again be an important part of Philly's offence who require his floor spacing.
- Al-Farouq AminuPortland Trail Blazers
- Otto PorterWashington Wizards
- Harrison BarnesGolden State Warriors
A huge opportunity awaits Al-Farouq Aminu in Portland. He should start at small forward and play heavy minutes with minimal competition. Aminu could be a defensive beast as outlined by his playoff series against the Rockets last season where he averaged two steals, 1.6 blocks and 7.2 rebounds in 30 minutes.
Speaking of opportunity, Otto Porter anyone? With Paul Pierce off to LA, Porter will start at small forward and should see time at power forward too when the Wizards go small. Like Aminu, Porter gave us a taste during the last season's playoffs where he averaged 10 points, eight rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.2 threes in 33 minutes. Make sure you secure either Aminu or Porter when your draft reaches triple digits.
The small forward value just keeps coming as we head to your NBA Champions, the Golden State Warriors. Harrison Barnes is coming into his fourth season and will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season. I think he will improve on his 10 points, five rebounds, 0.7 steals and 1.1 threes from last season and will be this season's DeMarre Carroll, a 'glue-guy' who contributes across the board without hurting you anywhere.
- Michael Kidd-GilchristCharlotte Hornets
- P.J. TuckerPhoenix Suns
- Joe JohnsonBrooklyn Nets
- Jae CrowderBoston Celtics
- Luol DengMiami Heat
- Shabazz MuhammadMinnesota Timberwolves
- T.J. WarrenPhoenix Suns
- Omri CasspiSacramento Kings
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist showed signs of fantasy life after the All-star break last season averaging 12 points, eight rebounds and 0.9 blocks on 48 percent from the field and 77 percent from the stripe. If he can convert his elite defensive ability into box score steals and blocks then he'll become a legitimate mid-round fantasy forward.
P.J. Tucker offers a good mix of rebounds, steals and threes for a small forward. With Markieff Morris still no closer to talking with the coach, head office or team mates, Tucker will spend time at power forward as well, ensuring he plays around 30 minutes per game for the third consecutive season.
Joe Johnson will give you mid-teen scoring and a three and a half per game, ranking him around the 100 mark for the majority of the season. He is a pretty stale pick at this stage of the draft when you could be picking potential and upside.
Jae Crowder posted 11.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, one steal and one three pointer in 27 minutes post All-star break last season. He can play a number of roles for the Celtics, and whilst Brad Steven's rotation is deeper than Steph Curry's range, if he can carve out 26-30 minutes he'll have some sneaky value.
Luol Deng will retain his starting role as long as the Heat are in the playoff hunt. He can score, rebound, and can get a three and steal per game with better than average percentages. You would, however, be better off streaming a roster spot than owning Deng in standard 10-12 team leagues.
Shabazz Muhammad averaged 18 points per game during December last year. Right now it is fairly crowded on the wings in Minnesota, but Muhammad will have his moments again when he gets hot. Be ready to add him off the waiver wire when that time comes.
T.J. Warren can score, rebound and finish in and around the paint as well as any other 22 year old in the league. He won't give you any defensive stats or threes, but he should see playing time at the three and four for Phoenix this season.
Omri Casspi was superb down the stretch for the Kings and fantasy owners alike who picked him up off the waiver wire last season. His role off the bench will be limited, but if DeMarcus Cousins or Rudy Gay miss time then Casspi becomes a must own player.
- Marcus MorrisDetroit Pistons
- Mike DunleavyChicago Bulls
- Evan TurnerBoston Celtics
- C.J. MilesIndiana Pacers
- Tony AllenMemphis Grizzlies
- Justin AndersonDallas Mavericks
Marcus Morris has off court issues to deal with, but in a pure basketball sense he should hold off Stanley Johnson as the starting small forward in Detroit. Morris can score and do a little bit of everything, but is very inconsistent. It will be interesting to see how Coach, Stan Van Gundy, uses him this season.
Mike Dunleavy can put up some pretty decent lines every now and then, but there just aren't enough touches in Chicago for him to be a reliable option.
It is pretty crazy to think that Evan Turner had three triple doubles last season. Why isn't he a good fantasy player then? Because his terrible efficiency, lack of threes and high turnover count are unsustainable. He is one of the best assist options once your draft passes 120 players or if you need dimes off the waiver wire though.
Scoring and hitting threes have never been an issue for C.J. Miles. He should still play some reasonable minutes on the wing when the Pacers play small with Paul George at power forward. He is a borderline 12 team option at this point.
There were only four guys who averaged at least two steals per game last season - Kawhi Leonard, Russell Westbrook, Tony Allen and Steph Curry. If you need steals to pinch that category then quickly add Tony Allen.
Sleeper alert: Justin Anderson. The Mavericks selected Anderson with the 21st selection in this year's draft and he impressed at Summer League averaging 17 points and four rebounds in six games. Should Wes Matthews or Chandler Parsons have any setbacks in their rehabilitation from injuries then Anderson could see some handy playing time early in the season. Consider him as a flier with your last pick in a 12 team league.