This lockout business is for the birds. It's been six days, yet for me and my crew, it feels like it's been six weeks already. In any case, the show must go on, so here are my early Top 25 small forwards for the upcoming season. If you're looking for Caron Butler
or Dorell Wright
, they were in the Shooting Guards column
that ran a couple weeks ago. John Salmons
was also on that list, but I've moved him to this one given the trade to the Kings, as he appears a near lock to start at SF for the Kings.
As far as the small forward position goes in fantasy, perhaps no position sees the talent level die off more quickly on draft night. On the flip side, there are always guys on the wire who can fill a hole if needed. And, to my knowledge, none of the Top 25 are free agents.Follow me on Twitter for all the offseason loot.
1. LeBron James
When it comes to the No. 1 pick in your draft there are several options. Personally, I'd recommend going with the player you'd rather cheer for all season. In most cases, that will be Kevin Durant
. But based on the pure numbers, I'd rather have Bron. The numbers are close, but Bron dominates Durant in assists and field goal percentage, while Durant excels at free throws. But, as usual, if I've got the No. 1 pick, chances are I'm taking the King without a ring.
2. Kevin Durant
You want to take Durant over LeBron? Do it and don't look back.
3. Carmelo Anthony
The Knicks didn't bring Melo to New York to have him be a role player, and he's still one of the smoothest scorers in the league. His scoring, shooting percentage and 3-pointers all went up when he was traded to New York last February, and he looks like the third best SF available.
4. Danny Granger
Granger appeared in just 67 and 62 games in his previous two seasons, but managed to play in all but three games for the Pacers last year. But his scoring and 3-pointers were well down last season, while he hit just 42.5 percent of his shots. He's a very solid fantasy player, but health and shot selection concerns can make him a pain in the rear to own.
5. Rudy Gay
If we learned anything about Gay last year, it's that the Grizzlies are a damn good team without him. But Gay is a very good basketball player and will resume his big role next season after missing the last seven weeks of the year due to left shoulder surgery. Gay has a chance to be more productive than both Melo and Granger, but at this point, I'd still take my chances on either of them before selecting Gay.
6. Gerald Wallace
Wallace's numbers didn't change too much after he was sent to the Blazers in late February, although he shot the ball better in Portland. He may be asked to play some power forward, but regardless of where they need him, Wallace is going to rack up a ton of minutes this season. And along with those minutes will come points, rebounds, steals and blocks. He's been relatively healthy for the last three seasons, but is always good for 10 missed games per year, if not more. He's about to turn 29, but could be 30 before we see NBA action again, so ranking him higher than No. 6 doesn't make sense at this point. He averaged 10 rebounds per game in 2009-10, but came back to earth with about eight per game last year.
7. Paul Pierce
Pierce has been as reliable as Old Faithful over the past several seasons and showed no signs of slowing down last season, despite being 34 this coming October. And that means he might be 35 before the next season, which puts the "old" in Old Faithful. He'll put up solid numbers again, but looks more like a value pick in Round 3 or 4 instead of a guy you want to build your team around.
8. Andre Iguodala
Perhaps no player is mentioned as much in trade rumors as Iguodala, and we simply don't know what uniform he'll be in the next time we watch NBA hoops. If he stays in Philly, this ranking should be about right. And if he's traded, it obviously depends on where he lands as to what his outlook will be. His scoring really fell last season (14 ppg), as he was used more as a distributor and defender than a top scoring option. And I expect that trend to continue. But the guy still averaged nearly six boards, six dimes, 1.5 steals and aa 3-pointer per game, making him the Jason Kidd
of small forwards.
9. Luol Deng
Fantasy players don't get much more boring than Deng, but the numbers are solid. First of all, he didn't miss a single game last season, which is huge since he played in just 70 the previous season, and 49 before that. He scored 17 a game, but took a hit in the rebounding department due to having to fight with Carlos Boozer
and Joakim Noah
for them. But as far as mid-round value picks go, it's tough to go wrong with Deng (as long as he stays healthy).
10. Danilo Gallinari
Here's where the rankings go from "value picks" to straight up "crap shoot picks," as Gallinari has proven to be far from reliable. He should
be the man in Denver this season, but there are guys like Wilson Chandler
, Gary Forbes
and rookie Jordan Hamilton
ready to step in if he fails. He shot less than 42 percent in both New York and Denver last season, and hit just 1.4 3-pointers per game for the Nuggets (in a small sample of just 14 games). The potential and talent are there, which is why I'm ranking him this high. But he is clearly not yet trustworthy.
11. John Salmons
– Bucks (SG)
I ran Salmons with the shooting guards originally, but unlike Caron Butler
and Dorell Wright
, I decided to re-run him with the SFs due to the fact he was traded to the Kings, where he's nearly a lock to start at the position. Do I trust Salmons, or believe that a return to Sacramento is finally going to push him over the edge and make him a fantasy star? No. But this team has desperately been looking for an accomplished SF for years, and Salmons might finally be ready to step up to the plate. We'll have to see how he gets along with Paul Westphal, and make sure that he's going to start, but 14 points, 4 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.5 threes should be attainable.
12. Austin Daye
I'll be the first to admit that I was too high on Daye last year, but if John Kuester had given him more run, the story would have had a happier ending. This year, Tayshaun Prince
is an unrestricted free agent, Kuester is on the Lakers bench, and the stars could be aligning for Daye. I wouldn't use a real high pick on him, but there's a very good chance he could double his numbers from last season, which were 7.5 points, 4 boards, 1 assist, 0.5 steals, 0.5 blocks and a 3-pointer per game. Now we just have to hope his new coach, whoever it may be, likes him.
13. Carlos Delfino
Delfino showed serious signs of life last year, draining a ton of threes when he was healthy. But a concussion shut him down for the entire month of December, and most of November and January. He finally got it going again late in the season and should start at SF for the Bucks. If he can stay healthy, and on Scott Skiles' good side, Delfino could average 15 points, 5 boards, 3 assists and 2 3-pointers per game, making him a nice late-round pick. And it doesn't hurt that Corey Maggette
(Bobcats) and John Salmons
(Kings) are out of his way.