Ranking: The Top 25 small forwards for the 2022-23 season

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Ranking: The Top 25 small forwards for the 2022-23 season

Ranking

Ranking: The Top 25 small forwards for the 2022-23 season

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We have arrived at the third part of our five-part preview series ahead of the 2022-23 NBA season, this time ranking the Top 25 small forwards ahead of the upcoming campaign.

This is a loaded position top to bottom, but especially as we reach the Top 6 or 7 guys, all of whom are established, unquestionable superstars.

With so much to discuss, let’s jump right into the action.

25
Jonathan Kuminga (Golden State)

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A promising young piece on the reigning champions, Jonathan Kuminga showed a lot of promise as a rookie in his role as a disruptive defender and a slasher on offense with some spot-up shooting ability.

Kuminga averaged 9.3 points and 3.3 rebounds as a first-year player while shooting 51.3 percent from the floor and 33.6 percent from beyond the arc. He’ll be counted on to do more in his second season, however, as the Golden State Warriors did lose some key depth from their championship squad.

But if Kuminga can build upon his inaugural season, he should have no problem in a bigger role as a sophomore piece.

For the latest Jonathan Kuminga rumors and salary info, click here.

24
Kelly Oubre (Charlotte)

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

A slashing scorer with long arms who can defend multiple positions, albeit not close to an elite level, Kelly Oubre is a veteran at this point in his career who can score baskets near the rim or from beyond the arc.

Still, Oubre has been a negative-impact player for most of his career, including last season with the Charlotte Hornets, when the team was 2.1 points per 100 possessions worse with the former Kansas standout on the floor.

Even so, Oubre offers some value by knowing his role and by not trying to do too much, and he did average 15.0 points and 4.0 rebounds as he hit 34.5 percent of his triples, so he’s still a solid piece to have on your roster.

For the latest Kelly Oubre rumors and salary info, click here.

23
Dillon Brooks (Memphis)

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Perhaps a bit low in the rankings compared to the players around him, Dillon Brooks was a vital piece for what was an elite Memphis Grizzlies squad, who just posted career-highs in various stats, including scoring (18.4 points) and assists (1.1).

However, a poor playoff showing where his often selfish shot selection cost Memphis dearly at inopportune times, coupled with his 30.9 three-point percentage last year (and it’s not like he was shy about launching away anyway), lowered Brooks’ place in these rankings.

We might be acting a little too harshly towards Brooks, though, as he was a positive-impact player for Memphis in 2021-22, with the team improving by 7.4 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor. And his scoring did often give the Grizzlies’ offense a much-needed boost.

Don’t be shocked if Brooks outperforms his place in this ranking in 2022-23.

For the latest Dillon Brooks rumors and salary info, click here.

22
Gordon Hayward (Charlotte)

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The story of Gordon Hayward is the same as it’s been since his devastating leg injury all those years ago: When he’s on the floor, he’s a productive, do-a-bit-of-everything swingman who can score from all three levels, rebound and create for others.

The problem is, he’s not on the floor anywhere near enough due to different lingering injuries, with Hayward suiting up in just 44 and 49 games in the last two seasons respectively.

Hayward remains relatively effective when he plays, however, putting up 15.9 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.6 last season while shooting 39.1 percent from three.

If Hayward can stay healthier in the upcoming campaign, he has the ability to post a Top 15 small forward type of season. We just don’t see that happening, unfortunately.

For the latest Gordon Hayward rumors and salary info, click here.

21
De'Andre Hunter (Atlanta)

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Despite being three seasons into his career, it almost feels like De’Andre Hunter has a higher ceiling he can reach, a hint of which he showed us in the 2021 playoffs.

After averaging 13.4 points and 3.3 rebounds in the regular season, Hunter blew up in the postseason, upping his averages to 21.2 points and 3.8 rebounds on 55.7 percent shooting, 46.2 percent from three. Those shooting marks certainly aren’t sustainable for him to keep up for an entire season, but they do show he’s better than the player who put up just 13.4 points in 2021-22.

Hunter, who has face-up scoring ability, can slash and score near the rim and can defend multiple positions well, will need to show more consistency to reach the next step in his development.

We think he’ll do just that in 2022-23.

For the latest De’Andre Hunter rumors and salary info, click here.

20
Saddiq Bey (Detroit)

Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

An outside shooting specialist on the wing, Saddiq Bey likes to launch from beyond the arc and is accurate from there, despite a high degree of difficulty on a lot of his attempts.

Through two career seasons, Bey is hitting 36.1 percent of his 7.0 nightly attempts from deep while averaging 14.3 points and 5.0 rebounds. His shooting ability will be key for a Detroit Pistons team that quietly could be somewhat feisty in 2022-23, with Bey expected to space the floor for the team’s exciting young backcourt of Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey.

Bey had one particularly noteworthy performance last season when he went off for 51 points against the Orlando Magic on 17-of-27 shooting, 10-for-14 from three, a showing that gave us a good indication of just how hot the sharpshooter out of Villanova can get.

For the latest Saddiq Bey rumors and salary info, click here.

19
Josh Hart (Portland)

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Josh Hart is a positionless player who rebounds like a player half a foot taller than him, securing 7.2 rebounds per contest over the last three seasons combined.

Hart just had the best statistical season of his career, averaging 14.9 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.1 assists to go with 1.1 steals. He also shot a career-best mark from the floor (50.4 percent) and had the second-best three-point percentage (34.3 percent).

The Villanova product gets after it defensively and will lay his body on the line to secure loose balls, making him an excellent role player who can make stars’ lives around him easier. If the Portland Trail Blazers are to make it back to the playoffs in 2022-23, Hart will have to be an important piece of the puzzle.

For the latest Josh Hart rumors and salary info, click here.

18
Herb Jones (New Orleans)

Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Herb Jones was a phenom defensively as a rookie, using his explosiveness and length to alter shots, pick pockets and jump passing lanes on his way to averaging 1.7 steals and 0.8 blocks in Year 1.

Jones was also solid offensively, averaging 9.5 points on 33.7 percent shooting from three, giving him the early makings of a 3-and-D specialist with some slashing and off-the-dribble ability, too.

Jones’ impact was clearly felt by the New Orleans Pelicans, too, as the team was 6.3 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor. Alongside a healthy Zion Williamson in 2022-23, it’s scary to think about what a physically daunting frontcourt New Orleans will be able to boast next season.

For the latest Herbert Jones rumors and salary info, click here.

17
Bojan Bogdanovic (Utah)

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He may have serious defensive deficiencies unrelated to effort, but Bojan Bogdanovic makes a huge positive impact thanks to his high-level offensive prowess.

Bogdanovic averaged 18.1 points and 4.3 rebounds in 2021-22 while shooting 38.7 percent from three. His defense was problematic enough, however, that the Utah Jazz were still 2.8 points per 100 possessions worse with Bogdanovic on the floor last season and an obscene 18.6 points per 100 possessions worse with him in the game during the playoffs.

With the Jazz looking like they’re heading to a rebuild, it’s tough to forecast what Bogdanovic might be able to do in 2022-23, as we have no idea if he’ll even be on the team by the trade deadline. But if he does switch teams, whoever acquired Bogdanovic will be getting a player who can shoot, score from three or the midrange and nail shots off the dribble.

But not one who plays a lick of effective defense.

For the latest Bojan Bogdanovic rumors and salary info, click here.

16
Franz Wagner (Orlando)

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

A surprisingly great rookie season from Franz Wagner helped him land the No. 16 spot on this list, as we expect an even better sophomore campaign for the former Michigan Wolverine.

One of the four best rookies in his class, Wagner was very productive and impactful in Year 1, averaging 15.2 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists, flashing smooth scoring skill in transition and in the halfcourt to go with solid shooting from deep (35.4 percent).

Wagner can score from all three levels, can shoot off the dribble or drive it to the basket and finish with aplomb near the rim as well as get buckets out of the pick-and-roll.

For the latest Franz Wagner rumors and salary info, click here.

15
Keldon Johnson (San Antonio)

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Despite the roster upheaval with the San Antonio Spurs, one player who can feel secure about his position on the team is Keldon Johnson, to whom the franchise just committed long-term money.

And it’s easy to see why, as Johnson is coming off a strong season that saw him average 17.0 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists while shooting 39.8 percent from three, all career-high clips.

Johnson’s ability as a slashing scorer in the paint and to space the floor while being able to move his feet quickly to defend multiple positions help him stand out, as does his high-effort style on both ends of the floor.

For the latest Keldon Johnson rumors and salary info, click here.

14
RJ Barrett (New York)

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The opinions on RJ Barrett tend to be a bit divisive, with the swingman putting up big numbers at a not-so-efficient rate, making him a difficult study. Add in the fact that the New York Knicks were statistically worse with him on the floor last season (by a hard-to-ignore 7.9 points per 100 possessions), Barrett’s most productive as a pro, and his case to be considered a top small forward becomes even more confusing.

In spite of that, Barrett was nice enough in 2021-22, averaging 20.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists, though he put up those marks while shooting 40.8 percent from the floor and 34.2 percent from three.

Moreover, the advanced analytics did not think much of Barrett’s impact last season, with the Canadian forward sitting 144th in BPM, 230th in VORP and 158th in WS/48.

Still, Barrett only just turned 22, already has three years of pro experience and did put up 20 points nightly while flashing eye-catching moments relatively often.

If he can improve his efficiency, Barrett will outplay his place in this ranking. That’s a pretty big if, though.

For the latest RJ Barrett rumors and salary info, click here.

13
Michael Porter Jr. (Denver)

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Michael Porter Jr. was one of the most difficult-to-forecast players for this exercise considering his 2021-22 season ended after just nine games with little word about how he looks now in his recovery from that back ailment.

Based on the year prior, we might be underselling Porter a bit with this ranking, as the Denver Nuggets swingman averaged 19.0 and 7.3 rebounds, hit 44,5 percent of his threes and appeared to be on a massive upward trajectory.

Then last season happened, seeing Porter average 9.9 points and shoot 20.8 percent from three, leaving us with little idea of how the talented small forward will bounce back in 2022-23.

But seeing as the Nuggets already locked up Porter to a max contract through 2026-27, the club is probably hoping beyond hope he looks like the 2020-21 version of himself, or they might have one of the worst contracts in the league in their books.

For the latest Michael Porter Jr. rumors and salary info, click here.

12
OG Anunoby (Toronto)

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After some trade talk surrounding his name earlier in the offseason, things have quieted on that front lately, making it easier to project where OG Anunoby might sit among the NBA’s top small forwards in 2022-23.

Anunoby has been on the upswing for the last three years, improving his numbers each of those seasons, with his most recent contributions being 17.1 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.5 steals while shooting 36.3 percent from beyond the arc. Add in that he’s one of the top defensive wings in the league and you have the makings of a two-way stud for the Toronto Raptors.

And with Anunoby only just having turned 25, we expect to see continued growth for the slashing swingman who has added more to his game every single season, even becoming a respectable iso face-up scorer in 2021-22.

For the latest OG Anunoby rumors and salary info, click here.

11
Andrew Wiggins (Golden State)

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Coming off the most impactful season of his career, Andrew Wiggins just missed out on cracking the Top 10 of our top small forwards’ rankings, but considering how his last 12 months have gone, we doubt he’ll be too upset about that.

Wiggins put up 17.2 points and 4.5 rebounds in the 2021-22 regular season and hit 39.3 percent of his threes, the best mark of his career by a decent margin. The Canadian small forward stepped up even more when the Warriors needed him most, however, averaging 18.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks in the Finals against the Boston Celtics, making his mark as the second-most important Warrior in that series.

Now able to focus on slashing, spotting up from three, defending and getting after it on the class, and no longer being tasked with the heavy expectation of leading a franchise as a former No. 1 pick, Wiggins has absolutely thrived as a more complementary piece.

We think we’ll see more of the same out of Wiggins in 2022-23.

For the latest Andrew Wiggins rumors and salary info, click here.

10
Mikal Bridges (Phoenix)

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One of the top 3-and-D players in the NBA at the moment, Mikal Bridges is more complementary piece than star, but a star he is in his role nonetheless.

Last season, Bridges was fantastic, averaging 14.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.2 steals to go with 36.9 percent shooting from three and a +9.5 swing rating, playing a pivotal part in what was an elite Phoenix Suns team in the regular season.

According to VORP, Bridges was the 36th-most impactful player in the league last year, and it’s not difficult to surmise why, as his defense and three-point shooting were vital to the Suns’ success.

With quick feet, great instincts and above-average wingspan, Bridges could guard multiple positions and he only takes shots within his wheelhouse on offense, never forcing things but rather letting the game come to him.

For the latest Mikal Bridges rumors and salary info, click here.

9
Khris Middleton (Milwaukee)

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A smooth bucket-getter on the perimeter, Khris Middleton can score, rebound, assist and defend at the level of a solid No. 2 option on a championship team, as was proven two seasons ago when the Milwaukee Bucks hoisted the title.

His importance was made even more clear last playoffs when an injury sustained in Game 2 of Round 1 forced Middleton to miss the rest of the postseason, which would end for Milwaukee the following round.

With Middleton, would the Bucks have been able to get past the Celtics, who they took to seven games anyway? It’s possible.

All in all, the former Texas A&M Aggie remains a stud on the wing, one that averaged 20.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.4 assists last season while shooting 44.3 percent from the floor and 37.3 percent from three.

For the latest Khris Middleton rumors and salary info, click here.

8
DeMar DeRozan (Chicago)

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

After various pundits panned the DeMar DeRozan signing for the Chicago Bulls, the Compton native proved the naysayers wrong by putting up the best campaign of his career at age 32.

DeRozan was 2nd Team All-NBA in 2021-22, a well-deserved honor after he averaged 27.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.9 assists and helped lead what was a very solid Bulls team back to the playoffs.

What’s more, with his presence the Bulls improved by 5.1 points per 100 possessions. Although that sounds hard to believe, in DeRozan’s impressive 13-year career, it was just his second positive swing rating ever – his first since 2011-12.

For the latest DeMar DeRozan rumors and salary info, click here.

7
Brandon Ingram (New Orleans)

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In 2021-22, Brandon Ingram did an admirable job of stepping up in the absence of Williamson, helping lead the Pelicans to the playoffs after a very slow start to the campaign.

Ingram does what the modern do-everything swingman is expected to, and that’s to score, rebound and create at high levels. The Duke Blue Devil averaged 22.7 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.6 assists last season while hitting 46.1 percent of his field-goal attempts.

With a huge year for the Pelicans ahead with a returning Williamson to play alongside Ingram, we expect more of the same from the lanky swingman, hence, his place in this ranking.

For the latest Brandon Ingram rumors and salary info, click here.

6
Paul George (LA Clippers)

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Here, we enter the portion of the list with the legitimate, unquestionable superstar small forwards, a part of the ranking that begins with Paul George at No. 6.

George only saw action in 31 games last season due to injury, but in those contests, he was his usual brilliant self, averaging 24.3 points, 6.9 rebounds and 5.7 assists to go with 2.2 steals and 2.9 three-pointers. George made the Los Angeles Clippers 5.7 points per 100 possessions better with his presence, too, showing how crucial his impact was on the club’s success.

Additionally, a legitimate two-way force, George remains a top-notch wing defender, albeit not one at the level he was at his physical peak.

The scary thing is, George isn’t even the only Los Angeles Clippers we’re going to discuss in the Top 6 of this ranking.

For the latest Paul George rumors and salary info, click here.

5
Jimmy Butler (Miami)

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As if the 2019-20 Finals run in the Bubble wasn’t enough proof, Jimmy Butler provided even further evidence of his status as an elite wing, one capable of leading a team deep into the playoffs, this past season when he helped guide the Miami Heat to within a game of the championship series once again.

Butler posted a great regular season, averaging 21.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.6 steals on his way to earning All-Star honors, though he did get snubbed for an All-NBA distinction in favor of other options. But Butler stepped his game up even further in the postseason, slashing a 27.4/7.4/4.6 stat line to go with 2.1 steals and 50.6 percent shooting from the floor.

Butler also remains an elite defender on the wing, who uses toughness and unreal instincts to disrupt opposing offenses as much as possible.

All in all, Butler gets things done on both ends of the floor at a very high level, and he’s proven to be a winning player on elite teams. We expect 2022-23 to be more of the same.

For the latest Jimmy Butler rumors and salary info, click here.

4
LeBron James (LA Lakers)

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A complete mess of a season by the Los Angeles Lakers shouldn’t distract from the fact that LeBron James remains one of the NBA’s top players.

His raw statistics – 30.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.1 blocks on 52.4 percent shooting – were preposterous while the advanced metrics – fifth in BPM, fifth in VORP and fourth in PER – rated him as one of the best players in the league.

The thing is, such high expectations are placed on both James and the Lakers that even a 30/8/6 campaign gets overlooked.

So how did we end up with James at fourth overall? It might seem low and could easily be made to look bad by the end of the 2022-23 season, but we simply expect bigger things out of the next three players on this list.

Plus, heading into his Age-38 campaign, Father Time has to catch up to James at some point… right?

For the latest LeBron James rumors and salary info, click here.

3
Kawhi Leonard (LA Clippers)

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This might be a divisive pick to have Kawhi Leonard in the Top 3 considering we haven’t seen him play in an NBA game since June 2021. However, at the time he went down, Leonard was making a solid case to be considered the top player in the league, so maybe merely third on this list is underselling him.

It’s tough to know how he’ll bounce back from a blown-out knee, but based on how much time he’s had off now to recover, we expect to see peak Leonard pretty much out of the gate in 2022-23.

In the 2021 playoffs, an 11-game sample size for Leonard, The Klaw was downright monstrous, averaging 30.4 points, 7.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.2 blocks while slashing 57.3/39.3/88.0 percent shooting splits, making a variety of tough shots no matter the defense, getting to the foul line and playing elite defense on the other end.

It’s been a while, but let’s not forget just how dominant Leonard was at the time he went down.

Basketball fans should be excited to see his return in 2022-23.

For the latest Kawhi Leonard rumors and salary info, click here.

2
Kevin Durant (Brooklyn)

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A trade request and a poor 2022 playoff showing loom over Kevin Durant at the moment. Regardless, at the end of the day, he remains one of the league’s best not just at the small forward position but overall, hence, we have him as the No. 2 swingman ahead of the 2022-23 season.

In 2021-22, Durant averaged 26.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 6.4 assists while shooting 51.8 percent from the floor and 38.3 percent from three, ranking fifth in PER, sixth in VORP and sixth in BPM. On top of that, Durant made the Brooklyn Nets a huge 11.9 points per 100 possessions better with his presence.

Uncertainty about where he’ll play does cast a cloud over his head, as does his brutal showing against the Celtics in the playoffs, but the latter shouldn’t be used as a referendum to indicate Durant’s play is about to taper off. After all, remember the 2021 playoffs when Butler averaged 14 points while getting swept by the Bucks? How’d he bounce back after that?

We expect the same to happen with Durant in 2022-23, though we’re not sure what jersey color he’ll be rocking when it does.

For the latest Kevin Durant rumors and salary info, click here.

1
Jayson Tatum (Boston)

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Watching Jayson Tatum get past Giannis Antetokounmpo, Durant and Butler in last year’s playoffs before running out of steam in the Finals almost felt like a passing of the torch, one that established Tatum as the best swingman in basketball.

Our panel saw it that way, at least, as four of our eight voters had Tatum as the No. 1 small forward for the upcoming 2022-23 season. It’s easy to see why, too, as the former Duke standout averaged 26.9 points, 8.0 rebounds and 4.4 assists while shooting 45.3 percent from the floor in what was merely his Age-23 season.

With room left to grow and the confidence after his Finals run acting as the wind in his sails, we expect an even better version of Tatum next year, which is why we landed with him at No. 1 on this list.

For the latest Jayson Tatum rumors and salary info, click here.

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