2012-13 RotoRob NBA Draft Kit: Small Forward Rankings
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist could be an impact player from Day One.
The 2012-13 RotoRob NBA Draft Kit surges forward today with another cheat sheet. So while you worry about Dirk Nowitzki’s knee, let’s take a look at the top 40 small forwards in Fantasy basketball.
The three spot is an extremely top heavy position – hell, it features the best two players in the game – but it thins out fairly rapidly and you could argue that it’s the shallowest of all positions. Having said that, there are plenty of sleepers here. Rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has a chance to be very special, although he’s sure to be one of the first freshman off the board. Kawhi Leonard could rise up these rankings significantly this season. Short of dimes for your team and all the top PGs off the board? Take a flier on Hedo Turkoglu. Looking for a rising star with upside? Try Evan Turner or even DeMar DeRozan. Vets more your style? Paul Pierce, Luol Deng or Shawn Marion will do the trick.
Last year’s rankings are in parentheses.
1. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder (1): A key starter on the Team USA squad that won gold this summer at the Olympics, Durant has become arguably the top player in the NBA – although we wouldn’t quibble with you if you took the No. 2 player on this list. Last season, he stayed healthy and continued to improve his outside game, although he didn’t get as many points at the line and his FT percentage dropped to career worst levels. On the plus side, KD became a monster on the boards and also a pretty good contributor of assists. He’s done a good job the past couple of seasons of staying out of foul trouble and his scoring numbers bounced back somewhat last season. The key player of a young core in OKC which made it to the Finals last season, Durant just turned 24 last month, so there is still a ton of upside here, and that’s a scary proposition for the rest of the NBA.
2. LeBron James, Miami Heat (2): Charles Barkley believes that James can ultimately be better than Michael Jordan. Well, the jury remains on out that, but the fact that King James finally busted his championship cherry last season is a step in the right direction. The three-time MVP was better in his second season since taking his talents to South Beach, despite again seeing less PT. He sunk more field goals (and never shot better), while also doing a much better job on the offensive glass. James also stayed out of foul trouble more often and if his game this season can match the price of the new LeBron X sneakers, expect a fourth MVP and second ring.
3. Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks (3): Anthony excelled off the bench at the Olympics this summer and the experience has apparently left him trusting his teammates more. Does that mean the Knicks’ offense this season won’t consist of putting the ball in Melo’s hands and having the other four players stand around and watch? After parting with so much talent to acquire Anthony, New York is still waiting for a payoff, so the fact that he’s now more bought into team basketball is a great sign. Last season was his worst effort since he was an NBA sophomore; knee and groin woes limited him to 55 games and his FG count was down substantially. Anthony endured his worst FG percentage since his rookie season and his work from downtown also suffered. However, he’s trimmed pounds and is reportedly in much better shape heading into the season, so it’s worth gambling on a bounce back from Melo.
4. Rudy Gay, Memphis Grizzlies (5): Gay’s name came up in tons of rumours this summer, but he remains a Grizzlie heading into 2012-13. He’s slowly evolved into a team leader in Memphis, however he didn’t have quite as good a campaign last season. Gay did stay healthy, but a weaker field goal percentage led to fewer buckets. For the second straight season, his trips to the line declined and that also contributed to reduced scoring numbers. Yes, Gay did a better job on the offensive glass, but his steals were down and his turnovers have remained higher the past couple of years. He’s putting up some impressive shooting numbers in the preseason, so we’re bullish for a recovery and perhaps even a career season.
5. Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics (9): Pierce will again be a key factor as the Celtics look to make another deep playoff run this season. He enters his 15th season with Celtics and doesn’t appear to be slowing down, improving his numbers in each of the last two seasons. The Truth’s PT was down slightly last season, yet he still sunk more field goals and hoisted far more shots from downtown. Pierce also dramatically upped his assist numbers last season. Obviously, given his age (he just turned 35), it’s reasonable to expect some regression, but he remains a top option for now.
6. Danny Granger, Indiana Pacers (4): When we ranked Granger fourth last year, we talked about how much his game had slipped. That decline continued last season as his outside game did not bounce back and his rebounding numbers continued to dip. Hell, for the first time in his career Granger didn’t even manage a single double-double. The fact that he’s dealing with knee problems in the preseason doesn’t make us overly bullish that he’s ready to return to being a top five at this position.
7. Gerald Wallace, Brooklyn Nets (6): Re-signing Wallace (four years, $40 million) is one of the keys to the Nets’ plan to try to build a winner in its new home in Brooklyn. For the second straight season, Crash’s overall play deteriorated. His three-point shooting was abysmal in Portland before bouncing back after getting dealt to the Nets. Overall, Wallace averaged nearly 14 points and almost seven boards, while pitching in with 1.5 steals per game. Not too shabby, but below what we’ve come to expect from him.
8. Nicolas Batum, Portland Trail Blazers (13): After jumping up the list last year from 31 to inside the top 15, Batum has now become a top 10 SF after another improvement last season. He joined the fairly exclusive one block and one steal per game club, although his turnovers rose. Batum will start at the three for the Blazers, but expect him to see time at the two as well.
9. Tyreke Evans, Sacramento Kings (12 at PG): The Evans as PG experiment ended last season when Isaiah Thomas emerged. Evans had a sweet rookie season, but we’re still waiting for him to build on that. Some consider him a top 70 player, but that seems generous considering he’s gone downhill in both seasons since that freshman effort. Last season Evans sunk fewer field goals, although his work on the offensive glass was a bit better. His assists dropped, not surprising since he was removed from the point, and he while continues to pitch in with the occasional block, given that he’s a forward now it’s not that an impressive a total anymore. Worst of all, Evans’ offense keeps slipping. He’s only 23, so don’t give up on him. Still, we can’t help but wonder if the 6’6” Evans would thrive best as a two-guard.
10. Danilo Gallinari, Denver Nuggets (11): When we ranked Gallinari 11th heading into last season, we wrote about the fact that he didn’t enjoy the breakout we expected. Well, we’re still waiting on that, although he did improve marginally last season. Gallinari, who mostly started last season, again had problems staying healthy. He put up a few more buckets and his blocks were up marginally, but that’s not a staple of his game. Gallinari became a steal per game man and also did a better job staying out of foul trouble. Still, too often he can vanish from a game, and the fact that he’s talking about being more productive this season is enough to remain optimistic that the big breakout can still happen.
11. Luol Deng, Chicago Bulls (10): Deng dealt with wrist issues last season, and his play declined for the second straight season. However, he’s feeling good now, and piling up some nice offensive numbers in the preseason. Last season, his touches were down slightly and while he didn’t quite take as many treys as the season before, he sunk them more often. Deng’s FT shooting bounced back as did his rebounding, while his steals remained solid. He also did a much better job than ever of staying clear of foul trouble.
12. Thaddeus Young, Philadelphia 76ers (15): A year ago, we moved Young up to 15th on this list and this year, he’s moved closer to the top 10 after a nice bounce back season. He didn’t sink quite as many buckets last season and the three-ball has disappeared from his repertoire, but he managed to up his scoring based on his work from the charity stripe. Young’s defensive rebounding slipped as did his steals, but he did a better job of avoiding foul trouble. He also had more assists than turnovers for the first time in his career. After spending last season mostly playing the four, Young is expected to see lots of time at small forward this season and he’s reportedly really worked on his shot, so it’s reasonable to expect him to take another step forward.
13. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte Bobcats (NR): A key component of the Bobcats’ rebuilding program, rookie Kidd-Gilchrist was a star at Kentucky and is ready to make an impact in the NBA. He’s showing a great touch from downtown in the preseason and looks like the kind of player that can provide occasional scoring and help you in steals and blocks.
14. Evan Turner, Philadelphia 76ers (35 at SG): In mid-March, we recommended Turner as a waiver wire pickup and it was a solid call as he finished strong, getting way more touches over the season’s final few weeks. It remains to be seen where Turner slots into the remade Sixer roster, but there’s no doubt that he took a nice step forward in his sophomore season. He stayed healthy, got more chances to start and upped his FG totals. Turner is a versatile player, capable of playing small forward, shooting guard and even the point in a pinch.
15. Andrei Kirilenko, Minnesota Timberwolves (24): When we ranked Kirilenko 24th a year ago, it was unclear exactly when he’d return to the NBA from Russia. As it turns out, he never did make it back to the NBA in 2011-12, something that wasn’t announced until a couple weeks after we released that cheat shet. D’oh! Well, AK-47 is back now and for the first time, he’ll suit up with someone other than the Jazz, joining the up and coming T-Wolves. Expected to start for Minny, Kirilenko is capable of supplying across-the-board production when he’s on his game, and that’s a rare commodity in the NBA. So don’t overlook the vet on draft day.
16. DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors (14 at SG): DeRozan was a top 15 shooting guard last year, but is just outside the top 15 at SF this season after regressing somewhat in 2011-12. He saw a tad more PT last season, but his field goal numbers dropped. DeRozan has been using the 3-ball more and more as his career progresses, but his FT percentage dipped slightly last season. And while he had a career high in assists, but he also turned it over more than ever. DeRozan has looked good so far in the preseason, but this is an important campaign for him with top Raptor draft pick Terrence Ross breathing down his back.
17. Trevor Ariza, Washington Wizards (26): Part of a new supporting cast in Washington, Ariza had a decent bounce back last season, despite the fact that he missed a third of the campaign with injuries. He hasn’t gotten to the line as often the past couple of seasons, but he never shot better from the stripe as he did in 2011-12. Ariza did better work on the offensive glass although he failed to garner a single double-double. Washington managed to deal away Rashard Lewis to land both Ariza and Emeka Okafor in an effort to erase the dysfunction that was last season.
18. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs (NR): Leonard enjoyed a solid rookie season for the Spurs, getting decent PT and putting up fine rebounding numbers relative to his minutes. He turned more touches in the second half into more production and looks poised to break out this season. We’re expecting better things out of Leonard, a player with a chance to be a defensive stalwart and one with much more offensive potential than we’ve see so far.
19. Harrison Barnes, Golden State Warriors (NR): Barnes has star potential, but one of the keys in his development will be the health of Stephen Curry. Barnes heads a nice rookie class for the Warriors this year and he’ll immediately step into the team’s regular rotation. This guy will be a household name in time and he’s going to get a legitimate shot to be the starting three in Golden State this season.
20. Wilson Chandler, Denver Nuggets (NR): Two seasons ago, Chandler was one of the most improved players in the league, but last season he barely played in the NBA because he didn’t return to Denver until mid-March after this contract in China was completed. Upon his return, he hardly employed his outside game and he really struggled from beyond the arc when he did put one up. Chandler also failed to get to the line much and overall it was a disappointing effort. We’ll give him a mulligan considering how few games he played, but the fact that he’s dealing with a hip injury in the preseason and now has to contend with Andre Iguodala for PT suggests that he may not be able to return to his 2010-11 form.
21. Dorell Wright, Philadelphia 76ers (8): Part of a remade Sixers’ roster, Wright was unable to come close to duplicating his breakout 2010-11 season. His PT was way down, he didn’t shoot as well from long distance and his rebounding numbers dipped. Wright’s assists plummeted and his steals were down in a very disappointing season. On the plus side, he’s looked really good in training camp, so betting on a bounce back is a decent plan.
22. Michael Beasley, Phoenix Suns (12): Signing Beasley was part of a busy summer for Phoenix, and he’ll be asked to team with Marcin Gortat to drive the post-Steve Nash era forward for the Suns. But if that’s going to happen, Beasley needs to be way better than last season, his worst in the NBA to date. He didn’t shoot quite as well and got to the line half as often as the previous season. Beasley’s assists plummeted and his scoring dropped nearly eight points per game. There’s no doubt that the second overall pick from 2008 has the ability to be a 20 PPG dude; the only question is will Phoenix be the right place for him to finally achieve his potential?
23. Shawn Marion, Dallas Mavericks (19): Marion is getting on in years, but he’ll still throw down a double-double from time to time, as he did a dozen times last season. Marion’s overall play is regressing, even though he saw more PT last season. He didn’t get to the line as often and his scoring dropped, but Marion can still supply boards, steals and occasional blocks. Let’s face it: the guy’s game isn’t pretty, but at the end of the night, you look at the boxscore and Marion often has put up a very serviceable line.
24. Mike Dunleavy, Milwaukee Bucks (NR): Dunleavy enjoyed a decent bounce back in his first season in Milwaukee. Injuries, as they have been for several years, were a factor, Dunleavy didn’t hit as many treys and his defensive rebounding slipped. But he enjoyed his finest shooting season ever, while upping his assists and scoring. Dunleavy also continued his trend of recent seasons of limiting his turnovers. Given that Carlos Delfino is gone now, Dunleavy has an opportunity to continue his career renaissance.
25. Jared Dudley, Phoenix Suns (14): Dudley enjoyed the finest season of his career, but it wasn’t exactly the breakout many expected. He stayed healthy, became virtually a full-time starter for the first time in his career and never shot the ball better. While Dudley didn’t get to the line as often, he improved his rebounding numbers. The Suns have a mix of scoring options; if Dudley can take a bigger step forward, he can really move up the pecking order in terms of plays called for him. But we’re concerned that he simply doesn’t have as much upside as we once thought.
26. Caron Butler, Los Angeles Clippers (28): Last year, we had Butler just inside the top 30, and this season he gets a profile, despite regression in his overall game (which speaks to the shallow nature of the position). He’s become a core member of an improving team, but Butler himself will look to bounce back. While he did have his best season from the perimeter ever, his rebounding work continued to slide. Butler’s done a better job of staying out of foul trouble the past couple of seasons, but his scoring last season dropped to its lowest level since he was a soph with the Heat. Hey, if nothing else, Butler has proved he’s a charitably-minded dude with his community work.
Others to Consider
27. Hedo Turkoglu, Orlando Magic (20)
28. Chandler Parsons, Houston Rockets (NR)
29. Marvin Williams, Utah Jazz (NR)
30. Tobias Harris, Milwaukee Bucks (NR)
31. Gerald Green, Indiana Pacers (NR)
32. Tayshaun Prince, Detroit Pistons (32)
33. Steve Novak, New York Knicks (NR)
34. Alonzo Gee, Cleveland Cavaliers (NR)
35. Kyle Korver, Atlanta Hawks (NR)
36. Chase Budinger, Minnesota Timberwolves (22)
37. Corey Brewer, Denver Nuggets (NR)
38. Al-Farouq Aminu, New Orleans Hornets (34)
39. Metta World Peace, Los Angeles Lakers (NR)
40. Francisco Garcia, Sacramento Kings (NR)