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2018 Free Agent Rankings: SFs

Thursday, June 21, 2018


We’ve previously ranked the top-10 free agent point guards and shooting guards set to hit the open market in July. Today, we tackle the small forward position.


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1. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers (player option):
At some point, Father Time may begin to slow down King James, but it certainly didn’t happen this past season. LeBron, at age 33 and his 15th NBA campaign, put together arguably the most impressive season of his storied career. He played all 82 games for the first time, led the league in minutes played, and averaged a mind-boggling 27.5 points, 9.1 assists, 8.6 rebounds, 1.8 treys and 1.4 steals per performance. Then, in the playoffs, he somehow managed to take his game to an even higher level. LeBron became the first player in league history to tally at least 700 points, 200 rebounds and 150 assists in one postseason.


2. Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors (player option):
The two best basketball players on planet earth will both hit free agency this summer. Durant, now a two-time champion, is coming off another remarkable Finals performance. He is one of just six players ever to win the NBA Finals MVP award in consecutive seasons. The other five are Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James. It would be endlessly entertaining and improve the competitive balance within the league if Durant decided to leave Golden State this summer, but there is every indication he plans on re-upping with the Warriors.


3. Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder (player option):
George saw his stats decline last season in OKC playing alongside Russell Westbrook. His playing time increased compared to the 2016-17, but PG-13’s scoring and rebounding averages dropped, as did his effective field goal percentage. Still, no one would be foolish enough to question George’s offensive capabilities. In addition, he was dominant on the defensive end of the floor for OKC. At age 28, in the heart of his prime, he will have teams lining up to offer him a max contract. The two most likely scenarios at this point seem to be staying in Oklahoma City or heading back home to Los Angeles.


4. Trevor Ariza, Houston Rockets:
Ariza flew under the radar due to James Harden, Chris Paul and Clint Capela garnering much of the praise for the Rockets spectacular success this past season. Yet, make no mistake, Ariza’s all-around contributions were crucial to Houston's winning ways. He had 98 steals and just 52 turnovers in 2017-18, leading the league in steal-to-turnover ratio (1.88). Per NBA.com, over the past five seasons, he is one of only three players with at least 4,000 points, 2,000 rebounds, 800 assists and 600 steals. The other two are James Harden and Russell Westbrook. While it is a tight free-agent market, an elite 3-and-D wing like Ariza should have plenty of suitors this summer.


5. Carmelo Anthony, Oklahoma City Thunder (player option):
2017-18 certainly did not go the way Carmelo Anthony had planned. Melo, who had never averaged fewer than 20.8 points per game in his career, saw his scoring average plummet to 16.2. He had also never shot below 42.6 percent from the floor, but converted just 40.4 percent of his field goal attempts last season. In the process, he became the first player since 2015-16 to attempt at least 15 shots a night, yet shot below 41 percent from the floor. In addition, his defense, as expected, was subpar. It would be stunning if he did not opt into his $27.9 million player option for next season, as there is no way he’d get anything close to that amount in free agency.


6. Kyle Anderson, San Antonio Spurs (restricted):
Anderson started 67 games in place of Kawhi Leonard this past season and posted a career-highs in scoring (7.9 points), rebounds (5.4), assists (2.7), steals (1.6) and field goal percentage (.527). He’s notorious for his methodical, slow-moving approach on the court, but he makes smart decisions, takes care of the basketball, and is an above-average defender who can guard multiple positions. With Kawhi letting it leak that he wants out of San Antonio, the Spurs may have increased motivation to re-sign Anderson this summer as Kawhi-insurance.


7. Rudy Gay, San Antonio Spurs (player option):
Coming off an Achilles tear, Gay was able to suit for 57 games in 2017-18 and played relatively well, averaging 11.5 points and 5.1 boards in 21.6 minutes. He also posted a PER north of 17 for just the third time in his career. Gay has declined to pick up his player option for the 2018-19 season, making him an unrestricted free agent this summer. Gay left $8.8 million on the table, so he must be confident he’ll be able to secure significantly more in total guaranteed money as a free agent.


8. Wilson Chandler, Denver Nuggets (player option):
Chandler has until June 29th to decide whether or not he will opt into the final year of his contract, which would pay him $12.8 million in 2018-19. Considering his disappointing play last season, when he averaged fewer than 12 points per game for the first time since his rookie season and posted a career-low PER of 11.0, he would have to settle for far less than $12 million annually on a new contract. Thus, expect him to opt in and spend at least one more season in Denver.


9. Mario Hezonja, Orlando Magic:
The Magic declined Hezonja fourth-year option last October, which means Super Mario will be an unrestricted free agent next month. Fortunately for Hezonja, he played the best ball of his career this past season. Over the final ten games of the 2017-18 campaign, he averaged 13.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 2.0 triples, and 1.8 steals in 31.3 minutes per contest. The former top-5 lottery pick is still just 23 years old and has shown flashes of intriguing upside.


10. Jeff Green, Cleveland Cavaliers:
After a disappointing season for Orlando in 2016-17, Green settled for a one-year deal with the Cavs this past season and was far more productive and efficient in Cleveland. Green’s scoring averaged increased from 9.2 to 10.8 points per game, while his True Shooting percentage jumped from 50.5 percent to a career-high 58.7 percent, proving he’s still able to provide quality minutes off the bench.


Best of the Rest:
* Doug McDermott, Dallas Mavericks (restricted)
* Joe Johnson, Houston Rockets
* James Ennis III, Detroit Pistons
* Josh Huestis, OKC Thunder
* Shabazz Muhammad, Milwaukee Bucks




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