We’ve talked about the thin free agent crop of point guards, and the more promising group at the shooting guard spot.
Now we look at the position with a lot of star power in this draft: Small forward. We said we would only list five, but because No. 1 is obligatory and not that interesting, we’ve added in a bonus sixth guy. You can thank us later. Yes, some these guys can play the four (and you could argue a couple could play the two), but we went with their traditional slots. Here is our list.
1) LeBron James. The single best player on the planet, and he just proved it again leading the Cavaliers to an NBA title. He is a franchise changer. He is not leaving Cleveland this summer, so discussing him is moot. (I do think he eventually leaves Cleveland, finishing his career elsewhere. But not before a victory tour, at least.)
2) Kevin Durant. Welcome to the Summer of Durant. He biggest name on the free agent board. A franchise changing player who is top five in the league, and while we list him as a three he can play some four. Seven teams reportedly have a chance to sit down with him — Thunder, Warriors, Spurs, Clippers, Heat, Celtics, Knicks — but for a long time the buzz around the league has been Oklahoma City is in the driver’s seat (something boosted by the Victor Oladipo trade), but if he does bolt Golden State is the most likely landing spot. The fact that he opened up the process to be recruited should concern OKC fans somewhat. Durant probably signs a one-plus-one deal wherever he lands so he can opt out next summer than re-sign a new max contract, but he wants that to be where he signs this season. This is team’s one chance to pitch him.
3) Nicolas Batum. He has quietly developed into one a “3&D” wing who is a perfect team fit for a modern NBA team. He averaged 14.9 points per game last season in Charlotte, and the Hornets have made a priority of re-signing him, but that likely requires a five-year max (which would mean letting Jeremy Lin go), but Batum will have options as the Spurs and other teams are interested. Smart money is on him staying put.
4) Harrison Barnes (restricted). If you think is off NBA Finals performance cost him money, you haven’t been paying attention to this cash-rich market. Barnes is going to get paid, likely a max or near max contract. He wants to stay in Golden State (understandably), but if the Warriors land a big fish (Durant, Al Horford, etc.) then Barnes will be one of the financial sacrifices. A number of teams with nice young rosters (including the Sixers) are interested in Barnes.
5) Chandler Parsons. No player may better explain the unprecedented NBA market this summer like Chandler Parsons: He is coming off his lowest-scoring season since his rookie year (13.7 per game), plus he only played in 61 games and sat out the end of the last two seasons due to troubling knee issues. He opted out of his $16 million player option for next season because he knew he’d get a raise. He’s right. He has a versatile game, can shoot the three, gets out in transition, and again is a guy who fits into the modern NBA game. When healthy. Orlando (not far from where he went to college at Florida) is known to be very interested in him, but a number of teams are.
BONUS: Luol Deng. He played the four for Miami last year and thrived — while he’s a traditional three his future is at the four. He was solid at both ends of the court for the Heat last season, plus he’s loved by teammates and a rock solid guy in the locker room. A lot of teams could use a guy like that, and that kind of demand leads to guys getting paid big bucks.