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Ranking The Free Agents — Small Forwards

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As the Basketball Insiders’ position-by-position breakdown of upcoming free agents winds down (power forwards, point guards, and shooting guards already complete) the focus shifts to the small forward.

In today’s league, high-level wing players on both ends of the ball are held at an absolute premium. This summer in particular, some high profile names and talent will be up for a pay raise.

Just as a refresher, here are the pay-scale options for the players looking to secure new contracts:

  • $25,250,000 for players with 0-6 years of experience
  • $30,300,000 for players with 7-9 years of experience
  • $35,350,000 for players with 10 or more years of experience

Outside of the maximum values, the mid-level exception for teams is set at $8,406,000 in year one.

With the potential earning benchmarks out of the way, let’s get into the free agent wings that have the opportunity to change their address and the landscape of the NBA this summer.

Max Guys

Kevin Durant — Golden State Warriors — $26,540,100

On the heels of his first ever NBA championship and a Finals MVP trophy to accompany it, Kevin Durant is choosing to opt out of the second year of this contract with Golden State.

While Durant will technically be a free agent, there isn’t much question about where he’ll be playing basketball next fall. But don’t expect the Finals MVP to sign on the dotted line at midnight of July 1.

Yes, the former league MVP will take some time to re-up on his deal with the Warriors and let other signings fall into place (Stephen Curry to be exact) but once the dust settles Durant will be safely locked into the Bay area.

Gordon Hayward — Utah Jazz — $16,073,140

Unlike Durant, Gordon Hayward’s impending free agency doesn’t come with so much clarity.

When the NBA announced their latest All-NBA teams and Hayward’s name didn’t crack the list, the small forward missed out on his qualification for a “super-max” five-year, $207 million deal he could’ve potentially signed with Utah. Instead, his max deal with the Jazz can only reach $177.5 million over the same time frame.

Should Hayward leave Utah, and there is significant talk that he might, he can ink a four-year $131.6 million deal, making him a rich man beyond any means regardless of which city he plays basketball in.

What is giving pause to the notion that Hayward will remain with the same club that drafted him in 2010 is mainly the allure of playing with the Boston Celtics and their coach Brad Stevens, who coached Hayward in college at Butler. The Celtics aren’t shy in their pursuit of Hayward either, and will gladly offer every penny the Collective Bargaining Agreement says they can.

A new wrinkle in the courtship of Hayward for both Utah and Boston, however, is the addition of the Miami HEAT to the conversation. Reports surfaced that Hayward will meet with the HEAT as a part of his free agency carousel. HEAT president Pat Riley has a reputation for persuading big time free agents to join his vision, and Hayward reportedly is fond of the idea of playing alongside HEAT point guard Goran Dragic.

Basketball Insiders’ Steve Kyler reported that Hayward will meet with Miami first, followed by Boston and Utah before making his decision.

The free agency of Hayward will be one of the most watched his summer, and could be the first big piece to start a domino effect of transactions. Should a team like Boston or Miami miss out of the 27-year-old small forward, they may turn their attention to other high-profile players.

Otto Porter* — Washington Wizards — $5,838,981

In the final year of his rookie contract, Otto Porter began to blossom into the player the Washington Wizards hoped they had drafted back in 2013. Because of that, Porter is walking into a big time pay day this summer.

At just 24 years old, Porter averaged 13.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game while shooting 43 percent from three-point range on a playoff team. Porter’s versatility offensively and defensively played a key role in the Wizards’ season that saw them reach Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

While Porter holds a qualifying offer from Washington, he technically remains a restricted free agent, meaning that another team can sign him to an offer sheet but the Wizards have the opportunity to match any money he is offered.

However, Porter’s negotiations shouldn’t likely even come to that scenario. Washington is preparing to walk into this situation fully equipped to keep Porter a part of their core for years to come.

Near Max Guys

Danilo Gallinari — Denver Nuggets — $15,050,000

What separates Danilo Gallinari from the top-tier of small forwards this summer isn’t a gap in skill, but rather a gap in availability.

The 6-foot-10 sweet-shooting Italian is a three-point marksman, but at no point has he ever completed a full 82-game season. In fact, he’s only played in more than 71 games on two occasions, the last coming in the 2012-13 season.

Over the last two years, Gallinari has grown into much more of a complete scorer in Denver on his way to averaging 18.8 points per game and shooting nearly 38 percent from deep. The problem is, he hasn’t been on the court enough to string together long bouts of consistency. This past season, Gallinari played in just 63 games. The year before? Fifty-three games.

What will give teams pause when it comes to offering Gallinari big money is the fact that they are expecting their heavy investment to miss crucial playing time.

Regardless of what money does get offered, it sounds like Gallinari is married to the idea of a return to Denver. He told a foreign news outlet that the Nuggets “aren’t my first choice.”

Gallinari will likely be one of those players who has to sit back and wait for some of the bigger dominoes to fall in order to see where he fits during this free agency period.

Andre Roberson* — Oklahoma City Thunder — $2,183,072

Even more than anybody on this list, Andre Roberson is going to cash out this summer.

Over the course of his rookie deal, Roberson has gone from relative unknown role player to one of the league’s premier wing defenders. And in a league where wing scoring is held at a premium, defending it is just as important.

The knock on Roberson, however, is the fact that at this moment, he couldn’t hit water falling out of a boat with his jump shot. Over the course of his four-year career, Roberson has hit just 100 three-pointers, total.

While his offensive game is extremely limited at this point, the market will likely suggest that some team with money to spend will ink Roberson to a deal based solely on his defensive capabilities and hope they can help grow his game on the other end of the court.

Above Mid Level Guys

Rudy Gay — Sacramento Kings — $13,333,333

Andre Iguodala — Golden State Warriors — $11,131,368

Bojan Bogdanovic* — Washington Wizards — $3,730,653

Joe Ingles* — Utah Jazz — $2,150,000

Jeff Green — Orlando Magic — $15,000,000

Mid-Level or Below Guys

CJ Miles — Indiana Pacers — $4,583,450

Glenn Robinson III — Indiana Pacers — $1,050,500

KJ McDaniels — Brooklyn Nets — $3,333,333

Reggie Bullock* — Detroit Pistons — $2,255,644

Derrick Jones** — Phoenix Suns — $543,471

Georges Niang** — Indiana Pacers — $650,000

Adreian Payne — Minnesota Timberwolves — $2,022,240

Tony Snell* — Milwaukee Bucks — $2,368,327

Luc Mbah a Moute — Los Angeles Clippers — $2,203,000

Michael Beasley — Milwaukee Bucks — $1,403,611

Luke Babbitt — Miami HEAT — $1,227,286

Justin Holiday — New York Knicks — $1,015,696

Jonas Jerebko — Boston Celtics — $5,000,000

Matt Barnes — Golden State Warriors — $242,224

Brandon Rush — Minnesota Timberwolves — $3,500,000

Jarrod Uthoff** — Dallas Mavericks — $47,953

*Qualifying Offer (If made, player becomes restricted free agent)

**Non-Guaranteed Contract (If player is waived by current team before contract becomes fully guaranteed, becomes unrestricted free agent)

This summer features some very effective, and pricey, wing players on the open market. But as the Golden State Warriors showed the NBA last season, you can never have enough talent on the wing.

Expect teams to lock down the bigger money players as quickly as they can and then the rest of the role players will fall into place. But with the combination of cheap veterans and young players with promise looking to latch on to a club, almost every team in the market for an effective wing should get a crack at someone that fills their needs.

Make sure to follow Basketball Insiders on Twitter at @BBallInsiders.

About Dennis Chambers

Dennis Chambers

Dennis Chambers is an NBA writer in his first season with Basketball Insiders. Based out of Philadelphia he has previously covered NCAA basketball and high school recruiting.