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NBA Saturday: 2015 NBA Free Agent Rankings – Small Forwards

A tiered ranking of the top small forwards who will be available on the free-agent market this summer.

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Get ready folks, the NBA free agency period is now less than a month away.

Previously, we ranked and tiered the top point guards and shooting guards in this summer’s free agent crop.

Today, we’ll breakdown the small forwards set to hit the open market.

Tier 1:
1. LeBron James – Player option:
Obviously, the best player on the planet is in a tier by himself. LeBron may opt out of his current deal this summer and sign another two-year contract with an option to become a free-agent again in 2016. That will allow him to sign a insanely lucrative long-term contract with Cleveland next offseason– after the salary cap spikes to upwards of $80 million.

Tier 2:
2. Kawhi Leonard – Restricted:
Here is the complete list of all NBA players who have won both an NBA Finals MVP award and the Defensive Player of the Year award at some point in their career: Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon and… Kawhi Leonard. Amazingly, Leonard earned both of those commendations before he turned 25 years old. The Spurs will obviously offer Kawhi the max (or match if he signs a max offer sheet from another team). The only question is, might Leonard be willing to gamble and sign just a two-year deal with an option to opt-out in 2016, which would allow him to sign a far more lucrative contract next summer? Last month we outlined the pros and cons of this potential strategy that may be employed by top-tier free agents this summer.

Tier 3:
3. DeMarre Carroll – Unrestricted:
Carroll bounced around the NBA, playing for four teams over his first three years in the league, before signing a two-year deal with the Hawks in the summer of 2013. Carroll developed into a terrific two-way player in Atlanta and returned tremendous value for the Hawks (Carroll made just $2.4 million this past season). Carroll survived a scare in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, when it appeared he had suffered a major knee injury, and will cash in this summer. Plenty of teams will be knocking down his door on July 1 to eagerly offer him a major raise.

4. Tobias Harris – Restricted:
Harris is one of the more difficult free agents to peg. He’s dealt with some injury issues (missing 35 games over the last two seasons), and his defensive aptitude isn’t all that impressive. However, Harris has shown plenty of intriguing upside during his stint in Orlando. Last season, he was one of just six players to average at least 17 points, six rebounds and one steal per game. (The other five were: Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, DeMarcus Cousins and Carmelo Anthony). Still just 22 years of age, Harris has yet to hit his prime.

5. Luol Deng – Player Option:
Deng’s production has trended in the wrong direction the last few seasons, but he still plays hard and plays the right way. For the right price, he’d improve any team he’s a part of.

6. Jeff Green – Player Option:
Green has a $9.2 million option next season. He is an above-average scorer, but doesn’t excel in other facets of the game. In addition, he didn’t live up to expectations during his short stint in Memphis (averaging just 8.9 points per game in the 11 playoff games Memphis played).

Tier 4:
7. Paul Pierce – Player Option:
Pierce is obviously no longer the superstar he once was, but he clearly demonstrated his value during the Wizards’ playoff run last month, when Washington leaned on him heavily in the clutch and he came through time after time. Furthermore, his important contributions as a locker room leader may be more important than his on-court offering at this point of his career. Will he decide to play another year in Washington, or explore a different opportunity in what could be the final year of his career? Recent rumors have, once again, linked him to the Clippers.

8. Corey Brewer – Player Option:
Brewer is set to make $4.9 million next season. It’s safe to assume he’ll opt-out and hit the open market, as he’s due for a raise and a longer contract after a solid showing in Houston over the second half of the 2014-15 season and especially in the playoffs.

9. Gerald Green – Unrestricted:
It looked like Green had finally found his groove in Phoenix back in 2013-14, when he averaged 18.5 points and 3.6 rebounds for the Suns over the final 30 games of the season. However, he regressed this past season, as his shooting accuracy slid back to career norms. Still, his incredible athleticism sometimes allows to him score even when his jumper is not falling.

10. Mike Dunleavy – Unrestricted:
Dunleavy, who will turn 35 years old next season, is nearing the end of the road. He played too many minutes in Chicago last season (over 29 minutes a night), but if used off the bench in a less demanding role, he can produce. He can still shoot (40 percent from three-point territory and over 80 percent from the charity stripe last season).

11. Al-Farouq Aminu – Player Option:
His counting stats will never jump off the page, but the former lottery pick (eighth overall selection in 2010) continues to steadily improve. His PER and Win Shares have increased each season he’s been in the league. He was a tremendous value signing for the Mavs last summer, as Dallas paid him less than a million bucks this past season. He will undoubtedly opt-out (his player option is for just $1.1 million). This improving, defensive-minded wing could still be a solid value if signed for the right price.

Tier 5:
12. Jae Crowder – Restricted:
After seeing limited and sporadic minutes over his first few seasons in Dallas, Crowder got a chance to shine in Boston after a mid-season deal sent him to the Celtics. Efficiency is an issue (he posted just an eFG% below 47 percent), but the energy and defensive effort he brought to the table reportedly impressed Celtics management. We shall see what kind of offers Crowder might receive this summer, and if Boston will match.

Mirza Teletovic – Restricted:
13. Teletovic received frightening news back in January when doctors discovered he had blood clots in his lungs. Surprisingly, and fortunately, he made a complete recovery and was able to play in Brooklyn’s first-round matchup with the Hawks. The Nets will purportedly extend a qualifying offer, making Mirza a restricted FA this summer.

14. Derrick Williams – Restricted:
The second overall pick in the 2011 draft, Williams is hoping to avoid being labeled a “bust.” He’s been a relatively consistent scorer (15 points per-36 minutes over the course of his four-year career); however, his rebound and assist rates hit frighteningly low levels last season.

15. Michael Beasley – Team Option:
He’s been given plenty of opportunities, but Beasley has failed to prove himself as even an average NBA player up to this point in his career.

16. Kyle Singler – Restricted:
Singler played decently for the Pistons over his first two years in the league, but took a step back in 2014-15. He couldn’t locate his shot with the Thunder and somehow shot just 28 percent on two-point field goals during his short stint in OKC.

17. Shawn Marion – Unrestricted:
For a large chunk of his career, The Matrix was one of the more undervalued stars in the NBA. However, it appears he finally ran out of gas in Cleveland this past season. Marion has said he will retire after the conclusion of the 2014-15 season, but he’s included in case he has a change of heart (as players sometimes do).

18. Chris Copeland – Unrestricted:
Copeland signed a $6.1 million two-year deal with the Pacers back in the summer of 2013 after a surprisingly impressive rookie season in New York as a 28 years old. However, he disappointed the Pacers and will be looking for a new team this July.

Best of the Rest: Tayshaun Prince, Richard Jefferson, James Jones, Omri Casspi, Mike Miller, Rasual Butler, Wes Johnson, Andrei Kirilenko, Gigi Datome, Luke Babbitt, Alonzo Gee, Lance Thomas, Hedo Turkoglu, Travis Wear, Jeremy Evans, Shawne Williams, Joe Ingles, Danny Granger, Landry Fields

Tommy Beer is a Senior NBA Analyst and the Fantasy Sports Editor of Basketball Insiders, having covered the NBA for the last nine seasons.

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