When you think of the most versatile position in basketball, you almost have to say small forward. It’s a crucial part of this league to have wings that can serve multiple purposes and fulfill different roles as assigned by their coaches.
With that being said, there are quite a few teams that have yet to find a wing to consistently keep in the rotation, so without further ado, here are the best small forwards in this summer’s upcoming free agent pool.
Kevin Durant – Player Option
The Warriors are going to have some serious decisions to make this summer.
With half of its dynamic core four and many major role players entering free agency in the 2017 offseason, Golden State’s top priority will certainly be retaining both Durant and the sure to be heavily-sought-after Stephen Curry.
There are two ways this can happen for Bob Myers and company:
A) Durant opts into his player option, makes $27.7 million next season, and becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2018.
B) Durant opts out of his player option and enters the free agent pool as a 10-year veteran for the first time in his career, where he can ask for a maximum contract valued at $36 million. The Warriors would have to open up cap space in order to make things work because they do not have his Bird rights.
Regardless of how it happens, all signs point to Durant staying in the bay area next season along with Curry. When it’s all said and done, the two teammates could be the highest paid duo in the history of the league.
Though the Warriors will lose some key pieces, it will be well worth it when it comes to Durant. Before the unfortunate knee injury he suffered in Washington, the 28-year-old superstar was flourishing for Steve Kerr.
In 59 games, Durant has the highest true shooting percentage among his teammates and is shooting the highest field goal percentage of his career thus far.
Gordon Hayward – Player Option
Could a Butler reunion be in the works between Hayward and his former college coach Brad Stevens?
The Celtics’ interest in the 26-year-old has been well known for a number of years. Going into this summer, it’s likely that they, as well as a ton of other teams, will make a huge run after him.
In his first All-Star season, Hayward has really taken the load on Quin Snyder’s offense. Across the board in points, rebounds, free throw percentage and both field goals made and attempted, he is averaging career bests in his seventh season as a pro. He’s also taken a major step forward defensively, acting as a primary wing stopper for a top-five defense.
Hayward is likely to opt out and will certainly be offered a max contract by somebody, but the Jazz would be able to match any offer and pay him more money than any other team. Hayward has stated his singular desire to play in the location that gives him the best shot at winning a ring.
Otto Porter Jr. – Restricted Free Agent
Gradual improvement has been the theme of Porter’s career, but this season has turned into a real breakout for him. In fact, if it wasn’t for Giannis Antetokounmpo’s ridiculous All-Star year, the former Georgetown Hoya could’ve been the frontrunner for Most Improved Player.
It’s all started with the confidence in his jump shot. Among those who attempt at least four threes per game, Porter’s 44.8 percent clip is tied for the best in the NBA with veteran gunner Kyle Korver. Going a step further with his offensive game, Porter leads the entire league in effective field goal percentage (61.5%) with a minimum of 10 attempts per game.
John Wall and Bradley Beal are the catalysts behind the Wizards’ climb up the Eastern Conference ranks, but the impact Porter’s had as that tertiary scoring option has really pushed them to the next level.
If how he’s played in the regular season is any indication of how he’ll perform in the playoffs, Porter will get a lot of shine and teams needing a reliable wing will be lining up to sign him to an offer sheet.
Whether Washington will match those potential offers will depend on who comes after him and how much money teams would be willing to give up. If a max contract offer ($25.8 million) comes around for Porter, there could be a tough choice to make for Ernie Grunfeld.
Danilo Gallinari – Player Option
Over the last three seasons, it’s been a chore to stay healthy for Gallinari. What’s even worse is that over the span of his nine-year career, only twice has he eclipsed 70 games in a single season.
That being said, any team that lacks versatility and needs someone to score points in bunches should look no further than Gallinari. In today’s NBA, versatility between positions is a necessity. At 6-foot-10, the veteran swingman can occupy the frontcourt in multiple roles while also being a real threat on the perimeter.
Averaging 17.7 points in over 33 minutes of action per game, Gallinari’s proved to be a great fit in a high-octane offense that gets up and down the floor.
His defensive deficiencies may shy some executives away from going all in with a max deal, but with a league headed towards more and more offense it may not matter. Gallinari could make up to $30.1 million per year if that turns out to be the case.
Considering that his player option would yield him just $16 million next season, as well as an abundance of forwards on the Nuggets’ roster, the logical decision would be to opt out.
Rudy Gay – Player Option
Similar to Gallinari, the 11-year veteran has made a living in the league as an aggressive go-to scorer, and a lot of teams could use an experienced presence like Gay. Going into this season with the Kings, Gay’s mind was already made up. He was betting on himself, opting out of his current deal and hitting the market as an unrestricted free agent.
Then, a freak accident happened. On January 18 in Indiana, Gay ruptured his left Achilles on a non-contact play. He had been battling knick-knack injuries before that point, but this one was season ending.
Needless to say, that threw a wrench into the 30-year-old’s plans for the summer, as he now stands undecided on his player option with Sacramento.
If he were to opt in, Gay would earn $14.2 million next year and become a free agent in 2018. Assuming he doesn’t, though, he still could have plenty of suitors despite the bad break. It really depends on what his agent believes regarding how much his market value will take a hit.
Andre Roberson – Restricted Free Agent
As an already-elite defensive talent at such a young age, Roberson could be the league’s best on-ball defender in the near future. He might already be, depending on who you talk to.
Though his offensive game leaves a lot to be desired, Roberson will come along as long he keeps getting shots up. This season, he’s attempting two more shots per game than the previous year.
Roberson hasn’t been as successful from deep as most, but he makes up for it by contributing to other areas of the game. There are only 15 players in the NBA that average at least one steal, one block and five rebounds per game, and he is a part of that group.
A true defensive stopper has become a rarity in this league, so teams will take that into consideration when deciding their offer sheets for Roberson.
P.J. Tucker – Unrestricted Free Agent
Tucker arrived in Toronto to start the second half of the season after being traded by the rebuilding Suns.
Since coming back to “The North” where he was originally drafted, Tucker’s presence has been felt in every game already. The Raptors’ defensive rating is 94.5 with him on the court and 112.1 with him on the bench.
Add in the fact that he’s got the ability to knock down the occasional corner three, and Tucker is a solid piece to any team, especially a championship contender.
Bojan Bogdanovic – Restricted Free Agent
Another deadline acquisition, Bogdanovic is a sharpshooter who has fit in beautifully off of the Wizards’ bench. He’s a guy that comes in and shoots the lights out.
Following the move to Washington from Brooklyn, the Bosnian sniper is knocking down 43 percent of his triples. He’s not shy about letting it go, either, averaging at least five three attempts per game in only 25 minutes of action.
Bogdanovic is a confident player who would be a welcome addition to many organizations out there, but knowing where the Wizards were before adding him, Washington would be wise to match what he’s offered.
C.J. Miles – Player Option
Still in his prime at 29 years old, Miles has 12 years of experience under his belt between three teams in his career.
With the Pacers this season, he’s taken his knack for shooting threes to another level of success. On five-and-a-half attempts per game, Miles is hitting nearly 42 percent. It’s the best he’s performed in his career so far and his confidence is sky high.
A player who once was a gamble in free agency because of inconsistency has matured into one of the most dependable shooters in the league.
Andre Iguodala – Unrestricted Free Agent
With the potential two max deals on the table between Curry and Durant, it’s probable that Iguodala won’t be a part of the Warriors next season for the first time in four years.
As a savvy veteran, Iguodala can provide any young team with leadership, as well as any contender with a key piece on the court. This can be scoring, defending or whatever is asked of him. He’s been known to be outspoken at times in the press, but on the court, Iguodala has been a consummate professional throughout his 13-year career and is well respected league-wide.
Robert Covington – Team Option
With an up and coming roster full of young talent, the Sixers could decline their team option on Covington.
For another team, though, Covington would be able to contribute as a defender and a scorer if need be. In the past three seasons, he’s consistently averaged 13 points per game. He’ll also get you steals and some boards.
Joe Ingles – Restricted Free Agent
Ingles is one of those players whose numbers aren’t telling of his true meaning to the team. Sure, he’s fifth in the league in three-point percentage among those attempting at least three per game, but the real story is his unselfishness and willingness to make the right plays for the benefit of the Jazz.
Tony Snell – Restricted Free Agent
With each season, Snell’s role has increased year-by-year, but nowhere near to what it’s been for Jason Kidd and the Bucks. As a starter for the entire season, Snell has taken more shots and improved his offensive game dramatically. The market will decide his value, but Milwaukee would be wise to match if a team offers him a reasonable deal.
Justin Holiday – Unrestricted Free Agent
In his fourth season in the league, Holiday’s been on five different teams and it’s been a real journey for him to display his talents. But in the opportunities he’s gotten this season with the Knicks, the 27-year-old has shown his professionalism and has proven he can deliver when his number is called upon.
Other Notable Upcoming Free Agents:
Unrestricted: Jeff Green, Matt Barnes, Michael Beasley
Player Option: Luc Mbah a Moute, Dante Cunningham
Team Option: Jerami Grant
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