Breaking down the NBA free-agent small forward market

Keith Smith
·7 min read

The small forward crop of free agents features a couple of top-tier talents and then about 10-15 rotation-level players. It’s not a banner group, but outside of a couple of players, no one should break the bank. All in all, small forward could be the position where the best values are found in free agency this year.

Top free agents: Point guards | Shooting guards | Power forwards | Center

1. Brandon Ingram (restricted)

Age: 23

Ingram and the Pelicans didn’t come to an agreement on a contract extension, but he’s likely to get a max deal in New Orleans anyway. Coming off his first All-Star appearance, Ingram has no reason to expect anything less. He’s an established wing scorer, an improving defender and an already solid rebounder and passer. The only question at this point seems to be if he’ll get a 3+1 deal from the Pelicans or a 4+1 deal? It’s hard to imagine New Orleans will even let it get to the point of him signing an offer sheet with another team.

Fits with: Pelicans

2. Gordon Hayward (player option)

Age: 30

For the first time since breaking his left leg on opening night in 2017, Hayward looked like he was back. Not just flashes of being back, but actually back. Did you know he pushed a 50/40/90 shooting season? Hayward finished at 17.5 points per game on 50/38/85 shooting splits. His defense and passing were back to his old standards as well. Health remains a concern, as Hayward missed most of the Celtics playoff run. The main question is if Hayward will opt in for $34.2 million? Or will he opt out for a long-term deal with Boston? Or could he take the Al Horford route and opt out for a new deal elsewhere?

Fits with: Celtics

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - FEBRUARY 15: Derrick Jones Jr. #5 of the Miami Heat dunks the ball in the 2020 NBA All-Star - AT&T Slam Dunk Contest during State Farm All-Star Saturday Night at the United Center on February 15, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Derrick Jones Jr. has found a home in Miami, but will he return next season? (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

3. Derrick Jones Jr.

Age: 23

Jones Jr. has found a home in Miami. His all-out style of play fits perfectly with the Heat culture. He’s become a rotation player and put up career-high stats nearly across the board. Only Jones’ lack of a three-point shot keeps him from being the kind of player who could garner $20 million a year as a free agent. The challenge for Jones is that Miami has big dreams for their cap space next summer. He could be back with the Heat on a big one-year deal, or he could get an offer elsewhere that offers more long-term security.

Fits with: Heat, Pistons, Knicks, Hawks, Mavericks

4. Jae Crowder

Age: 29

Crowder’s team-friendly five-year, $35 million dollar deal that he signed with Boston in 2015 is finally expiring. It’s just expiring four additional teams later. In part because of his easily moved contract, which complements his solid play, Crowder has been traded four times since the summer of 2017. In Miami, Crowder seems to have found the magic that made him a valuable player with the Celtics. He hit shots and defended at a high level once again. Someone will talk themselves into Crowder, but it’s unlikely to be Miami on a long-term deal. Not with the Heat’s cap space aspirations down the line.

Fits with: Hawks, Trail Blazers, Warriors, Wizards, Suns

5. Otto Porter Jr. (player option)

Age: 27

It was a lost year for Porter, just as it was a lost year for the Chicago Bulls. As injuries wrecked his year, Porter’s team was hampered by injuries as well. Now, without the benefit of seeing how he fits with Zach LaVine, Cody White and the Bulls young big men, Porter has to decide on his $28.5 million player option. Given his health issues and the lack of cap space around the league, Porter is going to opt in. He’ll bet on better health leading into a better free-agent market in 2021.

Fits with: Bulls

6. Torrey Craig (restricted)

Age: 30

After becoming the Nuggets’ best defensive player, Craig’s role was in flux this season. Michael Porter Jr. got some of the minutes Craig had played the previous year. Craig’s lack of a consistent outside shot has also kept him from locking down a rotation role. Because he’s a restricted free agent with a low qualifying offer ($2.5 million), Craig is likely to be back in Denver. The Nuggets roster is getting expensive and they don’t have the resources to add depth. That means Craig is probably back for at least one more year.

Fits with: Nuggets

7. Maurice Harkless

Age: 27

It was a bit of a topsy-turvy year for Harkless. He was included in a trade that sent him from Portland to the LA Clippers, as LA rebuilt around Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. At the trade deadline, Harkless was dealt again, this time to the New York Knicks. Despite the moves, and a smaller role in LA than the one he had in Portland, Harkless seemed to re-find his game. He was shooting over 50% from the field and nearly 35% from behind the arc. Because of his age and ability to fit in seamlessly with superstars, Harkless will have no shortage of suitors this summer.

Fits with: Rockets, Warriors, Nets, Mavericks, 76ers, Wizards

8. Josh Jackson

Age: 23

Surprised to see Jackson here? You’re not alone! Jackson was part of a salary dump when the rebuilding Grizzlies picked him up from the Suns. Memphis had more than enough wings, so they stashed Jackson in the G-League with hopes he’d figure some things out. As injuries struck the Grizzlies, Jackson was eventually called up and delivered the best play of his young NBA career. In 22 games in Memphis, Jackson averaged nine points per game on 44% shooting. That little bit of promise, combined with the fact that he’s only 23, could see Jackson high on the list of wing-needy teams this summer.

Fits with: Grizzlies, Warriors, Pistons, Knicks, Wizards, Rockets

PHILADELPHIA, PA - FEBRUARY 09: Glenn Robinson III #40 of the Philadelphia 76ers dribbles the ball against the Chicago Bulls at the Wells Fargo Center on February 9, 2020 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The 76ers defeated the Bulls 118-111. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Glenn Robinson III will likely not be in Philadelphia after this season. (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

9. Glenn Robinson III

Age: 26

It was a weird year for Robinson. He signed with the Warriors hoping to provide some depth for a title contender. As Golden State’s season crumbled due to injuries, Robinson turned in the best basketball of his career. He averaged 12.9 points per game on 48/40/85 shooting splits with the Warriors. However, with their season going nowhere, Golden State traded Robinson to Philadelphia at the trade deadline. Robinson wasn’t happy about the trade, and given his improved play with the Warriors, it’s not likely to be a long-term stay for him. Someone else will happily give him more than the minimum this offseason.

Fits with: Warriors, Wizards, Rockets, Celtics, Magic

10. Kent Bazemore

Age: 30

After five years as a rotation wing in Atlanta, Bazemore was a bit of a clunky fit in Portland. He was a sometimes starter, but never found his rhythm around the Blazers ball-dominant guards. A midseason trade sent him to Sacramento and Bazemore seemed to find his game again with the Kings. With his ability to fill the three-and-D role, Bazemore should have his pick of offers from contenders.

Fits with: Warriors, Rockets, Celtics, Grizzlies, Wizards, Magic

The Next Five

James Ennis III #11 of the Orlando Magic is fouled by Nicolo Melli #20 of the New Orleans Pelicans as he shoots against Josh Hart #3 during the second half of an NBA basketball game at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex.
James Ennis III was traded from Philadelphia to Orlando last season. (Kim Klement-Pool/Getty Images)

11. James Ennis III (player option)

Age: 30

Fits with: Magic, Warriors, Wizards

12. Solomon Hill

Age: 29

Fits with: Heat, Wizards, Rockets

13. Wilson Chandler

Age: 33

Fits with: Nets, Rockets, Warriors

14. Wesley Iwundu (restricted)

Age: 25

Fits with: Magic, Hawks, Wizards

15. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

Age: 27

Fits with: Mavericks, Warriors, Wizards, Rockets

Other free-agent small forwards: Deonte Burton (team option – restricted), Vince Carter, Melvin Frazier (team option – restricted), Treveon Graham, Marion Hezonja (player option), Stanley Johnson (player option), Malcolm Miller (restricted), Abdel Nader (team option – restricted), Semi Ojeleye (team option – restricted), Andre Roberson, Thabo Sefolosha, Evan Turner, Denzel Valentine (restricted), Kenrich Williams (restricted)

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