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Fantasy Basketball 2021-22: LeBron James, Kevin Durant top this year’s list of small forwards

Superstar small forwards are hard to come by in today’s NBA. While there are plenty of versatile wings, only a select few deserve first-round consideration in fantasy drafts. LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Paul George can all play multiple positions are among the cream of the crop, but up-and-comers are threats to climb into their ranks. Let’s take a look at which players have the skill sets to warrant first and early second-round selections. 

Top targets

1. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers have brought on a host of experienced veterans ahead of the 2021-22 season, but you shouldn’t expect James to take a step back with new faces around him. The perennial superstar has casually maintained a 25-7-7 stat line over the last five years and will continue to be Los Angeles’ primary playmaker with Russell Westbrook joining the team. His passing sets him apart from the other small forwards in this group, and playing more power forward could help him bolster his rebounding numbers.

2. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets

Durant hit the ground running after sitting out for the 2018-19 season. He averaged 26.9 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 5.6 assists per game in his most efficient shooting season ever. He matched a career-high shooting percentage (53.7) and made a ridiculous 45 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. The Nets have decided to restrict Kyrie Irving from playing or practicing until he’s vaccinated, so the scoring title is very much in play for Durant. He’s likely to lead the Nets in rebounding because of the Nets’ aging frontcourt and could be his team’s secondary playmaker as well. 

3. Paul George, Los Angeles Clippers

Paul George was the NBA‘s third-most productive fantasy small forward in his final season with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2017-18. We could see one of the league’s best two-way players return to peak form with Kawhi Leonard sidelined by an ACL tear. In his final run with the Thunder, George was a frontrunner for MVP and DPOY, averaging carer highs in points (28) and rebound (8.2) per game. Only scoring leader James Harden made more threes that season. There’s no other All-Star in George’s way this year, so there’s a clear path for George to grab a spot in the top three. George’s scoring upside is arguably higher than then my third-ranked small forward without a legitimate co-star. He casually averaged a career-high 5.2 assists per game last season to lead the Clippers.

4. Jayson Tatum

Tatum had an up-and-down year in 2019-20. He struggled to regain form after missing some games following a positive COVID-19 test but managed to post career-highs in points (26.4), rebounds (7.4), and assists (4.3) per contest. Tatum has the support of another All-Star in Jaylen Brown, and the Celtics have bolstered their roster with the additions of Dennis Schroder and Al Horford. There’s a good chance Tatum will have the lowest usage rate in this group, and three of the Celtics’ other projected starters averaged at least 13 points per game.

5. Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans

Ingram’s last two seasons have been almost identical. The Pelicans swingman averaged 23.9 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 4.9 assists but took a backseat to Zion Williamson when it came in the scoring department. Williamson is dealing with an eerie foot injury and appears set to miss the beginning of the season. New Orleans seems poised to rest its potential franchise player while he recovers from the ailment, and that means Ingram will get the keys to the offense. Williamson will almost certainly become the first option after he makes his return. Devonte’ Graham and Nickeil Alexander-Walker will share playmaking responsibilities with Ingram in the meantime. Ingram has a shot at the top five, even if he does fade when his team is healthy again. He’s a versatile scorer who hasn’t shown the same rebounding upside as the players mentioned above. Jonas Valanciunas is a double-double machine and won’t make dominating the boards easier for Ingram.

Small forward rankings

1. LeBron James, LAL
2. Kevin Durant, BKN
3. Paul George, LAC
4. Jayson Tatum, BOS
5. Brandon Ingram, NOP
6. Tobias Harris, PHI
7. Khris Middleton, MIL
8. Gordon Hayward, CHA
9. OG Anunoby, TOR
10. Andrew Wiggins, GSW
11. Harrison Barnes, SAC
12. Dillon Brooks, MEM
13. Bojan Bogdanovic, UTA
14. Jerami Grant, DET
15. Evan Fournier, NYK
16. Norman Powell, POR
17. Mikal Bridges, PHO
18. De’Andre Hunter, ATL
19. Miles Bridges, CHA
20. Keldon Johnson, SAS
21. Joe Ingles, UTA
22. Robert Covington, POR
23. Kyle Anderson, MEM
24. Otto Porter Jr., GSW
25. Saddiq Bey, DET
26. Dorian Finney-Smith, DAL
27. Jae’Sean Tate, HOU
28. Patrick Williams, CHI
29. Josh Richardson, BOS
30. Isaac Okoro, CLE
31. Doug McDermott, SAS
32. T.J Warren, IND
33. Kelly Oubre, CHA
34. Josh Jackson, DET
35. Cam Reddish, ATL
36. Jordan Nwora, MIL
37. Rudy Gay, UTA
38. Deni Avdija, WAS
39. Naji marshall, NOP
40. Josh Okogie, MIN



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