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If there's one position full of quality players in the next free-agency class, it's small forward.
And even with five other quality options and a veteran role player available, Luol Deng is at the top of the heap.
Although the Chicago Bulls small forward wasn't able to lead his team to a championship while Derrick Rose rehabbed his torn ACL, he still proved that he was a premier second option. Deng can play a ton of minutes (maybe too many, if you ask me) and still remain effective on both ends of the court.
He's a great three-point option, but his true speciality is defense, where he can shut down the opponent's best wing player on a consistent basis. According to Kelly Scaletta's Weighted Averaged Metrics with Scouting (WAMS) ratings, Deng was the sixth-best defensive 3 in the NBA, trailing only Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James, Andre Iguodala and Paul George.
That said, there are challengers to Deng's perch, even if he's a great player.
Rudy Gay is one of the biggest threats to the crown, although he has a player option and could elect to remain the go-to guy for the Toronto Raptors rather than play second fiddle for a different team. How he handles his first full season north of the border will have a big impact on his impending free agency.
Paul Pierce could take the cake if he decides to play a few more seasons (more on him later). Danny Granger could as well if he regains his old form after missing basically an entire season and losing his job as the offensive leader of the Indiana Pacers to Paul George.
Speaking of George, he's technically the top small forward available (assuming you consider him a 3), but there's less than a snowball's chance in hell that the Indiana Pacers let him walk rather than match any offer sheet he signs. In fact, there's probably a snowball's chance in the middle of the sun.
The other top small forwards would all be quality contributors on any contending team, but none of them should carry the load at this stage of their veteran careers. Shawn Marion, Vince Carter, Andrei Kirilenko (player option) and Shane Battier all fall into this category.
Gordon Hayward, a restricted free agent who the Utah Jazz will presumably keep, is the wild card. He could break out and become ultra-valuable, or he could continue looking like a mid-to-low-level starter.