Ranking the Top 10 Small Forwards in 2022 NBA Free Agency

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured ColumnistApril 27, 2022

Ranking the Top 10 Small Forwards in 2022 NBA Free Agency

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    Jacob Kupferman/Associated Press

    Even in the midst of the 2022 NBA playoffs, teams all over the league are surely laying plans for this summer, when the draft, trades and free agency can dramatically alter the landscape.

    It's that last avenue for team building that will be the subject here. Despite the fact that there is very little cap space available this summer, you can be sure plenty of players will switch teams, thanks to exceptions and sign-and-trades.

    Over the next several days, Bleacher Report will break down the top 10 available free agents at each position.

    In today's positionless era, those distinctions can be difficult. And while it helps to consult sources like Cleaning the Glass or Basketball Reference, some judgment calls had to be made.

    As for who qualified for the top 10 in terms of ability, that was even more subjective. Past performance and projection models can help, but there's no way to perfectly predict the future.

    So, with all of that in mind, let's move on to the small forwards.

    Top 10 point guards can be found here.

    Top 10 shooting guards can be found here.


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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    10. Josh Okogie (Restricted)

    Josh Okogie had a small (almost minuscule) role for the Minnesota Timberwolves this season. He made 49 appearances and played just 10.5 minutes per game.

    But the team was slightly better when he was on the floor, thanks to his ability to guard multiple positions. At 6'4", he may seem undersized as a 3, but a 7'0" wingspan helps him bother both wings and guards.


    9. Derrick Jones Jr.

    A broken finger cost Derrick Jones Jr. a significant chunk of this season, but he had enough time to show that he's an above-average defender and a weapon in transition. Just doing those little things helped him have a positive impact on an above-.500 Chicago Bulls team, which was plus-3.5 points per 100 possessions with Jones on the floor and minus-1.3 without him.

    And because he's only 25 years old, there's reason to believe he can still develop an average three-point shot. Add that and Jones would be a bona fide three-and-D option on the wing. 


    It wouldn't be all that surprising for 38-year-old Andre Iguodala to retire after this season. He's already won three NBA titles and a Finals MVP. And injuries limited him to 31 appearances this regular season.

    If he did decide to come back, he'd join a relatively weak group of free-agent small forwards and would be one of its best playmakers. He can't provide much scoring anymore, but Iguodala just averaged a career-high 6.9 assists per 75 possessions.


    7. Joe Ingles

    Joe Ingles' age (34) and a recent ACL tear will probably cause some concern for potential suitors this offseason, but his game has never been largely predicated on explosiveness. And teams in need of a backup playmaker should be interested.

    His feel and patience in the pick-and-roll, as well as a 40.8 career three-point percentage, should make him a decent pilot for someone's second unit for a few more years.


    6. Jeremy Lamb

    Injuries have limited Jeremy Lamb's minutes over the last three seasons. He's averaged just 46 appearances per campaign in that stretch, but there's still reason to believe he can move the needle as a backup three-and-D player.

    Since the start of 2017-18, he's averaged 12.1 points and 2.0 assists in 24.3 minutes while shooting 35.5 percent from three. And his team's net rating has been 1.8 points better when he plays.

5. Pat Connaughton (Player Option)

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    It sort of went under the radar, but Pat Connaughton is coming off a 2021-22 in which he posted career highs in points (9.9), threes (2.2) and steals (0.9) per game.

    And he was one of just five players to attempt at least 200 threes and post a 60-plus effective field-goal percentage (along with Nikola Jokic, Nicolas Batum, Max Strus and Mikal Bridges).

    Those basic numbers may not jump off the screen, but they're pretty much what you want from an ancillary wing who's playing off a superstar like Giannis Antetokounmpo.

    The Milwaukee Bucks didn't need Connaughton to score a bunch of points, but his reliability as a floor-spacer and his willingness to guard multiple positions made it easier for coach Mike Budenholzer to trust him.

    If he were to decline his $5.7 million player option, some team would probably match or exceed that salary for a few more years. The desire to remain with Giannis and a title contender could trump that, though.

4. Cody Martin (Restricted)

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    With Gordon Hayward out for much of the season because of injury, Cody Martin was called upon to play more than he otherwise may have. And his contributions likely made him a little money.

    He didn't score a ton, but Martin provided a little bit of everything else off the bench for the Charlotte Hornets. He averaged 10.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.2 threes per 75 possessions. Perhaps most importantly, he shot a career-high 38.4 percent from deep.

    If that last number is indicative of how Martin will shoot going forward (he went just 25.2 percent from three in his first two seasons), he can be one of the league's more versatile reserve wings. In the right situation, he could even be a solid fourth or fifth starter.

    The league is loaded with stars, and players who are willing and able to play smaller roles around them are crucial. Martin is exactly that kind of player. He'll guard all over the perimeter, space the floor on offense and occasionally attack a closeout with some ferocity.

3. T.J. Warren

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    Signing T.J. Warren this offseason would be a bit of a gamble. On talent alone, he's probably the best small forward available, but he's appeared in just four games over the last two seasons.

    Though there may be other circumstances that contributed to that, foot problems and 150 missed games have to raise some red flags.

    But if we assume he'll be fully healthy for 2022-23, Warren could provide a scoring boon for a number of teams around the league.

    In 2018-19 and 2019-20, Warren averaged 19.1 points and 1.5 threes while shooting 41.4 percent from three.

    While a lot of players at his position have moved to a diet made up almost entirely of threes and layups, he remained a three-level scorer who could deal damage from the mid-range.

    During the aforementioned two-year stretch, Warren was 25th in field-goal percentage within five feet of the rim, 24th in field-goal percentage on twos from beyond five feet and 11th in three-point percentage (minimum 400 attempts from each range).

2. Caleb Martin (Restricted)

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Like his twin brother in Charlotte, Caleb Martin may have gotten a few more opportunities than he expected this season. Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro and Markieff Morris combined to miss over 100 games for the Miami Heat, and Martin was a big part of why they still finished first in the East.

    Miami's point differential was slightly better when he was on the floor, thanks to wide-ranging contributions on both ends of the floor.

    Martin averaged 15.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.8 threes, 1.6 steals and 0.8 blocks per 75 possessions while shooting 41.3 percent from deep. And plenty of the points he scored inside the arc came from highlight-worthy dunks.

    Those buckets still only count for two points, but there's an unquantifiable energy boost that they can provide to the rest of the roster. And when defenses are aware of the kind of pressure Martin can put on the rim, they may close out a bit less aggressively. That can give him precious extra moments on catch-and-shoot opportunities.

    On the other end of the floor, the five players Martin spent the most possessions defending were Trae Young, Anfernee Simons, Jrue Holiday, Danilo Gallinari and Khris Middleton. That's a point guard, two combo guards and two forwards.

    Explosiveness, reliable three-point shooting and versatility on defense all make Martin one of this offseason's more intriguing and underrated restricted free agents.

1. Bruce Brown

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    Few careers have started as interestingly as Bruce Brown's.

    When he was selected by the Detroit Pistons with a second-round pick in 2018, he profiled strictly as a 1 or 2.

    "With 2-guard size, quickness and athleticism, Brown works as a combo guard who's at his best attacking and setting the table," Jonathan Wasserman wrote for Bleacher Report. "He graded in the 91st percentile as a pick-and-roll passer, showing the ability to pick apart defenses off ball screens and find the open man."

    By his second year with the Pistons, that analysis was looking prescient. That season, he averaged 8.9 points and 4.0 assists in 28.2 minutes. Then, he was traded to a Brooklyn Nets team that had plenty of minutes already allocated to other guards.

    So, naturally, coach Steve Nash transitioned the 6'4" playmaker to forward and even used him as a rim-runner in pick-and-rolls.

    Last season, Brown was the roll man on 1.0 possessions per game and finished with above-average efficiency. And this season, he shot a career-high 40.4 percent from three.

    Whether it's with Brooklyn or some other team, if Brown can combine all of the above elements into one, he'll be one of the game's most versatile wings.

    Playmaking, cutting, three-point shooting and screen setting don't all come together in a single 6'4" package often, so creative teams should be interested in Brown.