We’ve compiled a list of 15 NBA best small forwards of the 2022-23 season. Small forwards in the NBA are responsible for scoring and defending, and are frequently secondary or tertiary rebounders behind the power forward and center. Some players in professional basketball have significant passing responsibilities, and many are prolific scorers. NBA small forwards scoring styles differ greatly. Small forwards fight both small and large players. They are all over the court. Small forwards can score on both long and close shots.
The offense is run by the point guard, who is usually the team’s best dribbler and passer. A successful small forward will have the ability to stretch the defense away from the basket with a better-than-average mid-range/perimeter game, the ability to pass out of the post area, and the ability to defend multiple positions.
NBA small forwards require dribbling skills even though they are not the primary ball handlers. They must be able to post up even if they are not expected to be great post players. They must be able to score even if they are not always the highest-scoring option. Don’t underestimate your importance to your team as a small forward. Here’s a list of 15 Small Forwards for the 2022-23 season:
Top 15 NBA Best Small forwards: Who are the best small forwards in the NBA 2022-23?
- LeBron James
- Jayson Tatum
- Kevin Durant
- Kawhi Leonard
- Jimmy Butler
- Paul George
- Brandon Ingram
- DeMar DeRozan
- Khris Middleton
- Mikal Bridges
- Keldon Johnson
- RJ Barrett
- Michael Porter Jr
- OG Anunoby
- Andrew Wiggins
1. LeBron James is the current NBA best small forwards in 2022-23.
The Los Angeles Lakers’ disastrous season should not overshadow the fact that LeBron James remains one of the NBA’s best players. Despite playing in only 56 games last season, James was a top-three small forward. For the sixth consecutive season, the king averaged at least 25.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 7.0 assists per game. In 2021-22, his scoring average (30.0) was the highest since 2005. No small forward can match James’ playmaking potential, and his rebounding should improve as he plays more power forward in 2022-23.
2. Jayson Tatum
Watching Jayson Tatum cruise past Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant, and Jimmy Butler in the playoffs before fading in the Finals felt like a passing of the torch, one that established Tatum as the best swingman in basketball. At least, four of our eight panelists ranked Tatum as the second-best small forward for the upcoming 2022-23 season. It’s easy to see why, given that the former Duke standout averaged 26.9 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 4.4 assists in his Age-23 season while shooting 45.3 percent from the field. Fans can expect an even better Tatum next year, with room to grow and the confidence from his Finals run acting as the wind in his sails, which is why he is ranked second on this list of best NBA small forwards 2022-23.
3. Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant is currently dealing with a trade request and a poor 2022 playoff performance. Regardless, he remains one of the league’s best, not just at the small forward position, but overall, and thus we have him as the No. 2 swingman heading into the 2022-23 season. Durant averaged 26.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 6.4 assists per game in 2021-22, shooting 51.8 percent from the field and 38.3 percent from three, ranking fifth in PER, sixth in VORP, and sixth in BPM. Furthermore, Durant’s presence improved the Brooklyn Nets by 11.9 points per 100 possessions.
Uncertainty about where he’ll play, as well as his brutal playoff performance against the Celtics, cast a cloud over his head, but the latter shouldn’t be used as a referendum to indicate Durant’s play is about to slow down. Remember the 2021 playoffs, when Butler averaged 14 points per game while being swept by the Bucks? How did he recover after that? Fans can expect the same from Durant in 2022-23, though we’re not sure what jersey color he’ll be wearing at the time.
4. Kawhi Leonard
Given that we haven’t seen Kawhi Leonard play in an NBA game since June 2021, this could be a contentious pick. However, at the time of his injury, Leonard was making a strong case to be considered the league’s best player, so perhaps ranking third on this list is an understatement. It’s difficult to predict how he’ll recover from a blown-out knee, but given how much time he’s had off to recover, we expect to see peak Leonard almost immediately in 2022-23.
The Klaw was downright monstrous in the 2021 playoffs, an 11-game sample size for Leonard, averaging 30.4 points, 7.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists, and 2.2 blocks while slashing 57.3/39.3/88.0 percent shooting splits, making a variety of tough shots no matter the defense, getting to the foul line, and playing elite defense on the other end. It’s been a while, but don’t forget how dominant Leonard was at the time he died. Basketball fans should look forward to his return in 2022-23.
5. Jimmy Butler
As if the 2019-20 Finals run in the Bubble wasn’t proof enough, Jimmy Butler provided even more proof of his status as an elite wing capable of leading a team deep into the playoffs this past season, guiding the Miami Heat to within a game of the championship series once again. Jimmy Butler had a fantastic regular season, averaging 21.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, 5.5 assists, and 1.6 steals on his way to All-Star honors, though he was passed over for All-NBA honors in favor of other candidates.
Butler, on the other hand, stepped up his game even more in the postseason, slashing a 27.4/7.4/4.6 stat line with 2.1 steals and 50.6% shooting from the field. Jimmy Butler is also an elite wing defender who uses toughness and incredible instincts to disrupt opposing offenses as much as possible. Overall, Butler performs admirably on both ends of the floor and has proven to be a winning player on elite teams. We anticipate more of the same in 2022-23.
6. Paul George
Here we enter the section of the list devoted to the undeniable superstar NBA small forwards, which begins with Paul George at No. 6. Due to injury, George only played in 31 games last season, but in those games, he was his usual brilliant self, averaging 24.3 points, 6.9 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 2.2 steals, and 2.9 three-pointers. George’s presence improved the Los Angeles Clippers’ 5.7 points per 100 possessions, demonstrating how important he was to the team’s success. George, a legitimate two-way force, is still a top-tier wing defender, albeit not at the level he was at his physical peak. The frightening thing is that George isn’t even the only Los Angeles Clippers player we’ll be discussing in the NBA small forwards of this ranking.
7. Brandon Ingram
In 2021-22, Brandon Ingram did an admirable job filling in for Williamson, leading the Pelicans to the playoffs after a slow start to the season. Ingram does what the modern do-it-all swingman is expected to do: score, rebound, and create at a high level. Last season, the Duke Blue Devil averaged 22.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 5.6 assists while shooting 46.1 percent from the field. With a huge year ahead for the Pelicans, including the return of Williamson to play alongside Ingram, we expect more of the same from the lanky swingman, hence his ranking.
8. DeMar DeRozan
After several pundits panned DeMar DeRozan’s signing with the Chicago Bulls, the Compton native proved the doubters wrong by putting up the best season of his career at the age of 32. DeRozan was named 2nd Team All-NBA in 2021-22, a well-deserved honor after averaging 27.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 4.9 assists while leading the Bulls back to the playoffs. Furthermore, the Bulls improved by 5.1 points per 100 possessions with his presence. Although it may seem difficult to believe, DeRozan’s positive swing rating was only his second in his impressive 13-year career – and his first since 2011-12.
9. Khris Middleton
Khris Middleton, a smooth perimeter shooter, can score, rebound, assist, and defend at the level of a solid No. 2 option on a championship team, as the Milwaukee Bucks demonstrated two seasons ago. Middleton’s importance was highlighted last postseason when an injury suffered in Game 2 of Round 1 forced him to miss the rest of the postseason, which ended for Milwaukee the following round. Would the Bucks have been able to beat the Celtics without Middleton, who they took to seven games anyway? It’s conceivable. Overall, the former Texas A&M Aggie remains a wing stud, averaging 20.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 5.4 assists while shooting 44.3 percent from the field and 37.3 percent from three last season.
10. Mikal Bridges
Mikal Bridges, one of the best 3-and-D players in the NBA right now, is more of a complementary piece than a star, but he is a star in his role. Bridges were fantastic last season, averaging 14.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game while shooting 36.9 percent from three and having a +9.5 swing rating for an elite Phoenix Suns team. He was the 36th-most impactful player in the league last year, according to VORP, and it’s easy to see why, as his defense and three-point shooting were critical to the Suns’ success. Bridges can guard multiple positions thanks to his quick feet, great instincts, and above-average wingspan, and he only takes shots within his wheelhouse on offense, never forcing things but rather letting the game come to him.
11. Keldon Johnson
Despite the San Antonio Spurs roster turmoil, one player who can be confident in his position on the team is Keldon Johnson, to whom the franchise recently committed long-term money. And it’s easy to see why, as Johnson is coming off a career-high season in which he averaged 17.0 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 2.1 assists while shooting 39.8 percent from three. Johnson’s ability as a slashing scorer in the paint and to space the floor while moving his feet quickly to defend multiple positions, as well as his high-effort style on both ends of the floor, help him stand out.
12. RJ Barrett
RJ Barrett’s opinions are somewhat divided, with the swingman putting up big numbers at an inefficient rate, making him a difficult study. When you consider that the New York Knicks were statistically worse with Barrett on the floor last season (by a hard-to-ignore 7.9 points per 100 possessions), Barrett’s most productive season as a pro, his case to be considered a top small forward becomes even more perplexing. Despite this, Barrett was adequate in 2021-22, averaging 20.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.0 assists while shooting 40.8 percent from the field and 34.2 percent from three.
Furthermore, advanced analytics did not think much of Barrett’s impact last season, ranking him 144th in BPM, 230th in VORP, and 158th in WS/48. Nonetheless, Barrett, who is only 22 years old, has three years of pro experience and averages 20 points per game while displaying flashes of brilliance regularly. Barrett will outperform his ranking if he can improve his efficiency.
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13. Michael Porter Jr
Michael Porter Jr. was one of the most difficult players to forecast for this exercise because his 2021-22 season ended after only nine games and there is little information about how he is doing now in his recovery from that back injury. Based on the previous season, we may be undervaluing Porter with this ranking, as the Denver Nuggets swingman averaged 19.0 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, hit 44.5 percent of his three-point attempts and appeared to be on a massive upward trajectory.
Then came last season, when Porter averaged 9.9 points and shot 20.8 percent from three, leaving us wondering how the talented small forward will fare in 2022-23. But, given that the Nuggets have already signed Porter to a max contract through 2026-27, the team is probably hoping beyond hope that he looks like the 2020-21 version of himself, or they will be saddled with one of the league’s worst contracts.
14. OG Anunoby
After some trade speculation earlier in the offseason, things have calmed down recently, making it easier to project where OG Anunoby might rank among the NBA small forwards in 2022-23. Anunoby has improved his numbers each of the last three seasons, with his most recent contributions being 17.1 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 1.5 steal while shooting 36.3 percent from beyond the arc. Add in the fact that he’s one of the league’s best defensive wings, and you have the makings of a two-way star for the Toronto Raptors. And, with Anunoby only 25 years old, we expect to see continued development for the slashing swingman who has improved his game season after season, even becoming a respectable iso face-up scorer in 2021-22.
15. Andrew Wiggins
Andrew Wiggins just missed making the Top 15 of our NBA small forwards rankings after having the most impactful season of his career, but given his last 12 months, we doubt he’ll be too disappointed. Wiggins averaged 17.2 points and 4.5 rebounds in the 2021-22 regular season and made 39.3 percent of his three-point attempts, which was a career-high. However, when the Warriors needed him the most, the Canadian small forward stepped up, even more, averaging 18.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.5 steals, and 1.5 blocks in the Finals against the Boston Celtics, cementing his place as the Warriors’ second-most important player in that series.
Wiggins has thrived as a more complementary piece, able to focus on slashing, spotting up from three, defending, and getting after it on the court without the heavy expectation of leading a franchise as a former No. 1 pick. We anticipate more of the same from Wiggins in 2022-23.
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