Wednesday , August 17 2022

Fantasy basketball – Why upgrading at small forward matters more than ever

It’s Winning Time, folks.

We’re watching it. Living it.

We’ve got things to do. Places to be. Playoff rosters to perfect. So I’m not going to waste our time.

Maybe you’re in a points league and doing some pre-next-week fine-tuning on the waiver wire. Maybe you’re embroiled in a classic nip-and-tuck roto scramble and are looking for an edge in a specific category.

Or maybe you’re cranking through all your Wednesday morning work in record time to close out your professional day by 6 p.m. PST… so you can take your son to the Clippers-Wizards guaranteed instant classic at Staples Center.

“Instant classic?” Between two Play-In contenders at best? A Beal-less (but Unicorned-up) Wizards? A Kawhi-less, PG3-less Clippers? How do I know this is already a “guaranteed instant classic?”

Because of a promotional email I received from your Los Angeles Clippers two days ago (NOTE: I quietly support the Clippers as my second/local/not the Lakers NBA team.)

So… let’s talk small forward.

I’ve dropped more than one analytic hint this season that when it comes to positional scarcity… the worm has turned. What was once the deepest fantasy hoops position by far is now officially a dry, forsaken, statistical desert.

Why? Because of the overall trend towards the flattening of in-game roles by position. Small forward used to be where you went first for dynamic, multi-categorical production. SFs were our fantasy lynchpin in the aughts, providing a deep-dish foundation for managers the world over.

Back then, roto was king. Points leagues were just a whisper. But today, with points formats taking up most of the oxygen? With most of us prepping at least one team for the playoffs next week? With me hurriedly trying to give every reader, in every format, my one best, most accurate, most-guaranteed fantasy tip headed into next week?

In a compressed competitive timeline, you need to exploit every edge. But start with strategies that offer the biggest return on your biggest fantasy investment: your time.

Scarcity is the most impactful strategy a manger can employ in a tight window. (Categorical scarcity is a solid area to dig into. Even if you’re in a points league. I’ll probably explain why next week.)

But with all the injuries flying around at present, begin by focusing on positional scarcity. Because the differentiation at SF is a game-changer. Even as I type, the chasm in production between PG/SG/PF/C and SF is widening and deepening into a fantasy Grand Canyon.

You might be saying “Cregan, you said you were in a hurry… so which small forwards?” I’m not gonna waste our time telling you to pick up Scottie Barnes or Kyle Kuzma. If you’re in a competitive league… no player rostered at 75% or greater should be available.


Let’s collate a pool of 10 small forwards 1) heating up over the last couple of weeks who are 2) available in less than 75% of leagues while prioritizing 3) teams playing four games next week.

Four-game teams: Atlanta, Cleveland, Denver, L.A. Lakers, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, San Antonio, Toronto, Utah, Washington

(BTW, Miami is the only 2-game team next week)

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Wizards

This is not Bullets Fever-bias. This is a consistent second-to-third offensive option on a mediocre team, inexplicably pushing for a Play-In berth. This is all fertile fantasy territory for solid, underrated vets like KCP, who get more minutes than usual due to injury and deliver with quiet, competent consistency.

Jae Crowder/Cameron Johnson, Suns

Grouping them for strategic timing reasons. Crowder is the ASAP play. Devin Booker‘s just-announced return dings Crowder’s upside. Johnson’s return will dent it. Johnson is the play if you’re looking for an SF that will retain value down the stretch.

Carmelo Anthony/Malik Monk, Lakers

Talking about the Lakers is exhausting. Typing about them is exhausting. Reading about them is exhausting. See: Jae Crowder/Cameron Johnson.

Dorian Finney-Smith, Mavericks

Yes, Finnery-Smith is only playing three games next week. But if by some rip in the time-space continuum Finnery-Smith is still available in your league? Drop everything – even you peanut butter and jelly sandwich – and add immediately.

Bojan Bogdanovic/Bogdan Bogdanovic, Jazz/Hawks

Start by looking on your wire for Bogdan. If he’s unavailable, move on to Bojan. If he’s unavailable, move on to the next guy on this list.

Lauri Markkanen, Cavaliers

I’m as shocked as you are. Markkanen is one of my least favorite, most-overrated players of the last decade. But as an endgame wire grab for the Cavs… Markkanen’s tough to ignore. In the playoffs, you need volume. Usage. Offensive selfishness. And Markkanen is a mortal lock to deliver all three.

Robert Covington/Terance Mann, Clippers

See: Jae Crowder/Cameron Johnson.

Jaden McDaniels, Timberwolves

Yes, he’s only playing three games next week. But if you need someone to hit in a one-game window? McDaniels is a good medium-risk/high-reward gamble.

Herb Jones, Pelicans

John Cregan Rookie of the Year Herb Jones is the perfect sneaky-smart wire add. He doesn’t do anything at an eye-popping rate. But he’s fast-developing into one of fantasy’s preeminent glue guys. Jones does a little of everything, finds a way to contribute every night… and thanks to all that? Jones gets consistent minutes.

Kenyon Martin Jr., Rockets

I know I push Martin a little more than his stats should allow. But given the available touches in Houston, and Martin’s rapidly-developing productivity… he’s got as much endgame upside as any small forward in fantasy. A definite swing-for-the-fences add. You could get 20 points, 7 rebounds and 4 3s. You could get two points and three turnovers. But watch for any signs of consistent minutes… there’s fantasy gold here. In gotta jet.

P.S.: If Franz Wagner is still available in your league? You need to be in a more competitive league.


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