Throughout NBA history, small forwards have often played without the ball, with many playing specialized roles such as spot-up shooters, wing-stoppers, or both. While there are still three-and-d players, many of the NBA’s top small forwards are now playing with the ball in their hands. Part of that is due to bigger players developing more perimeter skills, allowing them to play effectively on the wing rather than at power forward.
As a result, small forward has suddenly turned into more of a skill position than ever before, with many of the NBA’s best players playing there. Therefore, let’s rank each of the 30 projected starting small forwards for the 2023–24 season and break them into tiers. Let’s get started!
NBA Tier 5: Stopgaps and unproven starting small forwards
30) John Konchar, Memphis Grizzlies
29) Corey Kispert, Washington Wizards
28) Keita Bates-Diop, Phoenix Suns
27) Shaedon Sharpe, Portland Trail Blazers
26) Bennedict Mathurthin, Indiana Pacers
25) Brandon Miller, Charlotte Hornets
24) Max Strus, Cleveland Cavaliers
23) Tim Hardaway Jr., Dallas Mavericks
Second-overall pick Brandon Miller headlines this ragtag group of borderline starters. Miller is the most talented player in this group given his shooting ability for his size and underrated playmaking ability. However, it’s hard to place him any higher until he actually plays a game. In fact, both he and Mathurin could be in a much higher tier after next season, assuming Mathurin’s 3-point shot starts falling again.
Bates-Diop will likely start for the Suns after signing there for the minimum. He could prove to be an effective addition given his length, size, and defensive versatility. He has a size of a four but can effectively guard wings and, when paired with Kevin Durant, they could form a terrorizing defensive pairing at forward.
Entering year 3, Kispert is pretty much who we thought he’d be coming out of Gonzaga. He is a terrific shooter, drilling 42% of his threes, but he doesn’t provide much else other than spacing. That is still a pretty useful skill to have, but the Wizards could very well replace him if they get a high pick in the 2024 NBA draft. The same could be said for many of the players on this list; they are good enough to start next season but not necessarily a part of their team’s long-term plans.