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Small Forwards: Ornery Artest

Brandon Funston
Yahoo Sports

Preseason Position Rankings: Point Guard | Shooting Guard | Small Forward | Power Forward | Center

The small forward position is loaded with interesting subplots, the most notable being the return of Ron Artest from his suspension last season for an in-the-stands altercation with Detroit fans and players. Artest certainly gets more attention for his behavior than his performance on the court, and that's a shame because he's an All-Star caliber player when he focuses on just the game.

Because of the volatility factor, Artest has to fall behind King (of fantasy) James and Tracy McGrady on my list of the top 25 small forwards, but after that there is not a player who can contribute for fantasy owners like Artest can. After a lengthy David Stern-imposed vacation, Artest seems like a decent bet to try and stick around a little longer this season.

One of the most intriguing small forwards is Atlanta 19-year-old Josh Smith. He's still raw, but he has freakish athletic ability. He lands among my top 10 small forwards as he offers a rare two blocks a night from the position. If he can score and rebound like he did to close out the '04-'05 campaign, fantasy owners will have a draft-day sleeper on their hands.

My top 25 list does not include all SF-eligible players, as some landed on my previous shooting guard list, and those that can play power forward will be included on that list. The PF position does not offer the depth that SF does, therefore combo forwards like Shawn Marion, Andrei Kirilenko, etc. are worth more in the PF slot. With that in mind, here's a look at the entire top 25 list:

Fantasy Hoops: Top 25 Small Forwards
Rank Player Comment
1 LeBron James, Cle, GF He's a top 2 fantasy pick, and he's still not old enough to buy beer. LBJ should be even better with an improved supporting cast - Hughes, Marshall, Damon Jones.
2 Tracy McGrady, Hou, GF T-Mac had no problem adjusting to Houston, and now that he's settled in he might be even better.
3 Ron Artest, Ind, SF Capable of leading the league in steals and contributing to your fantasy squad across the board. Also very capable of leading your team in suspension-induced DNPs, or checking out to record a rap album.
4 Peja Stojakovic, Sac, SF He locks down treys and FT% for fantasy owners, and he played his best sans C-Webb two seasons ago.
5 Rashard Lewis, Sea, SF One of the top 3-ball shooters in the league, but at 6-foot-10, would be nice to see his 5.5 rpg average improve.
6 Richard Jefferson, NJ, SF The numbers should come playing alongside Kidd and Carter; hopefully a palatable FG% will come, as well (.422 last season).
7 Corey Maggette, LAC, GF Set career highs in Pts, Reb, Ast, Stl, FT% last season, and he played his best after the All-Star break
8 Josh Smith, Atl, GF 19-year-old averaged 2 blocks per game, and he posted 15.8 ppg and 9.5 rpg in April.
9 Grant Hill, Orl, SF Always a threat to miss time, but his superior court sense still helps produce quality fantasy numbers.
10 Kyle Korver, Phi, SF A supreme 3-point shooter, but not just a one-trick pony: 1.3 stl, 85.4 FT%, 4.6 reb
11 Caron Butler, Was, SF Butler won't replace Hughes' numbers, but his April totals suggest it's possible: 22.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 2.2 spg
12 Bobby Simmons, Mil, GF While his shooting percentages were great in LA, he may have a hard time repeating his numbers if asked to come off the bench in Milwaukee.
13 Josh Howard, Dal, GF As a starter in Dallas, he should pull in regular double-doubles, nice steals, and a dash of everything else.
14 Tayshaun Prince, Det, SF Numbers continue to improve; He won't carry a fantasy team in any one area, but he'll contribute across the board.
15 Quentin Richardson, NY, SF In an elite class of three-point shooters, and he can do good work on the glass. But nobody leaves the comfort of Steve Nash's world without a scar.
16 Ricky Davis, Bos, GF Last season's 6th Man Award winner gets to start this time around. He'll always help in shooting categories, but would be nice to see those boards and assists return to respectability.
17 Wally Szczerbiak, Min, SF With black holes Cassell and Sprewell gone, Wally, a black hole in his own right, could average 20 points a game.
18 Carmelo Anthony, Den, SF Fantasy's most overrated player still hasn't shown he can do anything more than score, oh, and turn the ball over.
19 Gerald Wallace, Cha, GF He's young and has the upside to improve as a scorer, but he's already bringing it on the defensive end - 1.7 steals, 1.3 blocks.
20 Morris Peterson, Tor, GF Typically just a scorer, but his 6.9 boards, 2.2 steals in April offer hope of more.
21 Mike Dunleavy, GS, SF Enjoyed Baron Ball: 15.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 2.4 treys in April
22 Darius Miles, Por, GF Still turns the ball over too much, but put up nice numbers in Points, Rebounds, Blocks and Steals as starter last season.
23 Mike Miller, Mem, GF Shot 50 percent last year despite hoisting more than four treys a game. Pick him up late if three-pointers are a hole on your roster.
24 Jimmy Jackson, Pho, SF Might not start over James Jones at SF in Phoenix, but he'll likely see more time than Jones. Jackson's another stalwart behind the arc.
25 Shane Battier, Mem, GF Does little in the chic categories, but he can silently deliver a trey, steal and block per night.

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Draft time:
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