NBA free agency: LeBron James to lead class of top 10 small forwards on the market

Yahoo Sports

In the modern NBA landscape, wings have become the ultimate commodity. Versatility reigns supreme, and you can never have enough two-way wings. Just look at the Warriors’ dynasty: Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala and Klay Thompson — and to a lesser extent Patrick McCaw and 2018 first-round draft choice Jacob Evans III.

This summer’s crop of free-agent wings is full of blue chippers — LeBron, KD and Paul George — but it also features other quality players at possibly reduced prices. Here are Yahoo Sports’ top 10 free-agent small forwards:

Previously: Point guards | Shooting guards

LeBron James remains the biggest factor this offseason. (AP)
LeBron James remains the biggest factor this offseason. (AP)

1. LeBron James
Age: 33
The planet’s best player is once again at the forefront of the NBA offseason. Cleveland will do everything it can to keep him for another year — hence drafting defensive-minded point guard Collin Sexton — but as things stand, it’s hard to imagine LeBron returning. James is about two things: rings, aka legacy, and brand. The Lakers — with Magic Johnson as the ultimate blueprint for developing an iconic global brand — have a terrific young core highlighted by Brandon Ingram, but will they use some of those young commodities in a trade to acquire All-Star talent? James has until Friday to opt out of his deal with the Cavs.
Fits with: Lakers, Cavs, Rockets, Spurs

2. Kevin Durant
Age: 29
The two-time Finals MVP is perhaps the premier scorer in the league. Durant can score in a variety of ways and is a bona fide rim protector at the forefront of the Warriors’ defensive switching philosophy. KD is expected to sign a long-term deal with the Warriors after opting out of his current contract to become a free agent.
Fits with: Warriors

3. Paul George 
Age: 28
George is an excellent player who is comfortable playing second fiddle to another superstar. That is the argument for returning to the Thunder to play alongside Russell Westbrook. The Lakers, however, also make sense. PG is from L.A. and he could potentially team with LeBron. George is a dominant on-ball and help defender who creates deflections and shrinks the court. He’s also a three-level scorer who puts a ton of pressure on opposing defenses as a playmaker. George has until Friday to let the Thunder know whether he is opting in for $20.7 million, but all signs point to him hitting the open market.
Fits with: Thunder, Lakers, Rockets, 76ers

4. Jabari Parker (restricted)
Age: 23
Parker has endured a tumultuous four years in Milwaukee, including two ACL tears and a disappointing 2018 playoffs in which he often looked disengaged and disinterested. Milwaukee had a -8.3 net rating with Parker on the floor during the postseason, per Basketball Reference. In fact, the Bucks were outscored by 4.3 points per 100 possessions with Parker on the floor, according to Basketball Reference. If healthy, the former second overall pick remains an outstanding offensive talent, capable of putting up big numbers as a scorer and rebounder. But his health and effort have been perplexing, and there are defensive questions.
Fits with: Bucks, Bulls, Pistons

Trevor Ariza is a quality 3-and-D veteran. (AP)
Trevor Ariza is a quality 3-and-D veteran. (AP)

5. Trevor Ariza
Age: 32
Ariza wants his money, and someone is likely to give it to him. A quality 3-and-D wing who is very well liked by teammates, Ariza has been crucial to the Rockets’ success. The former UCLA star will be highly coveted on the open market.
Fits with: Rockets, Pelicans, Thunder

6. Rodney Hood (restricted)
Age: 25
Hood struggled in his Cavs tenure, but the former first-round pick is a scorer and capable defender. As he displayed in Utah, Hood can knock down 3-pointers (38.9 percent in 2017-18 before his trade to Cleveland) and has a nice pull-up game as well. Hood also has a post-up game that can be useful. Bottom line: He needs to rediscover the confidence that allowed him to score nearly 17 points in 27.8 minutes per game for a Jazz team that made the playoffs.
Fits with: Cavs, Pacers, Bulls, Pelicans

7. Rudy Gay
Age: 33
Gay is betting on himself after declining his $8.8 million player option with the Spurs. While he isn’t the scorer he once was, Gay can still get buckets, and as he showed in San Antonio, he can still guard. The 2006 lottery pick would be a welcome addition to a contender looking for a veteran wing who can provide lineup flexibility as a small four-man.
Fits with: Pacers, Pistons, Timberwolves, Jazz, Bulls

8. Kyle Anderson (restricted)
Age: 24
“Slow Mo” is a very good playmaker, if not a reliable shooter. However, Anderson shot a career-high 55.6 percent from 2-point range last season and posted a career-high 5.2 assists per 100 possessions. He has a $4.7 million qualifying offer that will make him restricted the Spurs are expected to submit as early as Friday.
Fits with: Spurs, Pacers, Bucks, Knicks

9. Mario Hezonja
Age: 23
Hezonja, the fifth pick in the 2015 draft — ahead of Devin Booker, Myles Turner and Terry Rozier — is coming off his most productive NBA season, flashing a dose of the natural scoring ability (15.7 points per 36 minutes) that made him so coveted three years ago. The Magic will have to decide if his trajectory continues to point upward. If GM John Hammond says no, Hezonja will have a host of teams looking to take a flier on a talented young wing who could still pan out.
Fits with: Magic, Mavericks, Pistons, Grizzlies, Kings, Knicks, Hawks, Rockets, Clippers

10. Doug McDermott 
Age: 26
McDermott played really well in Dallas, knocking down 49.4 percent of his triples in 26 games. He’s bound to get paid by a team looking to add a pick-and-pop, pin-down and trail 3-point shooter who can spread the floor. The Mavs pulled the $9.8 million qualifying offer on “Dougie McBuckets,” meaning the 26-year-old is officially an unrestricted free agent.
Fits with: Mavericks, Pacers, Rockets, Magic, Bucks

Other notable free agents: Joe Johnson, James Ennis, Shabazz Muhammad, Glenn Robinson III, Richard Jefferson, Bruno Caboclo

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Jordan Schultz is an NFL, NBA and NCAAB insider/analyst for Yahoo Sports.

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