Our take on the best crop of young small forwards in the league. This piece features 5 players that are 23 and younger as part of our NBA’s Emerging Stars 2018 series.
5. Taurean Prince
ANDREW SNIDER/ FANSIDED
Atlanta snagged the 12th pick in 2016 from Utah in a 3-team trade that sent Jeff Teague to Indiana, and George Hill to Utah. This pick was Taurean Prince who is a gritty player out of Baylor with versatility to play both sides of the floor.
After playing spotty minutes during the regular season, Prince stepped up in a major way in the playoffs, raising his ppg from 5.7 to 11.2 and fg % from 40 to 56. Atlanta lost Teague, Horford, and Milsap in the last 2 years but perhaps they can find solace in a rebuild that centers around Prince, Schroder. Coach Bud said of Prince, “I just feel like he’s had a really good presence defensively. He’s helped us there. He has a physicalness that is helping us.”
Prince is a smooth scorer with a nice package of finishes around the rim. At 6’ 8” 220 he can play both forward positions and if he continues to work on his stroke, he can become the rare, invaluable 3 and D player the Hawks need.
2016-17 Avgs: 5.7 PPG, 0.9 APG, 2.7 RPG, 0.7 STL, 0.5 BLK 40% FG, 32% 3P, 79% FT
4. Brandon Ingram
Los Angeles Lakers
Ingram is one of the most polarizing players on this list. His height, frame, and shooting stroke give him limitless potential if he can put on some strength and muscle. Durant, one of the best scorers of all time even said of Ingram “I can look at him, and feel like I’m looking in the mirror.” Let’s be clear, Ingram is NOT on Durant’s level and possesses a very different skillset.
As a rookie in 2016-17, Ingram scored 9.4 ppg on 40% from the field and 29% from deep. These numbers are not impressive at first glance, but he ended the season strong scoring double digits in 16 of his last 17 games shooting above 45% from the field. Ingram can handle the ball, pass, and finish better than most players his size. This year he will be playing alongside rookie Lonzo Ball, a promising, playmaking prospect who looks to get his teammates involved.
If Ingram can put on 20 pounds(he’s only 190!) and find go-to spots on the floor look for him to become a good wing on an exciting Lakers squad. It takes time and patience for players to develop in the NBA. Players like Kobe and Kawhi both struggled as rookies but took the necessary steps to get better and develop into stars. Ingram’s rookie year arc was solid, and if he can take the next steps forward, his future is bright.
2016-17 Avgs: 9.4 PPG, 2.1 APG, 4.0 RPG, 0.6 STL, 0.5 BLK 40% FG, 29% 3P, 62% FT
3. Jaylen Brown
MATHEW GEAGAN/ CBS BOSTON
As a rookie Brown showed flashes of superstar potential, which made Boston fans and NBA heads giddy for more. JB is 20 years old, yet he stands at an imposing 6’ 7 225. Brown showed out in playoffs last year shooting 48% from the field limited minutes and going toe-to-toe with Lebron. In an interview JB said of James “Lebron’s a good player but I look at him as a regular player to me…”
Danny Ainge and Boston management love Jaylen Brown, and will give him the opportunity to become an elite two-way player in coming years. Despite their loaded wing depth(Hayward, Crowder, Taytum), if Jaylen takes another step forward as a shooter, playmaker, and ball-handler, don’t be surprised to see him inserted into the starting lineup or on the floor during crunch-time.
2016-17 Avgs: 6.6 PPG, 0.8 APG, 2.8 RPG, 0.4 STL, 0.2 BLK 45% FG, 34% 3P, 69% FT
2. Andrew Wiggins
BRAD REMPEL/ USA TODAY
Andrew Wiggins scores 20 points in his sleep, in his sleep! In January of 2017, Wiggins hit 20 points or more in 19 straight games, all the while shooting 50% from the field.
Wig has shown improvement in each of his first three seasons in the NBA, upping his scoring average from 16.9 to 20.7 to 23.6 all the while shooting 45% from the field and 33% from 3.
Wiggins has the tools to be a lethal scorer and lockdown defender because of his raw athleticism and polished touch. He can score at all three levels with a nice but streaky 3 point touch, solid midrange game, and 44 inch vertical to finish over the top of defenders. Perhaps Wiggins most impressive trait has been his ability to get to the line throughout his career(6.4 times per game) which star scorers such as Jimmy Butler(5.6), or Demar Derozan(6.2) found late in their careers.
Now that he has mastered scoring, Wiggins looks to develop the rest of his game which should propel him to the elite wing ranks.
2016-17 Avgs: 23.6 PPG, 2.3 APG, 4.0 RPG, 1.0 STL, 0.4 BLK 45% FG, 36% 3P, 76% FT
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo
Mr. Antetokounmpo is not only the best Small Forward under 23, but perhaps the single best player below that age. Giannis is a 6’ 11” guard who can defend centers. What’s scary is, he still can’t shoot!
Giannis boasts an extremely long first step, and has shown the ability to finish through and over multiple defenders. His length, athleticism, and high basketball IQ allow him to dominate the game on both ends. Giannis still shoots 3’s at around 27% but with his smooth shot mechanics, there’s no reason to why he can’t develop an outside shot ala Vince Carter/Lebron James(both shot under 30% as rookies).
Look for the Greek Freak to make noise this coming postseason as Jason Kidd has done a great job developing a young, promising team around him with the likes of Brogdon, Middleton, and Thon Maker.
Giannis is the next great superstar, and if things go right, future Hall-of-Famer.
2016-17 Avgs: 22.9 PPG, 5.4 APG, 8.8 RPG, 1.6 STL, 1.9 BLK 52% FG, 27% 3P, 77% FT
Jabari Parker – SF, Milwaukee Bucks
Jabari Parker, when healthy, is one of the most tenacious scorers and rebounders from the wing position. He has proven to be an explosive finisher, solid mid-range shooter, and proficient isolation scorer for the Bucks. Unfortunately, he has now suffered two torn ACL’s over the past 3 years which could eat away at his development and athleticism. Jabari would have made our list if he hadn’t gotten hurt last year as he was averaging 20 points per game on 49% which is ridiculously efficient for a young player. We wish the best for Jabari on his quest to get healthy!