This year's crop of free agent small forwards is far from star-studded, particularly when it comes to the unrestricted and restricted players. Many of the top small forwards that could be available this summer have some form of team or player option, meaning there's a chance they don't even hit the market.
When we do eventually figure out which players will be free agents in July, there should be plenty of teams jostling to get to the front of the line to sign them. Playoff clubs like the Clippers, Hawks, Lakers, Nets, Grizzlies, and Bucks might all have holes at small forward or at least be in the market for an upgrade. And that list doesn't include lottery teams with lots of cap space, like the Cavs, Jazz, and Pistons, or playoff teams like the Nuggets and Celtics, whose small forwards (Andre Iguodala and Paul Pierce) have player options.
Let's dive in and check out a few of the names expected to be on the small forward market this summer….
Unrestricted free agents
While there are no stars in this group, there are a number of potential value plays for teams seeking contributors, rather than go-to guys. Matt Barnes and Corey Brewer have exhibited the ability to play key roles on contending clubs, while the shooting prowess of Mike Dunleavy and Kyle Korver will ensure they draw plenty of interest this summer. Alan Anderson can also shoot from the outside and is coming off his best season as a pro, while Dorell Wright established a career-high in PER in 2012/13.
Stephen Jackson and Corey Maggette represent a pair of veterans coming off of albatross contracts. They'll be taking significant pay cuts, so if they still have something left in the tank, they actually could become potential bargains for the minimum. Al-Farouq Aminu is another notable member of this group, given his age (22), his ability to play both forward positions, and his production on the glass.
Restricted free agents
Look away, there's nothing to see here. There's also no guarantee any of this year's potential restricted small forwards even receive qualifying offers this June, considering the fairly uninspiring numbers posted by the likes of Omri Casspi, Austin Daye, and James Johnson in '12/13.
Devin Ebanks, who has averaged 11.3 MPG in 63 career games in three seasons with the Lakers, may be the best bet to receive a qualifying offer, since the Lakers clearly like him. But given L.A.'s tax situation, even Ebanks' inexpensive QO ($1,317,986) may be too pricey for a player who has yet to consistently crack the team's rotation.
Team and player options
Before we get into the most intriguing names in this group, we can eliminate a few players who are virtual locks to opt in to the final years of their respective contracts. Richard Jefferson ($11.05MM), Shawn Marion ($9.32MM), Marvin Williams ($7.5MM), Trevor Ariza ($7.73MM), and Brandon Rush ($4MM) almost certainly won't turn down those 2013/14 guarantees, since they'd be very hard-pressed to approach those kinds of annual salaries on new contracts.
There are a few other player options that aren't so cut-and-dried though. Paul Pierce and Hedo Turkoglu are expected to exercise their player options, but both are only partially guaranteed, meaning their teams could trade or release them even after those options are picked up. Andre Iguodala ($16.15MM) and Andrei Kirilenko ($10.22MM) could exercise their options, but unlike the players mentioned earlier, both Iguodala and Kirilenko will probably be able to secure longer-term deals without taking huge pay cuts, if they were to opt out.
Metta World Peace's contract situation is another that could go in any number of directions. Taking into account how much World Peace likes playing for the Lakers, you'd expect him to pick up his $7.73MM option, but if he does, he'll immediately becomes a prime amnesty candidate. There's a chance he'll opt out, but only if he feels confident that the Lakers would be willing to negotiate a new multiyear deal.
The Rockets will guarantee Chandler Parsons' contract, and figure to do the same for Carlos Delfino's, unless his $3MM salary gets in the way of their pursuit of a star. Francisco Garcia and C.J. Miles are bench options whose teams will likely decide to let them hit the open market. Grant Hill is in a similar boat with the Clippers, coming off the worst season of his career. If he wants to continue his playing career, I can see him signing a minimum deal somewhere, but I'd guess the Clips will view his $2MM+ non-guaranteed salary for 2013/14 as exorbitant.