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2021-22 Fantasy Basketball Draft Rankings: Forwards

Boom! Just like that, we are only three weeks away from the NBA Regular season. That can only mean one thing: Fantasy Hoops is back! With tip-off fast approaching, you will need to begin preparing for your fantasy draft, and what better way to do that than with draft rankings!

In case you missed it, the NBA Team here at RotoBaller released our 21-22 rankings last week and while it's mostly what you'd expect, there are a few surprises that stuck out. Rather than simply posting a list of rankings without context, I'll be doing a three-part series to provide some extra insight and analysis to our consensus rankings.

For the first installment, I took a deeper look at the guard position. You can find that here. Next up is forwards! Let's get right into it.

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Fantasy Basketball Forward Rankings

Note: These rankings are based on our staff's H2H 9-cat rankings.



Is Giannis Too High?

Surprisingly, the reigning Finals MVP slots in as the top forward and the number five overall player in our consensus. Call me crazy, but I believe that is too high. Giannis is absolutely a top-three selection in points leagues, but these are 9-Cat rankings and there are some major concerns.

For starters, he's shot less than 70 percent from the free-throw line over the last two seasons. Unless you are punting free throw percentage in your league, this has to be taken into consideration when drafting in the first round. His poor performance from the line has had such a negative effect on his value that he has finished 22nd and 17th, in per-game value over the last two seasons according to BasketballMonster.com. While he did improve to 68 percent during last year's regular season, regressed to an abysmal 58 percent during the playoffs. He surely made Ben Wallace proud.

Believe it or not, there is something else that dings Giannis' value in 9-Cat formats: his three-point shooting. He's made only 28 percent of his three's throughout his career, though he was able to improve to 30 percent from behind the line in each of the last two seasons. Still, it's not enough. Selecting Giannis with a top-five pick has the ability to set you back in two categories. That's not exactly what you want with your top-pick.

Giannis slots in at number 11 for me. At the end of the day, you know he will provide a high field goal percentage, score a ton of points, and grab a ton of rebounds. I am here absolutely here for it. Just not in the top-five.


Analyzing The Top Players

After Giannis surprisingly wound up as the number one overall forward, we see Kevin Durant and Jayson Tatum fall in right behind. That makes sense. Durant and Tatum are excellent building blocks for your team and should be drafted with confidence towards the end of round one. Where we get our first controversy is with the next two players.

After years of fantasy dominance, LeBron James comes in at the number four forward and number 31 overall player. If you're keeping score with the chart above, that's eight spots lower than Michael Porter Jr. So, how did this happen?

First off, I completely agree with LeBron's spot in our rankings. Although it hurts to admit, he will be 37-years old in December and he has missed at least 27 games in two of the last three seasons. With a star-studded cast and sights set on lifting the Larry O'Brien trophy in June, it's possible the Lakers can and will scale back his workload during the regular season. Adding a high-usage player in Russell Westbrook certainly gives them the flexibility of doing that.

Michael Porter Jr. on the other hand is coming off of a breakout season last year and could be poised for an even bigger year with Jamal Murray still without a timetable for return after suffering a torn ACL last April. Here were his numbers without Murray in the lineup last season: 22.8 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 1.7 combined blocks and steals. The best part? He did all of that on elite efficiency, shooting just under 55 percent from the field and 44 percent from three.

While this ranking may not be the case in points leagues, it's clear that Porter Jr. is better suited for 9-Cat than LeBron at this point in his career.

Top 100 Guys With The Most Downside

Who am I lower on than the consensus?

Jerami Grant - Detroit Pistons
RB ranking: 70, Alex ranking: 76

Grant finally got his shot to be the number one option in Detroit and he exceeded all expectations by averaging career-highs in minutes and points. Unfortunately, he didn't do much else. Now throw Cade Cunningham and Kelly Olynyk into the mix and he will surely lose some playmaking upside. If his scoring takes a hit, Grant doesn't provide enough in the peripherals to negate the loss of value. His style of play is better suited for points leagues.

Robert Covington - Portland Trailblazers
RB ranking: 87, Alex ranking: 94

Don't forget how disappointing Covington was last season. There was a good portion of the year where people were actually wondering whether or not they should drop him. And most did. Covington is a prototypical three-and-D guy and provides most of his value on the defensive side of the ball. He averaged 2.6 combined blocks and steals but only 8.3 points while shooting 40 percent from the field and 37 percent from three. We're going to need to see it from Covington before trusting him as a surefire top-100 guy this season.

Keldon Johnson - San Antonio Spurs
RB ranking: 99, Alex ranking: 103

Johnson enjoyed a solid sophomore season in 2020-21, averaging 12.8 points and 6.0 rebounds in 28.5 minutes. While DeMar DeRozan is now in Chicago, the Spurs brought in Doug McDermott and Thaddeus Young in the offseason and both serve as a threat to cut into his production. On top of the added competition, Johnson is a poor three-point shooter and doesn't provide much on defense, making him a risky selection inside the top-100.


Who Are Some Sleepers?

Which players outside of the top-100 am I higher on than the consensus?

Kenyon Martin Jr. - Houston Rockets
RB ranking: 176, Alex ranking: 142

Martin Jr. was a certified league winner last season. Over his final nine games, he put up 18.1 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 2.8 combined blocks and steals. Even more impressive was that he was able to do it on 52/43/71 shooting splits. He could lose some usage to Jalen Green and a healthy Christian Wood but it's important to remember that John Wall and Kelly Olynyk will no longer be out there for Houston. Martin Jr. isn't someone I want to trust right out of the gate, but I'm convinced he will see a larger role than most are anticipating. His massive upside makes for a fine late-round flier in drafts.

Marcus Morris Sr. - Los Angeles Clippers
RB ranking: 119, Alex ranking: 105

Morris Sr. was huge for the Clippers down the stretch last season and ended the season shooting a mind-boggling 47 percent from three on 5.2 attempts per game. He was at his best in the 14 regular-season games without Kawhi Leonard in the lineup, improving to 17.8 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks and steals while sinking 50 percent of his triples. It should be the same for Morris as Leonard remains without a timetable to begin the season, as the Clippers don't have any offense outside of Paul George, Reggie Jackson, and (maybe) Eric Bledsoe. Don't be surprised to see the younger Morris twin sneak into the top-100 out of sheer necessity this season.

Dorian Finney-Smith - Dallas Mavericks
RB ranking: 161, Alex ranking: 138

Did you know that Finney-Smith finished top-115 in per-game value last season according to BasketballMonster.com? He averaged career-highs in points, assists, field goal percentage, and three-point percentage while seeing 32 minutes a night. It should be more of the same for him this season as the Mavericks traded Josh Richardson to the Celtics and let James Johnson walk in free agency. They did add Reggie Bullock but DFS should still see a hefty amount of playing time a continue to contribute across the board. Bottom line: If Robert Covington can be ranked as a top-100 player then so should Finney-Smith.

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