NBA Fantasy Draft Tiers: Forwards

RotoWire breaks down the seven tiers of forwards to draft in the 2023-2024 fantasy basketball season.

Kevin Durant looks to pick up where he left off last season in Phoenix.

Forwards used to be the cream of the crop in fantasy circles but they’ve been surpassed by an influx of dynamic point guards and versatile centers. Forwards are still very important in fantasy, and elite names still litter the top of the list. Many of the big men on this list can hit threes and crash the glass, while some of the small forwards will challenge to lead the league in scoring and put up strong numbers across the board. Breaking NBA forwards down by tiers will help you manage your draft.

Tier 1

Jayson Tatum, BOS: Words like “durability” and “reliability” are often thrown around in regard to Tatum. And while he’s not likely to finish ahead of guys like Nikola Jokic and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the rankings, he’s the best forward in fantasy not named Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James or Kevin Durant. Given his youth and dependability, he’s at the top of my list. 

Kevin Durant, PHX: Durant has a new weapon to play with this year with the arrival of Bradley Beal from the Wizards. He’ll also be competing for shots with Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, but there’s no doubt that Durant is still the Alpha, and he and Booker should dominate the offense for the Suns this season. He’s almost 35 years old and isn’t quite as dominant as he used to be, but he’s still one of the best players in the world. 

Jaren Jackson, MEM: Jackson is one of the most exciting young players in the league and really came into his own last season, leading the league in blocks and putting up Top 15 overall fantasy value. The fact he shot 78.8 percent from the free throw line last season was a bonus, and he won’t have to compete with Ja Morant for the ball for the first 25 games of the season. It’s not crazy to consider him as the first forward off the board this year, especially if you’re looking for blocks.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, MIL: If you’re an experienced fantasy hooper, you know the deal with Antetokounmpo — forget about free throws, hope his knee holds up, sit back and enjoy the show. He’s a ninth-round overall value when you count his poor free throw shooting and turnovers, but he hops up to a Top 5 guy when excluding those weaknesses. 

Tier 2

Jimmy Butler, MIA: Butler isn’t for everyone given the missed games that are likely coming, but when he’s on the court, he’s as good as almost anyone. Butler will be 34 years old by the time the season starts but is still one of the focal points of what the Heat do on offense. Just beware that he played in 58 or fewer games for three straight seasons until he made it through 64 of them last year.

LeBron James, LAL: James will turn 39 years old just after Christmas. and the Lakers could load manage him more than ever this season. However, he wouldn’t be playing if he didn’t think he could compete every night, and it wasn’t that long ago he played all 82 games (2017-18). However, he played in 45, 56 and 55 games in each of the last three seasons, and fantasy managers should expect a similar workload again this year, which isn’t ideal. Outside of the missed games, he’s still capable of scoring 30 points a night while racking up big numbers in nearly every fantasy category. 

Lauri Markkanen, UTA: Markkanen exploded on the scene last season and was one of the league’s best surprises, topping off his career year by returning Top 20 fantasy value. John Collins’ arrival in Utah could hinder his production slightly, but Markkanen will be looking to build on last season’s success which featured averages of 25.6 points, 3.0 triples and 8.6 rebounds, along with solid shooting percentages. He should be primed for another big season. 

Victor Wembanyama, SAS: Pundits seem to be split on Wembanyama, with some saying he’s going to be the best thing since sliced bread, with others thinking he’s going to be overhyped and overdrafted in fantasy. The biggest concern may end up being how many games he’ll play for Gregg Popovich and the Spurs, but there’s little doubt the 19-year-old phenom is going to be one of the most popular players in the league. If nothing else, you know he’s going to hit three-pointers and block a ton of shots. 

Tier 3

OG Anunoby, TOR: Anunoby won’t end up in SportsCenter highlights too often but is a working man’s fantasy forward, returning Top 45 value and contributing across the board for the Raptors. He might be the best three-and-D player in the league and should compete with teammate Pascal Siakam for the title of best forward in Toronto.

Pascal Siakam, TOR: Siakam had a weird year last season, putting up career highs in points and assists while also seeing his defensive production slide. He could turn it all around with a defensive resurgence and would really see a boost if he could start hitting three-pointers consistently. 

Kawhi Leonard, LAC: Leonard is an absolute monster when he’s on the court, but his durability is a major concern. Leonard hasn’t played more than 60 games in any of the last five seasons and has become one of the most prominent cases of load management. 

DeMar DeRozan, CHI: DeRozan is lethal from the midrange and the free throw line, which aren’t really traits that scream fantasy gold to managers. However, he is an efficient shooter, logged 1.1 steals per game last season and tied his career high with 0.5 blocks per game.

Jaylen Brown, BOS: Brown got paid this summer to the tune of a $304 million supermax despite being somewhat disappointing in the playoffs for the Celtics. His 8-for-23 (1-of-9 from downtown) shooting performance, combined with eight turnovers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals left a sour taste in the mouths of Boston fans, but he’ll turn over a new leaf with the start of this season. Brown will once again be one of the focal points of everything the Celtics do. 

Kristaps Porzingis, BOS: Porzingis hasn’t been the most reliable player over the years due to missed games and injuries, but he had his best season ever for the Wizards last year. He’ll have to adjust to being the third option behind Tatum and Brown in Boston, but if he can stay healthy, he could push Boston over the top this season. 

Tier 4

Zion Williamson, NOP: To put it bluntly, no player has been as disappointing in the last four years as Williamson. He’s been a bust and has played just 29 games over the last two seasons and a grand total of 114 games in his four-year career. There’s no reason to think he’s going to suddenly be a model of health this year, and the risk involved in drafting him will likely greatly outweigh the potential reward. I’m letting someone else draft him, per usual. 

Brandon Ingram, NOP: Speaking of injury woes, Ingram has played in 59 or fewer games in six straight seasons and made it through just 45 contests last season. There’s a chance he could bounce back and play in 70 games this year, but the odds are not in his favor. However, he did average a career-high 24.7 points along with a career-best 5.8 assists last season.

Evan Mobley, CLE: Mobley failed to make the second-year leap many were hoping for last year but was still more than serviceable. This jump could come this season, especially if he can improve his shooting and efficiency at the line. There’s a ton of upside and untapped potential here. 

Julius Randle, NYK: No one is ever going to confuse Randle for a great free throw shooter or defender, but he doesn’t miss games and gets it done on the offensive end of the floor, where he’s a double-double machine. He’s also a good three-point shooter, and there is very little risk in drafting him. 

Scottie Barnes, TOR: Fred VanVleet is in Houston, and there’s a chance the Raptors could hand the keys to the offense to Barnes this season, although Dennis Schroder might have something to say about that. Barnes stalled out a bit in his second season but could be primed to take a third-year leap as a point forward.

Khris Middleton, MIL: Middleton had a lost season last year, playing in just 33 games due to a knee injury that required surgery. The Bucks brought the free agent back and paid him $102 million over three years, and he’ll look to get back on track in the new season. However, keep in mind that he’s struggled with injuries for a while now, playing in 68 or fewer games in four straight campaigns. 

Jerami Grant, POR: Grant re-upped with the Trail Blazers thinking that Damian Lillard would be there, and while that’s currently still the case, we still don’t know if Lillard will be a Blazer by Christmas. Grant was solid in Portland last year, averaging 20.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 0.8 steals, 0.8 blocks and a career-high 2.3 triples. He should be one of the key offensive cogs for Portland, with or without Lillard. 

Paolo Banchero, ORL: The Rookie of the Year averaged 20.0 points and 6.9 rebounds for the Magic, but more steals, blocks and three-pointers would be nice. He could take a leap in his second season and should be a safe and reliable fantasy forward for a team still trying to figure it out. 

Tier 5

Franz Wagner, ORL: Banchero’s teammate showed modest improvement last season, bumping his scoring average from 15.2 points up to 18.6 to go with 4.1 rebounds, 3.5 dimes, 1.0 steals and 1.6 three-pointers. Wagner enters year three with some promise and some wiggle room to take another step forward this season. 

Andrew Wiggins, GSW: It wasn’t that long ago that Wiggins was a surprise All-Star starter, and he’ll be looking to bounce back after personal issues limited him to just 37 games last season. He still averaged 17.1 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 0.8 blocks and a career-high 2.4 three-pointers on the season, and all signs are pointing to a bounce-back year for Wiggins. 

Cameron Johnson, BKN: Johnson averaged a career-high 16.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.4 steals and 2.3 three-pointers in his 25 games for Brooklyn last season. The rise of Mikal Bridges rained on his coming-out parade a bit, but the sky’s the limit for Johnson. If Bridges weren’t in Brooklyn, I’d feel better about the chances of a full breakout coming, but he’s still a good young player with a ton of upside. 

Miles Bridges, CHA: Bridges missed the entire 2022-23 season but was a Top 20 player two years ago. He’ll look to pick up where he left off and restart his career and will likely be a fantasy steal if he can stay healthy. 

Michael Porter, DEN: The days of Porter being a Top 50 fantasy pick are probably over, but he had a productive season for the Nuggets last year, and his 62 games played were a career high. He was overshadowed at times by Aaron Gordon but is a nice complementary piece to Nikola Jokic due to his efficient shooting and solid rebounding.

Kyle Kuzma, WAS: Kuzma averaged a career-high 21.2 points along with 7.2 rebounds and 2.5 three-pointers last season and won’t have to compete with Kristaps Porzingis and Bradley Beal for touches this season. However, gunner Jordan Poole is now in Washington, and it will be interesting to see if Kuzma can co-exist with him on what should be one of the NBA’s worst teams. Kuzma could be a fantasy steal.  

John Collins, UTA: After a disappointing stretch in Atlanta, Collins was finally moved to the Jazz, where he’ll get a much-needed fresh start. Markkanen, Walker Kessler and Kelly Olynyk could slow Collins’ roll, but I think we’re going to see a more aggressive and confident player in his new digs this season. Consider Collins a potential sleeper this season if he can put it all together and bounce back. 

Tobias Harris, PHI: Harris saw his scoring and overall production take a hit last season, but he was still serviceable playing alongside players like Joel Embiid, James Harden and Tyrese Maxey. Harden may or may not suit up for the Sixers this season, and if he doesn’t play, Harris could bounce back. Just keep in mind that he’s now 31 years old and his best years are behind him. 

Tier 6

Draymond Green, GSW: Green played in 73 games last year and averaged 7.2 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 1.0 steals, but just 8.5 points per game. He hasn’t scored more than 8.5 points per game in five straight seasons. He’ll be 34 years old in March, and a bounce-back season from Wiggins could hinder Green’s stats this year. 

Trey Murphy, NOP: Murphy took a big leap last season, boosting his scoring from 5.4 points to 14.5 per game and averaged 1.1 steals and 2.6 three-pointers. Injuries and missed games for Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson helped him, and the fact he played in 79 games was encouraging. If Ingram and Williamson can stay healthy, it could hurt Murphy, but he’s just 23 years old with a ton of upside. 

Jabari Smith, HOU: Smith struggled for much of the year but turned it around late, averaging 15.2 points and 7.6 rebounds in March and April. He also had a nice Summer League performance and will be looking to break out in year two. However, he’ll have to compete with players like Fred VanVleet, Jalen Green, Dillon Brooks, Alperen Sengun and Tari Eason for touches, which could make things tough. 

Bojan Bogdanovic, DET: Bogdanovic averaged a career-best 21.6 points along with 3.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.5 three-pointers for the Pistons. He played in just 59 games and will be 35 years old in March. His peripheral stats aren’t great, but you know what you’re getting with Bogdanovic. 

Keegan Murray, SAC: Murray had a nice season for the surprising Kings and is an excellent free throw shooter. He should be unchallenged for minutes at power forward this season, but there are still a lot of mouths to feed in Sacramento. However, the 23-year-old should be able to build on the success of his rookie season, and there’s a lot of upside here. 

Keldon Johnson, SAS: Johnson averaged 22.0 points per game last season, but his shooting percentages and lack of defense and peripherals limit his fantasy upside. It will be interesting to see how he gels with Victor Wembanyama and Tre Jones in San Antonio this season. 

Josh Hart, NYK: Hart put up solid numbers after moving to the Knicks last season and seems to be a favorite of the coaching staff. RJ Barrett’s one-dimensional game works in Hart’s favor, and he’s still just 28 years old. He won’t hurt you anywhere and should be a safe pick in the later rounds of fantasy drafts. 

Brandon Miller, CHA: Miller had a disappointing Summer League and will have to deal with the return of Bridges, along with Gordon Hayward, P.J. Washington, LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier and Mark Williams. It’s hard to see him making a run at Rookie of the Year with so much competition for touches in Charlotte this season. 

Aaron Gordon, DEN: Gordon had a solid season for the champs by averaging 16.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.8 blocks and 0.9 three-pointers in 68 games. Gordon would be a lot more fun in fantasy if Michael Porter wasn’t in the mix (and vice versa), but he’s still an effective fantasy option late in drafts. 

Tier 7

Kyle Anderson, MIN: Anderson looks like the sixth man for the Wolves but could have a tough road with Mike Conley, Anthony Edwards, Jaden McDaniels, Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert all needing touches. However, he should still be a serviceable glue guy available at the end of fantasy drafts. 

Jaden McDaniels, MIN: McDaniels played in 79 games last season but averaged just 12.1 points and 3.9 rebounds. The 0.9 steals, 1.0 blocks and 1.4 three-pointers were impressive, but he’s going to have to battle with guys like Conley, Edwards, Anthony-Towns, Gobert and Anderson for touches. I’m not expecting much. 

Harrison Barnes, SAC: The 31-year-old Barnes was a serviceable forward for the surprising Kings and played in all 82 games, which is a plus. He was worth an 11th-round fantasy pick last season, and it will be interesting to see if Keegan Murray takes a leap and leaves Barnes in the dust this season. 

Deni Avdija, WAS: Avdija had his moments last season but was still underwhelming for the Wizards. It looks like he may come off the bench, and Tyus Jones, Jordan Poole, Corey Kispert, Kyle Kuzma and Daniel Gafford are all going to need the ball. Avdija probably needs to win a starting job in camp to make a fantasy dent this season. 

Herbert Jones, NOP: Jones is a defensive phenom with very little offensive game, and if his teammates can stay healthy, he might even struggle more on that end of the court. He’s better in real life than he is in fantasy, but if you find yourself in need of steals and blocks at the end of your draft, he can help. 

Jeremy Sochan, SAS: Sochan was worth grabbing at times last season off the waiver wire, but there are more questions than answers with Victor Wembanyama now playing in San Antonio. 

Tari Eason, HOU: Eason has a ton of upside and potential, and was a promising per-minute rookie last season. But the arrival of VanVleet and Dillon Brooks in Houston, along with the returns of Jalen Green, Jabari Smith and Alperen Sengun leave Eason’s outlook a bit blurry. 

Jarace Walker, IND: Walker could start for the Pacers, although that’s far from a guarantee. However, he does have a high floor and could end up being a big fantasy sleeper if he does make it into the starting lineup on Opening Night.

RJ Barrett, NYK: Barrett can score and is fun to watch at times. Despite his ability to score, he hasn’t been worth rostering in fantasy over the last two seasons, and it’s unlikely he’s going to suddenly take a big leap this season. Take him late if you need some points, but don’t expect much more. 

Talen Horton-Tucker, UTA: Horton-Tucker was somewhat fun for the Jazz last season until they pulled the plug on the campaign, and he’ll now have to deal with the arrival of John Collins and the return of Jordan Clarkson, Lauri Markkanen and Walker Kessler. Horton-Tucker’s role is a mystery, and it’s best to see what he does in camp and the preseason before pulling the trigger on him this year.