Small forwards in the NBA are expected to do a bit of everything, including shooting, defending and rebounding. One could argue that the same is expected of every player in the league, but the expectation is not quite at the same level as small forwards'.
A few small forwards have struggled to get things going early this season, underperforming to the surprise of many. But a few under-the-radar players have shown how key they could be to their team's success in the 2021-22 NBA season.
Josh Okogie deserves praise for his role with the Minnesota Timberwolves. While he has not been a significant contributor offensively, he has been their defensive anchor.
On that note, here are three small forwards who have performed above expectations so far in the 2021-22 NBA season.
#3 Saddiq Bey
Saddiq Bey has transformed his game to a new level, moving from just a dedicated three-point shooter to an all-around offensive threat. The 2020 NBA draft 19th overall pick has made a giant leap in his game, scoring from every corner of the court.
Although the Detroit Pistons are struggling, Bey is having a season to remember. Granted, his three-point shooting has been poor, but he has compensated for that by implementing other ways to score. The sophomore is no longer the one-dimensional player he was in his first year in the NBA.
Bey is averaging 13.1 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.0 assists while shooting at 38.8% from the field. He has also been dependable at the defensive end, staying in front of his man and forcing turnovers.
#2 OG Anunoby
The Toronto Raptors had to start the 2021-22 NBA season without their franchise player Pascal Siakam, but OG Anunoby has stepped up big for the team. The 24-year-old is having a breakout season, leading the team with 20.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists.
Anunoby was a key reason the Raptors went on a winning streak despite a slow start, which is impressive, as they did so without Siakam. Anunoby's recent displays have put him in the NBA Most Improved Player conversation for the 2021-22 season.
#1 Desmond Bane
Toppling Ja Morant as the best player in the Memphis Grizzlies team is next to impossible, but Desmond Bane has been a bright spot for the team. In the absence of Dillon Brooks, he has stepped up for the Grizzlies, playing a key role in their 5-4 run so far in the 2021-22 season.
The second-year TCU product has secured his role in the starting lineup, proving that he is a valuable asset every time he is on the floor. He is the second-best scorer in the team, scoring 16.7 points per game. Moreover, he has also registered 3.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists, and is shooting at 40.3% from beyond the arc on 7.4 attempts per game.
Bane was expected to produce off the bench, but he has exceeded that. He has also been solid for the Grizzlies in defense, patrolling the perimeter and forcing turnovers on occasion. Bane has been a solid producer for the Grizzlies, and could play a significant role in their continued success in the 2021-22 season.