We have just passed the halfway point of the 2015-16 NBA season, which means it’s probably too early to start discussing the free agent class of 2016, let alone free agency in 2017, right?
Typically, yes. But 2017 will be anything but a typical free agent crop. In fact, the summer of 2017 will feature arguably the greatest collection of free agent point guards to ever hit the open market at the same time in the history of the National Basketball Association.
Steph Curry was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player last season. Then, he helped lead the Warriors to the NBA championship. Not a bad year, all things considered. This season, however, some have suggested he should be in the conversation for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award. While probably a stretch, that statement speaks to just how much better Curry has played this season, despite exhibiting greatness last year. Some have argued that Curry has already done enough to prove that he is the best shooter the game has ever seen. For instance, prior to the start of this season, no player in NBA history had ever made more than 230 three-pointers in fewer than 77 games. Steph has knocked down 232 triples in just 47 games this season. And in 1985-86, when Larry Bird led the NBA in three-point makes, he averaged 2.4 three-point attempts per game. Curry is currently averaging 4.9 makes per game.
Steph Curry will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2017.
Russell Westbrook is arguably the most exciting and dynamic athlete in the NBA today. Not only is he fun to watch, he is also one of the league’s best all-around players. Consider this: Westbrook has scored more points this season than LeBron James and Paul George; dished out more assists than John Wall and Chris Paul; and grabbed more rebounds than LaMarcus Aldridge and Al Horford. Oh, and he leads the NBA in steals as well. Westbrook, who has posted a triple-double in 18 of the last 84 games he’s played, is averaging 21.1 points, 11.8 assists and 10.1 rebounds over OKC’s last 11 games. As our Joel Brigham wrote this morning, he’s currently in the midst of a three-game triple-double streak.
Russell Westbrook will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2017.
Despite being a few years older than the Westbrook and Curry, Chris Paul is still playing at an extremely high level. He is currently only one of seven players boasting a PER of 25 or better. He’s been First-Team All-Defense and First or Second Team All-NBA in each of the last four seasons.
Chris Paul has a player option for the 2017-18 season, which means he has the opportunity to opt-out of his current contract and become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2017.
Kyle Lowry, who will participate in his second straight All-Star game later this month, is enjoying arguably the best season of his career. He’s averaging career-highs in points (20.8), rebounds (4.9), three-pointers (2.8) and steals (2.3) per game. He has a legit shot to join James Harden and Steph Curry as just the third player in NBA history to average at least 20 points, six dimes, five boards and two three-pointers per game over the course of a full season.
Kyle Lowry has a player option for the 2017-18 season, which means he will most likely opt-out of his current contract and become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2017.
Remarkably, four of the best point guards in the NBA will all likely hit free agency at the same time.
Yet, the fun doesn’t end there.
Jrue Holiday has had trouble staying healthy, but when he’s been able to play, he’s proven to be one of the more promising young floor generals in the NBA today. Still just 25 years old, Holiday is carrying a PER north of 19 this season for the first time in his career. He’s had his playing time limited by the Pelicans’ coaching staff, but Jrue is averaging over 20 points and seven assists per-36 minutes this season.
Jrue Holiday will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2017.
Tyreke Evans is another tantalizing talent. As a rookie, he joined Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, and LeBron James as only the fourth first-year player ever to average at least 20 points, five assists and five rebounds per game. He’s been shuffled back and forth between positions during his career – sometimes playing on the wing instead of at the one – but he’s shown he can be a very productive basketball player when focused and put in the right situation.
Tyreke Evans will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2017.
Derrick Rose became the youngest MVP in league history back in 2011, when he took home the hardware as a 22-year-old. As we know, very little has gone according to plan for Rose in the years since, but he’s managed to stay relatively healthy this season and has shown sporadic flashes of his former greatness at times.
Derrick Rose will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2017.
George Hill’s numbers won’t knock your socks off, but he’s an incredibly consistent and rock-solid starting point guard. He has been a big reason for the Pacers’ success in recent years with his effective two-way production.
You guessed it: George Hill will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2017.
Ditto for Jeff Teague, the 27-year-old Hawks point guard, who was a member of the Eastern Conference All-Star team last season.
We’re not done yet. The following players also have contracts that expire following the 2016-17 season: Darren Collison, Jarrett Jack, Patty Mills, Shaun Livingston, Jose Calderon and Shane Larkin.
The following list of players may become free agents in 2017, depending on whether options are exercised:
* Deron Williams (Player Option for 2016-17)
* Jeremy Lin (Player Option for 2016-17)
* Ty Lawson (Non-Guaranteed Contract for 2016-17)
* Rodney Stuckey (Player Option for 2017-18)
* Austin Rivers (Team Option for 2016-17)
* Mo Williams (Player Option for 2016-17)
The following players were drafted in 2013 and are still on their rookie deals, but could potentially become restricted free agents in 2017:
* C.J. McCollum
* Dennis Schroder
* Michael Carter-Williams
* Trey Burke
While still over 16 months away, it’s clear that this free agent pool has the potential to be historically good, which is why general managers around the league are looking ahead to 2017.
As a result, it will be interesting to see how free agents will be handled this upcoming summer. Due to the drastically limited supply of top-tier point guards available in 2016, a legit star such as Mike Conley (the best PG on the market this summer) will be in high demand and will be able to fetch top dollar. Other intriguing point guard options this summer include Rajon Rondo, Jordan Clarkson (restricted) and Brandon Jennings. Will teams decide to hold off on splurging for a PG and instead wait to splurge on a playmaker the following summer?
In 2017, an incredible supply of elite PGs will flood the market. The cream of the crop will obviously get max money, but it will be interesting to see if the sheer number of available point guards drives the prices down a bit for those in that second tier. However, it should also be noted that the salary cap is expected to spike to an all-time high of approximately $108 million in 2017, which means that teams will have plenty of money to throw around.
The NBA has become a point-guard driven league in recent years, with some of the game’s biggest stars playing the position. With so many of those notable names hitting free agency at the same time, it will be fascinating to see how the summer of 2017 plays out.
NBA Daily: Jaylen Brown Set To Return For Celtics
The Celtics finally got some good news on Thursday. Jaylen Brown’s return is imminent.
Finally, some good news for the Boston Celtics.
Jaylen Brown is set to return to action.
Brown has been M.I.A. since sustaining a concussion during the team’s 117-109 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves back on March 8, but has traveled with the team to Portland and is expecting to return to the lineup on Sunday when the Celtics do battle with the Sacramento Kings.
As the Celts gear up for a playoff run, which they hope will result in them ending LeBron James’ reign atop the Eastern Conference, they’ve picked the wrong time to run into injury issues. Along with Brown, both Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart have each been conspicuous by their absences, and the team could certainly use all of their pieces as they attempt to enter the postseason on a high note.
Fortunately for Boston, with the Toronto Raptors leading them by 4.5 games in the standings and the Celts ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers by a comfortable six games, Brad Stevens’ team is enjoying the rare situation of having a playoff seed that appears to be somewhat locked in.
Still, with the team only able to go as far as its young rotation will carry it, Brown addressed the media on Thursday.
“I’m feeling a lot better. I’m just trying to hurry up and get back,” Brown said, as quoted by Celtics.com.
“I’m tired of not playing.”
Stevens is probably tired of him not playing, too.
As we head into the month of April, playoff-bound teams and conference contenders begin to think about playing into June, while the cellar-dwellers and pretenders begin to look toward the draft lottery and free agency.
What’s funny is that in the midst of the Raptors and their rise out East, the Celtics and their dominance has become a bit of a forgotten storyline. When Gordon Hayward went down on opening night, the neophytes from the Northeast were thought to be a decent team in the making whose ceiling probably wasn’t anywhere near that of the Cavs, the Raptors and perhaps even the Washington Wizards.
Yet through it all, with the impressive growth of Jaylen Brown, impressive rookie Jayson Tatum and the rise of Irving as a franchise’s lynchpin, the Celtics stormed out the games to the tune of a a 17-3 record. What made the strong start even more impressive was the fact that the team won 16 straight games after beginning the season 0-2.
Although they weren’t able to keep up that pace, they began the month of February having gone 37-15 and turned a great many into believers. With their spry legs, team-first playing style and capable leader in Irving, the Celtics, it was thought, were a true contender in the Eastern Conference — if not the favorite.
Since then, and after experiencing injuries to some of its key cogs, the team has gone just 11-8.
In the interim, it seems that many have forgotten about the team that tantalized the Eastern Conference in the early goings of the season.
Brown’s return, in one important respect, will signify a return to Boston’s prior self.
With Marcus Smart having recently undergone surgery to repair a torn tendon in his right thumb, he is expected to be out another five weeks or so, meaning that he’ll likely miss the beginning of the postseason.
As for Irving, although reports say that his ailing knee has no structural damage, everything the Celtics hope to accomplish begins and ends with him. FOX Sports 1’s Chris Broussard believes that it’s no slam dunk that Irving returns to action this season, but he’s in the minority. This team has simply come too far to not give themselves every opportunity to compete at the highest level, so long as doing so doesn’t jeopardize the long term health of any of the franchise’s cornerstones.
Make no mistake about it, the Celtics are far from a finished product. With their nucleus intact and flexibility preserved, they will have another offseason with which to tinker with their rotation pieces and plug away at building a champion.
But here and now, with what they’ve got, the Celtics are much closer than any of us thought they would be at this point.
And on Sunday, when Jaylen Brown rejoins his team in the lineup, to the delight of the Boston faithful, the Celtics will be that much closer.
Winslow and the Miami HEAT Are “Believing in Each Other”
Justise Winslow discusses the all-around team effort of the Miami HEAT with Basketball Insiders.
The days of LeBron James in Miami are over. Chris Bosh isn’t there anymore, either. No more Ray Allen or Shane Battier. Dwyane Wade is back, but he’s not “Flash” nowadays.
Actually, check the entire Miami HEAT roster; there’s no superstar. They have an All-Star in Goran Dragic, even if he was the third alternate. But during this most recent playoff push, the HEAT don’t have a worldwide household name to plaster all over billboards as a reason for their success.
With 10 games remaining until the playoffs, Miami doesn’t have a player averaging more than 33 minutes per game. Instead, they have 11 players who average at least 20 minutes a contest. Their approach is that of a deep rotation, and its led them to a 39-33 record and the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference. All while the rest of the league is star-driven.
One of those key cogs to the Miami machine is third-year wing, Justise Winslow. A former top-10 pick out of Duke, Winslow is enjoying most efficient season so far for the HEAT. To him, the fact that his squad isn’t littered with names like LeBron and Steph doesn’t make a difference.
“I think our team is extremely confident in each other,” Winslow said. “I think that’s a big thing is that we all believe in each other. We play to each other’s strengths, and most importantly we’re a defensive-minded team. We hang our hats on the defensive end, and that’s really what gets us going as a team.”
Winslow isn’t exaggerating. The HEAT is seventh in the NBA in defensive rating. Head coach Erik Spoelstra harps on the team’s defensive scheme and preparation. Without a go-to scorer capable of getting the team 30 any given night, Miami needs to do their job as a collective unit on the defensive end of the floor night in and night out.
“Each night the coaching staff preaching to us that we have enough, no matter who is in the lineup,” Winslow said. “So it’s just about going out there and executing and putting together a good game of 48-minute basketball. I think our belief in each other that we have enough to get the job done is key.”
In the current NBA landscape, a lot of the playoff contenders are centered around players with big resumes and bigger names. As a result, the HEAT get lost in the shuffle of the national conversation from time to time. Their culture of togetherness and slight from the media outside of their city could make for the perfect “chip on the shoulder” recipe. Or so you would think. Winslow doesn’t believe the chatter, or lack thereof, matters any to Miami.
“We don’t pay too much attention to that,” Winslow said. ‘We’re so focused, and locked in on our team, and each other, and trying to win each game. For us, it’s about having the respect of your peers, of the other team. I think every night no matter who we have or who’s healthy, I think teams know we’re going to be a tough, physical team. Guys in this league don’t want that, you don’t want to have to play against a Miami HEAT team that’s going to be physical, that’s going to get into your body, that’s going to make you play a hard, 48-minute basketball game.”
Because of the HEAT’s brand of basketball, an 82-game season can be grueling. For Winslow, keeping his body right throughout the grind is important to him. After dealing with a few injuries last season, and ultimately being shut down for the year last January to undergo right shoulder surgery for a torn labrum, Winslow was determined to make sure he kept his body in check throughout his comeback so he would be available for a long playoff run.
While his numbers aren’t flashy, Winslow is showing improvement. His 49.3 true shooting percentage is the highest of his career, along with shooting nearly 43 percent from beyond the arc, Winslow made strides in arguably the biggest knock against his game since coming out of college.
Because NBA players have the freedom to form partnerships with whichever companies they’d like, Winslow made the choice to strike up a partnership that he felt would not only help him off the court but more importantly, on it as well.
“My partnership with MET-Rx has been great,” Winslow said. “They’ve really helped take my game to the next level with all their nutritional supplements, and the Big 100 bar. So, for me, I’m always looking for ways to stay off my feet, but also get in the best shape possible and this was just a great way to help.”
The grind of the NBA season is also eased for playoff teams by a veteran presence. So, when the HEAT brought back franchise legend Wade at the trade deadline, their locker room suddenly had a face and feel of someone who’s been there before. A player who reached the pinnacle, with the very team that traded for him nonetheless.
Getting Wade back to Miami was crucial for the team’s playoff run down the stretch, and more importantly for Winslow, who benefited greatly from his time with the future Hall of Famer when he was fresh out of college.
“First and foremost, it was great to get him back,” Winslow said. “Just the role that he played in my career as a rookie, and everything I learned from him. But then also, just the energy and positivity that he brought to the locker room, and also the community of Miami, the city of Miami as a whole. It was a much-needed energy boost, and good vibes that he brought back for that post All-Star break push for playoffs. So, it’s just been great having him back, and it’s kind of rejuvenated the team and the locker room, and just the city in general.”
Wade is the MVP-caliber player he once was this time around, though. But that’s okay. This version of the Miami HEAT is charging toward the postseason with a team-first mentality.
NBA Daily: The Road Ahead for Michael Porter Jr.
Michael Porter Jr. is an elite prospect, but questions surrounding his back will determine his landing spot in the NBA.
The Road Ahead for Michael Porter Jr.
While some of the highly thought of college players have made their intentions on declaring for the 2018 NBA Draft known, Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr still hasn’t made his proclamation. Most people in NBA circles believe he’ll be in the 2018 NBA Draft class—you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t think he’s in.
Back in November, the Missouri staff was somewhat vague and guarded about Porter’s condition until it was announced that he’d have back surgery on a couple of problematic discs in the lumbar area of his spine. The procedure is called a microdiscectomy and by all accounts was a success.
Porter missed virtually all of his college season but opted to play in the post-season for Missouri, who got eliminated fairly quickly.
There were certainly a lot of ugly things about Porter’s game. He looked out of shape, and certainly wasn’t the overwhelming dominating force he’d been in high school. Some executives applauded his decision to play, even though he wasn’t at a 100 percent. Some pointed to that fact that too many college players play it safe and that’s not always viewed positively. Almost no one Basketball Insiders spoke with was holding the less than stellar outing against him. In fact, most had far more positive things to say than negative. There was one resounding theme from the NBA executives who spoke about this situation—none of it matters until they see his medical.
Assuming Porter does as expected and hires an agent and enters the draft, the next challenge he’ll face is how open he wants to be to teams looking at drafting him.
In recent years, NBA teams have not shied away from using high draft picks on injured or recently injured players. Once a team can get a sense of how the player is recovering, they can make a value judgment.
Agents often use this information and access to the player to help steer their client to the situation they deem most favorable. While fans and outsiders often get caught up in the pick number a player ultimately lands at, more and more agents are concerned with fit, especially for a player that may need time to get back to 100 percent.
Most agents would want to steer their client to a team with favorable medical staff, a team with a proven track record of patience or more importantly, a team with the best chance at a long and fruitful career.
This won’t be good news for some team that could end up in the top 10, as it’s more likely that Porter isn’t made available to everyone. NBA executives will tell you, they can certainly draft him if they wanted to, but most teams won’t draft a player if their medical staff doesn’t sign off, and without information and access how can they do that?
There is a significant financial difference in going third in the draft ($5.47 million) and 10th ($2.964 million) – but several agents commented that the short-term money shouldn’t drive the long-term decision, especially if the player isn’t 100 percent. The fit and situation typically trump everything in these situations.
Another concept to consider is while Porter did play, there are questions about whether he’ll host a pro-day, take part in private team workouts or simply let his body of work drive his draft value.
Almost no one who spoke about this situation believed Porter would take part in the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, as he’d have to subject himself to the medical testing that’s part of that event.
The common perception on Porter is he’s a top-five talent, although it seems more likely that his camp is going to try and work the process to ensure he lands in a favorable situation. That could mean he falls out of top-five selections, simply because he and his agents choose to.
There is still a lot that needs to play out for Porter, including his announcement that he will enter the draft. But given where things stand with him, it’s more likely than not he’s coming into the draft, and it’s more likely than not he’ll have a lot of questions NBA teams will want to understand before his real draft position is clear.
The NBA Draft Lottery will be held in Chicago this year and is scheduled for May 15th. The annual Draft Combine, also in Chicago, gets underway on May 16th.
More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton , @jblancartenba, @Ben_Dowsett, @SpinDavies, @BuddyGrizzard, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers_, and @Ben__Nadeau .