As the NBA season starts to wind down and the playoff bracket begins to shape itself, teams start targeting the areas of their roster that need to be improved. Some teams naturally need more than others since only one Larry O’Brien trophy is handed out each season, though even the league’s elite teams are always looking to add pieces and retool as well.
So, as the offseason quickly approaches and with free agency looming here is a look at the top available shooting guards that could be looking to add a backcourt punch to teams of all competition levels.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope — Restricted Free Agent
The top free-agent in this season’s shooting guard class, Caldwell-Pope is in the last year of his rookie deal with the Detroit Pistons, and he’s putting together a season that should have them thinking long and hard about offering him a max-contract extension.
By improving his 3-point shooting to a very respectable 37 percent this season, Caldwell-Pope officially entered into the realm of a high-level “3-and-D” wing player that is so coveted throughout the NBA. At 6-foot-5 and utilizing his 6-foot-8 wingspan, Caldwell-Pope has turned into a pest on the defensive wing.
Over the last two seasons, Caldwell-Pope has posted defensive win share numbers of 2.7 and 2.2. His ability to impact the defensive end of the court is what makes him so valuable moving forward. Coupled with his increased efficiency on the offensive end — converting a career-high 64 percent of shots within three feet of the rim — Caldwell-Pope could continue to legitimize himself as a two-way player.
On top of it all, he’s still just 24 years old. There’s plenty of time left in his career. That paired with his potential could likely land him a big dollar offer sheet should the Pistons decide to let him test the market.
J.J. Redick — Unrestricted Free Agent
Chris Paul’s backcourt running mate is set to hit the free agent pool. After carving out a niche in Los Angeles with the Clippers it’s hard to see Redick walking away. But crazier things have happened in free agency.
Redick’s skill as a perimeter scorer is an integral part of the Clippers’ offense. Averaging 14.7 points per game this season, slightly down from last year’s, Redick is still in line with his career average 41 percent 3-point shooting clip.
With Doc Rivers’ offense navigated by Paul, and two elite big men in Deandre Jordan and Blake Griffin, a knockdown kick out option is crucial to their success. Unless the 32-year-old Redick receives a whopping offer from another team desperate for shooters, expect him back in L.A.
Dwyane Wade — Player Option
After turning 35 this past January, Wade certainly isn’t the youngest option on the market. But the longtime Miami HEAT star is enjoying a resurgence season in his first year with the Chicago Bulls.
Averaging 18.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game Wade is showing that he’s still got some gas left in the tank. With his athleticism not at the level it once was, Wade has looked this season to refine his shooting form. As a result, he’s connecting on 31.5 percent of his shots from 3-point range. This isn’t the best percentage in the league by any means, but it is the most efficient Wade has shot from downtown since the 2008-09 season when he hit 31.7 of his shots from beyond the arc.
However, it would be a long shot to expect Wade to hit the open market. After being shut down for the season on March 15 with a sprain and fracture in his right elbow, Wade will enter this offseason with a $23.8 million player option. Coming off an injury and with his age no secret around the league, it would be unlikely Wade gets that type of value in another deal.
Dion Waiters — Player Option
From the former shooting guard in Miami to the current one. Waiters is currently enjoying the strongest overall season of his career in South Beach.
Since Jan. 17, the HEAT are an NBA-best 23-5, and in large part because of Waiters’ play. Over that span, the Philadelphia native is averaging 18.4 points, 4.8 assists, and 3.6 rebounds per game. Waiters’ spike in production is partly a result of his hot-streak 3-point shooting; he’s connecting on 44 percent of his three’s over the HEAT’s run.
The hot play from Waiters has propelled Miami from the league’s basement to vying for a playoff berth. It’s also potentially propelling Waiters into a pay raise. Currently, Waiters will have a player option at the end of the season worth $3 million. Should his play continue and the HEAT find themselves playing postseason basketball, Waiters could be in line for a bigger deal from Miami. Or he could take his talents out of South Beach and to the highest bidder on the free market.
Tim Hardaway Jr. — Restricted Free Agent
After spending his first two seasons with the New York Knicks, Hardaway Jr. is using the final season of his rookie contract to flourish with the Atlanta Hawks.
Hardaway Jr. is averaging 13.9 points in just 25.9 minutes per game as a key reserve for the playoff-bound Hawks. Along with upping his scoring output, he also is producing career-highs in nearly every other offensive statistical category as well. Playing a legitimate role on a playoff team certainly doesn’t hurt your value, and should Hardaway Jr. have a strong showing in the postseason, it’s reasonable to see him command a good contract from the Hawks.
The opposite side of the coin in that scenario, though, would be Hardaway Jr. playing well enough convince another club to pay him more than Atlanta — who will commit $16.9 million to Kent Bazemore next season — would be willing to offer. Either way, Hardaway Jr. has produced enough to the level that he will be a popular option on the market this summer.
Sean Kilpatrick — Team Option
Perhaps the player on this list who’s helped himself the most over the last season and a half is Kilpatrick. Discarded in the league as a journeyman and near wash-out, Kilpatrick found new life in Brookly,n where he’s been one of the Nets’ few consistently good players. He’s owed $1.5 million next season, but the money isn’t guaranteed.
After putting together the season Kilpatrick has — 13.3 points, 4 rebounds and 34 percent 3-point shooting per game — finding another dotted line to sign and extend his stay in the NBA won’t be a hard task to accomplish should he find himself in the free-agent pool.
Tyreke Evans — Unrestricted Free Agent
Following the DeMarcus Cousins-to-New Orleans trade, Evans found himself back where it all started in Sacramento. This time, the 6-foot-6 guard arrives with much less hype.
Seven years have passed since Evans turned in that 20/5/5 rookie year that only LeBron James, Michael Jordan, and Oscar Robertson accomplished as rookies up until that point. Since then, Evans has generally regressed in each of his statistical categories. Regardless, he has been a fairly productive player when on the court.
Health issues will always be a concern for Evans, who’s never registered a full 82-game season during his career. But by fashioning himself into a decent 3-point shooter over the last two seasons (37 percent compared to 27 percent in his first six seasons) Evans should be able to provide a nice bench scoring option for some team this summer.
Kyle Korver — Unrestricted Free Agent
A true one-trick pony, Korver’s ability to consistently shoot well from beyond the arc will allow him to find a job in NBA with relative ease.
How Korver impacts the Cleveland Cavaliers this June in the playoffs should determine whether General Manager David Griffin inks him to a new deal. But considering the Cavs gave up a first-round pick for Korver back in January, it would be wise to imagine Korver back in Cleveland.
Gerald Henderson — Team Option
Henderson made a hometown return to Philadelphia last summer to provide some veteran presence to a 76ers roster that desperately needed it. He’s owed $9 million next season, but due to Philadelphia’s desolate backcourt situation plus plenty of cap space, Henderson should most likely be retained.
However, should he hit the open market, Henderson can provide a team with a solid two-way option off the bench.
Nick Young — Player Option
Swaggy P could find himself shopping around for another team to bring his scoring and swag to this summer.
With an option of $5.6 million on the table for Young to pick up, his decision will ultimately come down to what the Los Angeles Lakers do in the NBA Draft. Should they draft another guard like Lonzo Ball or Markelle Fultz, Young could be on the outside looking in for meaningful minutes in an already-crowded backcourt.
While the money is good for Young in Los Angeles, he can still provide productive minutes and scoring for many teams throughout the league. If he decides to turn down his option, he should have no trouble latching on to a team as a bench scorer.
Vince Carter — Unrestricted Free Agent
At 40 years old, Carter continues to elude father time. The eight-time All-Star is averaging 24 minutes a game, his most since 2013-14, so even at his advanced age Carter is providing a decent amount of play for the Memphis Grizzlies.
Hitting an open market at 40 should be interesting for Carter. He’s shown he can still play, and has transformed his once high-flying offensive repertoire into a decent shooting game. Carter also still brings a positive defensive box plus/minus to the table.
Whether Memphis decides to bring him back or not may depend slightly on what they do with the next man on our list, and whether or not Carter chooses to retire.
Tony Allen — Unrestricted Free Agent
One of his generation’s best perimeter defenders, Allen is still very productive at age 35. Averaging 9.2 points and 5.5 rebounds a game, Allen can do more than just guard the opposing team’s best wing player.
But he’s still pretty good at that too. A defensive box plus/minus of 2.6 shows Allen is still doing more than his fair share on the defensive end of the court. It will be interesting to see how the Memphis Grizzlies handle both Allen and Carter. Should they let Allen walk, his numbers this season prove he can still contribute solid production to a potential contender looking to add a veteran glue guy.
Manu Ginobili — Unrestricted Free Agent
There’s a slim-to-none chance Ginobili walks from San Antonio to another team. At 39 years old and after spending every season with the Spurs, including those four championship seasons, it’s hard to see the Argentina native on another team.
Should the near impossible happen and Ginobili chooses a new home over San Antonio and retirement, a team will surely give him a look based strictly off name value.
Ben McLemore — Restricted Free Agent
Failing to live up to the hype after being drafted No. 7 overall in the 2013 NBA Draft, McLemore is nearing the end of his rookie contract with the Sacramento Kings.
Despite averaging just 7.2 points a game, McLemore has averaged a career-high 39 percent shooting from beyond the arc. That bright spot alone could warrant the Kings extending McLemore a $5.3 million qualifying offer to see if he can make another jump in improvement next season.
If not, another team could take a chance on an underachieving high draft pick at a low price. Should McLemore suddenly live up to his initial expectations, the signing would be considered a home run.
Shabazz Muhammad — Restricted Free Agent
Muhammad is in a similar situation to McLemore, although he’s been slightly more productive.
At 24 years old, Muhammad is a nice young piece for a team like the Minnesota Timberwolves, but their roster is already relatively stacked at the wing positions. Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and Tyus Jones all get minutes at various backcourt spots. So it will be up to the Timberwolves if they want to invest money into Muhammad.
Should he walk, some team would benefit from giving him a shot at a fairly cheap deal.
The G-League is a Path Back to the NBA
The G-League has become an avenue for several player types toward the NBA, writes David Yapkowitz.
When the NBA first instituted their development league, its main purpose was two-fold. The first was to give experience to young players who perhaps were not seeing regular playing time on their respective NBA teams. The second was to give undrafted players a chance at getting exposure and ultimately getting to the NBA.
With the growth in size and popularity of the development league, now known as the G-League, it’s begun to serve another purpose. It’s become a place for older veterans who have already tasted the NBA life to get back to the highest level of basketball that they once knew.
One player in particular who has a wealth of NBA experience is Terrence Jones. Jones is currently playing with the Santa Cruz Warriors, the G-League affiliate of the Golden State Warriors.
Jones was originally drafted by the Houston Rockets with the 18th overall pick in the 2012 draft. He was part of a vaunted class of Kentucky Wildcats that year, which included Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marquis Teague, Doron Lamb, and Darius Miller. During his four years with the Rockets, he emerged as a dependable reserve and part-time starter. He averaged 9.5 points per game on 49.5 percent shooting and 5.3 rebounds.
“It was just a lot of excitement and a lot of joy, being part of the Houston Rockets was a lot of fun,” Jones told Basketball Insiders. “We had great memories and great seasons, a lot of up and downs, I just enjoyed the journey.”
Jones’ dealt with injuries his last two season in Houston, and when he was a free agent in the summer of 2016, the Rockets didn’t re-sign him. He was scooped by the New Orleans Pelicans, however, and he made an immediate impact for them. Prior to the trade deadline, he played in 51 games for the Pelicans, including 12 starts while putting up 11.5 points on 47.2 percent shooting, and 5.9 rebounds.
When the Pelicans acquired DeMarcus Cousins, however, they cut Jones. He didn’t stay unemployed for long, though, as he was signed by the Milwaukee Bucks to add depth for a playoff run. He was unable to crack the rotation, though, and the Bucks cut him as well before the playoff started. After a brief stint in China, he’s now back stateside and using the G-League to get back to the NBA.
“That’s the goal. Right now, I feel I’ve been playing pretty well and just trying to help my team get wins,” Jones told Basketball Insiders. “I think I can play multiple positions offensively and defensively. Whether that’s creating plays for myself or for others, I think I can help contribute on the offensive end.”
He’s been the second-leading scorer for Santa Cruz with 19.9 points per game. He’s pulling down 7.1 rebounds, and even dishing out 4.5 assists. In the G-League Challenge against the Mexican National Team at All-Star Weekend, he finished with eight points on 50.0 percent shooting, six rebounds, four assists, and two steals. He’s definitely a name to watch for as NBA teams scour the market for 10-day contract possibilities.
Another player who’s had a taste of the NBA is Xavier Silas. Silas is currently with the Northern Arizona Suns, the affiliate of the Phoenix Suns. He went undrafted in 2011 and started his professional career in France. That only last a few months before he came back the United States and latched on with the Philadelphia 76ers.
He played sparingly with the 76ers and was ultimately cut before the start of the 2012-13 season. Since then, he’s played summer league with the Bucks, and been in two different training camps with the Washington Wizards.
“It was amazing, any time you get to go and play at the highest level, and I even got to play in the playoffs and play in the second round and even score, that was big,” Silas told Basketball Insiders. “It was a great time for me and that’s what I’m working towards getting back.”
While his professional career has taken him all across the globe from Israel to Argentina to Greece to Germany and even Ice Cube’s BIG3 league, he sees the G-League as being the one place that will get him back to where he wants to be.
He’s done well this season for Northern Arizona. He’s their third-leading scorer at 19.3 points per game and he’s one of their top three-point threats at 39.9 percent. At the All-Star Weekend G-League Challenge against the Mexican National Team, Silas had a team-high 13 points for Team USA including 3-5 shooting from three-point range.
It’s isn’t just what he brings on the court that Silas believes makes him an attractive candidate for an NBA team. At age 30, he’s one of the older guys in the G-League and one with a lot of basketball experience to be passed down to younger guys.
“I think it’s a little bit of leadership, definitely some shooting. I’m a vet now so I’m able to come in and help in that aspect as well. But everybody needs someone who can hit an open shot and I think I can bring that to a team,” Silas told Basketball Insiders. “I think it’s the best place for anyone who’s trying to make that next step. We’re available and we’re right here, it’s just a call away.”
NBA Daily: Lillard Playing For Something Bigger
Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard has his eyes set on a bigger prize than just being an NBA All-Star.
Playing For Something Bigger
The NBA All-Star Game is a spectacle.
By design, the game is meant to be a showcase, not just for the players selected to compete, but for the league and all of its partners, on and off the floor. It is easy to get caught up in how players selected actually play, but the reality is while most see the game as important for a lot of reasons, Portland Trail Blazer star Damian Lillard understands it has to be put into perspective.
“I don’t think it’s fair to expect people to go out there and treat it like they are playing for the team they’re under contract for,” Lillard explained this weekend.
“It’s the one time in an 82-game season plus playoffs, preseason and training camp that we actually get a break. It’s necessary to take a mental break, along with a physical break from what we do every day. There’s nothing wrong with that, so I don’t think it’s fair to ask guys to go out there and play like it’s for the Trail Blazers. My loyalty is to my team; I got to stay healthy for my team. I got to do what’s best for my team. Obviously, go out there [during All-Star] and not mess around too much and that’s how people get hurt and stuff like that. You got to go out there and play and have respect for the game, but I don’t think it’s necessary to go out there and go crazy like it’s a playoff game.”
Lillard notched 21 minutes in Sunday’s big game, going 9-for-14 from the field for 21 points for Team Stephen, a roster that included three Golden State Warriors players. Lillard believes that eventually, he’ll get the chance to share the weekend, his third, with teammate C. J. McCollum.
“Each year you see teams are getting two to three, Golden State got four this year,” Lillard said. “But you look at it and say ‘why is that happening’ and it has a lot to do with team success. Me and C.J. just have to take that challenge of making our team win more games. I think when we do that, we’ll be rewarded with both of us making it. If we really want to make that happen, then we’ll do whatever it takes to win more games.
“I feel like this season we’ve moved closer in that direction. In the past, we haven’t even been in the position to get one, because I did not make it the past two years. I think if we keep on improving we’ll eventually get to the point that we’re winning games and people will say ‘how are they doing this’ and then hopefully our names come up. Hopefully, one day, it’ll happen.”
Another issue that got addressed during the All-Star Weekend was the growing tensions between the NBA players and the NBA referees. Representatives from both sides met to address the gap developing on the court, something Lillard felt was necessary.
“We’re all human,” Lillard said. “As competitors, we want to win. If you feel like you got fouled, you want them to call the foul every time. I think sometimes as players, we forget how hard their job can be. At the pace we play, it’s hard to get every call, and then you got guys tricking the referees sometimes, we’re clever too. It’s a tough job for them. I think when we get caught up in our competitive nature, and we forget that they’re not just these robots with stripes, they are people too. You have got to think, as a man if someone comes screaming at you every three plays, you are going to react in your own way. Maybe you’re not going to make the next call; maybe I am going to stand my ground. It’s just something that I think will get better over time. I think both have to do a better job of understanding.”
With 24 games left to play in Lillard’s sixth NBA season, the desire to be more than a playoff team or an All-Star is coming more into focus for Lillard, something he reportedly expressed to Blazers management several weeks ago.
“There are guys that have this record and guys that have done these things, and I want to at least get myself the chance to compete for a championship,” Lillard said. “If I get there and we don’t win it, it happens. A lot of people had to go see about Michael Jordan, a lot of people had to go see about Shaq and Kobe. You know, those great teams, but I have a strong desire to at least give myself a chance to be there. Take a shot at it.”
With All-Star out of the way, the focus in the NBA will switch to the race to the playoffs. As things stand today Lillard and his Blazers hold the seventh seed in the West and are tied with Denver, and just a half of a game back from the five seed Oklahoma City Thunder.
If the Blazers are going to make noise this post season its going to be on the shoulder of Lillard, and based on what he said, it seems he’s up to the challenge.
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NBA Daily: James Harden on the new All-Star Format and Chris Paul Being Snubbed
James Harden shared his thoughts on the new All-Star game format and teammate Chris Paul not being selected as an All-Star
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver made a bold decision to alter the All-Star game format. By allowing the two highest voted players in each conference to be team captains, Silver did away with tradition and the usual West versus East format. While there were a few complaints about the switch, fans were seemingly more vocal about the decision to not televise the selection of players by the team captains.
Well, the results are in and praise for new format has been nearly universal. With players more invested in the new format, and perhaps the $100k per player bonus for the winners, the effort level was up, plays were being drawn up and executed and defense made a surprise appearance in an exciting game that came down to the final possession.
2018 NBA All-Star and Houston Rockets guard James Harden spoke about the All-Star game and the new format.
“I think it is exciting. You get an opportunity, you know, for a mixture of guys to play on the same team together. We’re trying to win though, it’s competitive,” Harden stated. “Obviously, the All-Star game has a lot of highlights but we’re trying to win, we’re going to go out there and prove we’re trying to win.”
Harden, who played for Team Stephen, did not get the win. However, Harden also made it clear that playing in the this year’s All-Star game meant even more having grown up in Los Angeles.
“To be able to play in the big boy game means a lot. I grew up, especially being from LA, you grew up watching Kobe, watching Shaq every single year. You see how fun, you see how exciting it was,” Harden said. “Now to be here, to be in the city is more special.”
While Harden made it a point to talk about what it means to play in Los Angeles, another factor he seemed excited and appreciative about was being the first player picked for Team Stephen.
“Man, that’s a great feeling. Just because in middle school I was the last pick. So, to be the number one pick in the All-Star game, that’s what the swag champ is for,” Harden said.
Harden wasn’t universally positive about All-Star Weekend. Specifically, he was not happy about being the only Rockets All-Star – especially considering Houston’s standing in the Western Conference playoff race.
“I have a lot to say about that. What are we talking about? Everyone knows Chris Paul is with the Rockets and the Rockets have the number one [record]. How does that not happen?” Harden asked rhetorically. “It’s frustrating. I know he’s frustrated. He never brings it up. That’s why I did say what I said. He’s never going to bring it up. But, I’ll defend for him. He should be here with me in LA as an All-Star.”
Harden had some success as he led his team in minutes and logged 12 points, eight assists and five rebounds. He spoke after the game and confirmed the reconfiguration of the All-Star game produced a competitive game and a fun product for the fans.
“Felt great. I hope all the fans enjoyed [the All-Star game] as well. It was very competitive. Guys got after it from the beginning of the game. Usually All-Star [games] there are a lot of dunks, a lot of freedom. Tonight was intense,” Harden said.
Harden was not wrong with his conclusion that there was less freedom. With less freedom and better defense played, Harden went 5-19 from the field and 2-13 from three-point range while finishing the game without a single free throw attempted. The lack of free throws may have irked Harden, who is renowned for his ability to get to the line (9.9 free throw attempts per game this season). Adding to that frustration, Harden had the opportunity to put his team ahead with a three-pointer late in the game but failed to connect on the shot. Unsurprisingly, Harden expressed his disappointment with the result.
“I was pissed we lost. I’m still mad,” Harden stated.
On the final play of the game, while ignoring Harden, Curry kept the ball with the chance to tie the game. Curry dribbled into a LeBron James/Kevin Durant double team. Curry wasn’t able to get a shot off and Harden was left with his hands up waiting for a pass and a chance to win the game that never came.
Looking toward next year, Harden was asked if as a possible captain he would prefer to have the player selection two weeks before or right before the game. He thought about it and then smiled.
“Probably right before the game,” Harden answered.
Commissioner Silver has spoken on the subject and is sending strong signals that next year’s selection will be televised. That will potentially add another layer of excitement to the new All-Star game format, which is already paying off for the NBA.