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2017 Free Agent Rankings: Shooting Guards

Dennis Chambers breaks down the potential group of free agent shooting guards.

Dennis Chambers

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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.

Tier 1:

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.

Tier 2:

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.

Tier 3:

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.

Tier 4:

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.

Dennis Chambers is an NBA writer in his first season with Basketball Insiders. Based out of Philadelphia he has previously covered NCAA basketball and high school recruiting.

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NBA Sunday: Raptors Aren’t Extinct Just Yet

The Celtics should be a concern to the Cavaliers, but the Raptors shouldn’t be overlooked, either.

Moke Hamilton

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The Toronto Raptors aren’t extinct—not yet, anyway.

With the whirlwind of movement that dominates the headlines this past NBA offseason and the growth of several young players, we’ve spent far more time discussing the likes of the Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons, Philadelphia 76ers and New York Knicks than the team from up North.

We’ve asked ourselves whether LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers can win the Eastern Conference for a fourth consecutive year and whether or not the Washington Wizards are finally ready to give some credible resistance. Some of us have even gone as far as to predict that, in the ultimate irony, Kyrie Irving will lead the Celtics to the conference crown this season.

And that doesn’t even begin to talk about the storylines from out West.

All the while, quietly and meticulously, Dwane Casey and his Raptors have stalked, and you peer at the standings and realize that they enter play on November 19 at 10-5, tied with the Pistons for the second-best record in the conference.

What has made the Raptors thriving especially improbable is the fact that they’ve done it despite missing a few key contributors for a game or two. To this point, they have ranked respectably both in points allowed per game (102.6) and points allowed per 100 possessions (107.8). Those metrics rank them eighth and 11th, respectively.

So, where exactly do the Raptors fit in the grand scheme of things?

It seems like a question we’ve been asking for a few years now.

* * * * * *

Having qualified for the playoffs four consecutive years, Dwane Casey’s team has won three playoff series over the course of that duration, but haven’t exactly found timely and efficient play from their two star players in DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry.

Now, as the Eastern Conference begins to feature younger players with appreciable upside—Joel Embiid, Kristaps Porzingis, Ben Simmons and Jaylen Brown to name a few—it’s totally fair to wonder where the Raptors fit in. It’s also fair, believe it or not, to wonder whether they’ll be able to provide as much resistance to the Cavaliers as the Celtics.

In effect, the Raptors have become a modern day version of Joe Johnson’s Atlanta Hawks. After signing with the Hawks prior to the 2005-06 season, Johnson led the revival of the franchise. They would end up qualifying for the playoffs five consecutive years, but never advanced past the second round. A similar story can be told of Chris Paul’s Los Angeles Clippers.

The point is, however, that over the years, the Raptors have developed an identity and are a team whose hallmarks have come to be toughness and ball-sharing—two characteristics that most coaches would love to embody their team. While we’ve been paying close attention to the things that are brand new and exciting, the Raptors are the same old crew that they have been. And for a team like that, the 2011 NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks will continue to be the gold standard.

The Mavericks notably rebuilt and tore down several incarnations of their team around Dirk Nowitzki until the team was finally able to surround Nowitzki with the right complement of players to score one of the biggest upsets in NBA Finals history.

Whether anyone chooses to acknowledge it, the Cavaliers are vulnerable.

Entering play on November 19, LeBron James leads the league in both total minutes played (617) and minutes played per game (38.6). Of the players who will comprise James’ supporting rotation in the playoffs, the majority of them are players whose impact will be mostly felt on one side of the floor: offense. To this point, the Cavs have 10 different players averaging 20 minutes played per game—an incredibly high number. More than anything else, that’s a result of Tyron Lue playing with his rotations to figure out which units work best, while also taking into account that the team has been playing without both Tristan Thompson and Derrick Rose for long stretches.

Still, of those rotation players—James, Rose, Thompson, J.R. Smith, Kevin Love, Jae Crowder, Dwyane Wade, Iman Shumpert, Kyle Korver and Jeff Green—the simple truth is that it is only James who has performed like a true two-way player.

It’s a troubling trend upon which the Raptors—and other teams in the conference—could capitalize.

The best two words to describe the Cavaliers to this point in the season are “old” and “slow,” and that’s simply a fact. The club still ranks dead last in points allowed per 100 possessions and 28th in the league in points allowed per game.

In short, the Cavaliers, at least to this point, have certainly appeared to be vulnerable. It is those same Cavaliers that have ended the Raptors season each of the past two years.

You know what they say about third times—they’re often the charm.

* * * * * *

There’s obviously a long way to go, and any chance that Toronto would have to get past the Cavs rests in the ability of Lowry and DeRozan to find some consistency in the playoffs. Still, as the complementary pieces around them have slowly improved, we have spent the early goings of the season fawning over the brand news teams and storylines in the conference and have paid no attention to the old guard.

And depending on how the brackets play out, any Cavaliers foray in the conference finals might have to go through the familiar road of Toronto.

If that happens to be the case—if the Cavs do have to square off against their familiar foe—they’re ripe for the picking.

Just as they have been over the past few years, the Duane Casey’s team will be there waiting for their opportunity.

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NBA Saturday: Kuzma Is The Main Attraction In Los Angeles

Kyle Kuzma, not Lonzo Ball, is the rookie in L.A. that is turning heads around the NBA.

Dennis Chambers

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Out in Los Angeles, there is a dynamite rookie first-round pick lighting it up for the Lakers, invoking memories of the days when the purple and gold had homegrown stars.

That’s Kyle Kuzma. He was the 27th pick in the NBA Draft. Twenty-five picks after Lonzo Ball, the rookie that first sentence would have presumably been about had it been written three months ago.

Ball’s early season struggles are well-noted. He’s missing shots at an all-time bad clip for a rookie, his psyche seems a bit rattled, and he isn’t having the impact most Lakers fans would have hoped he would from the jump.

All of that has barely mattered, though, in large part to the show Kuzma has been putting on just 16 games into the 2017-18 season. In Friday night’s loss to the Phoenix Suns, Kuzma put up 30 points and 10 rebounds for the Lakers, the most by an NBA freshman so far this year. That performance was Kuzma’s sixth 20-point game of the young season, another rookie best. And to top it all off, Kuzma was the first rookie to reach the 30-point, 10-rebound plateau since none other than Magic Johnson, back in February of 1980.

Kuzma’s path to the NBA was much different than Johnson’s, though, along with his rookie counterpart Ball. Those two prospects were highly-touted “superstar potential” guys coming out of the college ranks. Kuzma? Well, he was a 21-year-old junior out of Utah who didn’t make the NCAA Tournament his last year and was a career 30 percent three-point shooter as an amateur.

The knocks on Kuzma began to change during the NBA Draft process and came to a head for the Lakers when long-time scout Bill Bertka raved about his potential.

“He got all wide-eyed,” Lakers director of scouting Jesse Buss told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. “And he said, ‘If this guy isn’t an NBA player, then I don’t know what the f— I’m looking at.'”

The Lakers took a chance on the 6-foot-9 forward who had a rare combination of a sweet shooting stroke to accompany his low-post moves that seemed to be reminiscent of players 20 years his senior.

Fast forward from draft night to the Las Vegas Summer League, and everyone could see with their own two eyes the type of player Los Angeles drafted. The numbers were startling: 21.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 1.1 steals, and 48 percent from beyond the arc out in Sin City for Kuzma, all capped off by a Summer League championship game MVP.

Summer League stats should be taken with a grain of salt, but what Kuzma did in July was proved he belonged.

Through the first month of Kuzma’s rookie campaign, when the games are actually counting for something, all he’s continued to do is prove that his exhibition numbers in Vegas were no fluke.

After his 30-point outburst, Kuzma now leads all rookies in total points scored (yet still second in scoring average), is fourth in rebounds per game, third in minutes, and third in field goal percentage.

By all accounts, Kuzma is outperforming just about every highly-touted prospect that was taken before him last June, and sans a Ben Simmons broken foot in September of 2016, he would be in line for the Rookie of the Year award if the season ended today.

Following Wednesday night’s loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, head coach Brett Brown had more than a few nice things to say about Kuzma.

“He’s a hell of a rookie,” Brown told NBC Philly’s Jessica Camerato. “That was a great pick by them.”

Brown went on to commend Kuzma for being “excellent” Wednesday night, when prior to his game Friday against the Suns, Kuzma set a career-high by scoring 24 points.

For all of the praise and the scoring numbers Kuzma is bringing to the Staples Center, his Lakers team sits at just 6-10 on the season, and has been on the wrong end of a number of close games so far this year.

While that’s good for second in the Pacific division right now, behind only the Golden State Warriors, it isn’t likely that type of success (or lack thereof) will get the Lakers to the playoffs. So, despite all of the numbers and attention, Kuzma isn’t fulfilling his rookie year the way he had hoped.

“It is cool, but I’m a winner,” Kuzma told Lakers Nation’s Serena Winters. “I like to win, stats don’t really matter to me. I just try to play hard and I want to win.”

Few projected the type of impact Kuzma would have this early on in his career, and even fewer would have assumed he’d be outperforming the Lakers’ prized draft pick in Ball. But surprising people with his game is nothing new to Kuzma.

From Flint, Michigan, to Utah, to Los Angeles, Kuzma has been turning heads of those that overlooked him the entire time.

With one month in the books as the Los Angeles Lakers’ most promising rookie, Kuzma has all the attention he could’ve asked for now.

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Kelly Olynyk Strengthens the HEAT Bench

David Yapkowitz speaks to Kelly Olynyk about his early showing in Miami.

David Yapkowitz

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The past few years, Kelly Olynyk carved out a nice role for himself as an important player off the Boston Celtics bench. He was a fan favorite at TD Garden, with his most memorable moment in Celtic green coming in last season’s playoffs against the Washington Wizards in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

With Boston pushed to the limit and finding themselves forced into a Game 7, Olynyk rose to the occasion and dropped a playoff career-high 26 points off the bench on 10-14 shooting from the field in a Celtics win. He scored 14 of those points in the fourth quarter to hold Washington off.

He was a free agent at the end of the season, and instead of coming back to the Celtics, he became a casualty of their roster turnover following Gordon Hayward’s decision to sign in Boston. Once he hit the open market he had no shortage of suitors, but he quickly agreed to a deal with the Miami HEAT, an easy decision for him.

“It’s awesome, they got a real good culture here,” Olynyk told Basketball Insiders. “The organization is great, the city is great, the staff from the top down they do a good job here.”

Olynyk was initially the HEAT’s starting power forward to begin the season. In their opening night game, a 116-109 loss to the Orlando Magic, he scored ten points, pulled down five rebounds, and dished out three assists.

The very next game, however, he found himself back in his familiar role as first big man off the bench. In that game, a win over the Indiana Pacers, Olynyk had an even stronger game with 13 points on 50 percent shooting from the field, including 60 percent from three-point range, eight rebounds, and four assists.

Throughout the first eight games of the season, Olynyk was thriving with his new team. During that stretch, he was averaging a career-high 11.4 points per game on a career-high 55 percent shooting from the field and 60. 8 percent from downtown.

“I’m just playing, I’m just playing basketball,” Olynyk told Basketball Insiders. “They’re kind of letting me just play. They kind of let us all just play. They put us in positions to succeed and just go out there and let out skills show.”

For a HEAT team that may not be as talented on paper as some of the other teams in the Eastern Conference, they definitely play hard and gritty and are a sum of their parts. Night in and night out, in each of their wins, they’ve done it off the contributions from each player in the rotation and Olynyk has been a big part of that. Through Nov. 16, the HEAT bench was seventh in the league in points per game with 36.6.

In a win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Nov. 5, Olynyk was part of a bench unit including James Johnson, Tyler Johnson, and Wayne Ellington that came into the game late in the first quarter. The score at that point was 18-14 in Miami’s favor. That unit closed the quarter on a 16-6 run to put the HEAT up double digits. After that game, head coach Erik Spoelstra recognized the strength of the HEAT bench.

“Our guys are very resilient, that’s the one thing you’ve got to give everybody in that locker room, they’re tough,” Spoelstra said. “This is all about everybody in that locker room contributing to put yourself in a position, the best chance to win. It’s not about first unit, second unit, third unit, we’re all in this together.”

In Boston, Olynyk was part of a similar group that won games off of team play and production from every guy that got in the game. They were also a tough, gritty team and Olynyk has recognized that same sort of fire in the HEAT locker room.

“It’s a group of hard-nosed guys that can really grind it out and play tough-nosed basketball,” Olynyk told Basketball Insiders. “We can go a lot of places. We just got to stick together and keep doing what we do. We can compete with anybody and we just got to bring it every single night.”

At 7-8, the HEAT currently sit outside the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference. Olynyk has seen a bit of a decrease in playing time, and likewise in production. He’s right at his career average in points per game with 9.5, but he’s still shooting career-highs from the field (54 percent) and from three-point range (47.4).

It’s still very early, though, and only one game separates the 11th place HEAT from the 8th place Magic. The HEAT are definitely tough enough to fight for a playoff spot, especially with Olynyk around helping to strengthen their bench.

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