Raptors guard Greivis Vasquez talks about fitting into his new team, why its worked in Toronto and what he thinks his team can do in the post-season.
The Guards You Can Get: There is no escaping the importance of the point guard position in the NBA, not only in terms of playmaking and leading a team, but in the modern NBA the point guard spot has become the catalyst for almost everything teams do.
As NBA teams enter the offseason, addressing or upgrading the point guard spot will come front and center, and while the 2014 NBA Draft class might inserts two or three starting-caliber guards, most teams will look to free agency to solve their point guard woes.
The 2014 NBA Free Agent class doesn’t feature a lot of All-Star type players, but there are some guys who have turned their situations around this year and might be headed towards a nice free agent payday. Here are the top six “obtainable” free agent point guards:
Kyle Lowry – Toronto Raptors – $6,210,000:
PPG- 17.5 APG- 7.6 RPG- 4.8 PER- 20.10
Lowry sits atop the available point guard crop, and while he has really brought things around this season in Toronto, his future with the club is murky at best. Lowry, who just turned 28 this month, is posting some of the best numbers of his career and has been the catalyst for the Raptors’ run to the postseason, their first postseason berth since 2008. With unrestricted free agency on the horizon, Lowry will surely get some top shelf offers. The question becomes how much will Toronto put on the table to keep him and is that even an option for Lowry?
Sources close to Lowry say he is actually really happy in Toronto. He has grown close with teammate DeMar DeRozan. He has a young guy that he has really connected with and they have rallied around him. In terms of the team situation, Lowry is pretty happy with what he has around him and what the organization has said they’ll do to improve.
So now it comes down to money and free agency. There has been talk that the Miami HEAT may make a run at Lowry and Lowry has long been linked to the LA Lakers, who may have a mountain of free agent cash to spend. Lowry has said over and over that he wants to be in a winning situation, and he has been part of building one in Toronto, the question is will a bigger brand name in the NBA or a more established veteran team pony up enough cash to lure Lowry out of Toronto?
Lowry is in the last year of his contract and will have earned some $6.2 million in salary by season’s end. In his eight NBA seasons Lowry has earned $28.7 million, so its not like he’s hit the NBA lottery and money won’t matter. The Raptors do hold Lowry’s Bird rights, so they can offer him more guaranteed dollars and years than anyone else. The question is how much is it going to take, and what’s the per year price?
»In Related: The 2014 NBA Free Agents List.
Darren Collison – Los Angeles Clippers – $1,900,000:
PPG- 10.8 APG- 3.6 RPG- 2.2 PER- 16.29
Collison has a $1.95 million player option for next season that he may not exercise, meaning he could hit free agency again and see if his value has gone up.
Collison has been the poster child for inconsistency as a pro. In New Orleans he looked every bit the part of starting point guard. However, in Indiana and Dallas he struggled. When Chris Paul went down to injury in LA earlier this year, Collison was thrust into the starting lineup and against posted gaudy numbers – 53.7 percent field goal shooting, 45 percent three pointing shooting in 31.2 minutes a game, helping lead the team to a 12-4 record in January.
It’s a hard to bet on Collision as a starter given his track record elsewhere, but if a team is grabbing a young point guard in the draft, and is looking for a steady hand to fill in around the learning curve, Collision might be an interesting option.
Collision continues to show that when he gets minutes, he can produce and when you are talking about the next tier of point guards he might be the best of the bunch.
Ramon Sessions – Milwaukee Bucks – $5,000,000
PPG- 11.7 APG- 3.8 RPG- 2.4 PER- 16.25
Sessions will turn 28 in April and will likely enter the free agent pool as the third best free agent guard of the bunch. Sessions didn’t exactly blow the doors off the opportunity he had in Charlotte, which was one of the reasons he was traded to Milwaukee at the deadline.
Since arriving in Milwaukee, Sessions has played well, but far from stellar. Its unlikely teams knock down Sessions’ door as a free agent answer as a starter, but as a quality backup guard, Sessions still looks to have a lot of value. Like Collison, a team drafting a rookie point guard could do worse than Sessions as a security blanket as a young player learns the game.
Sessions is coming off a final contract year that will pay him $5 million this season. That number might be a little high for a next contract, but given how few point guards are really available in free agency, Session may find his price tag in the neighborhood, the question is how many years need to be on the deal to obtain his services?
Jarret Jack signed a four-year, $25 million deal last summer with Cleveland after posting slightly lower stats than Sessions posted in Milwaukee, so there is a little bit of market precedent for his situation.
»In Related:NBA Team Salaries At A Glance.
D.J. Augustin – Chicago Bulls – $650,215
PPG- 12.5 APG- 4.3 RPG- 1.8 PER- 16.06
To be brutally honest, Augustin looked like he was on his way out of the NBA, then he landed in Chicago with the Bulls and has absolutely blown the doors off what people thought about him.
Augustin has posted some of the best numbers of his career and has really fallen into a nice groove with the Bulls. Unfortunately the Bulls may not have the means to keep him beyond this year, although a lot of his teammates are campaigning for him.
The Bulls currently have $63 million in salary commitments to seven players next year. So, unless the Bulls use their one-time Amnesty cut on Carlos Boozer, which may or may not happen, they don’t have a lot to work with beyond their cap exceptions.
The Bulls have been talking with Nikola Mirotic, whom they hold the draft rights to, about coming over from Spain next season. Mirotic has a hefty contract with Real Madrid and an even heftier buyout said to be worth $3.1 million. In order for the Bulls to make it worth it to Mirotic to payout the buyout, they are going to have to give him likely every dime of their Mid-Level exception, meaning no real exception money for Augustin.
If Mirotic opts to remain in Spain for one more year there may be a window for Augustin to get a new deal with the Bulls.
The answer to obtaining both players for next year might be to Amnesty Boozer, and while that is easy for fans and media members to talk about, there is a hard cost of $16.8 million that comes with that scenario. Would Chicago really pay $16.8 million for the right to give Mirotic and Augustin new deals? The answer there is likely no.
If the Bulls could find a team with cap space willing to take on Boozer’s final year for little or nothing in return, then there is a scenario that makes good business sense for the Bulls.
Augustin’s track record might keep his open market value somewhat low and that does play into Chicago’s favor, but when you look at the two-year, $4 million deal Denver’s Nate Robinson got this past summer after a similar rebirth in Chicago, that might be the price tag Augustin could command. That’s still a very workable number for Chicago.
»In Related:The 2015 NBA Free Agent List.
Jerryd Bayless – Boston Celtics – $3,135,000
PPG- 9.0 APG- 2.7 RPG- 2.0 PER- 12.26
Since arriving in Boston, Bayless has put up some decent numbers, especially from the three point line. Viewed around the league as more of a hybrid two-guard, Bayless may not get a lot of love as a point guard, but he does look to be an interesting option for a team looking for a solid guard off the bench. Bayless has become a reasonable defender and might fit nicely on a veteran team looking for a bargain priced player.
Bayless really blossomed last year in Memphis, especially after moving to more of a backup two guard role for the Grizzlies.
As a free agent, he may not see the kinds of contract dollars he is currently earning in the final year of his deal worth roughly $3.13 million, but he could be an interesting addition.
Signing Bayless may not get a team’s fans excited, but looking at who is available, he is clearly one of the better options on the board.
Shaun Livingston – Brooklyn Nets – $884,293
PPG- 8.1 APG- 3.2 RPG- 3.2 PER- 14.74
Maybe it’s because of the history with his knees, but Shaun Livingston continues to get passed around and almost everywhere he’s landed he’s had success. Brooklyn’s midseason turn around can be traced directly back to Jason Kidd leaning on Livingston. When you look at how the team plays with him on the floor, it’s hard to imagine he’s playing for $880,000.
In 2007, Livingston suffered arguably one of the more gruesome knee injuries we’ve seen in the modern NBA and has worked his way back to not only being a productive player, but he’s proven again this year that he’s a guy who make an impact.
Unfortunately for Brooklyn, that means a higher price tag that they may be unwilling to match. It’s unlikely that someone is coming with a ton of money for Livingston this summer, but it does seem more likely than not that someone is going to put a real multi-year offer on the table and he is going to need to take it.
When you look at his impact on the Nets, it’s hard to imagine a team in need of a solid and dependable veteran guard isn’t going to put some cash on the table. For Livingston, who was once considered a $60 or $70 million player, he is going to have to go where the dollars are.
While these are the top six unrestricted point guards, there are a few others worth knowing. You can find the complete list of 2014 NBA Free Agents here.
Later this week, we’ll look at the top free agent shooting guards and the top free agent small forwards.
Six Things You Need To Read: Here are some of the things you need to read to get your NBA Day started right:
- Thibodeau: Noah Deserves MVP Consideration.
- Head to Head: Is Tanking an Issue in the NBA?
- Full 2014 NBA Mock Draft – 3/31/14.
- Sources: Wiggins to Declare for NBA Draft.
- Carmelo: ‘We Control Our Own Destiny’.
- Vogel: Frustrations Are Mounting with Team.
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, @AlexKennedyNBA, @TheRocketGuy, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @SusanBible @TommyBeer, @JabariDavisNBA , @NateDuncanNBA , @MokeHamilton , @JCameratoNBA and @YannisNBA.
A Few Good Free Agents Left
David Yapkowitz looks at several free agents still remaining on the market ahead of the season.
The start of the 2017-2018 NBA season is finally here, and teams are required to have their 15-man roster (plus two possible two-way contacts) finalized. Every year there are players that are left off a roster. Some are younger guys who maybe haven’t proven they belong in the league just yet. Some are older veterans looking for that one final hurrah.
A few of these players might take open gigs in the G-League or overseas in hopes of attracting the attention of NBA front offices as the year goes on. Others remain at home, working out and waiting for that call that might never come. And sometimes, the waiting and anticipating pays off as playoff teams come looking for veteran help and tanking teams are on the hunt for unrealized potential.
For most of the veteran guys, their opportunities will likely come later in the season when teams gear up for the playoffs. Here’s a look at a few of the top veteran free agents left that could certainly help a team at some point during this season.
Since being traded from the Golden State Warriors to the Boston Celtics three year ago, Lee has adapted to his new role as a veteran big man helping to anchor second units. He is no longer the automatic double-double machine and borderline All-Star he once was, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have anything left in the tank.
He didn’t really fit quite right in Boston, but in his stops with the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs, he still showed he can be a solid contributor off the bench. In 25 games with Mavericks in the 2015-2016 season, Lee put up 8.5 points per game on 63.6 percent shooting while pulling down seven rebounds per. With the Spurs last year, he averaged 7.3 points on 59 percent shooting to go along with 5.6 rebounds. For a playoff team that needs a little big man depth, he is a solid option.
Much was made about Williams’ disappearing act in the Finals last year, and rightfully so, but lost in all the chatter was the actual solid job he did with the Cleveland Cavaliers leading up to that point. Once in the conversation for best point guard in the league, injuries and poor play in Brooklyn sort of made Williams a forgotten man. The Nets bought out his contract and he joined his hometown Dallas Mavericks.
After a so-so first year in Dallas, Williams looked rejuvenated last year to the point that he actually drew some interest around the trade deadline. With the Mavericks looking to get younger and head closer to that rebuilding path, they cut Williams and allowed him to join a contending team. Over the final 24 games of last season, including four starts, he averaged 7.5 points per game on 46.3 percent shooting, 41.5 percent from the three-point line, and 3.6 assists. Of course, his Finals performance is all anyone cares to remember, but if a team needs a veteran backup point guard, they could do a lot worse.
Last season in Indiana, Ellis posted some of the lowest numbers of his career since his rookie season. Heading into a rebuilding year, the Pacers waived Ellis and his name barely came up in free agent rumors during the summer. At his best, Ellis was a borderline All-Star talent who could put up points in a hurry. Despite his reputation as a gunner, Ellis was a bit of an underrated playmaker and was never as bad defensively as most made him out to be.
He never really seemed to find his groove in Indiana. In his first year with the Pacers during the 2015-2016 season, he posted 13.8 points per game, down from 18.9 the previous year in Dallas, and his shooting dropped from 44.5 percent from the field to 42.7 percent. His playoff numbers with the Pacers were down even more than his regular season numbers, despite exploding in the postseason a few years before with Dallas. His starting days are almost assuredly behind him, but as a sixth man type scorer bringing energy off the bench, he’s probably better than a lot of the players currently in that role.
The Brazilian Blur’s best days are behind him, but similar to Ellis, he can still help a team in need of additional scoring punch off the bench. It was only two years ago that he was a key contributor off the Warriors bench. Firmly on the rebuilding track, the Suns waived Barbosa during the summer. Despite still being a capable player, his name also rarely came up in the free agent rumor mill.
He didn’t play all that much last season for a Phoenix Suns team that is clearly rebuilding, but he still was able to average 6.3 points per game in only 14.4 minutes per. His role on a rebuilding team would be a veteran mentor, but for a playoff team, he’s not a bad option. He showed that he can still play at the NBA level despite losing a step or two. Perhaps later on in the season when teams start looking for playoff help is when he may find his phone starting to ring.
The former No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 draft hasn’t quite lived up to the expectations that come with being drafted that high. He’s only averaged double figures (12.0) in scoring once in his career and that was during the 2012-2013 season. When he came into the league, he didn’t really have much of a set position. He was a tweener, somewhere in between small forward and power forward. That was prior to the changes occurring in today’s NBA with more of a premium on stretch big men.
During Williams’ time in Cleveland last season, he played in 25 games and averaged 6.2 points per game. What stood out most, however, was his shooting. He shot 50.5 percent from the field, including 40.4 percent from the three-point line, both career-highs. Shooting from long range was always a bit of a weakness for him and prior to last season, he had never shot higher than 33.2 percent from downtown. He also didn’t register much chatter by way of free agent rumors, but if he can reproduce shooting percentages like that, he fits right in with the direction of the league.
With league rosters pretty much set, there likely won’t be much roster movement, if any at all, for the next few months. Teams are looking to see how their new summer acquisitions work out. But after a few months of real game action, other roster needs start to become more apparent. Don’t be surprised if come the new year, teams start knocking on a few of these player’s doorsteps.
NBA PM: The Wizards Are “More Than Ready” For A Big Year
Washington Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal says his team is “more than ready” for the start of the NBA season.
With several teams in the Eastern Conference taking a step back, the Washington Wizards will be one of the beneficiaries due to roster continuity. Shooting guard Bradley Beal, one of several key Wizards signed to a long-term contract, said the team is “more than ready” for the season and has large expectations.
“This is going to be a big year for us,” said Beal after a Monday practice. “We’re healthy. There’s no excuse for us [not to] get off to a good start.”
Beal added that, while health is a key for the entire roster, it’s especially important for him after struggling with injuries in the past.
“It’s really a confidence booster, realizing my potential, what I can be, the type of player I can be when I had a healthy season,” said Beal of last year’s campaign. “That’s probably what I was more proud of than anything, playing 70-plus games and then playing in the playoffs every game.”
In Basketball Insiders’ season preview for the Wizards, we noted that Beal was Washington’s most efficient ball handler in the pick and roll last season. Beal said that creating for teammates is something he’s worked on in the offseason and will continue to be a point of emphasis.
“That was great for me and the strides I made throughout the year, working on my ball handling, working on creating for other guys and getting my own shot,” said Beal. “Those are the primary things I’m focused on … being able to create better, getting guys easier shots than before, getting more assists and improve everywhere.”
Wizards coach Scott Brooks said after Friday’s preseason finale in New York that he’s been encouraged by the ball movement he has seen since the start of camp.
“I thought a lot of good things happened in training camp,” said Brooks. “The ball movement was outstanding. Guys were sacrificing for one another on the offensive end.”
One thing that should help the ball movement of the second unit is the arrival of backup point guard Tim Frazier, who missed most of the preseason due to a strained groin. Frazier had nine assists and no turnovers in his preseason debut against the Miami HEAT.
“I feel very comfortable with Tim,” said Brooks. “He finds corner threes, which we like.”
Beal added that one area he hopes to improve, both individually and as a team, is rebounding.
“I think I only had like three rebounds [per game] last year,” said Beal. “I obviously love scoring the ball. That’s something I never worry about. I want to continue to fill up the stat sheet a little bit more and contribute to the game in different areas. I think rebounding was something that hurt us a little bit last year.”
The Wizards host the Philadelphia 76ers to open the season Wednesday, and Brooks said it will take a team effort to defend emerging star Joel Embiid.
“He’s a problem,” said Brooks after Sunday’s practice. “His athleticism is off the charts. We’re going to have to do a good job of staying in front of him. You’re talking about a guy that can put the ball on the floor, that can get to spaces and spots that normally a 6-10 guy doesn’t.”
With a revamped bench, roster continuity and good health entering the season, the Wizards look like a team that could challenge the Cavaliers, Celtics and Raptors for supremacy in the East. Beal certainly seems to think so.
NBA Opening Night Storylines
Hours before the 2017-18 season gets set to tip off, here are some storylines to follow for Tuesday’s games.
The long summer is over. We finally made it. NBA opening night is upon us.
Rejoice, hoop heads.
Because the NBA is a perfect concoction of chaos at all times, Tuesday’s opening night slate has some can’t-miss built in headlines that the entire league is going to be glued to.
With a new year set to begin, everyone is on the same page. Whether that page includes the likes of Kevin Durant and Steph Curry or Doug McDermott and Tim Hardaway Jr. is a different story. But still, Tuesday marks day one for all teams and as it stands they’re all equal.
As we get set to sit down and dissect these opening game matchups on Tuesday, let’s highlight the most intriguing storylines that will be followed for the rest of the season. There’s nothing like watching a story grown in the NBA from its inception, right?
Boston Celtics vs. Cleveland Cavaliers — 8 p.m. ET (TNT)
This is the game we’ve all been waiting for since late June, when Kyrie Irving let it be known to Cavs owner Dan Gilbert that he wanted out from under LeBron’s shadow.
Three years of NBA Finals appearances, the greatest comeback in basketball history, and a ring to show for was all Irving wanted to walk away from. For him, he felt it was his time to shine.
And because the NBA is the perfect mix of beautiful insanity, it would only make sense that Irving would get dealt to the very team that is jostling for position to unseat the Cavs and King James.
The Irving-led Boston Celtics will have to wait a grand total of one second in the new NBA season to begin their matchup with their point guards old teammates and the team that stands in between them a Finals appearance. With Gordon Hayward and Irving together for the first time against meaningful competition, there’s no better way than to check their fit from the jump than by challenging the conference champions in their building.
But Irving’s homecoming isn’t the only storyline heading into the first game of the season. There are some changes on Cleveland’s end as well.
While the main return for Irving — Isaiah Thomas — won’t be suiting up for the Cavs anytime soon due to injury, there are still plenty of new faces to keep an eye on Tuesday night. First and foremost, Flash is in town. After having his contract bought out by the Chicago Bulls, Dwyane Wade joined forces with his buddy in The Land in hopes of recapturing some of the magic that led them to two championships in South Beach.
By teaming up once again, James and Wade provide some of the best chemistry in the league. Yes, Wade isn’t the player he once was when he and James were winning rings. But something is to be said for knowing exactly where someone will be on the court at all times, and that’s the trait exactly that Wade and James share.
Along with Wade, James and the Cavs are hoping to get some type of resurgence from Derrick Rose and Jeff Green off of the bench. Once Thomas returns to the court for Cleveland, this is arguably the deepest team James has ever been around in Cleveland.
Even with Irving and Hayward on board, Boston will be relying on some role players of their own — namely Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. The back-to-back third overall picks will occupy most of the time at the forward spots opposite of Hayward. As the season moves on, the development of both of these wings will be crucial to how dangerous the Celtics can be past their two star players.
Tuesday night will be must-see television at Quicken Loans Arena. New eras for the Eastern Conference heavyweights are about to begin.
And as James told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, “The Kid” will be just fine.
Houston Rockets vs. Golden State Warriors — 10:30 p.m. ET (TNT)
On the Western side of the basketball landscape Tuesday night, the potential conference finals matchup will see its first act when the revamped Rockets head to the Bay Area.
Last season at this time, the basketball world was bracing for what the Warriors would look like after adding Kevin Durant to a 73-win team. And as expected, they dominated. Not even LeBron James could put a stop to them, managing just one win in their finals bout.
This year brings in more of the same questions. Can anyone stop the Warriors? Will Golden State just steamroll their way to another championship, effectively sucking the fun of competition out of the entire league?
Well, a few teams this offseason did their best to try and combat that narrative. One of them being the Rockets, who they added perennial all-star point guard Chris Paul to their backcourt.
Putting Paul in the same backcourt as superstar James Harden has the potential to create some of the biggest headaches for opposing teams. The constant ball movement and open looks the two star guards can provide are nearly endless.
While the league swoons over the Warriors’ ability to hit shots from well beyond the arc, it should be noted that it was Houston last year that led the NBA in three-point shooting, not Golden State. It’s certainly not wise to try and go toe-to-toe with the Warriors at their own game, but if there’s ever a team equipped to do it, it’s Houston. Tuesday night will provide a nice preview look at how things in the Western Conference could shake out in the coming months.
Aside from the barrage of scoring that will take place in this matchup, what would a big game be for the Warriors without a little Draymond Green trash talk?
After Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni told ESPN that, “You’re not gonna stop them. It’s just not gonna happen. They’re not gonna stop us, either,” Green clapped back with a comment of his own, as he always does.
“I don’t know how serious they take defense with that comment,” Green said. “But they added some good defensive players.”
It’s true, the Rockets aren’t considered a defensive stalwart by any means. Last season, Houston was 26th in points allowed, compared to second in points scored. Green may be onto something when it comes to questioning how serious his opponents take defense.
That being said, last year’s Rockets didn’t feature Paul. Even at the age of 32, Paul is still one of the league’s best on-ball defenders. And no matter his age, he’ll always possess that competitive fire he’s been known for over the last 12 years.
Going up against the Warriors at Oracle is usually nothing short of impossible, but if there’s going to be a team to challenge their supremacy this season, we’ll get a good look at how they stack up on night one.
With all of this in mind, let’s not forget that the world’s best league is finally back in action. Give yourself a pat on the back, you made it. Now, go enjoy some basketball.