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.
Is LeBron Enough For Cavs To Get Through The East?
Cleveland’s offense has struggled through the first two games of the playoffs. Can the four-time MVP consistently bail them out? Spencer Davies writes.
After a less-than-encouraging series opener versus the Indiana Pacers, LeBron James responded emphatically and led the Cleveland Cavaliers to a bounce back 100-97 victory to even things up at one game apiece.
Scoring the first 13 points of the game itself, The King was a one-man wrecking crew out of the gate and carried that momentum throughout all four quarters of Game 2. His 46 points were James’ second-highest scoring mark between the regular season and the playoffs. In addition, he shot above 70 percent from the field for the sixth time this year.
The four-time MVP pulled down 12 rebounds total, and but all but one of those boards were defensive—the most he’s had since Saint Patrick’s Day in Chicago a month ago.
What James did was another classic instance where LeBron reminds us that through all the injuries, drama, and on-court issues, whatever team he’s on always has a chance to go all the way. But having said all of that—can the Cavaliers realistically depend on that kind of spectacular effort for the rest of the postseason? It’s a fair question.
Kevin Love is a solid secondary go-to guy, but he’s struggled to find his rhythm in the first two games. He’s done a solid job defensively between both, but he’s getting banged up and is dealing with knocked knees and a reported torn thumb ligament in the same hand he broke earlier in the season.
Love has admitted that he’d like more post touches instead of strictly hanging out on the perimeter, but it’s on him to demand the ball more and he knows it. But finding that flow can be challenging when James has it going and is in all-out attack mode.
Kyle Korver came to the rescue for Cleveland as the only shooter that consistently converted on open looks. Outside of those three, and maybe J.R. Smith, really, there hasn’t been a tangible threat that’s a part of the offense during this series.
We all pondered whether or not the “new guys” would be able to step up when their respective numbers were called. So far, that hasn’t been the case for the most part.
Jordan Clarkson looks rushed with tunnel vision. Rodney Hood has had good body language out there, but seems reluctant to shoot off dribble hand-offs and is second-guessing what he wants to do. The hustle and effort from Larry Nance Jr. is obvious, but he’s also a good bet to get into foul trouble. Plus, he’s had some struggles on an island against Pacer guards.
As for George Hill, the good news is the impact on the floor just based on his mere presence on both ends (game-high +16 on Wednesday), but he hasn’t really done any scoring and fouled out of Game 2.
Maybe these things change on the road, who knows. But those four, the rest of the rotation, absolutely have to step up in order for the Cavaliers to win this series and fend off this hungry Indiana group, which brings us to another point.
Let’s not forget, the offensive issues aren’t simply because of themselves. After all, the Cavs were a team that had little trouble scoring the basketball in the regular season, so give a ton of credit to the Pacers’ scheme and McMillan’s teachings to play hard-nosed.
Unlike many teams in the league, the strategy for them is to pressure the ball and avoid switches as much as possible on screens. The more they go over the pick and stick on their assignments, the better chance they have of forcing a bad shot or a turnover. That’s what happened in Game 1 and in the majority of the second half of Game 2.
Cleveland has also somewhat surprisingly brought the fight on defense as well. In the first two contests of the series, they’ve allowed under 100 points. Lue’s said multiple times that they’re willing to give up the interior buckets in order to secure the outside, and it’s worked. It doesn’t seem smart when there’s a yellow-colored layup line going on at times, but it certainly paid off by only allowing 34 percent of Indiana’s threes to go down.
Still, looking ahead to what the Cavaliers can do in the playoffs as a whole, it doesn’t bode well. They’re not only locked in a tug-of-war with Indiana, but if they get past them, they could have a Toronto Raptors group chomping at the bit for revenge.
If they’re having this much trouble in the first round, what should make us believe they can barrel through the Eastern Conference as they’ve done in the past?
It’s not quite as obvious or as bad as Cleveland’s 2007 version of James and the rest, but it feels eerily similar for as much as he’s put the team on his back so far. The organization better hope improvement comes fast from his supporting cast, or else it could be a longer summer than they’d hoped for.
2017-18 NBA Report Card: Third-Year Players
Among the third-year players a few budding superstars have emerged, along with some role players who are helping their teams in the 2017-18 NBA Playoffs.
The 2015 NBA Draft has provided the league with a limited quantity of talent so far. After Terry Rozier (at 16th), it’s unlikely that anyone remaining has All-Star potential. Despite the lack of depth, the highest draft slot traded was at number 15, when the Atlanta Hawks moved down to enable the Washington Wizards to select Kelly Oubre Jr.
But placing a definitive “boom” or “bust” label on these athletes might be premature as the rookie contract is standardized at four seasons with an option for a fifth. If their employers are given a fourth year to decide whether a draftee is worth keeping, it seems reasonable to earmark the NBA Juniors’ progress for now and see how they’ve fared after next season’s campaign before making their letter grades official.
The Top Dogs
Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves: Given the dearth of premier choices and their glaring need up front, it’s hard to envision the T-Wolves drafting anyone but KAT if they had to do it again. Although his scoring average is down from last season (21.3 vs. 25.1 PPG), that trend could be explained by the addition of Jimmy Butler and the team’s deliberate pace (24th out of 30 teams).
To his credit, Towns had career highs in three-point percentage (42.1 percent) and free throws (85.8 percent), while finishing second overall in offensive rating (126.7). His continued improvement in these areas could explain why the Timberwolves ended their 14-year playoff drought.
Nikola Jokić, Denver Nuggets: Although he was a 2014 draft pick, Jokić’s NBA debut was delayed due to his last year of commitment to the Adriatic League. His productivity as a rookie was limited by both foul trouble and a logjam at the center position, but he still managed 10.0 PPG.
With Joffrey Lauvergne and Jusuf Nurkic off the depth chart, Jokić became the clear-cut starter this season and rewarded Denver’s confidence by averaging 18.5 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. And by chipping in 6.1 APG, he provides rare value as a center with triple-double potential.
Kristaps Porzingis, New York Knicks: Although he has never played a full season since joining the league, Porzingis has provided enough evidence that he can be a force when healthy. Before his junior campaign was derailed, the Latvian was enjoying career highs of 22.7 PPG and 39.5 percent shooting from behind the arc.
Unfortunately, the Knicks haven’t provided much support at point guard to help with Porzingis’ development. Trey Burke looked impressive down the stretch in Zinger’s absence, but that was in a score-first capacity. Meanwhile, both Frank Ntilikina and Emmanuel Mudiay have underwhelmed. On the plus side, Porzingis’ outside ability paired nicely in the frontcourt with Enes Kanter, who prefers to bully his way underneath.
Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns: Like Porzingis, Booker’s third year in the NBA was cut short by injuries, but that didn’t stop him from achieving career highs in points (24.9 per game), assists (4.7) and three-pointers (38.3 percent) on an otherwise moribund Suns team. Indeed, cracking the 40-point barrier three times in 54 contests was an achievement in and of itself.
While his short-term prospects would’ve been far better on a team like the Philadelphia Sixers (who might have taken him instead of Jahlil Okafor in a re-draft), Booker can still become a franchise cornerstone for the Suns if they are able to build around a young core that also includes T.J. Warren and Josh Jackson.
Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers: Despite an inconsistent freshman season at Texas, Turner has become a stabilizing influence at center for the Pacers, whose blueprint consists of surrounding a go-to scorer with role players. While he hasn’t shown drastic improvement in any particular area, he has produced double-digit PPG averages all three years as a pro.
Although Turner’s shot-blocking ability fuels his reputation as a defensive maven, the reality is his 104.8 defensive rating (which is just OK) was skewed by his 110.9 d-rating in losses (it was 100.8 in wins). In order to merit consideration for the NBA’s all-defensive team, he will need to bridge the gap in this discrepancy and impact his team’s ability to win more games in the process.
D’Angelo Russell, Brooklyn Nets: Following their respective trades, Russell has fared better in the Big Apple than his 2015 lottery counterpart Emmanuel Mudiay, as the Los Angeles Lakers were forced to cut bait to draft Lonzo Ball. While Ball has shown promise as a rookie, the Lakers’ perception of Russell may have been premature, as the former Buckeye has stabilized a Nets backcourt that had been characterized more by athleticism than consistency.
Despite missing a significant stretch of mid-season games, Russell provided similar numbers for Brooklyn to that of his sophomore season; but without a pick until number 29 in the upcoming NBA Draft, the Nets will have to bank on improved production from DLo and his raw teammates to contend for the eight-seed in the East.
Terry Rozier, Boston Celtics: Injuries have paved the way for Rozier to showcase his talent, most recently with a 23-point, 8-assist effort in game two against the Milwaukee Bucks. But Rozier was already making headlines as a fill-in for Kyrie Irving whenever he was injured. Now that the starting point guard reins have been handed to the former mid-round pick, he has become one of the more pleasant surprises of the 2017-18 NBA season.
The biggest impediment to Rozier’s success might be the regression to limited playing time once Irving returns. While the Celtics could “sell high” and trade Rozier on the basis of his recent performances, they may opt to retain him as insurance while he is still cap-friendly.
Best of the Rest
Larry Nance Jr., Cleveland Cavaliers: Following the trade deadline, Nance has provided a spark for a Cavs frontcourt that has been bereft of viable options aside from Kevin Love.
Josh Richardson, Miami HEAT: A jack-of-all-trades at the small forward position, Richardson has evolved into a three-and-D player that has meshed well with the HEAT’s shut-down focus.
Willie Cauley-Stein, Sacramento Kings: Thrust into the starting center role after the trade of DeMarcus Cousins, WCS has provided serviceable (albeit unspectacular) play as the next man up.
Delon Wright, Toronto Raptors: A key contributor for the East’s top seed, Wright was instrumental in the Raptors’ game one victory over the Washington Wizards with 18 points off the bench.
Bobby Portis, Chicago Bulls: The former Razorback has flashed double-double potential, but playing time at his true position (power forward) has been limited by the emergence of rookie Lauri Markkanen.
NBA Daily: Looking At The 2018 Draft Class By Tiers
The NBA Draft is a hard thing to predict, especially when it comes to draft order and individual team needs, Basketball Insiders publisher Steve Kyler takes a look at how this draft looks in tiers.
Looking At The 2018 Draft In Tiers
While Mock Drafts are an easy way to look at how the NBA Draft might play out, what they do no do is give a sense of what a specific player might be as a player at the next level. With that in mind, we’re going to take a look at how some of the notable NBA draft prospects project.
It’s important to point out that situation and circumstance often impact how a player develops, even more so than almost any other variable.
So while the goal here is to give a sense of how some NBA teams and insiders see a draft prospect’s likely potential, it is by no means meant to suggest that a player can’t break out of his projection and become more or sometimes less than his he was thought to be.
Every draft class has examples of players projected to be one thing that turns out to be something else entirely, so these projections are not meant to be some kind of final empirical judgment or to imply a specific draft position, as each team may value prospects differently.
So, with that in mind, let’s look at the 2018 NBA Draft in Tiers.
The Potential Future All-Stars
DeAndre Ayton – Arizona – C – 7’0″ – 245 lbs – 20 yrs
Luka Doncic – Real Madrid – SG – 6’7″ – 218 lbs – 19 yrs
Michael Porter Jr – Missouri – SF/PF – 6’10” – 216 lbs – 20 yrs
Maybe Stars, But Likely High-Level Starters
Jaren Jackson Jr. – Michigan State – PF – 6’10” – 225 lbs – 19 yrs
Marvin Bagley III – Duke – PF – 6’11” – 220 lbs – 19 yrs
Wendell Carter – Duke – PF – 6’10” – 257 lbs – 19 yrs
Mohamed Bamba – Texas – C – 7’0″ – 216 lbs – 20 yrs
Collin Sexton – Alabama – PG – 6’2″ – 184 lbs – 19 yrs
Mikal Bridges – Villanova – SG/SF – 6’7″ – 210 lbs – 22 yrs
Robert Williams – Texas A&M – C – 6’9″ – 235 lbs – 21 yrs
Miles Bridges – Michigan State – SF/PF – 6’7″ – 230 lbs – 20 yrs
Dzanan Musa – Cedevita – SF – 6′ 9″ – 195 lbs – 19 yrs
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – Kentucky – SG – 6′ 6″ – 181 lbs – 20 yrs
Trae Young – Oklahoma – PG – 6’2″ – 180 lbs – 20 yrs
Maybe Starters, But Surely Rotation Players
Kevin Knox – Kentucky – SF – 6’9″ – 206 lbs – 19 yrs
Troy Brown – Oregon – SG – 6’6″ – 210 lbs – 19 yrs
Khyri Thomas – Creighton – SG – 6′ 3″ – 210 lbs – 22 yrs
Zhaire Smith – Texas Tech – SG – 6′ 5″ – 195 lbs – 19 yrs
Rodions Kurucs – FC Barcelona B – SF – 6′ 9″ – 220 lbs – 20 yrs
Aaron Holiday – UCLA – PG – 6′ 1″ – 185 lbs – 22 yrs
Jacob Evans – Cincinnati – SF – 6′ 6″ – 210 lbs – 21 yrs
De’Anthony Melton – USC – PG – 6’4″ – 190 lbs – 20 yrs
The Swing For The Fence Prospects – AKA Boom-Or-Bust
Lonnie Walker – Miami – SG – 6’4″ – 206 lbs – 20 yrs
Mitchell Robinson – Chalmette HS – C – 7′ 0″ – 223 lbs – 20 yrs
Anfernee Simons – IMG Academy – SG – 6′ 5″ – 177 lbs – 19 yrs
Jontay Porter – Missouri – C – 6′ 11″ – 240 lbs – 19 yrs
Lindell Wigginton – Iowa State – PG – 6′ 2″ – 185 lbs – 20 yrs
Bruce Brown – Miami – SG – 6’5″ – 191 lbs – 22 yrs
Isaac Bonga – Skyliners (Germany) – SF/SG – 6’9″ – 203 lbs – 19 yrs
Hamidou Diallo – Kentucky – SG – 6’5″ – 197 lbs – 20 yrs
Players not listed are simply draft prospects that could be drafted, but don’t project clearly into any of these tiers.
If you are looking for a specific player, check out the Basketball Insiders Top 100 Prospects list, this listing is updated weekly.
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_, @mike_yaffe, @MattJohnNBA, and @Ben__Nadeau.