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Ranking The Free Agents — Point Guards

Dennis Chambers takes a look at the best available point guards this summer.

Dennis Chambers

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The next installment of the wild ride that is NBA free agency is fast approaching, so our team here at Basketball Insiders is breaking down the potential players that could have new homes next fall.

With our first outline focusing on power forwards, the next position of highlight will be point guards.

Based on the estimated $99 million salary cap that teams will be operating under for the 2017-18 season, here are the potential brackets for max salaries that these floor generals are after:

  • $25,250,000 for players with 0-6 years of experience;
  • $30,300,000 for players with 7-9 years of experience; and
  • $35,350,000 for players with 10 or more years of experience

With the max salaries set in stone, teams may also have the option for a mid-level exception set at $8,406,000.

Now that the money is laid out, here are the point guards this summer who could wind up with a new zip code.

Maximum Salary Guys

Stephen Curry — Golden State Warriors — $12,112,359

The two-time league MVP and world champion is fresh off another run through the NBA’s postseason and will be looking to cash in.

Up until this point, Curry was on arguably the biggest bargain deal in the league. After signing a less than max extension following his rookie deal, Curry blossomed into the game’s best three-point shooter ever.

Such a deal allowed Golden State to extend the likes of Klay Thompson and Draymond Green along with signing Kevin Durant, all with relative financial ease. However, their days of getting Curry on the cheap are gone.

By meeting all of the necessary qualifications under the new CBA, Curry is eligible for the new max contract that will see him pull in a $200 million deal. The Warriors will fill out that contract as soon as possible, and Curry will gladly sign on the dotted line.

Chris Paul — Los Angeles Clippers — $22,868,827

One of the more interesting free agent situations is that of Paul’s future.

With things uncertain in Los Angeles (Blake Griffin opting out, J.J. Redick’s free agency, DeAndre Jordan on the trade block), the Clippers’ core could be headed in many different directions, Paul included.

At 32 years old, this will likely be Paul’s last major contract. Should he decide to stay with the Clippers, Paul could sign a five-year deal for roughly $205 million.

Still, money aside, with his opportunity of competing at a high level for a championship contender closing its doors, greener pastures may catch Paul’s eye this July. Of the teams that are potentially looking to court the elite point guard, San Antonio and Houston top the list. If Paul were to jump ship to either of those franchises, his chance at a ring in the near future, one could argue, would increase.

Kyle Lowry — Toronto Raptors — $12,000,000

After a career year in Toronto, Lowry will be looking for a serious raise this summer, and he won’t have to look too hard to get it.

Even at 31 years old, Lowry can still play with the best of them. Coming off of three straight All-Star appearances, Lowry’s averages in points and assists have increased each of those seasons.

For Lowry, rejoining his backcourt running mate DeMar DeRozan in Toronto seems like the most plausible option. Lowry would be leaving a ton of money on the table if he decided to leave the north.

With Lowry’s hometown Philadelphia 76ers addressing their point guard needs by drafting Markelle Fultz, the veteran’s list of suitors may have dropped by one. Minnesota and San Antonio, though, could be landing spots for Lowry, especially if the Spurs miss out on Paul.

Near Maximum Salary Guys

George Hill — Utah Jazz — $8,000,000

After a resurgent year out in Utah, Hill could find himself with a nice salary increase this summer as he looks for a new home.

While it’s entirely possible that the Jazz could bring Hill back—he was a crucial part of their playoff run this past season—the team’s sights will initially be set on securing Gordon Hayward.

Should Hill leave Salt Lake, however, his next home may depend on where the guys in the “max” category wind up. If a team like San Antonio whiffs on their bigger name targets, bringing Hill into the fold at a lesser price per year could certainly be something they explore.

Jrue Holiday — New Orleans Pelicans — $11,286,518

As the point guard for a team that features two of the league’s best low-post talents in Anthony Davis and Demarcus Cousins, Holiday’s role in New Orleans could be crucial moving forward.

At just 27 years old, Holiday certainly has enough left in the tank to make an impact for a number of teams across the league. What may cause a potential suitor to pause, however, is the fact that Holiday has completed a full 82-game season just once in his career.

No matter, as the Pelicans look to retain Holiday, teams like Minnesota and Dallas are reportedly looking to court the point guard as well.

Above Mid-Level Guys

Jeff Teague — Indiana Pacers — $8,800,000

Derrick Rose — New York Knicks — $21,323,252

Rajon Rondo** — Chicago Bulls — $14,000,000

Shaun Livingston — Golden State Warriors — $5,782,450

Patty Mills — San Antonio Spurs — $3,578,948

 

Mid-Level or Below Guys

T.J. McConnell** — Philadelphia 76ers — $874,636

Deron Williams — Cleveland Cavaliers — $259,526

Darren Collison — Sacramento Kings — $5,229,454

Ty Lawson — Sacramento Kings — $980,431

Brandon Jennings — Washington Wizards — $1,200,000

Aaron Brooks — Indiana Pacers — $2,700,000

Michael Carter-Williams — Chicago Bulls — $3,183,526

Trey Burke* — Washington Wizards — $3,385,598

Tyler Ennis — Los Angeles Lakers — $1,733,880

Spencer Dinwiddie** — Brooklyn Nets — $726,672

Ramon Sessions — Charlotte Hornets — $6,000,000

C.J. Watson** — Orlando Magic — $5,000,000

Shelvin Mack — Utah Jazz — $2,433,334

Sergio Rodriguez — Philadelphia 76ers — $8,000,000

Isaiah Canaan** — Chicago Bulls — $1,015,696

*Qualifying Offer (If made, player becomes restricted free agent)

**Non-Guaranteed Contract (If player is waived by current team before contract becomes fully guaranteed, becomes unrestricted free agent)

Having an effective floor general is imperative to a team’s success. The good point guards are an extension of the coach while on the court. This offseason, there are a handful of those very elite options that could help any number of teams, but most will stay put in their current homes due to the simple fact that franchises don’t let good point guards just walk out of the door.

But other than the top-flight talent, there are a number of serviceable veterans and young guys looking for a chance that could be good additions to teams across the league.

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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PODCAST: Lonzo’s Shot, How To Cut Luol Deng and More

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Basketball Insiders publisher Steve Kyler and Senior NBA writer and salary cap guru Eric Pincus talk about Lonzo Ball and the unreasonable expectations some have had about his rookie campaign, what the Lakers could do with Luol Deng, teams that have cap exceptions and could likely use them, which teams are for real and more.

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Johnson Is Leading By Example In Philadelphia

Amir Johnson may not be a star player, but his impact on the locker room is a constant in Philadelphia.

Dennis Chambers

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After every home win, the Philadelphia 76ers have a miniature liberty bell in their locker room that gets rung by a selected player, usually the who had the biggest impact on the game.

On Monday night, Amir Johnson got to the ring the bell after the Sixers beat the Utah Jazz 107-86 to secure their ninth win of the season. Johnson turned in his best performance since joining Philadelphia this offseason, with eight points, 13 rebounds and four blocks in 21 minutes of playing time as Joel Embiid’s substitute.

Up until about 45 minutes before the 7 p.m. tipoff, Embiid’s status was unclear due to knee soreness. Johnson would’ve been tasked with the starting role had his teammate been unable to perform. Instead, he fulfilled his backup role to perfection, which has been the status quo for Johnson so far this season.

When the Sixers signed Johnson to a one-year $11 million deal in July, it was for the purpose of shaping a young roster with some veteran leadership. Management wanted to ensure there would be a professional in the locker room to help navigate the likes of Embiid and Ben Simmons through a full NBA season, with hopes of making it to the playoffs.

“When we looked to build our roster and sort of identify people we started talking about Amir Johnson,” Brett Brown said. “And Bryan was way more familiar with Amir — this is to Bryan’s credit — than I was, because of his Toronto background. And I started digging in and calling his teammates. I’ve been in the league for a long time, so you follow him, and you speak to people like Evan Turner. You know, tell me about Amir when you were in Boston and so on.”

While Brown was doing his research on Johnson, he came across an impressive level of continuity when it came to how others viewed the center.

“It’s amazing to a man how consistent the reviews were,” Brown said of Johnson. “People skills, work his butt off, could handle swinging a towel or coming in and making a difference. He’s a good person and he’s a pro. To be able to bring him in the game and now worry about is he happy, is he fresh, is he in shape, does he need 10 shots? It isn’t ever on my mind with Amir.”

The Sixers’ head coach seems honest in his assessment, and Johnson’s fluctuating level of productivity and use reflects that. Prior to his big night against Utah, Johnson logged a combined 21 minutes over the team’s previous four games — including two DNP’s, both coming against the Golden State Warriors.

Still, just barely over a month into this new season, the Sixers are trying to iron out the kinks in their lineup. With injuries to Richaun Holmes, Markelle Fultz, Jerryd Bayless and Justin Anderson over the course of the season so far, finding a set group of guys and defining their roles has been a tricky situation to maneuver.

Last season, Johnson started 77 games for the Boston Celtics during their campaign that ran all the way to the Eastern Conference finals. His one start in 14 games this season, with a cut in minutes per game, is a far cry from the level of use Johnson experienced just one year ago. But coming into this season, that was known. Johnson’s role would be to help guide his junior counterparts and chip in where he could.

So far, the deal is paying dividends on both ends.

“It’s huge for us,” Simmons said. “Having a guy come off the bench and play a role like that. As a vet, he’s one of the leaders. He comes in, plays hard, doesn’t ask for more minutes or anything like that. He’s a great player.”

In a game that featured the absence of Jazz star center Rudy Gobert, Johnson was able to make his presence more prevalent during his reserve minutes. Along with his four blocks, Johnson had a game-high 15 contested two-point shots. As a team, Utah shot just 35.3 percent from the field.

Backing up a superstar in the making in Embiid, Johnson has limited time to let it be known that he’s still around. That situation is magnified on nights that Holmes is seeing extended run as well. But in his 13th season in the league, Johnson knows a thing or two about finding ways to be effective and efficient.

“Finding my way on the floor, knowing the amount of time I have, just finding ways I can help my teammates,” Johnson said. “I watch a lot of film. Just for me to find open spots, set screens, and the biggest part that I can help this team out, is just play defense and grabbing rebounds.”

On the nights where Johnson doesn’t get his number called — a la games against the Warriors and other small-ball teams — the veteran just continues to do what he was brought in to do in the first place, lead by example.

“Just sticking to my routine,” Johnson said. “Being mentally prepared, getting my teammates ready, just being a professional, doing all kind of things to prepare for a game.”

After being around the come up in Boston, Johnson knows there are bigger things at stake for the Sixers than a few minutes here and there on the court. To him, winning is the only thing that matters.

“When you don’t play and you win, man it’s like and that’s all that matters,” Johnson said. “We’re here to try and do one goal, and that’s win games and make the playoffs, and go from there on.”

Whether he’s on the bench waving a towel, or on the court making a play, Johnson will continue to lead a young group of talented players by example, hopefully culminating in a trip to the playoffs.

“He is a legitimate pro, on and off the court,” Brown said. “He’s a wonderful teammate.”

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NBA PM: Marcus Morris’ Return Bolsters The Celtics

With the Boston Celtics riding high with a league-best 16-game win streak, the return of forward Marcus Morris has provided a lift.

Buddy Grizzard

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Boston Celtics GM Danny Ainge made a huge personnel gamble this summer that changed four starters from a roster that reached the Eastern Conference Finals. One of the less-heralded among the new starters — forward Marcus Morris, who arrived from the Pistons in a surprise trade for starting shooting guard Avery Bradley — has proven to be a key component in Boston’s early success.

After missing the first eight games of the season due to lingering knee soreness, Morris has scored in double figures in six of nine appearances. Following Saturday’s win over the Hawks in Atlanta — the 15th of the current 16-game win streak — Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Morris’ contributions have been vital, even as Stevens continues to monitor his minutes.

“We need Marcus quite a bit,” said Stevens. “We’re still managing his minutes appropriately as he comes back. Hopefully, that continues to be more and more and more.”

Morris was plus-18 against the Hawks, 10 points better than any other starter, despite being the only starter with single-digit shot attempts. Stevens added that Morris’ offense has been a boost despite few plays being run for him.

“He brings us scoring, he brings us defense [and] he brings us toughness,” said Stevens. “I think we really need his scoring, like his ability to shoot the ball both off broken plays and off movement.”

Morris’ emergence as an offensive threat was noted in the offseason by an Eastern Conference forward in an anonymously-sourced piece on underrated players by HoopsHype’s Alex Kennedy.

“I think Marcus Morris is really underrated,” the forward told Kennedy. “He can play multiple positions and he went from being a role player to someone who scores the ball really well. When other players have made that leap, they got more attention. Take Chandler Parsons, for example. When Chandler made big strides, he got a ton of attention and a huge contract. Marcus hasn’t gotten the recognition or the payday that he deserves.”

While some questioned the wisdom of trading Bradley, a starter for a team that had a lot of success and remained on the rise, Celtics center Al Horford — the sole remaining starter from last season — said he was looking forward to playing with Morris once the trade was announced.

“He’s one of the guys that really excited me once we got him this offseason, just because of everything he’s going to be able to bring,” said Horford. “I don’t think he’s at his best yet. He’s doing okay. But he’s just going to keep getting better. So that’s a good thing for us.”

With the knee injury that lingered after the start of the season, Horford said the team is still getting accustomed to the diverse set of tools Morris brings to the court.

“Marcus is great,” said Horford. “Defensively, his presence is felt. On offense I think he’s finally starting to get into a rhythm. He’s getting more comfortable [and] we’re getting more comfortable with him. It’s a matter of time.”

While Stevens and Horford both feel that we haven’t seen Morris at his best, his return to action was timely as it bolstered the lineup during the current win streak. Horford, who was part of a 19-game win streak for the Hawks during the 2014-15 season, was asked how Boston is approaching its current prosperity. Horford said that, like his former Hawks team, the Celtics are avoiding the subject in the locker room.

“We’re not honestly really talking about it much,” said Horford. “That winning streak here was pretty special. We were playing at a high level. We didn’t talk about it here either and we’re taking that type of approach. We’re just playing and enjoying the game out there.”

With Boston carrying the current streak into a Wednesday visit to Miami, Ainge’s surprising trade for Marcus Morris is looking more and more prescient. If his best is yet to come, as his coach and teammates maintain, the recognition that has elluded Morris could be just around the corner.

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