We are now less than two months away from the start of free agency,which officially begins on July 1st, 2015. This promises to be an interesting and intriguing summer.
In preparation, Basketball Insiders will present a tiered ranking for each position over the next few weeks.
First up, we have the point guards…
1. Goran Dragic – Player Option
Dragic is in a tier unto himself, as the cream-of-the-PG-crop, in what is a relatively weak group of free agents point guards. In 2013-14, Goran averaged 20.3 points per game and 5.9 assists, while shooting over 50 percent from the floor (LeBron James was the only other player to average at least 20/5.5/50 percent in 2013-14, and no player in the NBA matched those numbers this season). Dragic’s numbers weren’t quite as impressive in 2014-15, as he had to split minutes in a crowded Phoenix backcourt before being traded mid-season. The HEAT paid a steep price (two first-round draft picks) to acquire him from Phoenix at the trade deadline, so it’s safe to assume Miami will be willing to pony up and offer Dragic max money this summer. However, might Dragic be willing to gamble and sign just a two-year deal with an option to opt-out in 2016, which would allow him to sign a far more lucrative contract next summer? (Last month we outlined the pros and cons of this potential strategy that may be employed by top-tier free agents this summer)
2. Reggie Jackson – Restricted Free Agent
Jackson is coming off a roller-coaster 2014-15 campaign. Over the first 15 games of the season, with both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook sidelined for the majority of those contests, Jackson averaged 19.3 points, 7.3 assists and 5.1 rebounds. Jackson was one of only two players to average at least 19/7/5 over the first month of the season. However, Jackson landed in coach Scott Brooks’ doghouse shortly after KD and Westbrook returned, and Jackson’s numbers nosedived. He was then traded to Detroit, and after stumbling a bit in his first few games, played terrifically for the Pistons. In fact, Jackson was one of only four players to average at least 17 points and 9 assists in post-All-Star break action. The other three were Chris Paul, Westbrook and John Wall. Will the Pistons, who have Brandon Jennings returning from injury next season, be willing to match a large offer to Jackson this summer?
3. Brandon Knight – Restricted Free Agent
Knight has already played for three different teams in his short NBA career. He’s shown steady improvement, but he is just a career 41 percent shooter from the floor and maybe more of an undersized combo-guard than pure PG. Still, he flashed considerable upside in 2013-14, when he averaged just under 18 points and five assists per contest. There will be plenty of interested parties vying for the 23-year-old’s services.
4. Rajon Rondo – Unrestricted Free Agent
It seems like only yesterday when it was all but a forgone conclusion that Rondo would have teams beating down his door to offer him a max contract when he hit the open market. However, Rondo’s stock, which was dipping, bottomed out in Dallas. After an uninspired effort in Game 2 of their playoffs series, the Mavericks sent him home and refused to pay him a postseason share. While Rondo’s performance this past season was undeniably disappointing, the signs of regression were certainly evident. Not only is he injury prone (Rondo has missed at least 14 games each season this decade), his production even when healthy is no longer elite. Once a feared defender, Rondo is now merely average. And his offensive efficiently has gone from bad to worse. He’s a career 26% three-point shooter and last season he became the first player in NBA history shorter than 6’6 to shoot below 40 percent from the free-throw line over the course of a full NBA campaign. We know he won’t be back in Dallas, but where will he end up? And for how much? The Rondo situation is extremely interesting and largely unpredictable.
5. Patrick Beverley – Restricted Free Agent
The ball-hawking Beverley has been one of the NBA’s most aggressive defenders since elbowing his way into the Rockets’ rotation. However, his health is a bit of a question mark after missing the end of the regular season and the playoffs after undergoing surgery on his left wrist that will require four months of recovery. This may decrease demand for his services. If so, he may end up as one of the better values on the market.
6. Jeremy Lin – Unrestricted Free Agent
Lin is viewed largely as a disappointment because he was never ever able to live of the hype he generated during the incredible “Linsanity” run in the winter of 2012. Coming off that phenomenal stretch, he signed a lucrative three-year deal with the Rockets, which expires at the end of this season. This time around, his contract will be far more reasonable. Lin will never be an all-star, but he is a relatively reliable and consistent point guard. He’s durable (he’s played in 227 out of a possible 246 games over the last three years), and has been solid, if not spectacular. For the right price, Lin (still just 26 years old) would be a solid back-up point guard for many NBA teams.
7. Mo Williams – Unrestricted Free Agent
It didn’t generate much national attention, but Williams played very well offensively down the stretch for the Bobcats last season. He appeared in 27 games for Charlotte after a mid-season trade (amazingly, five of the top point guards on this list were traded mid-season in 2015), and averaged a whooping 17.2 points, six assists and 2.2 made three-pointers per contest, despite playing just 30 minutes a night. The 32-year-old still has plenty left in the tank.
8. Jose Juan Barea – Unrestricted Free Agent
Barea posted the best PER of his career (15.1) in Dallas last season as an energetic spark-plug off the Mavericks bench. That’s the role he is best suited for; playing 18-20 minutes a night and possibly more if he’s hot.
9. C.J. Watson – Unrestricted Free Agent
Watson was forced to play heavy minutes (24.9 mpg) for the injury depleted Pacers. He played relatively well, averaging 10 points per game and posting a career-best 15.4 PER.
10. Cory Joseph – Restricted Free Agent
Joseph hasn’t had a real opportunity to showcase his skills, but has flashed intriguing upside in limited minutes with the San Antonio Spurs. It remains to be seen if a large enough offer could pry him away from San Antonio.
11. Beno Udrih – Team Option
Udrih is due $2.2 million next season, but the deal is not guaranteed. If he were to hit the open market, he’d draw interest from teams looking for a dependable back-up point guard.
12. Aaron Brooks – Unrestricted Free Agent
The journeyman has played for four different teams over the last two years, but has contributed offensively when given an opportunity. Last season in Chicago, he averaged 18.2 points and 5.0 assists per-36 minutes.
13. Norris Cole – Restricted Free Agent
The HEAT had hoped Cole would develop into a starting quality NBA guard, but it didn’t happen in Miami. However, Norris did play better than expected during his half-season stint in New Orleans. Interestingly, Cole played exactly 24.4 minutes per game for both the HEAT and the Pelicans last season. Yet, Cole averaged 9.9 points per game, shooting 44.4 percent from the floor and 37.8 percent from three-point territory for New Orleans. In contrast, he averaged just 6.3 points per game on 38.6 percent and 26.5 percent shooting in Miami. Are the Pelicans believers?
14. Nate Robinson – Unrestricted Free Agent
Nate returned from an ACL tear this season and was rusty and ineffective, which was not shocking. His shot was erratic, as he finished the season shooting below 35 percent from the floor. He should be affordable this summer for a team hoping he can bounce back, regain some athleticism and re-locate his jumper.
15. Kirk Hinrich – Player Option
Hinrich has a $2.8 million option for the 2015-16 season. Safe to assume he opts in.
16. Jameer Nelson – Player Option
Nelson has a $3.2 million option for next season. Also very safe to assume he exercises his option as well.
17. Ish Smith – Unrestricted Free Agent
Ish got a chance to play starters’ minutes over the final couple months of the regular season in Philadelphia. He showed he deserves a place in the league, averaging 12 points and six dimes in 27 minutes over 25 games with the 76ers.
18. Matthew Dellavedova – Restricted Free Agent
A gritty “glue guy” and spirited defender, the Cavaliers would likely prefer to keep him in Cleveland.
Best of the Rest: Steve Blake, Raymond Felton, Jimmer Fredette, Shane Larkin, John Lucas, Toure’ Murry, Sebastian Telfair, Andre Miller, Donald Sloan, Ronnie Price and Will Bynum.
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