Previously, we ranked the top point guards in this summer’s free agent crop and placed them into tiers. Today, we’ll break down the shooting guards set to hit the open market.
1. Jimmy Butler – Restricted:
Some were surprised when Butler turned down a long-term offer from Chicago last summer (likely in the neighborhood of $44 million over four years), choosing instead to bet on himself. Well, the gamble paid off. Butler blossomed into a legit star this past season. His scoring average jumped from 13.1 points per game in 2013-14, to 20 points per game in 2014-15, due mainly to the fact that his field goal percentage soared from 39.7 percent to 46.2 percent. He also set career highs in rebounds, assists and blocks. He’s going to get multiple max offers this summer. However, might he be willing to gamble once again? It is possible he would consider signing 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. Dwyane Wade – Player Option:
Wade is obviously no longer the player he once was, but he is a still capable of playing at an elite level. While durability is definitely a concern (he’s missed a total of 48 games over the last two seasons), his performance on the floor is still awfully impressive. Last season, he was one of just six players to average at least 21 points,
4.5 assists and 3.5 rebounds. The other six members of this exclusive club were Steph Curry, James Harden, Russ Westbrook, LeBron James and Blake Griffin. Wade has a $16.1 million player option for the 2015-16 season. It will be very interesting to see if he opts out this summer in order to sign one last big contract. (Surprisingly, it sounds like Wade may consider leaving South Beach.)
3. Danny Green – Unrestricted
Green starred at the University of North Carolina, where he became the only player in ACC history with at least 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 250 assists, 150 three-pointers, 150 blocks and 150 steals, yet still slid into the second round in the 2009 draft. He was eventually waived by the Cleveland Cavaliers before the San Antonio Spurs scooped him up. Green flourished in the Spurs’ system. He has played extremely well in big games, and helped propel the Spurs to a title in 2014. It could be argued that Green is the best all-around 3-and-D wing on the market this summer. Although he has publicly professed a desire to return to San Antonio, plenty of other GMs will come calling to test his allegiance.
4. Monta Ellis – Player Option
Ellis has a $9.1 million option for 2015-16. With the salary cap set to spike, it’s certainly safe to assume Ellis will exercise his option and hit the open market this July. He’s durable (playing at least 80 games in four of the last five season) and he’s an offensive force, averaging at least 19 points per game in each of the last seven seasons. However, Ellis’ game is not without flaws. He’s a volume shooter, and he can be a liability on the defensive end. At the right price point, he’d be a solid addition to nearly any roster. The issue is a GM may have to overpay to land him, which reduces the value of return on investment.
5. Khris Middleton – Restricted
Middleton, who slipped into the second round in the 2012 draft, has improved dramatically in each of his first three seasons of his career. This past season, he emerged as a solid starter for the up-and-coming Bucks, averaging 13.4 points with an effective field goal percentage of 53 percent. At just 23 years old, is he just scratching the surface of his potential? That enticing ceiling will result in plenty of lucrative offers – but the early word is the Bucks have every intention of matching anything outside of a ludicrous offer.
6. Wesley Matthews – Unrestricted
Matthews tore his Achilles tendon in early March and is facing a daunting rehab. However, that will scare off plenty of suitors and will likely drive his price down considerably. Before the injury, the underrated Matthews was enjoying another solid season, playing well on both sides of the ball. In fact, he was leading the entire league in made three-pointers at the All-Star break. Recovering fully from an Achilles tear is certainly scary, but if his price tag drops far enough, Matthews could end up being a very shrewd signing.
7. J.R. Smith – Player Option
This is an interesting decision for Smith this summer. He is set to earn $6.4 million next season, in the final year of a three-year pact he signed with the New York Knicks. However, he also has the option to opt out of that final year and hit free agency in July. Employing Smith is akin to riding a roller-coaster, as his defensive effort and on-court focus often wax and wane. Still, he’s undeniably one of the best long-range shooters in the NBA. His solid production for the Cleveland Cavaliers this postseason (he’s the third-leading scorer on the Eastern Conference Champions) has definitely boosted his stock.
8. Lou Williams – Unrestricted
Lou Will bounced back in a big way for the Raptors this season. He tore his ACL in January of 2013, but proved he was fully recovered last season, averaging a career-high 15.5 points per game en route to winning the Sixth Man of the Year award. Williams is ideally suited for any team that needs a scoring spark off the bench.
9. Eric Gordon – Player Option
Gordon was overrated, and consequently overpaid, after his rookie deal expired in 2012. He’s been hurt and mostly ineffective since being traded to New Orleans in the Chris Paul deal (his scoring average has dropped in each of the last five seasons). Gordon has a player option for $15.5 million for the 2015-16 season. If he opts out, he would have to settle for a major pay cut, but he could lock up a long-term deal. If the price is right, might Gordon be worth a roll of the dice? This past season, he shot above 45 percent from three-point territory and over 80 percent from the free throw stripe (joining Kyle Korver as the only other player in this exclusive club).
10. Iman Shumpert – Restricted
Shumpert showed flashes of star potential as a rookie, averaging 9.5 points and 2.8 assists and earning First Team All-Rookie honors in New York. He also finished in the top 10 in steals that season (1.7 per game), and was recognized as one of the preeminent young perimeter defenders in the NBA. However, his game has regressed in the years since, possibly due to an ACL tear in 2012. He’s not quite the same feared defender, and his offensive game hasn’t improved (his free throw percentage has actually decreased in each of his last three seasons). Still, he’s playing well this postseason and is a hard worker who’s yet to reach his full potential. He’ll undoubtedly draw interest on the open market.
11. Jamal Crawford – Team Option
The Clippers have a $5.7 million option for Crawford for the 2015-16 season, and it’s safe to assume they’ll bring back their reserve scorer for one more season in L.A. He’s been a valuable contributor off of their bench.
12. Arron Afflalo – Player Option
Afflalo, who dealt with a number of nagging injuries last season, is coming off an extremely disappointing 2014-15 campaign. He shot below 43 percent from the floor for the first time since his rookie season and posted near career-lows in rebounds and assists. He finished the year with a putrid PER of just 10.7, well below the league average. Will Afflalo opt in to the final $7.75 million on his contract, eager to prove last season was an aberration? Or will he opt out and attempt to secure a long-term deal this summer?
13. Manu Ginobili – Unrestricted
He’s clearly still talented, but certainly not the same player he once was. Does Ginobili come back for one last stint in San Antonio, or ride off into the sunset?
14. Marco Belinelli – Unrestricted
As more and more of a premium is placed on three-point shooting league-wide, sharp shooters such as Belinelli will always have value.
15. Rodney Stuckey – Unrestricted
Stuckey filled in solidly for the Pacers last season, shooting a career-high from both the floor (44 percent) and from behind-the-arc (39 percent).
16. Gerald Henderson – Player Option
One of the rare shooting guards who prefers not to shoot three-pointers (he’s only made 140 three-pointers in his six-year career), Henderson lives off his mid-range game. He’s set to earn $6 million next season. It’s unlikely he’d receive an offer with a higher starting salary, but he may be motivated to lock up a long-term deal.
17. Alan Anderson – Player Option
Anderson has already announced he will exercise his option (he was set to earn $1.3 million next season) and become a free agent in July. It was an easy decision for Anderson, who has been an underrated rotation player for Brooklyn the last two seasons.
18. Jason Terry – Unrestricted
Terry has had an illustrious career (he’s third all-time in three-pointers made behind only Ray Allen and Reggie Miller), but it appeared his time in the league was coming to a close. He averaged just 4.5 points for the Nets in 2013-14. However, after two trades, he ended up in Houston this past season and showed he still has some gas left in the tank. He averaged 7.0 points for the Rockets, and played even better in the postseason.
19. Alexey Shved – Unrestricted
Shved has already played for four teams in his NBA career, including three last season. He played the best ball of his career for the Knicks, when he was given extended minutes in New York after the Knicks gutted the roster. Shved was impressive at times. He averaged 17.9 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.4 assists in the nine games he started.
20. K.J. McDaniels – Restricted Free Agent
The raw rookie showed generated a lot of early-season buzz while playing heavy minutes for the Philadelphia 76ers earlier this season. However, he was buried on the bench in Houston after the Rockets acquired him in a deal at the trade deadline.
21. Austin Rivers – Unrestricted
Seemingly against all odds, Rivers rewarded his father’s faith in him. Austin played better than anyone could have expected during the Clippers’ postseason run.
22. Gary Neal – Unrestricted Free Agent
Neal is a sharp shooter who can come off the bench as a third guard and help space the floor.
Best of the rest: Jason Richardson, Ray Allen, Marcus Thornton, Wayne Ellington, Dorell Wright, Nick Calathes, Leandro Barbosa, Willie Green, John Salmons, Xavier Henry, Will Barton
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