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.
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