NBA Daily: An Updated Look at the 2019 Free Agent Guards
Shane Rhodes looks ahead to a stacked 2019 summer class of free agents at the guard position.
The 2018-19 regular season has yet to begin, but the 2019 free agent class of guards has already taken a big hit.
On Thursday night, in front of a large crowd at the TD Garden, Kyrie Irving said he plans to re-sign with the Boston Celtics long-term. While things can change over the long haul that is the regular season, Irving has intimated over the past few months that his future resides in Boston.
So if Irving is essentially off the market, how does that leave the free-agent-to-be crop of guards?
Pretty well off actually.
1. Jimmy Butler, Minnesota Timberwolves — Player Option
Jimmy Butler has some things to sort out before he even has a shot at free agency but, with Irving gone, he will lead a talented group of guards into their respective contract years. While he has a player option on his contract, the four-time All-Star is expected to opt-out and cash in next July.
Butler averaged an impressive 22.2 points per game to go along with 5.3 rebounds, 4.9 assists and two steals, all while leading Minnesota to their first playoff action in 14 seasons. And, while he once again logged heavy minutes under the watch of Tom Thibodeau, Butler, 29, and his body should hold up assuming future management provides him with adequate rest.
2. Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets — Unrestricted
Cardiac Kemba has languished in the Eastern Conference basement for too long.
Kemba Walker has proclaimed his love for the Charlotte Hornets and the city of Charlotte on multiple occasions. But, assuming he doesn’t sign an extension before then, Walker won’t lack for suitors come next July. There are more than a few teams that would pay through the nose for a lead guard of Walker’s caliber. And while no team could match Charlotte in terms of pure contract value, other teams could give him a real shot at the postseason, something the Hornets have failed to provide Walker for the majority of his tenure with the team.
Regardless of his landing spot, Walker, like Butler, should cash in after he averaged 22.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 1.1 steals per game while making his second straight All-Star appearance last season.
3. Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors — Unrestricted
Just seven years into his career, Klay Thompson is already one of the most prolific shooters the NBA has ever seen. While he is oft-overshadowed by his game-breaking teammates, Steph Curry and Kevin Durant, Thomspon has actually shot at a better percentage than the two of them from three-point range since Durant arrived in Oakland two seasons ago.
So if his play hasn’t made it obvious enough, Thompson, who posted a line of 20 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game while playing elite defense last season, is more than capable of being the No. 1 option for any team.
Thompson has communicated his desire to remain with the Golden State Warriors beyond next season, but striking the balance between allegiance to the team that drafted him and further securing his financial future could be difficult given the Warriors’ salary cap situation. At just 27-years-old, Thompson could elect to remain with the Warriors on a short-term agreement before breaking off on his own, still in his prime and able to sign a lucrative, long-term deal.
4. Terry Rozier, Boston Celtics — Restricted
Terry Rozier may be the most over-qualified backup in the NBA. Fortunately, for other teams, anyway, the Boston Celtics will be strapped for cash next offseason.
Rozier was impressive in the stead of Kyrie Irving last season; he posted a triple-double in his first career start before leading the Celtics, along with teammates Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, to within a game of the NBA Finals. He will return to the bench this season with Irving back, but assuming his aforementioned commitment holds true, Rozier may not ride with the bench mob for too long.
Rozier averaged 16.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.7 assists in his 19-game playoff showcase to the NBA. As a restricted free agent, he is free to sign an offer sheet wherever he pleases, and Boston may be hard pressed to match. At just 23 years old and going into his fourth NBA season, Rozier still has plenty of time to further improve his game and the potential to make a lucrative contract look like a steal in the long run.
5. Eric Bledsoe, Milwaukee Bucks — Unrestricted
Eric Bledsoe took a bit of a hit to his value after a slightly down season, but anyone could be expected to take a step back after having to adjust to a whole new system with little time to prepare.
Bledsoe was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks soon after the start of last season. In 77 games with the Bucks, Bledsoe averaged 17.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, 5.1 assists and two steals per game. However, in his previous two seasons with the Phoenix Suns, Bledsoe had averaged more than 20 points per game. There were also times where he looked disinterested or lacked effort, especially on the defensive end.
Still, Bledsoe is an uber-athletic guard and has yet to turn 29 years old. With a rebound expected for this season after an entire offseason in Milwaukee, Bledsoe should make for a more than intriguing option for teams looking for a veteran guard.
6. Goran Dragic, Miami HEAT — Player Option
The elder statesmen of this guard group, Goran Dragic has been a steady contributor over the past half-decade or so. With the Miami HEAT last season, Dragic made his first career All-Star appearance and finished the year with a stat line of 17.3 points, 4.1 assists and 4.8 assists per game.
Dragic will turn 33 next May, so it should be interesting to how much money teams are willing to offer him. While he hasn’t produced like some of the others on this list, Dragic is capable of comparable numbers and, this likely being his last chance to sign a big-money deal, could look for similar, if not slightly smaller offers.
So, even without Irving, the guard pool for next offseason looks strong, with a variety of different players available. Whether teams are looking for that last player to push them to contender status, a piece that they can build around or some combination of the two, they should be able to find that and more in these players and others who fill out the free agent group at the position next offseason.
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