Each year, Basketball Insiders ranks the upcoming free agents by position. A few days ago, Matt John tackled the point guards, who, aside from Chris Paul, doesn’t offer a ton of superstar potential. Today, we’re looking toward the shooting guards and, well, it’s not much better. Typically, these free agents are sorted into four separate categories: max, near max, above mid-level or mid-level and below.
By all means, there are a handful of signable guys in those last two divisions — hello, Dwyane Wade and J.J. Redick, among others — but up top? Honestly, there’s really just one player that’ll receive a contract in the upper-echelon this offseason — so, unofficially, this is a piece about Zach LaVine now. With that bait-and-switch out of the way, let’s dig into the skyscraping, potential-laden restricted free agent.
But first, some housekeeping notes. Based on the $101 million projected salary cap, maximum salary amounts are expected to fall in these ranges:
$25,250,000 for players with 0-6 years of experience
$30,300,000 for players with 7-9 years of experience
$35,350,000 for players with 10+ years of experience
If you need a refresher on the other free agent positions, be sure to check out the rest of our guides later this week or head to Basketball Insiders’ comprehensive page here.
Max Guys/Near Max Guys
Zach LaVine* — Chicago Bulls — Last Year’s Salary: $3,202,218
The season has barely ended and the debate over LaVine’s impending free agency is in full force already. Recently, Yahoo Sports’ Shams Charania told Chris Mannix that he expects a near-max contract for the 6-foot-5 guard. Furthermore, Charania added that Chicago would likely match an offer sheet for LaVine, no matter what the price tag ends up being. Of course, it’ll take just one eager team to put all the pressure on the Bulls’ front office, but his return seems probable as of now.
If you’re only vaguely familiar with LaVine, you’ll probably recognize him from his rim-rattling Slam Dunk Contest fame. After winning back-to-back competitions in 2015 and 2016, LaVine appeared to be on the rise alongside fellow Timberwolves youngsters, Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. During his third season with Minnesota, through 47 games, LaVine was averaging 18.9 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists on 45.9 percent from the floor. Then disaster struck in February of 2017 when LaVine tore the ACL in his left knee, with a season-ending surgery following soon after.
Last summer, the rehabbing LaVine was the centerpiece in a blockbuster that sent him, Kris Dunn and the rights to Lauri Markkanen to the Bulls for Jimmy Butler and Justin Patton. And although LaVine wouldn’t make his season debut until mid-January, there was hope that he could become an important cog in Chicago’s rebuild. Naturally, LaVine struggled in his return and his averages dropped to 16.7 points on just 38.3 percent shooting. But still, his uber-athleticism remains intact and, at the age of 23, represents the type of high-risk restricted free agent that franchises talk themselves into rather easily.
Given the immediate success of Markkanen (15.2 points, 7.5 rebounds) and the breakout season for Dunn (13.4 points, six assists), the Bulls would be wise to keep LaVine. They’ll be adding somebody in the Trae Young/Wendell Carter Jr./Michael Porter Jr. range during next week’s draft and that’s a solid foursome on the rebuild road. Young, athletic and, most importantly, healthy, LaVine could anchor this group of prospects for the foreseeable future. Instead of chasing free agent pipedreams, LaVine seems the like the right choice for the Bulls — even if they must overpay.
Above Mid-Level Guys
J.J. Redick — Philadelphia 76ers — Last Year’s Salary: $23,000,000
Will Barton — Denver Nuggets — Last Year’s Salary: $3,533,333
Dwyane Wade — Miami HEAT — Last Year’s Salary: $1,471,382
Wayne Ellington — Miami HEAT — Last Year’s Salary: $6,270,000
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope — Los Angeles Lakers — Last Year’s Salary: $17,745,894
Danny Green — San Antonio Spurs — Last Year’s Salary: $10,000,000
Joe Harris — Brooklyn Nets — Last Year’s Salary: $1,524,305
Mario Hezonja — Orlando Magic — Last Year’s Salary: $4,078,320
Malcolm Brogdon** — Milwaukee Bucks — Last Year’s Salary: $1,312,611
Mid-Level or Below Guys
Marco Belinelli — Philadelphia 76ers — Last Year’s Salary: $490,461
Patrick McCaw* — Golden State Warriors — Last Year’s Salary: $1,312,611
Lance Stephenson — Indiana Pacers: Last Year’s Salary: $4,180,000
Jamal Crawford — Minnesota Timberwolves — Last Year’s Salary: $4,328,000
Thabo Sefolosha** — Utah Jazz — Last Year’s Salary: $5,250,000
Vince Carter — Sacramento Kings — Last Year’s Salary: $8,000,000
Rodney McGruder** — Miami HEAT — Last Year’s Salary: $1,312,611
Dante Cunningham — Brooklyn Nets — Last Year’s Salary: $2,300,000
Arron Afflalo — Orlando Magic — Last Year’s Salary: $1,471,382
Nick Young — Golden State Warriors — Last Year’s Salary: $5,192,000
Garrett Temple — Sacramento Kings — Last Year’s Salary: $8,000,00
Ian Clark — New Orleans Pelicans — Last Year’s Salary: $1,471,382
Tony Allen — Free Agent — Last Year’s Salary: $1,471,382
Sean Kilpatrick** — Chicago Bulls — Last Year’s Salary: $2,163,006
David Nwaba* — Chicago Bulls — Last Year’s Salary: $1,312,611
Nik Stauskas* — Brooklyn Nets — Last Year’s Salary: $3,807,147
James Ennis — Detroit Pistons — Last Year’s Salary: $3,028,410
Jason Terry — Milwaukee Bucks — Last Year’s Salary: $1,471,382
Treveon Graham* — Charlotte Hornets — Last Year’s Salary: $1,312,611
Jordan Crawford — New Orleans Pelicans — Last Year’s Salary: $58,190
Monta Ellis — Free Agent — Last Year’s Salary: $11,227,000
Trey McKinney-Jones — Free Agent — Last Year’s Salary: $46,080
Rashad Vaughn — Free Agent — Last Year’s Salary: $83,129
Aaron Harrison* — Dallas Mavericks — Last Year’s Salary: $91,442
Isaiah Whitehead** — Brooklyn Nets — Last Year’s Salary: $1,312,611
Bryn Forbes* — San Antonio Spurs — Last Year’s Salary: $1,312,611
Wayne Selden** — Memphis Grizzlies — Last Year’s Salary: $1,312,611
Brandon Paul** — San Antonio Spurs — Last Year’s Salary: $815,615
Sheldon Mac — Free Agent — Last Year’s Salary: $1,312,611
Marcus Georges-Hunt* — Minnesota Timberwolves — Last Year’s Salary: $1,312,611
Davon Reed** — Phoenix Suns — Last Year’s Salary: $815,615
Antonius Cleveland** — Atlanta Hawks — Last Year’s Salary: $133,632
Marcus Thornton — Free Agent — Last Year’s Salary: $46,080
Jaylen Morris** — Atlanta Hawks — Last Year’s Salary: $101,376
Rodney Purvis** — Orlando Magic — Last Year’s Salary: $69,120
Aaron Jackson — Houston Rockets — Last Year’s Salary: $4,608
Andre Ingram* — Los Angeles Lakers — Last Year’s Salary: $13,824
*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)
Additional Notes: Needless to say, this free agent shooting guard class only boasts a handful of potential starters this summer. In fact, outside of LaVine, the promising long-term options are fairly scarce. In all likelihood, Redick will try to grab some multi-year security after taking a one-season payday with the 76ers’ process-driven roster. Both Harris and Ellington are set to cash in on their best-ever professional campaigns, while Hezonja represents the super-athletic-but-still-mysterious free agent option as well.
After taking a salary cut to join LeBron James in Cleveland for a few months, Wade will command a deal much higher than his last paltry contract worth just over two million. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Caldwell-Pope may regret not taking a large offer sheet last offseason, but his reasonable output of 13.4 points and 5.2 rebounds on 42.6 percent from the floor will keep his name in conversations. Green, a San Antonio staple, has a player option to decide on soon enough — but at the age of 30, would he command north of that $10 million price tag again?
The most interesting case may be that of Barton, the Nuggets’ do-it-all sixth man. Although he only started 40 games for Denver in 2017-18, Barton averaged 15.7 points, five rebounds and 4.1 assists on 45.2 percent shooting. He’ll turn 28 years old in January, but Barton has improved in almost every successive season thus far — can he take another big step?
Lastly, Malcolm Brogdon’s non-guaranteed contract appears here as a formality and there’s almost a non-zero chance that the Bucks would waive the former Rookie of the Year in any scenario.
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