2012 NBA Free Agent Bargains: Point Guards
Every team would love to be able to throw a max-money offer at potential free-agent studs such as Deron Williams or Eric Gordon; however, few teams have the type of cap space necessary to even consider such a shopping spree.
In reality, many contenders are flush against the cap and will find themselves searching desperately for quality free agents in the NBA’s bargain bin once July arrives. While the new Collective Bargaining Agreement didn’t implement a “hard cap,” it has limited teams spending by more severely penalizing the cost of carrying bloated contracts. As a result, there is a definite premium on finding players that are can contribute, but are willing to sign at a discounted rate. Those teams that have the majority of their cap space tied up in a couple of superstars will be looking to round out their roster by adding inexpensive pieces.
After scanning through the list of players that will become free-agents this summer, there are number of players at each position that could fit into the aforementioned criteria. Today we’ll highlight point guards that will hit the open market this summer and could provide exceptional bang for the buck…
Many of the players listed below are veterans whose exorbitant contracts expire in June. It will be interesting to see what type of pay-cuts these vets are willing to settle for. Others are players that came into the league as highly touted first-round selections, but have yet to fulfill their initial promise.
Name (team – 2010-11 salary – status)
* Kirk Hinrich (Atlanta Hawks – $8.0 million – Unrestricted):
Once considered one of the more accomplished two-way guards in the NBA, Hinrich’s league-wide value has greatly decreased due to a combination of injuries and ineffective play. Last season, he posted career lows in nearly every major category; including points (6.6 ppg), assists (2.8), and rebounds (2.1). However, Hinrich is a heady PG and a solid defender (he was named to the All-Defense second team back in 2007), who could provide productive minutes as a backup guard off the bench on a contending team. While his days as a starter are behind him, he could make a lot of sense for a cash-strapped team looking for solid veteran presence off the pine.
* Randy Foye (L.A. Clippers – $4.3 million – Unrestricted)
Foye has bounced around a bit over the last few years, playing for three teams in the past four seasons. Yet, after a couple of relatively disappointing campaigns, Foye stepped up for the Clippers last season. After the injury bug bit L.A., Foye was given an opportunity to start and play significant minutes, and he acquitted himself quite nicely. He started 48 games for Clips and averaged nearly 13 points per contest in those outings, and scored over 20 points on six separate occasions. He saved his best for last, as he went on a 3-point barrage over the final month of the 2011-2012 season. Over the season’s final 15 games, Foye connected on a NBA-high 46 three-pointers; while shooting 44% from behind the arc. Foye does have his limitations – he is not a pure point guard, and is undersized and often outmatched trying to defend opposing shooting guards – but he has proven he can contribute minutes for a good team.
* Andre Miller (Denver Nuggets – $7.8 million – Unrestricted):
One of the more underrated and underappreciated point guards of his generation, Miller has been quietly efficient and effective his entire career. Last season Miller moved into 10th place on the NBA’s all-time career assist list. That is obviously elite company, yet Miller rarely gets the respect his production deserves. It will be interesting to see what kind of offers ‘Dre receives when he hits the open market this July. Miller never possessed blinding speed or impressive quickness, and now that he is on the wrong side of 36, he’s not the player he once was. However, he played relatively well last season, averaging nearly 10 points per game and an impressive 6.7 assists. In addition, Miller has been one of the NBA’s true iron men. Incredibly, Andre has missed a total of four games over the course of his 13-year NBA career. Yes, he’s played in 1,044 of a possible 1,048 games.
* Chauncey Billups (L.A. Clippers – $2.0 million – Unrestricted)
After the Knicks waived Billups via the amnesty clause last December (in order to make room for Tyson Chandler), Chauncey ended up in Los Angeles. Billups played well for the Clippers early on, averaging 15 points and four assists over the first 20 games of the season, before tearing his left Achilles tendon in early February. This particular injury is one of the more devastating injuries a basketball player can suffer, and the fact that Billups will be 36 in September won’t make the grueling rehab any easier. That said, he has vowed to return to the court. The L.A. Times recently reported that Chauncey probably won’t be ready to suit up until January. Yet even if Billups is limited upon his return, he is often credited with having one of the highest “Basketball IQ’s” in the NBA and will likely be able to positively impact any team despite decreasing production on the floor. By signing Billups, a team is essentially adding an invaluable assistant coach to their bench. In addition, if you can limit his minutes and be patient enough to wait until April/May, Mr. Big Shot coming off the bench in big games could potentially provide a terrific return on a minimal investment.
* C.J Watson (Chicago Bulls – $3.4 million – Team Option at $1.3 million):
Watson had always been a competent scorer, but he had been a career backup during his first four NBA seasons, both in Golden State and Chicago. However, with Derrick Rose sidelined by various injuries throughout the 2011-2012 season, Watson was pressed into a starting role and major minutes. C.J. ended up starting 25 games for Chicago during the regular season, and the Bulls surprisingly continued winning ball games even with D Rose in street clothes. Watson out-performed expectations, averaging 11.3 points and 4.6 assists in the contests he started. With Rose expected to miss the start of next season, most pundits assumed the Bulls would pick up the $3.7 million team option but recent reports indicate it is not necessarily a slam dunk. Per the San Francisco Chronicle: “Chicago might not pick up its $3.7 million option on backup point guard C.J. Watson, but his representative, Jared Karnes, said Watson “is hopeful to remain with the Bulls.” The Warriors gave Watson his shot in the NBA and are in the market for an experienced backup point guard, so they’ll follow Watson’s situation closely.” Smart money still says Watson ends up back in the Windy City…
* Delonte West, Dallas Mavericks – $1.1 million – Unrestricted
While West’s talent has never been in question, it’s the off-the-court issues and baggage that have scared teams away in the past. Yet, in his lone season as a Maverick, Delonte didn’t cause any major dustups, and his contributions on the hardwood were certainly solid. His per-36 minute averages were undeniably impressive: 14.3 points, 4.7 assists, 3.4 rebounds, and 2.0 steals. Those are ideal numbers for a reserve combo-guard coming off the bench. He’ll have a few suitors; but will any team be willing to gamble by offering West a long-term contract?
* Jonny Flynn (Portland Trail Blazers – $3.4 million – Unrestricted):
Drafted 6th overall just three summers ago (ahead of such of PG’s as Stephen Curry, Brandon Jennings, Jrue Holliday, and Ty Lawson), Flynn’s NBA career started off relatively promisingly, as he averaged 13.5 points and 4.4 assists as a rookie in Minnesota. But Jonny’s playing time and production have been in precipitous decline ever since. He averaged just 5.3 ppg in an injury-plague and disappointing second season with the Timberwolves. Then, with Ricky Rubio set to arrive on American shores, Minnesota traded away their former lottery pick, shipping him off to Houston. The Rockets quickly parted ways with Flynn as well, sending him to Portland. Flynn had the talent and upside worthy to be selected in the top six picks of the 2009 draft (Minnesota certainly wasn’t the only team high on him coming out of Syracuse), so there will be intrigue and interest when he hits free agency this summer.
* Jason Kidd (Dallas Mavericks – $8.6 million – Unrestricted):
Inarguably one of the greatest point guards that ever set foot on an NBA court, Kidd’s career is nearing an end. The incredibly well-rounded skill set he has always been know for (Kidd is top-3 all-time in league history in assists, steals, and three-pointers) has obviously diminished in recent years. Yet despite having already celebrated his 39th birthday, Kidd continues to find ways to contribute. Last season in Dallas, he dished out 5.5 dimes a night, while also chipping in over six points and four rebounds per contest. The Bulls, Mavs, and Warriors have all reportedly expressed interest. Interestingly, Kidd has intimated he is not willing to take a pay cut. Would one of these squads be willing to offer Kidd the full mid-level exception for one season of service?
* Gilbert Arenas (Memphis Grizzlies – $0.4 million – Unrestricted):
The Grizz rolled the dice on Arenas late last season, but Gilbert didn’t supply the offensive firepower they were hoping for. Arenas was once one of the league’s most lethal scorers – will he even approach that level of offensive efficiency ever again? Will an additional five months of working his way in to NBA shape make a difference? Many questions marks surround Gilbert’s future…
* Keyon Dooling (Boston Celtics – $2.2 million – Unrestricted):
Despite a mostly forgettable regular season, Dooling has been a sparkplug of the Boston bench during the Celtic postseason push. Keyon will likely latch on somewhere for a similar one-year deal next season.
* Derek Fisher (Oklahoma City Thunder – $3.4 million – Unrestricted):
Consistently criticized by Lakers fans for the better part of a decade, all Fisher did was win. Yet, it appeared the sun was finally going to set on Fish’s career when L.A. discarded Derek in order to make room for Ramon Sessions; but amazingly Fisher finds himself back in the NBA Finals, this time contributing occasional big buckets off the bench for the Thunder. He’s provide much needed veteran experience for this young OKC squad. Nobody would be surprised if he re-upped for another season in Oklahoma City.
* Jamaal Tinsley (Utah Jazz – $1.2 million – Team Option at $1.3 million):
After sitting out the 2010-2011 season, Tinsley returned to the NBA last year, but only played sparingly for the Jazz. He appeared in just 37 games, and averaged 3.7 ppg and 3.3 apg, playing fewer than 14 minutes a night. If the Jazz decide not to exercise their team option, Tinsley could be a candidate to land a contract at the veteran’s minimum.
* Ishmael Smith (Orlando Magic – $0.5 million – Unrestricted):
Smith has already played for four teams in two whirlwind seasons, and has shown flashes of phenomenal quickness and athleticism during his short stints in the NBA. He’ll receive plenty of invitations to NBA camps this October; we’ll see if he impresses enough to receive a guaranteed contract.
* John Lucas (Chicago Bulls – $0.9 million – Unrestricted):
Undrafted out of Oklahoma State, Lucas bounced around the world and basketball’s minor leagues before finally finding NBA minutes in Chicago. Unfortunately for the Bulls, they had to play Lucas far more often then they would like due to multiple injuries suffered by their superstar PG Derrick Rose (as detailed above in the write up for Rose’s primary backup, C.J. Watson). Lucas even ended up starting two games, and averaged over 16 points and five assists in those games. Lucas played decently in the postseason as well, providing a little scoring punch for the undermanned Bulls. He’ll likely get a few bites late in free agency if a team is still looking for backup PG help. Re-signing with Chicago is also a definite possibility, as the return date for Derrick Rose remains cloudy.
For those interested, here is a list of the top-tier free-agent point guards set to hit the market:
* Deron Williams, Brooklyn Nets – $16.4 million – Player Option ($17.8 million)
* Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns – $11.7 million – Unrestricted
* Aaron Brooks, Phoenix Suns – $2.0 million – Restricted ($3.0 million Qualifying Offer)
* Goran Dragic, Houston Rockets – $2.1 million – Unrestricted
* Raymond Felton, Portland Trail Blazers – $7.6 million – Unrestricted
* Jameer Nelson, Orlando Magic – $7.8 million – Player Option ($7.8 million)
* D.J. Augustin, Charlotte Bobcats – $3.2 million – Restricted ($4.4 million Qualifying Offer)
* Jason Terry, Dallas Mavericks – $10.7 million – Unrestricted
* Leandro Barbosa, Indiana Pacers – $7.6 million – Unrestricted
* Jerryd Bayless, Toronto Raptors – $3.0 million – Restricted ($4.2 million Qualifying Offer)