NBA AM: The Playoff Free Agent Point Guards
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Free Agent Point Guards: No position in the NBA can change a team like the point guard position. Over the years the NBA has massaged the rules to create an environment that guards, especially attacking guards, can excel in.
Let’s look at the notable would-be free agent point guards playing in the first round.
Chris Paul – Unrestricted
There is almost no scenario in which Paul is not re-signing with the Clippers. Players who are close with Paul say that he is 100 percent on board with the Clippers long-term and that signing a new maximum contract worth more than $100 million is all but a formality. Paul will have a tremendous amount of input on where the Clippers go this offseason roster-wise and the future of head coach Vinny Del Negro will be something Paul’s voice will also be heard on. But, barring some kind of disastrous injury, Paul will be inking a new deal with the Clippers. So while would-be suitors can dream, that’s all it will be as Paul is as close to locked into a new deal as a player can be without actually signing it.
Jeff Teague – $3,469,568 (Qualifying Offer)
Re-signing Teague in Atlanta is almost a formality too. Teague will be issued a Qualifying Offer, although sources in Atlanta say they will keep their options open as long as they can, especially as they try and re-shape the team this summer with a tremendous amount of cap space. It’s highly likely that a team with eyes for Teague tries to force Atlanta’s hand with an early offer sheet, but it’s doubtful that Atlanta is losing Teague to free agency unless something truly unexpected happens and a better guard lands on their door step.
Jerryd Bayless – $3,135,000 (player)
Four months ago it seems almost a lock that Bayless would opt to stay in his $3.13 million contract next season. However, with how Bayless has played since January, it’s almost a given that Bayless is going to opt for free agency and pass on his player option if only to lock in a longer term deal. The Grizzlies like Bayless a lot and will likely be the team willing to offer the most years on a deal. Given Bayless status in the NBA, changing teams, especially hoping to one that will pay him the most money, seems likely. While Bayless is considered a point guard, his play as of late has flourished at the off-guard position. So, while we’ll call him a point guard for this exercise, the truth is he’s likely more of a two guard in free agency, which has him competing for free agent dollars with the likes of O.J. Mayo, teammate Tony Allen, Thunder guard Kevin Martin and Knicks guard J.R. Smith.
Jarrett Jack – Unrestricted
Jarrett has been amazing all season for the Warriors and sources close to the process say they want him back next season and that the feeling is mutual. With that said, the Warriors have some $73 million in likely commitments, putting them over the expected luxury tax line unless someone like Richard Jefferson (owed $11 million) opts out of his deal. The Warriors will have Jack’s Bird rights, so they can do a deal with him and worry about luxury tax moves down the road, but there are some economic realities facing the Warriors that will be hard to overcome. If what’s being said around Jack and the Warriors is true, he’ll do a new deal in Golden State, but if the economics become silly, Jack could be a quality veteran acquisition in free agency.
C.J. Watson -$1,106,942 (player)
Believe it or not, Watson signed for the NBA minimum last summer. With a $1.1 million player option this summer he can opt to stay in Brooklyn, but given how he’s played over the last few seasons, it is more likely that Watson opts for free agency and a better payday than staying in Brooklyn on the cheap. The market for Watson is not going to be crazy, so he could be a good value guard in free agency. Given the Nets cap position and rookie Tyshawn Taylor waiting in the wings, it’s more likely than not that Brooklyn lets Watson move on and that he is playing elsewhere next season.
Chauncey Billups – Unrestricted
Sources close to Billups say he wants to remain with the Clippers beyond this season and that if he’s not in LA that retiring is more likely than adding another team on his resume. Billups has been instrumental as a coach on the floor for the younger Clipper guards and his imprint is evident in almost every facet of how the Clipper guards prepare for games. The Clippers will face some tough economic decisions, but retaining Billups for another year shouldn’t be a problem and don’t be surprised to hear that Chris Paul makes resigning Billups a condition on him signing his next deal. Billups is that important to the process. Some have suggested that the best move would be to make Billups a coach going forward, however, Billups laughs off the notion of his future being in a suit as a coach, although watching him interact with the younger guards he’s a natural; he just wants to keep playing.
Brandon Jennings – $4,330,469 (Qualifying Offer)
The Milwaukee Bucks are going to control Jenning’s pending free agency. They will give him the $4.3 million qualifying offer and then wait out restricted free agency. A few things are going to bounce Milwaukee’s way – the most a team can offer Brandon is a four-year deal, so that’s going to save the Bucks some cash on the back end of the deal, the question is what will someone offer on the front end? Sources close to the process say the Bucks will match almost any number offered. The key word there is “almost”. If someone offers Jennings a max deal, the Bucks are going to have to seriously look at that, if the best offer is somewhere below max, the Bucks are matching that deal. It is hard to imagine Jennings fetching a max offer, but given how quickly teams shelled out max offers for Eric Gordon and Roy Hibbert last year, its seems likely that someone in free agency is going to try and test Milwaukee’s resolve on Brandon, but at the end of the day they will have control and the right to match anything he’s offered.
Derek Fisher – Unrestricted
Fisher isn’t exactly a game changer any more, but he is a solid veteran guard. Fisher’s future prospects are going to be shaky mainly because of how frequently he has waffled early in the season. Fisher staying with Oklahoma City is a possibility, especially if the price tag is the NBA minimum. Fisher has found a nice little niche for himself as the guard that shows up after the trade deadline for the stretch run, it will be interesting to see if teams really pursue him or if he is just another guy in free agency.
Nate Robinson – Unrestricted
It’s hard to believe that Robinson is playing for $850,000 this season. While that’s a fortune to you and I, that’s not much in NBA money and that’s mainly because Robinson has a reputation as a locker room screw up who is hard to coach. Looking at how Robinson has changed the fortunes of the Bulls and the fact that he’s been spectacular at times in Chicago, it’s hard to imagine that he’s not going to get a more significant deal this summer. Unfortunately for the Bulls, with their cap situation that deal might not be in Chicago. If a team is willing to deal with the clowning around Robinson is known for in the locker room and in practice, there is no doubting that he can contribute in a big way. The question is will a team lock in real dollars on Robinson or is the threat of a one-year deal necessary to keep him in line and motivated?
D.J. Augustin – Unrestricted
Augustin has not worked out as expected in Indiana and that’s likely an understatement. With the emergence of Lance Stephenson in Indiana it’s hard to imagine that the Pacers are going to re-sign Augustin unless it’s for far less than the $3.5 million he’s earning this season. He is a serviceable guard, but given how bad he was in his final season with the Bobcats and how average he’s been in Indiana, Augustin’s prospects of a big payday in July seem remote and his return to the Pacers seems even more so.
Darius Morris – $1,202,744 (Qualifying Offer)
Morris isn’t going to be super high on anyone’s free agent list, but the fact remains that he has shown signs of being a serviceable NBA point guard. Given that the Lakers might let Morris walk as opposed to paying his $1.2 million qualifying offer means there could be an interesting young guard to be had on the cheap. The Lakers have invested some time into Morris, so keeping him isn’t a stretch, but given the fact that Kobe Bryant is going to be on the shelf for an extended period of time and Steve Nash isn’t getting any younger, the Lakers may have no choice but to jettison the project player in Morris for a move proven and capable backup guard. It is doubtful that anyone is offering Morris more annually than the $1.2 million qualifier, so he could be the Lakers’ player to lose, the question becomes can they do better with that money and has Morris showed them enough to keep him around?
Aaron Brooks – $2,508,000 (Non-Guaranteed)
Aaron Brook signed a two-year deal with the Rockets after gaining his release from the Kings, giving Houston control over his future. His non-guaranteed deal makes him an ideal trade chip for the Rockets and given how sparingly he’s played it’s doubtful that Houston keeps him at his $2.5 million price tag, especially with Houston hoping to be free agency players. Brooks has fallen off considerably over the last few years, so it’s doubtful that anyone views him as a starter any more. Brooks is a capable and serviceable guard, it’s just that his days of leading a team seem to be over.
Over the next couple of weeks we’ll look at the other various would-be free agents playing in the post-season and what is likely this summer when it comes time to pay them.
You can find the full 2013 Free Agent Class here.
Shoved Out The Door: The LA Clippers trounced the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 1, with Game 2 on tap tonight it’s hard to imagine the Clippers being able to play any better or more efficiently at the guard position based on how they played in Game 1.
One of the standout players was reserve guard Eric Bledsoe, who went a perfect 7-for-7 from the field and was a game changer with his energy and full court defense.
Games 1 wasn’t an aberration, Bledose has been playing like that all year, which is why most rumors monger link him to being on his way out of LA via trade before the Clippers find themselves in a situation where they have to pay him.
The big myth on Bledsoe is that he’ll be a free agent this summer which is not the case, he has one more full guaranteed year on his deal worth $2.62 million next year and then the possibility of free agency in the summer of the 2014.
That didn’t stop Clipper All-Star Chris Paul from painting the picture that Bledsoe isn’t long-term in LA.
“Bled is one of the best guards in our league,” Paul said to Arash Markazi of ESPNLosAngeles.com. “I’ve said it all season long. I’m enjoying playing with him right now because there’s no way he can be here next year because we probably won’t have enough money to pay him. He should be a starting point guard in this league next year.”
The Clippers clearly have a solid trade chip in Bledsoe and their decision to pick up Maalik Wayns and carry him through the playoffs indicates that the Clippers know they need to have someone who backs up Paul in the future.
Clippers sources have been adamant that they don’t have to do anything with Bledsoe until next summer or at the earliest the trade deadline in February of 2014. Combine that with Paul’s history of injury, there is concern about liquidating such a low cost and productive player too soon, but it is clear that if the Clippers chose to, they could fetch a nice return on Bledsoe and that might become important once Paul inks his new deal this summer.
The Clippers host Game 2 of the first round tonight at Staples Center and if Bledsoe continue to play as he did in Game 1, Paul might be doing more than just pointing out the obvious, he could be helping shove his pupil out the door, much as he did in New Orleans with Darren Collison.
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The Cavs And Phil Jackson?: There are several reports floating out there that have the Cleveland Cavaliers in pursuit of Phil Jackson as their next head coach.
Cavs owner Dan Gilbert is reported to have met with former Laker and Cavs head coach Mike Brown over dinner this weekend, so it’s not as if the Cavs are putting all their eggs in the Jackson basket, but it is clear that the Cavs would like to gauge his interest in their job.
Jackson has been reported to have interest in returning to the game, although more and more people in Jackson’s circle say he doesn’t want to coach, rather he’d like to run a team as an executive.
There has been talk in NBA circles that Jackson could be at the very top of the Brooklyn Nets wishlist this summer, especially if the floor falls out from under the team in the postseason. Getting him involved is attractive even if it means shoving current General Manager Billy King out of a side door. King and the entire Brooklyn staff are on ending contracts.
Jackson has also been linked to the Sacramento Kings should they be allowed to relocate to Seattle and could be their front runner to run basketball operations, should the NBA award the team to Seattle.
There will be no shortage of Jackson rumors in the coming weeks, but league sources continue to say that Jackson actually coaching a team is unlikely, but the NBA’s owner of 11 championships seems like he’s ready for more, but this time as the guy calling the shots from upstairs as team president.
T-Mac As Insurance: The San Antonio Spurs made a somewhat unexpected move just before the start of the playoffs, releasing guard Stephen Jackson and signing mercurial guard Tracy McGrady.
McGrady played the season in China this year after failing to secure a guaranteed contract from a NBA team and even after gaining his release from the Chinese league found very few if any interested NBA teams. So when the Spurs called, McGrady was more than agreeable to what they wanted and that’s for Tracy to be a spectator and a practice player and probably not much else.
“We’re going real slow,” Spurs coach Gregg Popvich said to Dave McMenamin. “We wanted to have another body, just as an insurance policy.
“You don’t know what’s going to happen during a playoff series and we wanted to add someone. With Tracy, he’s a pro. He knows how to play, he’s a great passer, he’s got really high basketball I.Q. It’s just a matter of getting him in shape and if the situation arises where we want to look to him, he would be ready to do what he does. We’re just going real slow.”
McGrady’s fall from NBA grace has been a brutal one. McGrady was said to be part of two locker room revolts over the last couple of years with a well-publicized protest in Detroit and then another in Atlanta when he did not play.
It is interesting that one of the NBA’s more aggressive coaches opted for McGrady, but historically players with a somewhat questionable rep have thrived in San Antonio, it will be interesting to see if Popovich can resurrect his career or if he’s really just getting great seats for the playoffs courtesy of the Spurs.
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