COMMENTARY | The Golden State Warriors have a top priority this offseason and his name is Jarrett Jack. Warriors brass wants to keep the sixth man of the year candidate on the roster, and Jack has publicly stated his desire to remain a Warrior.
But the Warriors might not be able to afford the free agent point guard. The Golden State Warriors can only offer a free agent (or combination of free agents) a mid-level exception scale salary of about $5 million per year without 4.5 percent raises.
Jarrett Jack has earned more than that after Golden State's recent playoff run, and even though management and fans will hate to see him go, they must prepare for the possibility that he will leave via free agency. But who could possibly fill Jack's shoes in the Warriors' price range? Let's take a look at a few free agents who might be willing to sign for the mid-level.
2012-13 Stats: 11.3 PPG, .491 FG%, .461 3FG%, .900 FT%, 7.1 APG, 2.4 RPG, 1.7 TOV
Jose Calderon is a one-way player like Jarrett Jack, but he's a highly efficient one. Calderon posted a very robust 18.8 PER last season, and that 4:1 assists to turnovers ratio ought to have Warriors fans salivating. These numbers are no fluke, either: virtually all of Calderon's 2012-2013 numbers were right in line with his outstanding career averages.
Calderon's shooting percentages are just as impressive as his ball control skills: Calderon led the NBA in three point shooting by connecting on 46.1% of his three balls. Per NBA.com Calderon was a particularly good wing shooter, attempting 191 such jumpers and connecting on 90 (47%). These shots are a big part of the Warriors offense: Golden State will set a pin down screen (or two) to spring Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson for a catch and shoot opportunity, so Calderon would fit right in with this attack.
Efficiency aside, however, Calderon's offense simply did not make up for his bad defense, as both of his 2012-2013 teams (the Detroit Pistons and the Toronto Raptors) had a better point differential per 100 possessions with him on the bench. Even more alarming, both teams were slightly better offensively with Calderon on the bench.
Verdict: Jarrett Jack's plus minus numbers were equally negative while he played for the New Orleans Hornets, so Calderon is by no means a lost cause. But his inability to defend opposing guards makes pairing him with Stephen Curry, as Jack was in the fourth quarter, a tricky proposition. Fortunately, there are better free agent options for the Warriors who won't give up so much defensively.
2012-13 Stats: 9.9 PPG, .438 FG%, .335 3FG%, .727 FT%, 3.4 APG, 2.0 RPG, 1.5 TOV
This is where our search gets interesting. While Jarrett Jack and Jose Calderon are efficient jump shooters, Devin Harris is an attacking guard who can finish.
Despite standing just 6'3", Devin Harris made 98 buckets in the restricted area with a 63.6% field goal percentage--extremely high for a point guard. With Harris on the court, the 2011-2012 Utah Jazz improved their scoring differential by 6.1 points per 100 possessions. His 2012-2013 Atlanta Hawks did even better, improving their points differential by a whopping 9.2 per 100 possessions with Harris in the lineup (per basketball-reference.com).
Even more importantly for the Warriors, Harris has become a plus defender at either guard position. Despite playing as an undersized shooting guard in the Atlanta starting lineup last season, the Hawks allowed 5.5 points fewer per 100 possessions when Harris was on the court. Atlanta also improved their field goal percentage defense with Harris on the court, from 50.5% to 47.9%.
Verdict: Devin Harris is a defensive upgrade who is comfortable in either guard position, and his signing would add another athlete to join Harrison Barnes in attacking the rim. Not only would Harris give the second unit a much needed ball handler, but he would also allow the Warriors to play Curry off the ball at times as he did with Jarrett Jack.
But Harris is a poor three point shooter (31.8% for his career), and despite being a great finisher at the rim, his free throw attempts per game have nose dived the last five years from a career best of 8.8 attempts per game in 2008-2009. He would still be a solid addition in Golden State, but there is another point guard who has everything the Warriors are looking for...
2012-13 Stats: 11.6 PPG, .401 FG%, .362 3FG%, .795 FT%, 6.4 APG, 4.7 RPG, 2.3 TOV
Kyle Lowry isn't a big time scorer, and he isn't nearly a household name. But his consistently strong defensive metrics, well rounded game and reasonable contract have earned him something of a cult following among some hardcore hoops nerds.
Though he's just 6 feet tall, Lowry has been one of the league's better defenders at the point guard position throughout his career. His team's opponents have scored fewer points per 100 possessions with him on the court in each of the past four seasons, and he's also a very strong defensive rebounder with a 4.4 rebounds per game average over the past three seasons--rare production for a player his size.
Even PER likes him: Lowry posted a strong 17.5 and 18.8 in each of the past two seasons (Jack scored a 15.9 this past season, and league average is 15.0). And even though he's not an elite three point shooter, he is a respectable one, averaging over 37% over the past three years with more than 300 made three pointers. Defenses can't ignore him beyond the arc like they can with a Devin Harris.
Interestingly, Kyle Lowry played for the Toronto Raptors with Jose Calderon last season, but his plus minus numbers are nowhere near as negative as Calderon's. Per basketball-reference, the Raptors scored 3.4 points more per 100 possessions with Lowry on the court, and allowed 1.1 points less per 100 possessions. Despite his poor shooting numbers, lineups featuring Lowry were significantly more positive for the Raptors than lineups featuring Jose Calderon on defense and offense--great information to have as we consider the two point guards.
Verdict: Unlike Harris, Calderon and Jack, each of whom will be 30 by next season, Lowry will be in his prime at 27 years old. Not only is he unlikely to lose a step during his next contract, but there's a chance that he can become an even better player with the right support and coaching staff.
Lowry's upside, along with his strong rebounding, man defense--and the fact that he doesn't dominate the ball while running the point (a Jarrett Jack trait that is not likely to be missed)--make him a great fit for a Warriors team loaded with scorers. If Lowry's willing to sign for the mid-level exception, the Warriors simply have to sign him.
Jared Stearne lives in San Francisco and is a regular contributor to Yahoo! Sports. He enjoys using advanced statistics as well as game footage to create basketball analysis. Did we miss your favorite free agent point guard target? Let us hear about it in the comments section. You can follow him on Twitter: @JaredStearne
- Sports & Recreation
- Jarrett Jack
- Golden State Warriors
- Jose Calderon
- Devin Harris