The NBA is on hiatus because of the coronavirus, and commissioner Adam Silver understandably has no idea when the business of basketball will resume.
Still, that doesn’t mean we can’t look ahead to the free-agency landscape and explore how teams can improve.
Last season point guard was the deepest of all of the positions entering free agency. This year? Not so much. There are quality backups throughout, but there are only a few starters, and even fewer game-changing lead guards available whenever free agency does begin. Outside of the first few players on this list, most of the potential free-agent point guards will be looking at getting part of the mid-level exception or minimum contracts.
1. Fred VanVleet
VanVleet is the lone starting point guard that is expected to be available. He’s got the ability to play on or off the ball, but is more of a true point guard than he is a shooting guard. In his first year as a full-time starter, VanVleet has put together a career year for the Raptors, averaging 17.6 points and 6.6 assists per game. A handful of teams with cap space need a starting point guard, meaning VanVleet is likely to cash in. If VanVleet is back in Toronto, it’s a sign they see him taking over at point guard when Kyle Lowry’s contract is up after next season.
2. Goran Dragic
For the first time since 2012, Dragic has returned to a bench role. The change rejuvenated him. He’s stayed healthy and his numbers are up. Dragic is still a crafty scorer off the dribble and can knock down spot-up shots as well. Defensively, Dragic works well in a scheme in which he can gamble for the occasional steal with bigs behind him to provide protection. With Miami having cap space, but bigger hopes for the 2021 offseason, Dragic could cash in on a big one-year deal for what is likely his last big NBA payday.
Fits with: Heat, Hawks, Suns
3. Mike Conley (player option)
Conley has a player option for $34.5 million. His fit with Utah has been a little bumpy, but he’s not opting out of that much money. Beyond that, just as the season was suspended, it looked like Conley was figuring things out with the Jazz. Utah will hope that carries over to next season.
Fits with: Jazz
4. De’Anthony Melton (restricted)
You have to do some projecting here. Melton had a rough rookie season on a terrible Suns team in 2018-19. This year on a surprisingly good Grizzlies team, Melton has mostly come off the bench but looked a lot better. He’s got a solid all-around offensive game, and has been a competitive defender. Memphis has Ja Morant and Tyus Jones locked in at point guard for the next few years, so a decently sized offer sheet could steal Melton away.
Fits with: Grizzlies, Pistons, Knicks, Hawks, Suns
5. Jeff Teague
This is where the class falls off a bit. Teague was in the middle of a bounce-back season with Minnesota when he was traded to Atlanta in January. He’s probably a backup at this point in his career, but could be one of the better backup lead guards in the league. The ideal situation for him is probably to play 20-25 minutes a night with good scorers around him.
Fits with: Hawks, Suns, Rockets, Magic
6. Kris Dunn (restricted)
Dunn was finally figuring out his ideal role in the NBA when his season was cut short due to a knee injury. Instead of playing as a pure lead guard, Dunn was slotted in as a combo guard in Chicago with Tomas Satoransky and rookie Coby White handling most of the playmaking. Zach LaVine did a lot of the ball-handling as well. Dunn was able to focus on getting to the rim and playing defense. Those are skills he definitely has. Slot him as a combo guard next to some solid shooters, and maybe you find some success.
Fits with: Hawks, Suns, Pistons, Magic, Rockets
7. Reggie Jackson
Jackson seemed to find new life after signing with the Clippers following his buyout from the Pistons. He shot the ball well in his limited action in L.A. Carrying less of a load, Jackson also seemed to play more free. He almost looked like the guy everyone loved during his days with the Thunder. Jackson would be a great fit for any contender looking for backcourt depth.
Fits with: Clippers, Rockets, Magic, Warriors, Lakers
8. D.J. Augustin
Augustin was replaced by Markelle Fultz as the Magic starter this year, as was always the hope. After two outstanding shooting seasons in Orlando, Augustin’s numbers slipped a bit this year. Some of that could be due to knee soreness. At this point, Augustin is an ideal backup who can start for a few weeks if the starter goes down with an injury.
Fits with: Magic, Lakers, Warriors, Hawks
9. Shabazz Napier
It’s taken more years than expected, and several stops, but Napier finally blossomed this year into a solid NBA point guard. He was good for Minnesota as the starter and played even better following a trade to Washington. Napier’s shot is still streaky, but he’s good enough off the dribble to get in the paint to make plays. Like most others in this group, he should be a backup.
Fits with: Hawks, Suns, Wizards, Warriors
10. Michael Carter-Williams
The 2013-14 Rookie of the Year rebuilt his career in Orlando. In 2018, Carter-Williams caught on with the team following an injury to backup point guard Isaiah Briscoe. He played so well that the Magic re-signed him last summer. With Markelle Fultz taking over as the starter and D.J. Augustin behind him, Carter-Williams found himself playing a new role. He became Orlando’s defensive stopper off the bench, while functioning as a secondary playmaker on offense. Carter-Williams took over 61 percent of his shots in the paint, making up for his lack of a perimeter shot. At 6-foot-5 with good length, MCW might have finally found his role as a Tony Allen type of defender/playmaker.
Fits with: Magic, Hawks, Suns, Lakers
The Next Five
11. Austin Rivers (player option)
Fits with: Rockets, Lakers, Suns, Warriors
12. Rajon Rondo (player option)
Fits with: Lakers, Hawks, Magic, Nets
13. Brad Wanamaker (restricted)
Fits with: Celtics, Suns, Pistons, Rockets
14. Langston Galloway
Fits with: Pistons, Hawks, Suns, Knicks, Lakers
15. Yogi Ferrell
Fits with: Knicks, Suns, Hawks, Nets
Other free-agent point guards: J.J. Barea, Jevon Carter (restricted), Matthew Dellavedova, Shaquille Harrison (restricted), Frank Jackson (restricted), Brandon Knight, Emmanuel Mudiay, Raul Neto, Gary Payton II
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