Point guard play in the NBA has never been better. And, with an assortment of premium playmakers on the free-agent market this summer, we can expect some hefty paydays, even with what is expected to be a soft market. Chris Paul is the obvious choice to lead Yahoo Sports’ list of the best available, but there are a number of players who can provide immediate impact.
1. Chris Paul
Flanked by MVP candidate James Harden and lob-catching machine Clint Capela, Paul enjoyed a fantastic season in Houston, averaging 18.6 points and 7.9 assists while shooting a career-high 91.9 percent from the free-throw line. An elite defender who makes everyone around him better, CP3 might have reached his first NBA Finals if not for a devastating leg injury in Game 5 against the Warriors. Paul, who is unrestricted, wants the max, and the Rockets may have to oblige. What does that mean exactly? A five-year, $205 million contract in which Paul would earn $46.7 million in the final year.
Fits with: Rockets, Pacers, Pelicans
2. Isaiah Thomas
Thomas is the rarest of rare: An All-NBA selection who was traded not once, but twice in less than a year. At 29, Thomas retains tangible value as a playmaking dynamo capable of disrupting any defense. The health of his hip is a concern, but Thomas enjoyed a productive 17-game stretch with the Lakers after the trade deadline, flashing his trademark herky-jerky game in a reserve role.
Fits with: Suns, Pelicans, Lakers, Bulls
3. Tyreke Evans
Evans is coming off a terrific season with Memphis in which he shot 39.9 percent from 3-point range while averaging 19.4 points and 5.2 assists per game. A physical lead guard who can play off the ball as well, the 6-foot-6 Evans can really rebound (5.1 per game) and excels in the open floor. The 2009-10 Rookie of the Year could be a boon to any playoff team in the hunt. The bottom line: His revamped shooting stroke is a plus, and he continues to be a high-level playmaker.
Fits with: Mavericks, Celtics, Nuggets, 76ers, Lakers, Pacers
4. Zach LaVine (restricted)
A sensational athlete with great size and length at 6-5 with a 6-8 wingspan, LaVine — a former lottery pick — has bona fide All-Star ability … if he can stay healthy. LaVine returned from a torn ACL this season and played 24 game with Chicago, but he is young and dynamic enough to warrant a sizable contract. He is great in transition and shoots well enough to play some combo as well. Interest will be robust for the young guard, but because he is restricted, the Bulls can match any offer sheet he signs.
Fits with: Lakers, Kings, Pacers
5. Rajon Rondo
“Playoff Rondo” is coming off a terrific postseason in which he helped the New Orleans Pelicans sweep the Portland Trail Blazers in the first-round. When engaged, few players are better passers or more effective running the pick-and-roll. He also helped Anthony Davis with open looks and perfectly timed lobs. Rondo should garner plenty of interest.
Fits with: Pelicans, Pacers, Hornets, Jazz, Lakers
Smart, 24, averaged 10.2 points and a career-high 4.8 assists last season.
— Jordan Schultz (@Schultz_Report) June 25, 2018
6. Marcus Smart (restricted)
Smart is a rugged defensive ace with the ability to play bully-ball at the rim. He has been a force on the Celtics’ second unit as a rebounder and defender with relentless energy and effort. The former Oklahoma State star ranked fourth in the league in defensive win shares, per NBA.com. Smart has been very clear about wanting to get his money.
Fits with: Mavericks, Celtics, Suns, Pacers, Bulls
7. Fred VanVleet (restricted)
A serviceable backup point guard with spot-starting ability, VanVleet is an excellent long-range shooter (41.4 percent on 3-pointers) and passer (5.8 assists per 36 minutes). Despite his lack of size (6 feet, 195 pounds), VanVleet competes defensively and uses his basketball acumen as an effective pick-and-roll operator.
Fits with: Raptors, Thunder, Jazz, Rockets, Wizards, Suns, Heat, Bulls, Pelicans
8. Dante Exum (restricted)
Exum’s tenure in Utah has been marred by injuries, but the former No. 5 overall pick in 2015 likely earned some money with a productive 14 games in 2017-18 after returning from shoulder surgery. An effective finisher and playmaker, the 6-6 Australian is young enough and finally healthy — he has missed more than half of Utah’s games in three years — so he should command a decent contract.
Fits with: Jazz, Wizards, Grizzlies, Thunder, Heat, Magic, Pacers
9. Elfrid Payton (restricted)
The 10th overall pick of the Magic in 2014, Payton is a decent playmaker and capable defender, but his lack of shooting and shaky focus have been key issues throughout his first four seasons. Payton had some quality starts after being dealt to Phoenix at the trade deadline, and the Suns have a challenging decision to make on his future with the team.
Fits with: Suns, Lakers, Rockets, Celtics, Hornets
10. Shabazz Napier
A pesky defender and crafty finisher around the basket, Napier’s quickness and overall activity make up for his deficiencies — namely his size (6-1, 175) and shooting (39.5 percent career shooter). With Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum and first-round draft choice Anfernee Simons, Portland has plenty of guards, but Napier certainly has a market.
Fits with: Magic, Pelicans, Rockets, Wizards, Grizzlies, Thunder, Suns
Other notable free agents: Tony Parker, Derrick Rose, Ray Felton, Devin Harris, Ty Lawson, Jameer Nelson, Jarrett Jack
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Jordan Schultz is an NFL, NBA and NCAAB insider/analyst for Yahoo Sports.