The early moments of 2017 NBA free agency brought chaos to the league’s point guard market.
Before free agency began, the Minnesota Timberwolves traded Ricky Rubio to the Utah Jazz, and then when the floodgates opened, they signed Jeff Teague to replace him. Overnight, Patty Mills and Jrue Holiday returned to the San Antonio Spurs and New Orleans Pelicans, respectively, and suddenly any team without a reliable floor general was left with a shallow market to fill a need at a critical position.
Potential value plays like Shaun Livingston for $8 million annually (returned to the Golden State Warriors), Langston Galloway at $7 million a year (signed with the Detroit Pistons), Michael Carter-Williams at short money (went to the Charlotte Hornets) and Jose Calderon for the veteran minimum (joined the Cleveland Cavaliers) were also quickly scooped up, so the backup market dried up, too.
With most expected playoff teams locked into franchise cornerstones, and most expected non-playoff teams comfortable turning the keys over to young studs, Kyle Lowry is left with few suitors as he tested the free-agency waters for the near-max deal he sought. The All-Star point guard is reportedly expected to return to the Toronto Raptors. Likewise, George Hill’s interests in returning to Utah or San Antonio or steering the Minnesota youth movement were taken off the table hours into free agency, so he may now have to choose between playing for less on a contender or cashing in on a pretender.
After Hill, the point guard market turns toward costly veteran starters Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo, who are running out of chances to prove their worth, before steering off a cliff into a heap of Shelvin Mack, Darren Collison, Raymond Felton, Deron Williams, Ramon Sessions and Brandon Jennings.
On the second day of free agency, here are the point guards remaining and the teams who need them:
LEGITIMATE STARTERS: Kyle Lowry, George Hill, Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, Darren Collison
• Chicago Bulls, unless they’re cool with Jerian Grant and Cameron Payne.
• Denver Nuggets, unless they’re comfortable with a 35-year-old Jameer Nelson, struggling former lottery pick Emmanuel Mudiay and young Jamal Murray, who ideally is more of a shooting guard.
• Indiana Pacers, who desperately need a point guard.
• Los Angeles Clippers, unless Patrick Beverley is running the offense.
• Toronto Raptors, who are trying to keep Lowry.
VETERAN BACKUPS WHO COULD START IF THINGS GET HAIRY FOR ROOKIE POINT GUARDS: Ramon Sessions, Deron Williams, Raymond Felton, Ty Lawson, Shelvin Mack, Aaron Brooks
• Los Angeles Lakers, who just drafted 19-year-old Lonzo Ball second overall.
• New York Knicks, who just drafted 18-year-old Frank Ntilikina eighth overall.
• Sacramento Kings, who just drafted 19-year-old De’Aaron Fox fifth overall.
ROSTER-FILLING BACKUPS: Trey Burke, Tyler Ennis, Beno Udrih, Nando De Colo, Brandon Jennings, Isaiah Canaan, Brian Roberts, Bobby Brown, Ronnie Price, Norris Cole
• Atlanta Hawks, unless Malcolm Delaney is the solution behind Dennis Schroder.
• Houston Rockets, who can stagger minutes for Chris Paul and James Harden, but need depth.
• Memphis Grizzlies, unless Andrew Harrison is the answer behind Mike Conley.
• Minnesota Timberwolves, who have Tyus Jones to back up Teague, but probably need insurance.
• New Orleans Pelicans, who have nobody behind Holiday after trading Tim Frazier.
• Oklahoma City Thunder, who have been in search of a Russell Westbrook backup for years.
• Portland Trail Blazers, who have Shabazz Napier backing up Lillard.
• Washington Wizards, who added Frazier behind John Wall, but can always use the depth.
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