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2010 Free Agency (07/07)

July 6, 2010
2010 Free Agency
The Point Guards

by Kevin Pelton

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If you're looking to go deep as the NBA enters free agency for the 2010 off-season, Basketball Prospectus is your place. Over the next several days, we will review the top 20 free agents at each position, looking not only at the stars but also at the role players who will help fill out benches across the league. Players have been arranged into tiers of similar players that generally reflect their overall value in a vacuum, regardless of team need.

Reading the player charts:

  • T is free agent type, either restricted (R) or unrestricted (U).
  • Age as of July 8, 2010.
  • WARP is Wins Above Replacement Player, while Win% is the estimated winning percentage of a team made up of the player and four average teammates.
  • TS% is True Shooting Percentage, the best measure of scoring efficiency.
  • Usg is the player's usage rate, or the percentage of his team's plays the player finished with a shot, trip to the free throw line or turnover.
  • Reb% is the percentage of available rebounds the player grabbed while on the floor.
  • Pass is a personal junk stat incorporating assists per minute and assist-to-turnover ratio.
  • BS% is the sum of blocks and steals per 100 plays.

THE YOUNGSTERS WITH UPSIDE

Player                Tm   T    Age   WARP  Win%    TS%    Usg  Reb%   Pass   BS%
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Raymond Felton       cha   U   26.0   5.8   .521   .525   .193   6.5   3.78   3.1
Kyle Lowry           hou   R   24.3   4.4   .543   .536   .187   8.7   4.49   2.2

In a weak crop of free agents at the point, Raymond Felton and Kyle Lowry stand out as players who could potentially be long-term starting point guards. Felton substantially improved his stock while playing for the Bobcats' qualifying offer last season. The difference was almost entirely in terms of shooting the ball better, and if you trace it using Hoopdata.com's shot location data, you see Felton's percentages shot up in two opposite but crucial areas--at the rim and beyond the arc. There's reason to be concerned Felton will regress, but he is also very talented and just entering his prime, so his development is not entirely inexplicable.

Lowry is in some danger of being labeled as a backup, but statistically he outplayed Rockets starter Aaron Brooks on a per-minute basis (including posting the best net plus-minus on the team) and he's only 24. Lowry has made steady strides as a playmaker, becoming an asset in this regard, and he's a quality defender. The biggest question mark with Lowry is what kind of offer it's going to take to pry him away from Houston as a restricted free agent.

THE VETERAN TWEENERS

Player                Tm   T    Age   WARP  Win%    TS%    Usg  Reb%   Pass   BS%
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Luke Ridnour         mil   U   29.4   5.3   .561   .570   .221   4.8   5.19   1.9
Steve Blake          lac   U   30.4   3.4   .492   .539   .146   5.3   4.60   1.6
C.J. Watson          gsw   R   26.2   2.3   .478   .555   .161   5.3   1.32   3.0
Earl Watson          ind   U   31.1   1.7   .452   .517   .148   5.7   3.37   2.7
Chris Duhon          nyk   U   27.9   2.3   .470   .501   .132   4.9   5.72   1.5

Quietly, Luke Ridnour had an excellent season in Milwaukee, backing up Brandon Jennings and playing alongside him from time to time. That was no simple feat for Ridnour, who had previously struggled in reserve roles. Ridnour is good enough to start in the right situation, but being able to sell himself as a top backup point guard will enhance his value. (In this group, tweeners refers not to being stuck between positions but between starters and backups.) Ridnour ranked behind only Nate Robinson among free agent point guards in usage rate, posted far and away the best True Shooting Percentage of his career and remained a fine playmaker. He's bound to come back from that performance, but the talent has always been there.

While I think Ridnour is the better player overall, I can certainly see why the Lakers preferred Steve Blake, agreeing with him on a four-year contract last week. Offensively, Blake is an ideal fit for the triangle. He won't fix the Lakers' defensive problems at the point, but he also won't be any worse than what they've had.

C.J. Watson is younger than the rest of this group, but not so much so that he offers a lot of upside. Watson is an efficient scorer who certainly won't embarrass himself running the point. His assist percentage is low, but offset by the fact that he rarely turns the ball over.

The defensive-minded options from this group are Chris Duhon and Earl Watson, who have proven they can be passable as starters and assets as reserves. Because Duhon started the season in an epic shooting slump and the Knicks were a disappointment, he was perceived to be a disaster. While his performance was down from his first season in New York, it was pretty much in line with the rest of his career.

THE ENERGIZERS

Player                Tm   T    Age   WARP  Win%    TS%    Usg  Reb%   Pass   BS%
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Nate Robinson        bos   U   26.1   3.5   .568   .543   .246   5.8   2.39   2.6
Will Bynum           det   R   27.5   0.3   .425   .513   .203   5.4   3.55   2.1

Shooting guards in the bodies of rec-league players--in terms of height, not vertical--both Nate Robinson and Will Bynum are capable of supplying instant scoring off the bench. Robinson's numbers were never as poor as the perception of his season, which might have rebounded somewhat because he sparked the Celtics in several playoff games. What Robinson needs is a coach who, like Mike D'Antoni in 2008-09, will focus on what he can do and how to utilize his unique skills rather than dwelling on his shortcomings. Bynum wasn't able to entirely maintain the momentum of his first season in Detroit. His usage rate sunk in regular minutes (he used 28.1 percent of the Pistons' plays in 2008-09), while his True Shooting Percentage also went down. Bynum might be best as the fourth man in a three-guard rotation.

THE SECOND DRAFTEES

Player                Tm   T    Age   WARP  Win%    TS%    Usg  Reb%   Pass   BS%
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jordan Farmar        lal   U   23.6   1.3   .457   .535   .191   4.9   0.65   2.4
Randy Foye           was   U   26.8   0.8   .441   .516   .213   4.5   2.27   1.5

Both Jordan Farmar and Randy Foye are likely to be on the move after neither of their former teams extended them qualifying offers. Both players, especially Farmar, are young enough that I think it's reasonable to think they can be more productive in their next homes after they were saddled with the weight of expectations--Farmar as Derek Fisher's heir apparent as the Lakers' starter at the point, Foye as a lottery pick swapped for Brandon Roy.

THE VETERAN BACKUPS

Player                Tm   T    Age   WARP  Win%    TS%    Usg  Reb%   Pass   BS%
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jason Williams       orl   U   34.6   3.9   .525   .555   .145   4.1   5.24   1.7
Anthony Carter       den   U   35.1   0.5   .445   .482   .127   5.9   4.79   3.4
Anthony Johnson      orl   U   35.8   0.4   .467   .543   .167   6.7   2.92   1.6
Eddie House          nyk   U   32.2   0.2   .426   .495   .201   5.3   0.44   2.1
Derek Fisher         lal   U   35.9  -0.6   .405   .499   .140   4.2   1.05   2.4

So, Fisher. How can the starting point guard for the two-time defending NBA champions be placed in this group? His numbers not only justify considering him with backups, but also indicate he was the weakest player in the group last season. Besides his leadership, Fisher is paid primarily for one skill: shooting the basketball. Until coming on in the postseason, he failed at that task. At nearly 36, Fisher's chances of rebounding aren't especially strong. The Lakers' hard-line stance thus far might be less about posturing and more about a frank admission that Fisher is no longer the answer at point guard.

I've gotten a couple of e-mails from readers interested in hearing more about what players could be signed for the minimum to fill out a super-team that uses all its cap space on max contracts. We'll keep an eye on this scenario during these breakdowns, which are ideally suited to the task because of their comprehensiveness.

At the point, I'd target Anthony Carter. Even in his mid-30s, Carter remains an excellent defender who can run an offense. If he made threes at a reasonable clip as he did during the 2007-08 season, Carter could play the Fisher role for a championship team. Eddie House could complement him as the offensive part of a platoon of sorts. House's three-point percentage should rebound from last year's 34.8 percent mark--the first time he's been below 39.0 percent since 2003-04--and he has relevant experience playing alongside Boston's Big Three.

Lastly, the Magic has shown little apparent interest in bringing back Jason Williams, and I'm compelled to speak in defense of his 2009-10 campaign. Williams is a defensive liability at this stage of his career, but he has become an efficient scorer and hasn't seen his court vision fade. When Williams started in place of the injured Jameer Nelson, Orlando was highly successful. As a backup to a high-minutes starter, teams could do worse than Williams.

SHOTS IN THE DARK

Player                Tm   T    Age   WARP  Win%    TS%    Usg  Reb%   Pass   BS%
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Shaun Livingston     was   U   24.8  -0.2   .405   .563   .160   5.7   2.92   2.1
Earl Boykins         was   U   34.1  -0.2   .409   .498   .209   3.9   2.90   1.3
Carlos Arroyo        mia   U   30.9  -0.2   .409   .529   .140   4.8   4.20   1.5
Acie Law             chi   U   25.5   0.4   .496   .585   .217   4.1   0.94   2.7

You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone in the league who isn't rooting for Shaun Livingston in his comeback from the traumatic knee injury he suffered in 2007. He made positive strides last season, shooting an excellent 53.3 percent on two-point attempts. Livingston probably won't ever entirely regain his athleticism, but compared to other players in this part of the market he's got some upside. Acie Law is also young enough to have a chance to maybe be something in the league as a former lottery pick. He at least showed some positive signs in limited minutes between three teams last season.

Earl Boykins and Carlos Arroyo returned from one-year stints in Europe with limited success. At 34, Boykins is probably just about done. He can no longer create his own offense the way he did so prolifically in Denver, which allowed him to compensate for the problems created by his 5'5" height. Arroyo started 34 games without ever really doing much to move the needle.

THE REST

Rafer Alston, Miami - Would you believe 13 months ago Alston was starting in the NBA Finals? He played terribly last season, was suspended by the Heat and is probably done.

Chucky Atkins, Detroit - Never the same since a hernia injury in 2007-08. At nearly 36, probably finished.

Bobby Brown, L.A. Clippers - At the beginning of last season, Brown was the Hornets' backup point guard ahead of Darren Collison. Needless to say, the two players went in opposite directions thereafter. In a related story, I'm not thrilled that the Cavaliers hired Byron Scott.

Mardy Collins, L.A. Clippers - His 40.4 percent True Shooting Percentage last season was actually the second-best mark of his NBA career.

Travis Diener, Portland - Toe surgery knocked Diener out of the Pacers' rotation before he was waived and signed with the Blazers as insurance. He's been a capable rotation player before and is only 28. A solid third point guard.

Kenny Hasbrouck, Miami - The Heat has had Hasbrouck on and off for the last year, so the team clearly sees something in him. He'll surely be re-signed once Miami has exhausted its cap space.

Allen Iverson, Philadelphia - Iverson tweeted yesterday that he wants to play this season. But will anyone want him?

Royal Ivey, Milwaukee - An excellent defender whose offensive skills aren't up to par at either guard position.

Cedric Jackson, Cleveland - The Cavaliers briefly called up the hometown hero when battling injuries at the point. Jackson averaged 7.4 apg in the D-League.

Patrick Mills, Portland - Aussie could use a year in the D-League or overseas before he's really ready to play in the NBA.

Kevin Ollie, Oklahoma City - Ollie has retired and joined Jim Calhoun's coaching staff at his alma mater, Connecticut. Expect him to rise through the coaching ranks fairly quickly; he's immensely respected in basketball circles.

Jannero Pargo, Chicago - A shoot-first point guard who posted a 45.2 percent True Shooting Percentage last season.

Chris Quinn, New Jersey - A competent backup option when shooting 40 percent from three, as he did in 2007-08 and 2008-09 before slumping last year.

Mustafa Shakur, Oklahoma City - Shakur got NBA money at the end of last season for the Thunder while continuing to play for the team's D-League affiliate, Tulsa.

Jamaal Tinsley, Memphis - Not the same player after sitting out 2008-09 while under contract in Indiana.

Marcus Williams, Memphis - The Grizzlies' best backup option at the point. Unfortunately, that's not saying much. A solid passer and inefficient scorer who is a major defensive liability.

Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kpelton.

Kevin Pelton is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Kevin by clicking here or click here to see Kevin's other articles.

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Summer 2010 Preview (07/02)
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2010 Free Agency (07/07)

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