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Free Agency 2009 (07/01)
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July 3, 2009
Free Agency 2009
The Shooting Guards

by Kevin Pelton

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If you're looking to go deep as the NBA enters free agency for the 2009 off-season, Basketball Prospectus is your place. Over the next week-plus, we will rank 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 that generally reflect their overall value in a vacuum, regardless of team need.

Previously: Free Agency 2009: The Point Guards

Reading the player charts:

  • T is free agent type, either restricted (R) or unrestricted (U).
  • Age as of the end of the 2008-09 regular season.
  • 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.
  • 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 possessions.

THE SPECIALIST EXTRAORDINAIRE

Player               Tm   T    Age    Win%   WARP    TS%   Reb%   Pass   BS%

Ben Gordon          CHI   U   26.0   0.489    4.6   0.573   5.4   0.60   1.7

$55 million? Really? Ben Gordon is a super-talented specialist, and fortunately for him said specialty tends to be the one most likely to make a player overpaid. As he demonstrated in the postseason, Gordon is a phenomenal scorer and shot-creator. Unlike some of the other score-first players on this list, Gordon's True Shooting Percentage is well above average. Unfortunately, the rest of his game simply can't match--note a combined rate of steals and blocks lower than anyone other free-agent shooting guard who played rotation minutes--and Gordon's height will always present a challenge for his team. If this was Joe Dumars' plan all along, I just don't get it. Gordon is a complementary piece getting paid like a star.

THE ROLE PLAYERS

Player               Tm   T    Age    Win%   WARP    TS%   Reb%   Pass   BS%

Shannon Brown       LAL   R   23.4   0.411    0.0   0.554   5.2   0.34   3.4
Anthony Parker      TOR   U   33.8   0.428    0.7   0.525   7.0   1.24   2.4

In fairness to Gordon, he certainly looks better compared to the rest of the crop of shooting guards hitting free agency. The second-best prospect, in my estimation, is a player who played fewer than 500 minutes during the regular season in 2008-09. Shannon Brown's breakout came in the postseason, when he moved to the point and became the Lakers' best defensive option against bigger point guards. Brown is still naturally at shooting guard, and he could end up at either position going forward. His combination of defensive ability and efficient shooting--should he be able to maintain his improvement from beyond the arc--makes him a strong role player.

As for Anthony Parker, it's looking like we missed out on his best years while he was in Europe. Parker was terrific during his first season in Toronto, and I named him to my All-Defensive First Team. Since then, he has fallen off quickly, both in terms of his ability as a stopper and his perimeter shooting. Players of Parker's ilk often tend to age very poorly, since they don't have much margin for decline before hitting replacement level. Buyer beware.

THE SPECIALISTS

Player               Tm   T    Age    Win%   WARP    TS%   Reb%   Pass   BS%

Von Wafer           HOU   U   23.7   0.438    0.6   0.541   5.2   0.20   2.2
Dahntay Jones       DEN   U   28.3   0.358   -1.7   0.533   6.8   0.17   2.7
Marquis Daniels     IND   U   28.3   0.411   -0.2   0.491   8.1   0.27   2.9
Ronald Murray       ATL   U   29.7   0.446    1.3   0.542   5.0   0.39   3.0
Quinton Ross        MEM   U   28.0   0.317   -2.4   0.478   6.7   0.11   2.5

The dream of everyone on this list is to be referred to as a poor man's version of a quality player--including, for some of them, Gordon. Von Wafer is an undersized one-dimensional scorer in the Gordon mold, though he is neither as effective at creating shots nor as efficient as hitting them as Gordon is. He also faces the challenge of proving that his season in Houston was not a fluke. He's still young enough to have upside. Flip Murray is the other score-first player in this group, and he's coming off a career year for the Hawks. Since his first season in Seattle, Murray had been unable to find the right setting for his erratic game. The Hawks needed scoring off the bench, and Murray provided it with enough efficiency to be decently valuable. I'm still dubious he can repeat the effort now that he's entering his thirties.

Marquis Daniels got a lucrative six-year deal on the strength of an impressive rookie season in Dallas, a contract that finally came to an end when the Pacers declined his team option for next season. That should have been an easy decision; even last year, when Daniels started 53 games for Indiana, he still rated right around replacement level. The versatility Daniels showed early in his career never totally panned out. At this point, I'd say he's ideally the fourth player in a four-guard rotation.

Lastly, we have the poor men's Bruce Bowens. After flaming out in Memphis and spending most of 2007-08 in the D-League, Dahntay Jones found the perfect setting for his game in Denver. He emerged as a stopper on the wings and got plenty of ink for his physical defense against Kobe Bryant in the Western Conference Finals. I'm of the opinion that Jones is more good than great defensively, making him something of a stretch as a starter. Quinton Ross was a favorite of mine for his defensive work with the L.A. Clippers. Now he needs to find a better team in greater need of a specialist than the Clippers or Grizzlies, with whom he spent last season.

THE PROJECTS

Player               Tm   T    Age    Win%   WARP    TS%   Reb%   Pass   BS%

Rodney Carney       MIN   U   25.0   0.402   -0.3   0.532   6.2   0.01   3.8
Rashad McCants      SAC   R   24.6   0.408   -0.2   0.504   5.9   0.20   3.1
Luther Head         MIA   U   26.4   0.382   -0.3   0.482   6.2   1.52   2.1
Gerald Green        DAL   U   23.2   0.329   -0.7   0.513   8.1   0.04   2.3
Morris Almond       UTA   U   24.2   0.282   -0.7   0.498   8.1   0.02   2.0

Here we have five former first-round picks in their early- to mid-twenties looking to make good on their potential after rough starts to their NBA careers. Rodney Carney gave the Timberwolves some solid minutes after they traded Rashad McCants at the deadline, averaging 15.8 points with solid shooting percentages in April. Alas, the overall picture is not as optimistic; Carney has never been able to translate noted athleticism into production in any category besides points, even at the college level.

McCants had the most NBA success of this group before suffering through a miserable 2008-09 season. He too played better down the stretch, and has rotation-caliber talent. The question is whether he'll ever stop coasting at the defensive end, something he's no longer talented enough to get away with doing. Luther Head had his moments in Houston, but Wafer's emergence pushed him out of the picture and the Rockets waived him midseason. As a shooting specialist, he's capable; at 26, it's hard to see him developing into something more.

While others finished strong, Gerald Green got off to a good start, and it looked like the Mavericks were going to be rewarded for giving him another chance. Green is trying to reinvent himself as an outside shooter, taking a quarter of his shots beyond the arc in 2008-09, and that's not going so well--he made just 30.4 percent of them.

Morris Almond never seemed like a fit in Utah and didn't click with Jerry Sloan. With two other young wings ahead of him on the depth chart (Ronnie Brewer and C.J. Miles), there was little time available to Almond, who played 294 minutes in two seasons with the Jazz. He's a proven scorer at the NCAA and D-League level, averaging a cool 30.1 points per 40 minutes for the Utah Flash last season. We'll see if he can ever translate that production to the NBA.

THE RETREADS

Player               Tm   T    Age    Win%   WARP    TS%   Reb%   Pass   BS%

Keith Bogans        MIL   U   28.9   0.377   -1.0   0.521   9.7   0.20   2.0
Juan Dixon          WAS   U   30.5   0.354   -1.1   0.478   4.9   1.77   2.7
Fred Jones          LAC   U   30.1   0.396   -0.6   0.536   5.0   2.25   2.4

To his credit, Keith Bogans is but a year removed from starting 35 games for a division-winning Orlando team. The arrivals of Courtney Lee and Mickael Pietrus pushed him out of the rotation, and Bogans was flipped to the Bucks for Tyronn Lue after Jameer Nelson was injured. Now 29, his career is going the wrong direction. Juan Dixon struggled to get playing time on a Wizards team that was beaten up in the backcourt, which was a bad sign. Right now, he's living off his name. Fred Jones has somehow played more than 3,000 minutes the last two seasons on lottery-bound teams, and at this point if your team signs (and plays) Jones, you can plan to be playing for draft positioning.

FILLER

Player               Tm   T    Age    Win%   WARP    TS%   Reb%   Pass   BS%

Mario West          ATL   R   24.8   0.451    0.2   0.456  11.8   0.34   4.5
Kareem Rush         PHI   U   28.5   0.288   -0.5   0.452   4.6   0.43   1.7
Alex Acker          LAC   U   26.2   0.365   -0.2   0.448   7.0   0.31   2.8
Jeremy Richardson   ORL   U   25.1   0.179   -0.5   0.358   8.3   0.05   0.0
Maurice Ager        NJN   U   25.2   0.166   -0.5   0.365   6.3   0.04   2.3
Thomas Gardner      ATL   U   24.2   0.191   -0.5   0.318   4.2   0.01   2.9

Believe it or not, there is actually a fascinating statistic featuring Mario West. Because he has spent the last two seasons with the Hawks as the most limited of defensive specialists, usually being called upon by Mike Woodson to play the final possession of a quarter/game, he has averaged just 4.6 minutes per game. Amongst players with at least 100 games, that is the lowest career minutes average since Paul Noel, who played for New York and Rochester from 1948 through 1952 in the BAA and the NBA. A couple of guys have come close, but no one else has averaged fewer than five minutes in an appreciable career since the 1950s. While interesting, this does not exactly bode well for West's future.

Everyone in this group, naturally, comes with serious warts. Kareem Rush is an outside shooter by trade who went to a team whose glaring weakness was outside shooting, and he ended up playing 215 minutes. Because of injuries, Alex Acker played three or four different positions for the Clippers and could have been worse. Jeremy Richardson got to watch as the Magic advanced to the NBA Finals, so he's got that going for him. When they came out of Michigan State together it was Maurice Ager, not Shannon Brown, who was a first-round pick, but Ager has done little to support his relatively lofty draft status ever since. Lastly, Thomas Gardner couldn't get off the bench over West in Atlanta, and that about says it all.

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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Free Agency 2009 (07/07)

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