If NBA fans haven’t figured it out by now, this is a point-guard dominated league. True, LeBron James and Kevin Durant are probably the league’s two best players, but when push comes to shove, the elite teams these days have an elite point guard.
Whether it’s the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Chicago Bulls missing Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose or Tony Parker pushing the San Antonio Spurs to the NBA Finals, top-level lead guards clearly make a huge difference in how well an NBA team performs during the regular season and how much damage they can let out in a playoff run.
With that said, there are still some difference-making point guards out on the open market (or available in restricted free agency – RFA). Here’s a look at where they rank and where they might go when the 2013 NBA free agency period is all said and done:
1. Brandon Jennings (Milwaukee Bucks – RFA)
Will be seeking mega deal but I’m not sure he’ll get it. Elite athlete who can get super hot, but is a streaky shooter, inconsistent passer and questionable leader. Lack of success in Milwaukee has many scratching heads, but at just 23 there is still loads of upside here. Sign and trade deal to a team like the Hawks could be a possibility.
2. Jeff Teague (Atlanta Hawks – RFA)
Teague is a great athlete who can defend and is an improving passer and scorer. Definitely has the talent and upside to man the point in the NBA, but doesn’t deserve elite PG money just yet. Hawks should try to keep him if they can’t land Jennings.
3. Jose Calderon (Detroit Pistons)
Never the best defender, Calderon makes up for his defensive woes with excellent outside shooting, elite passing and outstanding leadership skills. He needs to go somewhere he’s appreciated and has a chance to compete for a title. The Mavericks make the most sense.
4. Jarrett Jack (Golden State Warriors)
Jack thrived in the Warrior’s up-tempo offense, where he can freely shoot his silky smooth jumper and pass the ball without worrying about mistakes. He’s not an elite point guard, but he’s a great combo guard with ice running through his veins. He could return to Golden State if he comes down on his asking price, but otherwise the highest bidder will get a cold-blooded offensive stalwart.
5. Mo Williams (Utah Jazz)
Williams is a solid NBA point guard, but he’s not an elite player and he shouldn’t be anyone’s long-term solution at the position. At this point in his career he might be best off the bench as a combo guard. He should also be seeking a contender.
6. Devin Harris (Atlanta Hawks)
Harris seems to have dropped out of the running of being an elite NBA PG, but he’s still a high-quality backup and a decent spot-starter. He probably won’t solve anyone’s problems at the position, but his NBA career is far from over. A return to the Hawks isn’t out of the question, while any contending team could use hi defense and versatility off the bench.
7. Darren Collison (Dallas Mavericks)
Collison has looked great at times and lost at others. The problem here is he simply has never lived up to his rookie season with the Hornets. That doesn’t mean he’s bad – he just isn’t going to be an elite PG. He can help just about anyone off the bench, but he’s almost certainly done in Dallas.
8. Rodrigue Beaubois (Dallas Mavericks)
Offensive spark with great scoring ability but underdeveloped PG skills. Too injury prone and raw to rely on as a starter, but could be a gem free agency pickup for someone’s bench. A return to Mavs could be in order.
9. Nate Robinson (Chicago Bulls)
Robinson certainly isn’t starting material due to size and defensive ability, but is an elite scorer. Plenty of teams will come calling for him to provide a park off their bench.
10. Chauncey Billups (Los Angeles Clippers)
Skills have eroded and will be 37 when season starts, but can still hit big shots and be a solid veteran presence. He’ll probably try to finish his career in Detroit or latch on with a contender.
11. Beno Udrih (Orlando Magic)
Not a spectacular player, but a very solid one. Udrih can be a solid backup and come off the bench in a pinch. He’ll probably follow the money, but would be useful to a contending team.
12. Aaron Brooks (Houston Rockets)
No question he can still shoot and score, but he’s not a pass-first guy and doesn’t have good size. Really hasn’t been impressing in his last few stops, so could be nearing the end of the road.
13. D.J. Augustin (Indiana Pacers)
Seems to be a pure scoring guard at this point in his career. Will have to chase whatever money/opportunity comes his way.
14. Derek Fisher (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Rapidly aging and losing his appeal, but can still hit big shots and help at the point in a pinch. Contending teams could still show some interest.
15. Shaun Livingston (Washington Wizards)
Size and hard work ethic will always make him a guy to loom at. Can defend and run an offense when called upon, so could be worth a look for pretty much anyone needing some depth at the point.
16. Toney Douglas (Sacramento Kings)
Shoot-first lead guard who isn’t quite as a versatile as he appears. With that said, wasn’t terrible with the Kings and has nice athletic ability. Probably not done in the league just yet.
17. Sebastian Telfair (Toronto Raptors)
Has always had the talent but never a great role. Under-sized and not a great shooter, so will need to find a spot where a team lacks PG depth badly.
18. Will Bynum (Detroit Pistons)
Has developed his PG skills admirably but it still a scorer who needs to shoot first. Has done a solid job in Detroit, but still hangs his hat on scoring the ball.