The Biggest Losers of This Week’s Developments: Free Agent Point Guards
Everything is happening at 100 miles per hour. Rumors, trades, draft hype, free agency, and GM hirings and firings. It’s the most exciting time of the year and NBA Twitter is in a frenzy. Through all of this, I’ve noticed one big trend: The number of free agent point guard suitors is quickly drying up. Elite free agents like Kyle Lowry, George Hill, Jrue Holliday, Jeff Teague, Patty Mills, and Derrick Rose have to be worried.
Let’s start in Philadelphia. Per Real GM, the Sixers could have opened up a maximum of $62M in cap space this offseason. TJ McConnell and Sergio Rodriguez combined for 81 starts last season, which wasn’t going to cut it long-term. Philly was desperate for a point guard. They were heavily connected to Kyle Lowry, who grew up in Philadelphia and played at Villanova. Now that Markelle Fultz appears to be headed to the city of brotherly love, the Sixers are knocked off the short list of teams who fall into the categories of both needing point guard and having abundant cap space. Unless the Sixers believe that Fultz is a capable shooting guard, it should be assumed that Philadelphia has found their point guard of the future. They’ll likely reshift theirrefocus to finding free agent floor spacers like JJ Redick and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to pair with Fultz.
Then there’s Brooklyn. Real GM reports that the Nets could have opened up $34 million in cap space. With Jeremy Lin likely to opt out of his $12 million salary next summer, Brooklyn was a possible candidate to fish in the free agency pond for a building block point guard. Tuesday’s trade ended that candidacy, as DeAngelo Russell is now viewed as the long term solution.
Meanwhile, Russell does leave a void at point guard for the Lakers, but the natural inclination is that Lonzo Ball will be the replacement after tonight’s proceedings. Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka are actively opening cap space for Paul George and beyond. They just moved off of their worst contract, and wouldn’t be interested in using valuable cap space to sign a point guard. Cross the Lakers off.
Sacramento can enter makes some maneuvers and enter July free agency with a maximum of $61 million. Since losing Rajon Rondo, the Kings have looked lost without a reliable point guard. The Kings may lose Darren Collison and Ty Lawson as free agents, but neither of them should be viewed as building block as they enter their age thirties seasons anyway. Holding the #5 pick, Sacramento is a secret winner of the Celtics/Sixers trade. Kings GM and eternal scapegoat Vlade Divac reportedly wants to make sure that Sacramento can draft De’Aaron Fox. Now that the guard heavy Celtics and Suns are likely to select Josh Jackson and Jayson Tatum in some order, Sacramento is positioned to land their coveted speedy Kentucky point guard. Selecting Fox would remove the Kings from any top tier free agent point guard discussion.
With Jeff Teague and journeyman backup Aaron Brooks set to hit the open market, Indiana has a void at point guard also. While the Pacers wouldn’t have to make major financial adjustments to open up available cap space, the Paul George trade rumors throws a wrench into their planning. It’s inevitable that George will be moved at some point, leaving the Pacers in rebuilding mode. It would seem foolish for them to spend a lot of money on a veteran point guard, leaving Teague and the rest of the unemployed point guards with one less option.
Chicago is in the same boat as Indiana. With Jimmy Butler potentially being moved, GarPax will have to decide whether to pick up Rajon Rondo’s $14M option. If Butler stays with the Bulls, Chicago is likely to pick up Rondo given that Dwayne Wade opted into his $25M option yesterday. The three amigos (not really) can run it back one more time. But if Butler departs, Chicago might decline Rondo’s option and stay away from the point guard market all together. Without Butler, the Bulls would be headed toward a youth movement, and would want to find another project to pair with Michael-Carter Williams and Cameron Payne. In that scenario, using valuable cap space on a 3 or 4-year veteran point guard wouldn’t make a lot of sense for Chicago.
Similar to the situations in Chicago and Indiana, if Gordon Hayward leaves Utah, the Jazz have little incentive to sign 31-year-old George Hill to a longterm contract. Hill is already connected to the Spurs, and competition for his services will be fierce. The Jazz have build an impressive roster for being in a small market, but losing Hayward would be devastating. If that happens, I can see the Jazz giving Dante Exum one more chance and hitting reset to build around Rudy Gobert.
Teams like Denver, Miami, and Phoenix have the potential cap space, but don’t have the roster space to be in on free agent point guards. Denver has a ton of promising youth in their backcourt and shouldn’t be inclined to mess with Mudiay or Murray’s development. Phoenix and Miami have huge contracts committed to their current guards, and unless another team is willing to trade for Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, Tyler Johnson, or Goran Dragic, it’s hard to envision the Suns or Heat getting into the free agency mix.
San Antonio is a fascinating option for any point guard who wants to chase a ring. For that reason, the Spurs have been connected to Chris Paul, Kyle Lowry, and Hill. The news of Pau Gasol opting out of his contract does open up some viable cap space, but the Spurs would have to cut Tony Parker in order to open up maximum space for Paul or Lowry. It’s really not in the Spurs nature to gut their lineup in favor of signing a star, especially if it means letting go of a fan favorite like Parker. If San Antonio finds a willing taker for LaMarcus Aldridge’s contract, you would have to think that one of the elite free agent point guards lands with the Spurs,
Dallas and New York have needs at point guard, and the theoretical cap space to make something happen. Both are heavily connected to French draft prospect Frank Ntilikina, and I wonder if whoever loses out will jump into the point guard free agency mix, or draft someone like Donovan Mitchell. The Knicks will select one spot ahead of Dallas and therefore control the Ntilikina’s fate. Dallas reportedly had discussions involving Ricky Rubio, but they broke down yesterday.
Speaking of Rubio, Minnesota has cap space, and is clearly looking to move the veteran point guard for the right deal. Tom Thibodeau is the only GM whose flirting with Derrick Rose, but the Timberwolves biggest need is wing shooting and a floor spacing power forward to compliment Karl-Anthony Towns. With Kris Dunn and Tyus Jones continuing to develop behind Rubio, finding another point guard has a lot logistical issues. It might not be Minnesota’s top priority.
I’m interested to see how the point guard market plays out, but the number of interested teams seems to be getting smaller by the day.