Posted Jun 28 2010 7:07AM
The Lakers are the champs and John Wall is the No. 1 pick. Now is when the real fun begins.
Free agency starts on July 1, and with it the promise of an eventful summer. When it comes to this illustrious free-agent class, it's clear who's at the top of the list. But once you get past the stars, a deeper look at the numbers can help you find more value. A guy that has been productive in limited minutes might just need the right opportunity.
For the next three days, we'll break down the top free agents. We won't do it by position, but by role. There's a big difference between point guards Carlos Arroyo and Nate Robinson.
We start at the top, with the stars of the summer. We also look at the other guys who have the ball in their hands the most, the floor generals.
A couple of notes: Players are ranked by efficiency per 40 minutes (EP40). That formula is efficiency = Pts. + Reb. + Ast. + Stl. + Blk. -- TO -- missed FG -- missed FT.
All ages are as of July 1.
There are a handful of free agents who will be offered max contracts, but to qualify for this category, you have to be able to carry a large load for a championship contender, and be a difference maker on both ends of the floor.
With those requirements, only two free agents qualify.
1. LeBron James, 25, Cleveland Cavaliers
29.7 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 8.6 APG, .503 FG%, .333 3P%, 33.2 EP40
Every other free agent (except maybe the guy below) will be waiting to see what James does first. He's the prime target of at least five teams, and for good reason.
James has led the league in efficiency for three straight seasons. His combination of size, skill and athleticism is unmatched. Seemingly indestructible, he's averaged more than 78 games per season and more than 40 minutes per game in his seven years in the league.
If you give James a max contract for five or six years, there's little doubt you'll get your money's worth.
2. Dwyane Wade, 28, Miami Heat
26.6 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 6.5 APG, .476 FG%, .300 3P%, 27.6 EP40
James and Wade are the only two players in the league to average at least 25 points and six assists per game. James just did it for a much better offensive team.
These two guys came into the league together, but Wade is three years older and has averaged just 67 games in his seven years in the league. With a much weaker supporting cast, he's had to carry a much heavier load than James. But like James, he can disrupt things defensively with his athleticism.
Among free agents, the two leaders in assists per game last season were James and Wade, who ranked sixth and 10th in the league overall. The player who ranked second among free agents in assists per 40 minutes, Sergio Rodriguez, is reportedly going to play in Spain next season. That should give you a good idea of how few starting-quality point guards are available this summer.
The two teams with the most cap space, New York and Miami, have holes at the point, but they may have to make a trade to get what they want. If they're willing to settle, one of the players below may do the trick. But most of them are backups.
Note that not all point guards are in this category. Some will be included in the "instant offense" and "shooters" categories, which we'll have this weekend.
1. Luke Ridnour, 29, Milwaukee Bucks
10.4 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 4.0 APG, .478 FG%, .381 3P%, 20.5 EP40
For the first time in his career, Ridnour didn't start a single game. But he averaged almost a point per game more than he did a year earlier, when he played seven more minutes. He led all free-agent point guards in efficiency per 40 minutes and was a strong shooter in every aspect (shooting 91 percent from the line).
2. Kyle Lowry, 24, Houston Rockets (restricted)
9.1 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 4.5 APG, .397 FG%, .272 3P%, 19.4 EP40
Lowry is a career backup whose numbers indicate that he could be a productive starter in the right situation. His shooting was down last season, but he averaged a solid 7.4 assists per 40 minutes (only Rodriguez averaged more among free-agent point guards who played at least 1,000 minutes) and is the best rebounding point on the list, averaging six boards per 40 minutes.
3. Raymond Felton, 26, Charlotte Bobcats
12.1 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 5.6 APG, .459 FG%, .385 3P%, 17.9 EP40
Felton's raw numbers are pretty strong, but several point guards on this list averaged more assists per minute. He played for the best defensive team in the league, but the Bobcats were slightly better defensively with him on the bench. After four poor-shooting seasons, he developed a much more reliable jumper.
4. Jason Williams, 34, Orlando Magic
6.0 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 3.6 APG, .444 FG%, .380 3P%, 15.0 EP40
Williams ranked third among all free agents (and seventh in the league overall) in assist-turnover ratio (3.43, with at least 1,000 minutes played). Though he averaged a career-low six points per game, he had his best shooting season. Clearly, he has at least another year left as a solid backup.
5. Earl Watson, 31, Indiana Pacers
7.8 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 5.1 APG, .426 FG%, .288 3P%, 14.7 EP40
Watson ranked second among free-agent point guards in minutes and third in assists per game, but his per-minute and shooting numbers are pretty underwhelming.
6. Carlos Arroyo, 30, Miami Heat
6.1 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 3.1 APG, .475 FG%, .280 3P%, 14.4 EP40
Arroyo's numbers don't jump out at you, but a deeper look proves that he's a steady hand and an ideal backup on a good team. Though his assists weren't high (Nate Robinson averaged more per 40 minutes), he ranked second in the league (behind Chris Paul) in assist-turnover ratio (4.17), turning the ball over just 54 times in 1,585 minutes last season. He was solid defensively as well, with strong on-off court numbers on one of the best defensive teams in the league.
7. Steve Blake, 30, Los Angeles Clippers
7.3 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 4.8 APG, .416 FG%, .395 3P%, 14.3 EP40
Is Blake more of a floor general or a shooter? Flip a coin. He averaged seven assists and just 2.4 turnovers per 40 minutes last season, and he's also the best 3-point shooter among free-agent point guards. He's the only one to have connected on at least 100 threes (116, down from the last two seasons).
8. Jordan Farmar, 23 years old, Los Angeles Lakers (restricted)
7.2 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 1.5 APG, .435 FG%, .376 3P%, 14.1 EP40
Farmar has been inconsistent over the last two seasons, but he's still very young (he doesn't turn 24 until late November) and he's been a backup for the first four years of his career. For the Lakers, his value is mostly as an off-the-ball shooter, but that could change in a more traditional system.
9. Chris Duhon, 27, New York Knicks
7.4 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 5.6 APG, .373 FG%, .349 3P%, 13.3 EP40
Battling back pain for most of the season, Duhon's numbers took a dip from his first season in New York (11.1 PPG, 7.2 APG). He still didn't turn the ball over much in the Knicks' fast-paced offense and ranked second among free-agent point guards with 90 3-pointers.
10. Derek Fisher, 35, Los Angeles Lakers
7.5 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 2.5 APG, .380 FG%, .348 3P%, 11.5 EP40
Fisher is much more valuable to his current team than he would be anywhere else. Among free-agent point guards who played at least 1,000 minutes, only Farmar dished out fewer assists per 40 minutes. Fisher's numbers were down in the regular season, but he had a better postseason than he did in 2009. He's another that, depending on the situation, is more of a shooter than a floor general.
Shaun Livingston, 24, Washington Wizards
6.9 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 3.6 APG, .517 FG%, .000 3P%, 16.4 EP40
It's been more than three years since Livingston blew out his knee with the Clippers, but he's still younger than eight of the 10 point guards listed above. And he's still 6-foot-7. Teams remember how talented he was before the injury, so he'll likely continue to find work. If he can somehow develop a 3-point shot, he could actually be pretty valuable, too.
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Anderson Varejao fights for the rebound and comes down awkwardly on his left leg and would sustain a leg injury.
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