2013 Free Agency Preview Part I: Point Guards

A statistical and subjective look at the top free agent point guards available this summer
by Jason Friedman
Rockets.com Writer/Reporter

HOUSTON - In free agency, the name of the game is value. Give $15 million a year to one of the ten best players on the planet and the deal will likely turn out to be an absolute bargain. But hand half that amount to an average player who just so happens to be coming off a career year and you may quickly find yourself stuck with the kind of cumbersome contract that kills flexibility and stifles a club’s ability to improve going forward.

Such is the dance that takes place between players, agents and general managers every summer in the NBA. Free agency offers teams a unique opportunity to improve their rosters in a hurry. But buyers beware because it can just as easily hamstring squads who roll the dice on the wrong player at the wrong price for the wrong number of years. Figuring out the proper price tag for those rare, precious and irreplaceable blue chip guys is easy; for everyone else tough, smart and calculated decisions must be made to ensure teams get enough bang for their free agent buck. 

That is the key concept to keep in mind as Rockets.com begins rolling out our annual, position-by-position look at the players available on the free agent market. Today in Part 1 of our free agency primer we’re taking a statistical and subjective look at some of the top point guards who are hitting the open market this summer (shot location statistics courtesy of HoopData.com; shot charts courtesy of NBA.com and Synergy stats courtesy of Synergy Sports Technology). We’ll break down the talent available at the other positions in the days and weeks to come.

Chris Paul (UFA)

The basics: 16.9 ppg, 9.7 apg, 3.7 rpg, 2.4 spg, 48.1 FG%, 32.8 3FG%, 88.5 FT%, 26.43 PER

Advanced stats: 6.7 rebound rate (15th among qualifying PGs), 10.5 defensive rebound rate (17th), 2.8 offensive rebound rate (19th), 36.9 assist rate (8th), 8.7 turnover rate (5th)

Shooting percentages by location: At rim: 69.5%, 3-9 feet: 55.2%, 10-15 feet: 50%, 16-23 feet: 50%

Noteworthy Synergy stats: Offense: Pick-and-roll ball handler (including passes): 1.062 ppp (95th percentile), Isolations (including passes): .933 ppp (79th percentile), Transition: 1.103 ppp (47th percentile), Spot-ups: 1.267 ppp (96th percentile)

Defense: Defending pick-and-roll ball handler: .717 ppp (71st percentile), Spot-ups: 1.092 ppp (23rd percentile), Isolations: .818 ppp (49th percentile)

Chris Paul 2012-13 shot chart:

The NBA’s gold standard by which all of today’s point guards are measured. That’s quite a statement given the golden generation of players currently plying their trade at the position, but such is CP3’s greatness that, even among a sensationally stacked field, he still stands supreme and on top of the pack. The 28-year-old is an offensive maestro in the half-court, capable of masterfully conducting his team thanks to his sublime combination of basketball brilliance, transcendent skill and a competitive streak that is second to none. Paul is a pick-and-roll savant able to get to his preferred spots on the floor seemingly at will and, once he gets there, is able to inflict maximum damage upon the opposition in myriad ways. At the other end of the court he makes up for his lack of size by being a ball hawk of the highest order. And as if all that were not enough, he is also a one-man crunch time machine. Paul’s teams have ranked among the league’s best in late-game scoring for years now and this season was no exception: the Clippers ranked second only to Miami in the NBA in offensive efficiency in clutch situations (defined by NBA.com as any time in the last five minutes of a game in which a team is either ahead or behind by five points or fewer). Watch Paul come winning time and the secret to his late-game success rapidly becomes clear: He is a master at drawing fouls, exploiting 2-for-1 opportunities and a host of other little things that so often make the difference between winning or losing the coin flips that double as close games in the NBA. He is one of the crown jewels of this year’s free agent class – a transformative player with an opportunity to go down as one of the greatest to have ever played the game.

Brandon Jennings (RFA)

The basics: 17.5 ppg, 6.5 apg, 3.1 rpg, 1.6 spg, 39.9 FG%, 37.5 3FG%, 81.9 FT%, 16.2 PER

Advanced stats: 4.6 rebound rate (62nd among qualifying PGs), 7.2 defensive rebound rate (66th), 2.1 offensive rebound rate (38th), 24.9 assist rate (45th), 9.7 turnover rate (15th)

Shooting percentages by location: At rim: 52.4%, 3-9 feet: 29.4%, 10-15 feet: 43.9%, 16-23 feet: 37%

Noteworthy Synergy stats: Offense: Pick-and-roll ball handler (including passes): .929 ppp (69th percentile), Isolations (including passes): .732 ppp (35th percentile), Transition: 1.087 ppp (43rd percentile), Spot-ups: .971 ppp (58th percentile)

Defense: Defending pick-and-roll ball handler: .805 ppp (43rd percentile), Spot-ups: 1.064 ppp (29th percentile), Isolations: .886 ppp (33rd percentile)

Brandon Jennings 2012-13 shot chart:

The good: After two years of subpar shooting from beyond the arc, Jennings delivered a career-high mark behind the three-point line this season, transforming himself into a player whose shot must be respected from long range. His assist rate also reached a career-best level and the Bucks’ fourth-year point guard continued to take good care of the ball as well. The not so good: Jennings still doesn’t finish very well near the basket, doesn’t draw as many free throws as one might hope given his impressive quicks, isn’t a good rebounder and still takes too many long twos. At just 23 years of age, there’s still plenty of time for Jennings to accentuate his strengths and improve upon his weaknesses, and Mike Conley’s ascent this season should serve as a cautionary tale to any who might view Jennings as anything close to a finished product at this point. But any team prepared to attempt to lure Jennings away from Milwaukee with a sizable contract offer this summer is going to want to see that sort of improvement sooner rather than later. And facts are facts: Up to this point in his young career, Jennings remains much the same player today as he was when he burst onto the scene and built big expectations four years ago.

Jeff Teague (RFA)

The basics: 14.6 ppg, 7.2 apg, 2.3 rpg, 1.5 spg, 45.1 FG%, 35.9 3FG%, 88.1 FT%, 16.82 PER

Advanced stats: 3.9 rebound rate (77th among qualifying PGs), 6.7 defensive rebound rate (77nd), 1.1 offensive rebound rate (71st), 30.8 assist rate (21st), 12.2 turnover rate (56th)

Shooting percentages by location: At rim: 62.3%, 3-9 feet: 42.4%, 10-15 feet: 49.2%, 16-23 feet: 35%

Noteworthy Synergy stats: Offense: Pick-and-roll ball handler (including passes): .934 ppp (70th percentile), Isolations (including passes): .877 ppp (66th percentile), Transition: 1.152 ppp (57th percentile), Spot-ups: 1.011 ppp (66th percentile)

Defense: Defending pick-and-roll ball handler: .801 ppp (44th percentile), Spot-ups: 1.046 ppp (34th percentile), Isolations: .881 ppp (34th percentile)

Jeff Teague 2012-13 shot chart:

The pursuit of Jennings is likely to garner more attention this offseason, but a simple look at the numbers might at least make one pause and wonder whether or not Jeff Teague is in fact the better player of the two – at least at this point in their respective careers. The 24-year-old is certainly superior when it comes to finishing at the rim and though he’s always been more of a scorer than a pure, passing point, Teague’s playmaking took a significant step forward this season on his way to racking up a career high assist rate that left him just outside the top-20 at his position. The Wake Forest product still must improve as a perimeter threat and as an attentive, aware defender, but given the fact Teague has gotten better during each of his first four seasons in the league, it’s not unreasonable to expect him to make those improvements. Should he do so, he will undoubtedly provide excellent value for the team that signs him this summer.

Jose Calderon (UFA)

The basics: 11.3 ppg, 7.1 apg, 2.4 rpg, .8 spg, 49.1 FG%, 46.1 3FG%, 90.0 FT%, 18.8 PER

Advanced stats: 4.8 rebound rate (43rd among qualifying PGs), 8.6 defensive rebound rate (43rd), 1.1 offensive rebound rate (71st), 39.4 assist rate (6th), 9.6 turnover rate (12th)

Shooting percentages by location (while with Toronto): At rim: 63.4%, 3-9 feet: 0.0%, 10-15 feet: 66.7%, 16-23 feet: 47%

Noteworthy Synergy stats (while with Toronto): Offense: Pick-and-roll ball handler (including passes): .977 ppp (84th percentile), Isolations (including passes): .826 ppp (55th percentile), Transition: .731 ppp (4th percentile), Spot-ups: 1.381 ppp (100th percentile)

Defense: Defending pick-and-roll ball handler: .81 ppp (40th percentile), Spot-ups: 1.053 ppp (32nd percentile), Isolations: .848 ppp (42nd percentile)

Jose Calderon 2012-13 shot chart:

Grantland’s Bill Simmons loves to discuss the basketball version of baseball’s designated hitter concept: players who are still capable of producing at a high level offensively but because of their defensive limitations teams would likely prefer to hide them on the defensive end, if possible. Know this: Jose Calderon would be a great designated hitter. Good grief, just look at that shot chart! The Spanish native is wonderful in the half-court setting, expertly passing the ball, rarely turning it over, and an absolutely lethal spot-up shooter opponents do not dare leave open. On the other end of the floor, however, the 31-year-old just does not have the lateral quickness to keep up with or stay in front of the league’s legion of lightning quick point guards. That could obviously be problematic if Calderon is your starting point guard. But in a reserve role on the right team, Calderon can be the type of player that could play a pivotal role on a club looking to make a deep playoff run.

Jarrett Jack (UFA)

The basics: 12.9 ppg, 5.6 apg, 3.1 rpg, .8 spg, 45.2 FG%, 40.4 3FG%, 84.3 FT%, 15.93 PER

Advanced stats: 5.7 rebound rate (33rd among qualifying PGs), 10.1 defensive rebound rate (20th), 1.0 offensive rebound rate (76th), 28.5 assist rate (32nd), 10.2 turnover rate (21st)

Shooting percentages by location: At rim: 63.3%, 3-9 feet: 43.5%, 10-15 feet: 48.6%, 16-23 feet: 48%

Noteworthy Synergy stats: Offense: Pick-and-roll ball handler (including passes): .942 ppp (72nd percentile), Isolations (including passes): .893 ppp (70th percentile), Transition: 1.05 ppp (36th percentile), Spot-ups: 1.119 ppp (85th percentile)

Defense: Defending pick-and-roll ball handler: .71 ppp (73rd percentile), Spot-ups: 1.121 ppp (17th percentile), Isolations: .675 ppp (82nd percentile)

Jarrett Jack 2012-13 shot chart:

Speaking of players who can aid a team’s playoff push, the next two names on this list recently wrapped up stints which perfectly illustrated the value of finding guys who can fill specific roles on teams looking to make some noise in the postseason. Jarrett Jack was a godsend for Golden State this year, providing them with the off-the-dribble playmaking they needed to spark both their bench and their small-ball lineups. Jack’s game is unorthodox in this all-efficiency-everything age, as exemplified by his affinity for midrange attempts and long twos. What makes him unique, however, is his ability to hit those shots at a high rate. He’s more of a combo guard than a pure point and his pick-and-roll defense can be head-scratching on occasion, but Jack was massively important to the Warriors’ playoff run and, should he be allowed to reprise that sort of reserve role either back in the Bay Area or elsewhere, there’s no reason to think he can’t deliver similar dividends once again.

Nate Robinson (UFA)

The basics: 13.1 ppg, 4.4 apg, 2.2 rpg, 1.0 spg, 43.3 FG%, 40.5 3FG%, 79.9 FT%, 17.43 PER

Advanced stats: 8.6 rebound rate (43rd among qualifying PGs), 8.6 defensive rebound rate (43rd), 1.6 offensive rebound rate (52nd), 23.9 assist rate (51st), 9.6 turnover rate (12th)

Shooting percentages by location: At rim: 61.4%, 3-9 feet: 41.3%, 10-15 feet: 43.5%, 16-23 feet: 37%

Noteworthy Synergy stats: Offense: Pick-and-roll ball handler (including passes): .915 ppp (65th percentile), Isolations (including passes): .786 ppp (46th percentile), Transition: .982 ppp (22nd percentile), Spot-ups: 1.241 ppp (94th percentile)

Defense: Defending pick-and-roll ball handler: .816 ppp (37th percentile), Spot-ups: .955 ppp (59th percentile), Isolations: .857 ppp (40th percentile)

Nate Robinson 2012-13 shot chart:

The next stop on our playoff contributor tour brings us to Nate Robinson and an important lesson in the value of shot creation. No, he’s not the most efficient scorer around and his decision making certainly leaves something to be desired every now and then, but someone on the floor has to be able to create scoring opportunities and Robinson can most certainly do that thanks to his elite athleticism, shooting range and playmaking ability. The 28-year-old is a liability on defense due to his diminutive size and insatiable desire to gamble for steals. He’s also liable to drive any coaches who are control freaks (read: all of them) crazy with his propensity for taking (and occasionally making) the most ill advised of shots. But as the Bulls’ recently completed playoff run made very clear, Robinson will lay it on the line night-in and night-out and if your team has a need for an instant offense guy off the bench, this 5-9, 180 pound Happy Fun Ball is most definitely up for the task.

Darren Collison (RFA)

The basics: 12.0 ppg, 5.1 apg, 2.7 rpg, 1.2 spg, 47.1 FG%, 35.3 3FG%, 88.0 FT%, 16.37 PER

Advanced stats: 5.1 rebound rate (45th among qualifying PGs), 8.7 defensive rebound rate (40th), 1.5 offensive rebound rate (55th), 29.0 assist rate (28th), 12.1 turnover rate (54th)

Shooting percentages by location: At rim: 66.9%, 3-9 feet: 41.7%, 10-15 feet: 43.3%, 16-23 feet: 42%

Noteworthy Synergy stats: Offense: Pick-and-roll ball handler (including passes): .949 ppp (75th percentile), Isolations (including passes): .983 ppp (86th percentile), Transition: 1.201 ppp (69th percentile), Spot-ups: 1.021 ppp (69th percentile)

Defense: Defending pick-and-roll ball handler: .777 ppp (52nd percentile), Spot-ups: 1.126 ppp (16th percentile), Isolations: .755 ppp (66th percentile)

Darren Collison 2012-13 shot chart:

If you just take a look at the numbers, it appears as if Darren Collison had himself a pretty decent year. Delve deeper, however, and it quickly becomes clear that all is not quite what it seems when dissecting Collison’s 2012-13 campaign. For starters, the 25-year-old didn’t start – not nearly as much as one would have anticipated anyway given the state of the point guard position in Dallas this past season. Collison played 81 games this past year but started just 47 of them, eventually losing the gig to 37-year-old Mike James – not exactly a vote of confidence for a young player who came into the season looking to prove he could be counted upon as a starting caliber point guard on a playoff caliber team. Collison simply wasn’t consistent running the offense, nor was he able to reliably knock down the open looks that came his way. And on the defensive end of the floor, the UCLA product was unable to demonstrate an ability to consistently slow his counterparts. Collison can be a useful player in this league – he showed that during his two previous stints in New Orleans and Indiana – but it’s looking increasingly clear that said usefulness is far more likely to be maximized in a reserve, rather than starting, role.

Mo Williams (UFA)

The basics: 12.9 ppg, 6.2 apg, 2.4 rpg, 1.0 spg, 43.0 FG%, 38.3 3FG%, 88.2 FT%, 14.47 PER

Advanced stats: 4.5 rebound rate (69th among qualifying PGs), 7.2 defensive rebound rate (66th), 2.0 offensive rebound rate (39th), 29.1 assist rate (26th), 12.8 turnover rate (62nd)

Shooting percentages by location: At rim: 63.4%, 3-9 feet: 40.0%, 10-15 feet: 51.2%, 16-23 feet: 39%

Noteworthy Synergy stats: Offense: Pick-and-roll ball handler (including passes): .884 ppp (52nd percentile), Isolations (including passes): .87 ppp (64th percentile), Transition: .938 ppp (18th percentile), Spot-ups: .975 ppp (58th percentile)

Defense: Defending pick-and-roll ball handler: .885 ppp (24th percentile), Spot-ups: 1.245 ppp (6th percentile), Isolations: .764 ppp (64th percentile)

Mo Williams 2012-13 shot chart:

Continuing the theme of players who appear better equipped to contribute coming off the bench rather than starting, we come now to the case of Mo Williams. The 30-year-old was decent as a starter during an injury-plagued season for Utah but the harsh reality of today’s NBA is that ‘decent’ point guard play just isn’t going to be good enough to hang on to a starting job for long – there are just too many talented players at the position, both currently and coming up through the ranks, for teams to stick with the status quo when they’re only receiving average production. Williams can still provide valuable spacing with his shooting ability and he’s a – here comes that word again – decent enough passer, but his deficiencies in other areas (notably turnovers, board work and defense) make him a much better option when assuming a more limited role.

Devin Harris (UFA)

The basics: 9.9 ppg, 3.4 apg, 2.0 rpg, 1.1 spg, 43.8 FG%, 33.5 3FG%, 72.7 FT%, 14.69 PER

Advanced stats: 4.7 rebound rate (58th among qualifying PGs), 8.7 defensive rebound rate (40th), .5 offensive rebound rate (80th), 24.8 assist rate (47th), 11.1 turnover rate (36th)

Shooting percentages by location: At rim: 69.8%, 3-9 feet: 57.9%, 10-15 feet: 40.0%, 16-23 feet: 30%

Noteworthy Synergy stats: Offense: Pick-and-roll ball handler (including passes): .892 ppp (56th percentile), Isolations (including passes): 1.139 ppp (97th percentile), Transition: 1.145 ppp (55th percentile), Spot-ups: .904 ppp (55th percentile)

Defense: Defending pick-and-roll ball handler: .740 ppp (64th percentile), Spot-ups: 1.131 ppp (15th percentile), Isolations: .758 ppp (65th percentile)

Devin Harris 2012-13 shot chart:

Never a strong shooter, Harris still managed to make himself an offensive weapon during his younger years by using his lightning quick first step to get to the basket and draw fouls in bunches. Now that age is beginning to take its toll, however, the free throws are drying up and so, too, is his scoring punch – less than stellar news for a point guard who’s always had more of a score-first mentality. Not coincidentally, Harris has seen his PER drop in three of the past four seasons since his career-best campaign in 2008-09 when he averaged more than 21 points and nearly 7 assists per game. The Wisconsin product can still contribute in a backup capacity, but since his days of parading to the free throw line are likely over, his services would be far more valuable to his employer if he can raise his three-point percentage back toward the range he showcased in 2011-12 when he knocked down more than 36 percent of his attempts from downtown.

Other notables: D.J. Augustin (UFA), Jerryd Bayless (UFA-Player Option), Aaron Brooks (UFA-Team option), Will Bynum (UFA), Toney Douglas (RFA), Derek Fisher (UFA), Shaun Livingston (UFA), Eric Maynor (RFA), Patty Mills (UFA-Player option), Darius Morris (RFA), A.J. Price (UFA), Pablo Prigioni (RFA), Beno Udrih (UFA), C.J. Watson (UFA-Player option)