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Free Agency Preview Part V: Point Guards

Taking a detailed look at the best point guards available this summer

HOUSTON - While the NBA playoffs are heating up, the Rockets are busy getting ready for what promises to be an offseason full of intrigue and great expectations. Armed with a pair of first-round draft picks and a significant amount of financial flexibility, General Manager Daryl Morey and company figure to have options galore this summer when contemplating ways to improve the team and put the franchise on the path to championship contention.

While there's no way to divine what the next few months may bring in terms of player acquisition -- it's always a good idea to remember that Morey's moves have, by and large, come out of the blue and caught most everyone unaware -- there's no better time than the present to get acquainted (or in some cases, reacquainted) with the names that figure to loom large this summer.

We'll tackle the draft in greater detail once the selection order is finalized following the lottery drawing May 30. For now, we're taking a look at some of the free agents who will be on the radar screen of the Rockets and the other 29 teams in the league once the clock strikes midnight July 1.

What follows is a statistical and subjective breakdown of some of the top point guards who are hitting the open market this summer (click here for Part 1 in which we examined the market for centers, here for Part 2 for a look at the top power forwards available, here for Part 3 and a glimpse at the small forward crop, and here for Part 4 and our look at the top two guards -- shot location statistics courtesy of hoopdata.com; Synergy stats courtesy of Synergy Sports Technology)

Deron Williams (UFA)

The basics: 21.0 ppg, 8.7 apg, 3.3 rpg, 1.2 spg, .407 FG%, .336 3-PT%, .843 FT%, 20.34 PER

Advanced stats (from 2010-11): 5.3 rebound rate (40th among qualifying PGs), 9.6 defensive rebound rate (26th), 1.3 offensive rebound rate (51st), 26.8 assist rate (34th), 12.2 turnover rate (33rd)

Shooting percentages by location (from 2010-11): At rim: 55.6% (PGs averaged 59.3% from that distance in ’11-‘12), 3-9 feet: 30.8%, (PG average: 37.2%), 10-15 feet: 45.5% (PG average: 39.9%), 16-23 feet: 39% (PG average: 39%)

Noteworthy Synergy stats (from 2010-11): Offense: Isolations: .84 ppp (74th percentile), Pick-and-roll ball handler: .929 points per possession (87th percentile), Off screen: .945 ppp (61st percentile), Transition: .913 ppp (15th percentile), Spot-ups: .976 ppp (61st percentile), Post-ups: .805 ppp (52nd percentile)

Defense: Defending pick-and-roll ball handler: .932 ppp (14th percentile), Spot-ups: 1.012 ppp (32nd percentile), Isolation: .717 ppp (67th percentile), Off screen: 1.03 ppp (26th percentile)

The crown jewel of this summer’s free agent class, Williams is an elite practitioner of the pick-and-roll possessing one of the most devastating, ankle-breaking crossover dribbles in the league today. The three-time All-Star can kill you in myriad ways -- this past season, for example, he enjoyed both a 57-point game and a 20-assist performance -- using his strength, quickness and playmaking guile to get to the rim, draw free throws or connect from long range. All that having been said, there are lesser parts of his game that deserve close consideration as well, be they the result of injury or mere circumstance. First and foremost, Williams’ shooting suffered greatly during his entire stint with the New Jersey (now Brooklyn) Nets. A wrist injury was surely the cause of his woes during the final few months of the 2010-11 season and he endured his fair share of bumps and bruises this season as well. Very likely they, along with the burden of having to carry a woeful Nets team, were the reason behind his career-low shooting percentages both from the field and at the rim. Then there is the issue of his defense, or lack thereof, which has often left much to be desired as well. Are these reasons to avoid Williams as a premium acquisition? Of course not. The Texas-native has proven that, when healthy, he is one of the elite playmakers in the game and at 27 years of age he should be entering the prime of his career. But wherever he lands it will be interesting to find out if the past season and a half was just a minor scuff on an otherwise sterling track record or a trend signifying something much more.

Steve Nash (UFA)

The basics: 12.5 ppg, 10.7 apg, 3.0 rpg, .532 FG%, .894 FT%, .390 3-PT%, 20.29 PER

Advanced stats: 5.3 rebound rate (40th among qualifying PGs), 9.1 defensive rebound rate (32nd), 1.5 offensive rebound rate (46th), 44.0 assist rate (2nd), 15.2 turnover rate (57th)

Shooting percentages by location: At rim: 74.3%, 3-9 feet: 51%, 10-15 feet: 50%, 16-23 feet: 54%

Noteworthy Synergy stats: Offense: Pick-and-roll ball handler: .928 ppp (86th percentile), Isolations: .905 ppp (86th percentile), Transition: .949 ppp (18th percentile), Spot-ups: 1.319 ppp (98th percentile),

Defense: Defending pick-and-roll ball handler: .764 ppp (56th percentile), Spot-ups: 1.021 ppp (29th percentile), Isolations: .763 ppp (56th percentile)

What is there to say about Steve Nash that has not already been said? He’s a historically great shooter, a transcendent, ambidextrous playmaker and quite simply one of the best offensive players the game has ever seen. Even at 38-years-old he remains a force of nature; for proof just check out the job he did in leading an otherwise lackluster Phoenix team within a few games of a playoff spot this season. Like fellow free agents Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett, age is the only thing preventing Nash from being a slam dunk max-contract acquisition this summer. But even with the steady encroachment of Father Time, the two-time MVP and eight-time All-Star appears to have enough left in the tank to help ignite whatever team he lands on for the next two to three years.

Goran Dragic (UFA)

The basics: 11.7 ppg, 5.3 apg, 2.5 rpg, .462 FG%, .805 FT%, .337 3-PT%, 18.03 PER

Advanced stats: 5.6 rebound rate (31st among qualifying PGs), 7.7 defensive rebound rate (54th), 3.5 offensive rebound rate (6th), 29.5 assist rate (22nd), 13.2 turnover rate (44th)

Shooting percentages by location: At rim: 67%, 3-9 feet: 36.7%, 10-15 feet: 39.6%, 16-23 feet: 36%

Noteworthy Synergy stats: Offense: Pick-and-roll ball handler: .812 ppp (67th percentile), Transition: 1.305 ppp (78th percentile), Spot-ups: .886 ppp (48th percentile), Isolations: .802 ppp (63rd percentile)

Defense: Defending pick-and-roll ball handler: .755 ppp (61st percentile), Spot-ups: .811 ppp (81st percentile), Isolations: .752 ppp (58th percentile)

Rockets fans are fully familiar with the Goran Dragic tale by now. It starts with the numbers (18 ppg, 8.4 apg, .490 FG%, .379 3-PT% in 28 starts in 2011-12) and continues on with the dramatic, dynamic impact his play appeared to have on his teammates sharing the floor with him. He provided a huge spark to a Rockets team that looked to be down and out after losing its starting backcourt to injury and he showcased an ability to elevate his play as the pressure rose (more stats, this time courtesy of NBA.com: Dragic shot 60 percent from the field and 45.5 percent from beyond the arc in the last five minutes of games in which his team was either ahead or trailing by 5 points or fewer). The 26-year-old is terrific in transition and a tremendous finisher at the rim for his position. He’s also an above average defender and though he does need to do a better job of holding onto the ball, Dragic recorded a career-low turnover rate in 2011-12; a fact not to be discounted given that he had the ball in his hands this past season more than ever before.

Jeremy Lin (RFA)

The basics: 14.6 ppg, 6.2 apg, 3.1 rpg, .446 FG%, .798 FT%, .320 3-PT%, 19.97 PER

Advanced stats: 6.6 rebound rate (16th among qualifying PGs), 11.1 defensive rebound rate (13th), 2.2 offensive rebound rate (27th), 26.8 assist rate (34th), 15.6 turnover rate (58th)

Shooting percentages by location: At rim: 52.9%, 3-9 feet: 41.4%, 10-15 feet: 48.3%, 16-23 feet: 43%

Noteworthy Synergy stats: Offense: Pick-and-roll ball handler: .797 ppp (62nd percentile), Isolations: 1.031 ppp (95th percentile), Transition: .857 ppp (12th percentile), Spot-ups: .948 ppp (57th percentile)

Defense: defending pick-and-roll ball handler: .707 ppp (70th percentile), Spot-ups: .989 ppp (36th percentile), Isolations: .93 ppp (17th percentile)

The next chapter in the Jeremy Lin saga is certain to be one of the most closely-monitored stories of the summer. Plenty of pixels will be devoted to whether or not he will remain in New York City but of course the far larger question surrounds what he will be able to do for an encore. The Harvard product took full advantage of the opportunity presented to him when the Knicks had no where else to turn and his storybook February run seemed straight off the Disney assembly line. Lin ran the pick-and-roll well and was otherworldly in isolations, using his size, strength and quickness to get into the lane and draw fouls at a high rate. He also proved to be an excellent rebounder for his position and showcased a knack for theft (two steals per game as a starter). Make no mistake, what the 23-year-old did last season was no fluke. But it’s one thing to become an overnight sensation; quite another to enjoy sustained success that is both beneficial for the player and team. If Lin is to build on his story going forward he will need to dramatically cut down on his turnovers, further develop his three-point shot and improve as a finisher around the rim.

George Hill (RFA)

The basics: 9.6 ppg, 2.9 apg, 3.0 rpg, .442 FG%, .778 FT%, .367 3-PT%, 15.77 PER

Advanced stats: 6.7 rebound rate (14th among qualifying PGs), 10.5 defensive rebound rate (18th), 2.8 offensive rebound rate (17th), 23.1 assist rate (49th), 8.3 turnover rate (4th)

Shooting percentages by location: At rim: 60.7%, 3-9 feet: 43.6%, 10-15 feet: 45.2%, 16-23 feet: 41%

Noteworthy Synergy stats: Offense: Pick-and-roll ball handler: .962 ppp (90th percentile), Spot-ups: 1.00 ppp (67th percentile), Transition: 1.36 ppp (88th percentile), Isolations: .729 ppp (41st percentile)

Defense: Defending pick-and-roll ball handler: .696 ppp (75th percentile), Spot-ups: 1.019 ppp (30th percentile), Isolations: .639 ppp (82nd percentile), Off screens: .851 ppp (58th percentile)

If we’ve learned in the NBA anything over the years, it’s that receiving a pro basketball education with the San Antonio Spurs is something that deserves to be highly valued. Hill spent his first three years in the league with San Antonio before a draft day deal last summer sent him to Indiana, and he plays with many of the telltale signs of the Spurs’ hoops culture. First and foremost, Hill is smart and takes care of the ball, as seen in his turnover rate that ranks among the best at his position. He’s perhaps more of a combo guard than a pure point, but he’s tremendous operating out of the pick-and-roll, dynamite in transition and uses his length to be very effective on the glass as well. The 26-year-old might not come with much in the way of a ‘wow’ factor attached, but his versatility, productivity and sound basketball background promise to make him a very solid pick up.

Andre Miller (UFA)

The basics: 9.7 ppg, 6.7 apg, 3.3 rpg, .438 FG%, .811 FT%, .217 3-PT%, 14.84 PER

Advanced stats: 7.1 rebound rate (8th among qualifying PGs), 10.5 defensive rebound rate (18th), 3.5 offensive rebound rate (6th), 35.4 assist rate (8th), 14.2 turnover rate (53rd)

Shooting percentages by location: At rim: 64%, 3-9 feet: 34.3%, 10-15 feet: 39.4%, 16-23 feet: 34%

Noteworthy Synergy stats: Offense: Pick-and-roll ball handler: .816 ppp (67th percentile), Isolations: .855 ppp (76th percentile), Spot-ups: .682 ppp (18th percentile), Transition: .876 ppp (13th percentile), Post-ups: .922 ppp (82nd percentile)

Defense: Spot-ups: 1.047 ppp (23rd percentile), Defending pick-and-roll ball-handler: .956 ppp (11th percentile), Isolations: .971 ppp (13th percentile), Post-ups: .673 ppp (85th percentile), Off screens: .902 ppp (49th percentile)

Look up the term ‘old man game’ in a hoops dictionary and you’re quite likely to find a picture of Andre Miller right next to the definition. He’s not fast or even particularly quick, he can’t shoot from distance and he doesn’t exactly have the muscle definition you find in most NBA players these days. Nonetheless, the 13-year pro continues to be remarkably effective, using his expansive basketball IQ and crafty skill-set to keep up with the kids sharing the court with him. Miller is an excellent passer -- the best alley-oop delivery man in the league, in fact -- and ranks among the top rebounders and post-up players at his position. But a floor spacer Miller is most definitely not, meaning ‘fit’ will be an important consideration for any team contemplating adding the 36-year-old to its roster.

Jason Kidd (UFA)

The basics: 6.2 ppg, 5.5 apg, 4.1 rpg, .363 FG%, .786 FT%, .354 3-PT%, 13.11 PER

Advanced stats: 8.1 rebound rate (3rd among qualifying PGs), 14.8 defensive rebound rate (1st), 1.2 offensive rebound rate (55th), 41.2 assist rate (5th), 14.2 turnover rate (53rd)

Shooting percentages by location: At rim: 40%, 3-9 feet: 37.5%, 10-15 feet: 40%, 16-23 feet: 39%

Noteworthy Synergy stats: Offense: Spot-ups: .988 ppp (65th percentile), Pick-and-roll ball handler: .865 ppp (79th percentile), Transition: .614 ppp (2nd percentile)

Defense: Spot-ups: .861 ppp (70th percentile), Defending pick-and-roll ball handler: .755 ppp (61st percentile), Isolations: 1.029 ppp (7th percentile), Off-screens: .737 ppp (78th percentile), Post-ups: .647 ppp (88th percentile)

Jason Kidd is a limited player at this point in his Hall-of-Fame-bound career, but that is not to say he is no longer useful. What he can still do: rebound at an elite level, defend bigger guards (most point guards are too quick for him to stay in front of now), knock down spot-up three-point shots and, of course, pass the ball with the sort of vision and precision few have ever possessed. Now 39-years-old, Kidd might be best served playing a mentor role in which he can provide back up minutes and an unlimited amount of wisdom to a team’s starting point guard. It’s possible the 10-time All-Star is not quite ready and willing to play such a supporting cast member part, especially given that he is just one year removed from starting on an NBA championship-winning team. But one has to believe that Kidd would only be interested in playing for title contenders at this point in his career. And one must also believe that few, if any, true title contenders would feel comfortable naming Kidd their everyday starter heading into the 2012-13 season.

Ramon Sessions (UFA -- Player Option)

The basics: 11.3 ppg, 5.5 apg, 3.3 rpg, .428 FG%, .782 FT%, .443 3-PT%, 16.79 PER

Advanced stats: 7.1 rebound rate (8th among qualifying PGs), 12.0 defensive rebound rate (4th), 2.2 offensive rebound rate (27th), 30.3 assist rate (20th), 12.1 turnover rate (32nd)

Shooting percentages by location (with Lakers): At rim: 60.9%, 3-9 feet: 32.4%, 10-15 feet: 31.3%, 16-23 feet: 38%

Noteworthy Synergy stats: Offense: Pick-and-roll ball handler: .919 ppp (85th percentile), Transition: 1.132 ppp (47th percentile), Spot-ups: .918 ppp (51st percentile), Isolations: .808 ppp (64th percentile)

Defense: Defending pick-and-roll ball handler: .849 ppp (31st percentile), Isolations: 1.0 ppp (9th percentile), Spot-ups: 1.185 ppp (7th percentile)

Sessions lived below the radar from the moment he first entered the league, plying his trade as an underrated change of pace, pick-and-roll point guard who could make unsuspecting opponents look bad on any given night. Then he got traded to the Lakers in a deadline day deal and everything changed (as it always does when players put on the Lakers’ purple and gold). The 26-year-old was at first lauded for his playmaking upon arrival, providing Los Angeles with a much-needed injection of quickness and offensive punch from the point guard position, helping his case even further by knocking down treys at a clip (48.6 percent) that belied his career numbers (33.3 percent) from distance. Then the playoffs arrived, the competition ramped up, Sessions’ outside shooting stroke deserted him (he hit just 16 percent of his 3s in the postseason) and before you could say “Derek Fisher” a scapegoat of sorts was born. The truth of the player analysis, as it so often does, lies somewhere in between, however. Sessions can handle his own on offense and though he’s never likely to be a lights-out shooter, he’ll still be a quality option for any team on that end of the floor. He’s also an excellent rebounder for his position which further boosts his value. The biggest issue by far with Sessions is his inexplicably porous defense, something that simply must be addressed if he wants to be a long-term starter in this league.

Raymond Felton (UFA)

The basics: 11.4 ppg, 6.5 apg, 2.5 rpg, .407 FG%, .806 FT%, .305 3-PT%, 13.46 PER

Advanced stats: 4.6 rebound rate (54th among qualifying PGs), 7.6 defensive rebound rate (56th), 1.6 offensive rebound rate (41st), 31.0 assist rate (19th), 13.5 turnover rate (48th)

Shooting percentages by location: At rim: 55.4%, 3-9 feet: 42.1%, 10-15 feet: 29%, 16-23 feet: 39%

Noteworthy Synergy stats: Offense: Pick-and-roll ball handler: .7 ppp (40th percentile), Spot-ups: .98 ppp (62nd percentile), Transition: .864 ppp (13th percentile), Isolations: .738 ppp (45th percentile)

Defense: defending pick-and-roll ball handler: .793 ppp (47th percentile), Spot-ups: .919 ppp (54th percentile), Isolations: .906 ppp (24th percentile)

It’s safe to say no one in the Pacific Northwest is going to be composing poems or singing songs about Raymond Felton’s one-year stay in Portland. The seventh-year pro put forth one of the poorest contract year pushes you are ever likely to see in 2011-12, coming into the campaign overweight and out of shape and then, not coincidentally, producing perhaps his worst season as a professional. Making matters all the more disappointing is the fact that Felton was actually coming off the best season of his career, recorded the year before when he was splitting time between New York and Denver. During that campaign, Felton did a passable job hitting outside shots (never his forte) and proved to be good at pushing the pace and applying pressure defense. Felton can play -- no one doubts that -- but getting back into the good graces of the league's teams (and fans) going forward must begin with a rededication to conditioning and diet.

Aaron Brooks (RFA)

The basics (2010-11 stats): 10.7 ppg, 3.9 apg, 1.3 rpg, .375 FG%, .886 FT%, .297 3-PT%, 13.2 PER

Advanced stats: 3.5 rebound rate (63rd among qualifying PGs), 5.2 defensive rebound rate (62nd), 1.8 offensive rebound rate (35th), 23.8 assist rate (51st), 10.1 turnover rate (13th)

Shooting percentages by location (with Houston): At rim: 53.5%, 3-9 feet: 30.2%, 10-15 feet: 34.6%, 16-23 feet: 29%

Noteworthy Synergy stats (from 2010-11 season with Houston): Offense: Pick-and-roll roll ball handler: .732 ppp (37th percentile), Isolations: .876 ppp (67th percentile), Spot-ups: .867 ppp (39th percentile), Transition: .982 ppp (20th percentile)

Defense: Defending pick-and-roll ball-handler: 1.019 ppp (10th percentile), Spot-ups: .842 ppp (85th percentile), Isolations: 1.246 ppp (2nd percentile)

Few NBA players have experienced a roller coaster ride quite like the one Aaron Brooks has been on the last few years. Rockets fans fondly remember Brooks breaking out during the 2009 playoffs, repeatedly torching the Lakers with his blinding quickness and deep range. He then followed up with a strong season that earned him Most Improved Player honors, only to have injuries trip him up during the 2010-11 season. To top it all off, Brooks signed a contract to play in China not long before the lockout ended, a move which eventually forced him to miss the entire 2011-12 NBA season. But now the 27-year-old is back, ready to bring his speed and shot-making Stateside once again. Brooks’ diminutive size makes him a liability on the defensive end and he is and presumably always will be more of a scoring point guard than a traditional one, but for teams in search of floor spacing or perhaps an instant offense option off the bench, Brooks figures to be an interesting and reasonably priced option on the open market this summer.

D.J. Augustin (RFA)

The basics: 11.1 ppg, 6.4 apg, 2.3 rpg, .376 FG%, .875 FT%, .341 3-PT%, 14.17 PER

Advanced stats: 4.4 rebound rate (57th among qualifying PGs), 7.2 defensive rebound rate (59th), 1.9 offensive rebound rate (34th), 32.1 assist rate (16th), 11.5 turnover rate (24th)

Shooting percentages by location: At rim: 48.3%, 3-9 feet: 20.8%, 10-15 feet: 29.6%, 16-23 feet: 38%

Noteworthy Synergy stats: Offense: Pick-and-roll ball handler: .88 ppp (81st percentile), Spot-ups: .795 ppp (33rd percentile), Isolations: .741 ppp (47th percentile), Transition: 1.059 ppp (34th percentile)

Defense: defending pick-and-roll ball handler: .822 ppp (36th percentile), Spot-ups: 1.233 ppp (6th percentile), Isolations: 1.019 ppp (8th percentile), Off screens: .923 ppp (45th percentile)

Augustin shares similarities with Aaron Brooks, as both are small, quick point guards to whom scoring comes more naturally than distributing. That said, Augustin is the better playmaker of the two at this time as he’s increasingly improved as a passer, upping his assist rate into the league’s top-20 at the position this season. The fourth-year pro struggled shooting the ball in 2010-11 (as did the entirety of the Charlotte Bobcats’ roster for that matter) but he’s a 37.4 percent shooter from beyond the arc over the course of his career, so his shooting stroke figures to return in due time. His biggest problem lies at the defensive end where opponents have scorched him on a regular basis. For that reason, Augustin is probably best served as a back-up on a good team at present; aspiring to something more will require either significant improvement on the defensive end, adding a level of dynamism to his offensive game or, ideally, at least of little of both.

Jordan Farmar (UFA -- Player Option)

The basics: 10.4 ppg, 3.3 apg, 1.6 rpg, .467 FG%, .905 FT%, .440 3-PT%, 17.46 PER

Advanced stats: 4.3 rebound rate (58th among qualifying PGs), 7.8 defensive rebound rate (51st), 1.0 offensive rebound rate (61st), 23.9 assist rate (47th), 12.6 turnover rate (38th)

Shooting percentages by location: At rim: 63.1%, 3-9 feet: 40%, 10-15 feet: 25%, 16-23 feet: 38%

Noteworthy Synergy stats: Offense: Spot-ups: 1.114 ppp (89th percentile), Pick-and-roll ball handler: .684 ppp (33rd percentile), Isolations: .859 ppp (77th percentile), Transition: 1.348 ppp (86th percentile), Off screens: 1.143 ppp (87th percentile),

Defense: Defending pick-and-roll ball handler: .929 ppp (17th percentile), Spot-ups: 1.229 ppp (6th percentile), Isolations: .833 ppp (39th percentile)

Farmar is the anti-Felton of this particular free agent class, having put forth a career year at the ideal time provided he declines to exercise his player option and decides instead to hit the open market. The primary reason for his leap: Farmar drained a jaw-dropping 44 percent of his three-point attempts this season (his previous best: a 37.6 percent mark in 2009-10 and his career three-point shooting average is 36.7 percent). Obviously that sort of outside shooting proficiency deserves to be highly valued but just as obvious is the fact that some sort of regression to the mean is bound to take place. And assuming that occurs, one is left with a player who does not rebound, employs lackluster defense and is merely average as a passer. To be fair, at just 25 years of age, Farmar is still improving as a player. But unless his newfound shooting prowess is permanent, he is still best suited to the duties befitting a backup point guard.

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