This week, we unveiled our first set of 2016 NBA free agent rankings, listing out the top 100 players who can be on the market on July 1. Most teams will have plenty of salary cap space to throw at players.
The problem is that there may not be enough great players to justify all that spending. That's especially so at one critical position: point guard, where the free agent pickings will be slim.
The chart shows how many players at each position are featured in our top 25 and top 50. We used each player's primary position if they slide between a couple, and there's a strong caveat to mention later, too.
|Position||In Top 25||In Top 50|
The caveat: the rankings inherently value centers and point guards more than power forwards or the wings. Why? Centers play outsized roles in team defense, and point guards play outsized roles in team offense. As such, it's not surprising to see so many centers in the top 25 and top 50. But this inherent skewing toward the high-priority positions should help boost the point guard numbers, too. And it doesn't!
There's only one max-money point guard in the free agent class: Mike Conley, who is our No. 5 free agent overall. Conley has never been an NBA All-Star. The next four point guards in our rankings are Brandon Jennings (No. 24), Rajon Rondo (No. 27), Matthew Dellavedova (No. 33) and Deron Williams (No. 41). All four of those guys are having nice seasons and can help your team, but they also have significant question marks.
The next five point guards shouldn't be starters in the NBA except in special circumstances: Greivis Vasquez (No. 57), Jerryd Bayless (No. 58), Shaun Livingston (No. 59), Jeremy Lin (No. 63) and two-time NBA champion Mario Chalmers (No. 68). Lin is playing himself up this list and could be a top-50 player by the end of the season, and he's a potential reach for a team looking for a lead guard. But -- no offense to these players -- there's just not much inspiring about this class of point guards.
So what are teams gonna do?
Expect the trade market for point guards to be hot, both now as we approach the trade deadline and in June. Word is the Hawks have been considering offers for Jeff Teague. He'd be the second-best point guard on the free agent market by a huge margin. So, teams with a burgeoning point guard need -- the Jazz, Knicks, Bucks, Nets, Sixers, Rockets and perhaps Mavericks -- might be tempted to throw assets at Atlanta to get into the Teague sweepstakes.
With high demand, other teams may also decide to shop their own point guards. Could New Orleans peddle Jrue Holiday, who is under contract for one more year and has been coming along despite injuries? Might Miami dangle Goran Dragic out there? Would the Kings bet on Rondo staying and shop Darren Collison? The Jazz are likely to only team with such a high need and incentive to break the bank during the season, but situations could change as GMs dream big heading into the draft.
One other ramification of the narrow supply: teams will be looking for blue-chip point guards in the draft. We're expecting a huge count of international players to go in the first round, but teams might be on the hunt more than usual for immediate-return, rotation-level point guards late in the first and into the second round. Grabbing someone like a Shabazz Napier is a cheap way to fill a rotational hole.
What about Jordan Clarkson?
As July arrives, we might also see a conversion. This season, 95 percent of Clarkson's minutes have been at two-guard. But he played about 1,000 minutes at point guard last season, and he was pretty good. We have him listed as two-guard in our rankings, but he's ranked higher than Jennings or Rondo overall. Could a team make him a fat offer hoping to convert him into a full-time point guard?
Are there any diamonds in the rough?
Langston Galloway is deep down our list (No. 94) but could be a nice target for a needy team. He's only 24, he's an improved shooter and he's a damn good rebounder who doesn't turn the ball over much. I also think Tim Frazier (unranked) can be a solid back-up NBA point guard; he's a nice passer and he's 25.
Ray McCallum will be a restricted free agent; he's not getting much run behind Tony Parker and Patty Mills in San Antonio, but his fundamentals always look so sound when he's out there. It's usually a good bet to buy players who've had some time to let the Spurs aura wash over them. (See: Cory Joseph in Toronto.)
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