This article is part of a series, ranking the top free agent prospects for next season. If you missed the point-guard section, click here.
Ray Allen – Boston Celtics.
What more needs to be said about the most prolific 3-point shooter of all-time? Ray Allen has been a symbol of professionalism and work ethic since he was drafted in 1996. This season he averaged 14.2 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 34.0 minutes for the Boston Celtics. Despite being 36 years of age, Allen has not slowed down yet and looks to continue playing into his 40’s. Save for an ankle injury the limited him to 46 games, Allen was playing as well as he ever has. He shot a career-best .453% from downtown, in addition to making 2.3 3-point shots per game. Allen has made the most 3-point shots in NBA history, and looks to increase his lead over Reggie Miller with a new contract. When Allen went down with his injury, guard Avery Bradley filled in for him as the starting 2-guard. Upon his return, Bradley remained the starter as the team built chemistry heading into the playoffs, and Allen is now the Celtics’ sixth man. As professional as he is, Allen offered to take the job after coming back from his injury to strengthen the Boston bench. Normally, a player of his calibre would be outraged at the idea, but has put his ego aside for the team’s best interests. Bradley is younger and a better defender than Allen is, and lets Boston play a stronger unit upfront. Allen’s offense off the bench (13.0 PTS, 2.8 REB, 1.5 AST, 2.5 3PT makes, .400% 3PT shooting) aren’t very different to when he would start. So he still makes a similar impact on the team.
Prediction: Seeing Allen continue this role would a nice scenario for the Celtics. As Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are all becoming older, it becomes more apparent that Boston needs to start re-building soon. Keeping this trio together should be imperative to GM Danny Ainge, as they can still contribute effectively. They can mentor the younger players, such as Bradley, and help develop them into stronger competitors. As evidenced by Rajon Rondo, having experienced players can drastically improve one’s skills. For Allen, staying with Boston is the best choice. His chemistry with Rondo on the perimeter is a reason why his production has not slowed down. If he wishes to end his career with a championship, teams like Miami, Chicago, LA Clippers or New York would be good choices. He would have to come off the bench in Miami, yet aforementioned he has no problem with doing so.
Shannon Brown – Phoenix Suns.
After his much hyped career in LA, many seemed to forget about Shannon Brown while he was in Phoenix. As the Suns were mediocre in the Western Conference, all the attention went toward the Thunder, Spurs and Lakers. Quietly, Brown improved and made an argument for himself as a genuine, scoring 2-guard. He started the season coming off the bench, but was given the nod later down the track. His statistics differential between the sixth man and as the starting guard is as follows:
As you can see, he is far more productive when given extra minutes in the rotation. His outside shooting and ability to stop-and-pop keeps defenders honest, while he can also drive by and finish at the rim if they bite on the pump-fake. Brown is a combo-guard, so he can also handle the ball and run the offense if needed.
Prediction: Many believed Brown would sign with a contending team like the Bulls or Heat, but instead joined the Suns. It is mainly sourced to his winning of two championships in his time with the LA Lakers. Yet he has expressed interest in returning to the team next year, saying “I would like to come back. I understand that it’s a business at the same time. Whatever happens, happens, but I’ve expressed my interest.”. After the Suns, Brown should look to Chicago, Cleveland or Memphis. He could be the starting 2-guard for these teams, or be the sixth man provided it doesn’t perturb him. He has proven to be a dynamic scorer, so he should ultimately start wherever he signs.
Jamal Crawford – Portland Trailblazers.
When former Sixth Man of the Year Crawford signed with the Trailblazers, many thought him to be just what the team needed. As the season went on, it became more and more apparent that he did not fit with their style of play. That isn’t to say Crawford isn’t a good player; his isolation scoring takes away the team-based, low-post offense of the Blazers. He shot his worse percentage (.384%) since his rookie year, a career-low .308 3-point percentage and his lowest minute-per-game since the ’02-’03 season. This is attributed to the fact that Crawford was forced to play point-guard at times, not his true position, and struggled accordingly. He had a player option, but has opted out to become a free agent once again. Crawford has proven to be a 20 point-per-game scorer when he receives the minutes, yet can also be effective off the bench, so his signing will won’t be based on his role.
Prediction: Crawford’s style of play, an iso-scorer, makes it difficult for him to fit in with a new team. His role would need to be their go-to scorer, otherwise he will struggle, and that ultimately hinders the amount of teams he could join. Phoenix, New Jersey and Charlotte would be good destinations to take his talents. While they aren’t contenders, they are the only teams where Crawford can really be himself. He would become the first option on offense for any of the aforementioned squads, in turn improving their offensive rating.
Landry Fields – New York Knicks.
Fields was celebrated last season as being a steal in the draft, where he was picked 9th in the second round by the Knicks. He averaged 9.7 points and 6.4 rebounds, along with stellar shooting percentages of .497%, .393% and .769%, as a rookie. He was voted Rookie of the Month in November and December last season, was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team as well as the Rising Stars Challenge at the All-Star weekend this season. However, with the addition of J.R Smith and others, Fields struggled to produce as well as he did last year. He averaged 8.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and his shooting percentages dropped to .460%, .256% and .562%. His minutes dropped from 31.0 to 28.7, so it wasn’t so much a problem of a reduced role, just an altered role.
Prediction: With J.R Smith now on the roster and splitting time with Fields, it makes it difficult to have a regular rotation. Smith is a dynamic, high-volume scorer whereas Fields is a solid, all-around guard. Depending on the situation, both players could see more or less minutes. While he has a niche and is on good terms with the Knicks, Fields should look elsewhere if he wants to improve his career. He was thought of a building block, next to Amar’e Stoudemire, before Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, J.R Smith and Jeremy Lin took over. Now, he is more of an afterthought, a role player, and can be much better evidenced by how well he played in just his rookie season. Most fans would consider him expendable, which really shows how his value has dropped. Minnesota, Golden State and San Antonio would be excellent places for Fields to go, especially the Spurs. They have so much experience and professionalism that would radically alter his game and benefit his continued development.
Eric Gordon – New Orleans Hornets.
One of the best young two-guards available, Gordon has shown promise in his first few seasons in the NBA. Last season he averaged 22.3 points per game, which would have ranked 5th had he not been injured, hence he did not qualify for the season leaders. He did it on 0.450% shooting, as well as 0.364% from 3-point range. This year, he was traded from the Los Angeles Clippers to the New Orleans Hornets in the deal that sent All-Star Chris Paul to LA. A knee injury nagged him all season, limiting him to just 9 games for the Hornets. In the time he did play, he was able to average 20.6 points on 0.450% shooting, yet shot only 0.250% from downtown. His surgery was successful, so it’s safe to assume he will continue his current pace of scoring for his career.
Prediction: Gordon and the New Orleans Hornets were working on an extension, yet missed the deadline for such moves. He is a restricted free agent, so even if he signs an offer sheet, the Hornets will no doubt match the contract and keep his services. Signing an extension means both parties have mutual interest, so expect Gordon to sign long-term with New Orleans.
Daniel Green – San Antonio Spurs.
Relatively an unknown player, Green stepped out this season as one of the better shooters in the NBA. He was claimed off waivers by the San Antonio Spurs as an afterthought last season, and then joined KK Union Olimpija, a Slovenian team, during the lockout. His contract contained an opt-out clause for then the lockout ended, and was thereby able to re-join the Spurs this season. With Manu Ginobili missing time with injury, Green became the Spurs starting shooting guard. In this role, he averaged 10.3 points and 3.5 rebounds, along with 0.463% shooting from both the field and from 3-point range. He also averaged 1.8 3-point shots per game, and his percentage would have ranked 2nd overall, yet didn’t produce as well off the bench. He still made 0.388% from downtown in a reserve role, so it is no doubt Green is a premier 3-point specialist. He came 9th in voting for Most Improved Player of the Year, which shows his definite progress in his young NBA career.
Prediction: As aforementioned, the San Antonio Spurs are one of the better managed teams in the NBA. Their scouting, fitness and coaching staff are at the top of the chart, and have created a dynasty that will always be remembered. Green should absolutely stick with the Spurs, as he has created a niche in the team and can only get better. Once you earn a place in Coach of the Year Gregg Popovich’s rotation, you do not relinquish it. He is one of the better coaches in NBA history, and has a plethora of knowledge Green can feed off. As for his Hall of Fame bound team-mates: need I say more?
O.J Mayo – Memphis Grizzlies.
Ovinton J’Anthony Mayo is a restricted free agent, his rights owned by the Memphis Grizzlies. Since last season, Mayo has been demoted to a reserve role for a variety of reasons, ranging from fighting team-mate Tony Allen over a card game, to testing positive for DHEA (a form of steroid) which is banned by the NBA. It has no physical benefits, and is a naturally occurring hormone in the body. However, Mayo had a high count of DHEA and was therefore suspended for 10 games. He has seen his minutes per game average drop from 38.0 his first two seasons, to a median of 26.5 the past two years. The arrival of Tony Allen is the main cause for this, as head coach Lionel Hollins preferred a defensive rotation to start the game, with Mayo becoming the Grizzlies sixth man.
This season, he averaged 12.6 points on .408% shooting, as well as 1.5 3-point shots on .364%. It has been no secret that Memphis has repeatedly tried to send him away, as several trade rumours swirled with his name as the headline player. From Boston, to New Jersey, to Indiana, Mayo is highly sought after for his scoring which he exhibited in his first two seasons, putting up 18.5 and 17.5 respectively.
Prediction: While Mayo is an asset to any team because of scoring and ball-handling, the Grizzlies ultimately cannot keep him. They have approximately $62 million locked up in salaries for next season, with Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley taking the majority. The salary cap limit per season set by the NBA is $58.04 million, so while they could potentially keep Mayo because of his Bird Rights, they are uninterested in having such a large pay-roll. His services are better suited in a starting role, something he can find in Chicago, New Jersey, Cleveland or Minnesota. Depending on Mayo’s preference of role, he can complement Derrick Rose or Kyrie Irving, or be the potential leading scorer for the Wolves and Nets. Teaming up with Kevin Love, Derrick Williams and Ricky Rubio is certainly enticing idea, as Minnesota would be a young, dynamic team much like the Thunder. Albeit, any of the previously listed teams are suitable as well.
J.R Smith – New York Knicks.
Smith joined the Knicks as a mid-season signing after coming back from overseas. He played in China during the lockout, and allegedly faked an injury to opt out of his otherwise unbreakable contract. Contracts with the CBA do not allow an opt out clause, hence why players like Aaron Brooks remain overseas. He became the Knicks sixth man, averaging 12.5 points and 3.9 rebounds, making 1.9 3-point attempts in the process. His shooting percentages of .407% and .347% weren’t his best in recent years, but still allowed for him to produce. He has a player option for next season that many wish he will accept and re-join New York. However, after a rough postseason against the Miami Heat in which he shot just .316% and .179% from 3-point range, it is unclear what Smith’s decision will be.
Prediction: Smith is a versatile scorer, while capable of handling the ball, and a lights-out 3-point shooter. He is usually thought of as an offensive punch off the bench, but is perfectly capable of starting games. His attitude the past few years has made teams wary, but he is too skilled to pass on. The Knicks would be a good spot for Smith, as he is good friends with Carmelo Anthony. He had this season and playoffs to work his way into the rotation and become comfortable with his new team-mates, meaning it will be easier for him to produce next season. If he wishes to sign elsewhere the Bulls, Clippers, Warriors, Wizards and Kings could be possible destinations. He would join re-building projects in Golden State, Sacramento and Washington, while also re-joining with former team-mate Nene for the latter. Signing with Chicago or LA would be possible, but both are attempting to compete for championships, and will choose their personnel wisely. Not that Smith would not work in their rotation: team management will only bring in players who they are certain will make an impact and fit within the team concept.
Jason Terry – Dallas Mavericks.
Jason “The JET” Terry has long been one of the best shooters in the NBA. Not only that, he has been a consistent scorer throughout his career as well. Even at age 34, Terry averaged 15.1 points off the bench for the Mavericks this season. He shot .3478% from 3-point range, his best in almost 5 years, as well as making 2.2 attempts per game. The former Sixth Man of the Year’s production has not slowed down despite his age, continually being the dynamic 2-guard the Mavericks have needed. Terry famously had the Larry O’Brien trophy tattooed on his bicep at the beginning of last season, to inspire himself and his team-mates to complete their goal. After missing the potential game-tying shot against Miami in the 2006 NBA Finals, it was sweet revenge for Terry as Dallas defeated the Heat last year in a Finals re-match. Terry currently ranks 4th all-time in 3-point shots made and attempted, and he has been unquestionably consistent throughout his time as an NBA player.
Prediction: With Dallas expected to make a run for Deron Williams in free agency, they will conserve every dollar they can. Therefore, Terry will be more of an afterthought when it comes to signing players. However, since he has played in Dallas for the last 8 seasons, the Mavs can exercise his Bird Rights and he can be re-signed without it counting toward the Mavericks’ salary cap. This move would need to be completed after Dallas matches or breaches the cap with signings or trades, so don’t be surprised if Terry returns. He has tremendous chemistry with Dirk Nowitzki, and the team could make another title run depending on the signings that take place. A Dallas return should be at the top of Terry’s list. If not, contenders like Miami, Chicago, San Antonio and Oklahoma City always need 3-point shooting: Terry would be perfect for any of their rotations off the bench.
Nick Young – Los Angeles Clippers.
One of the highest volume scorers on this list, Nick Young should look to sign a long-term contract this offseason. He has drastically improved his game the past 2 seasons, becoming a scoring machine. Last year, Young averaged 17.4 points per contest on .441% shooting, with 1.6 3-pointers per on .387%, making him a very strong candidate for Most Improved Player. This season, he put up 16.6 points on .406% before being traded to the Los Angeles Clippers in a bizarre flurry of moves at the trade deadline. He shot below 40% with LA, scoring just 9.7 per game while adjusting to his new team. Yet during the playoffs, Young has become almost unstoppable from downtown, making a ridiculous .591%. Most of you might say this is attributed to Chris Paul’s assist skills, but Young has to make his shots as well. He currently ranks 3rd in postseason statistics for 3-point shots made, and 2nd in 3-point percentage. Young was huge in the Clippers comeback win against the Grizzlies in Game 1. LA was down by 21 points, yet exploded in the fourth quarter with a 35-13 advantage in points. Young was instrumental in their run with three huge 3-pointers all made within a minute of game-time, pushing the Clippers from an 84-96 deficit to an optimistic 93-96 disadvantage. He finished with 19 points for the game. If he continues with this current pace of shooting, he will attract a lot of attention come July 1st.
Prediction: It is no doubt scoring the ball is Young’s strong suit, headlined by his perimeter shooting. Teams that are in the rebuilding stage, like Charlotte, Golden State or Detroit, might look to Young as a building block. He might not be the player to build a franchise around, but is a spectacular contributor when motivated. Joining an experienced team like the Boston Celtics would be fantastic for Young from a learning perspective, with future Hall of Famers like Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and head coach Doc Rivers on the roster. Then again, they spent this season developing Avery Bradley, so it might not work out. A backcourt of Rajon Rondo and Nick Young is a nice idea though. Re-signing with the Clippers should be his priority though, as he can be a big part of re-building LA’s second NBA team. Having Chris Paul and Young in the backcourt, with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan in the frontcourt is a very good rotation for coach Vinny Del Negro. Whether LA is interested in locking up more salary in another player remains to be seen, as a player with Young’s skills can be found much cheaper. Nevertheless, Young will have a lot of interest coming his way.