Welcome to the first edition of my free agent rankings. Throughout the month of June, I’ll be going position by position (using the six positions I laid out here), tiering/ranking the players based upon on-court value, and giving my thoughts on where I drew the lines and how the rankings should impact teams looking for players at these positions this offseason. This installment will cover the Point position.
A lot of players are listed with multiple positions. Those players will show up in both lists but might have more value at one position or the other, depending on their particular skillset and the depth of that position throughout the league. The reason for this is that this is a tiering/ranking of where each player belongs in the grand scheme of the league, not just within that position. Since free agency doesn’t just happen in vacuum, it’s important to consider where these players lie compared to the rest of the league, which informs their value.
There are seven tiers into which a player can fall:
Best Player – a player in this tier can be the best player on a championship team. There are only roughly ten of these players in the league at any given time.
Second Banana – a player in this tier can be the second-best player on a championship team. There are about 20 of these players in the league at any given time.
Starter – a player in this tier is an unquestioned starter on a contending team.
High Rotation – a player in this tier is an unquestioned rotation player on a contending team and would be in most teams’ playoff rotation.
Low Rotation – a player in this tier is a sometimes rotation player on a contending team and would likely find themselves on the outside of most teams’ playoff rotation.
Bench – a player in this tier rarely plays throughout the regular season but provides bench depth in case of injury and fills out the end of the roster.
Fringe – a player in this tier is on the fringes of the NBA and may or may not be in the league at any given time. These are the players who take up a team’s final roster spot or might be on a Two-Way contract.
Last thing: players are ranked in the first four tiers, but the last three have no rankings. Once you get into the Low Rotation players, it’s more about player fit. The High Rotation players are in a similar boat in that regard, but there are still clearer delineations between guys in that tier than in the lower tiers.
With that out of the way, the Point rankings:
There are no free agent Points in this tier. Remember, this tier is reserved for roughly the ten best players in the league, so it should be somewhat common that this tier is empty for a particular free agent crop.
Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker make up this tier, in that order. Irving has already won a championship as the second guy behind LeBron James in 2016 and although he seems to have a bit of a prickly personality from a leadership perspective, he’s gotten better on the court since that championship run three years ago. He’s been a more active defender the last two years than he ever was in Cleveland and is still fully capable of scoring on just about anybody in the league. However, his limitations as a playmaker and sometimes suspect shot selection keeps him from being in the tier above.
Both Irving and Walker are no-doubt max guys this offseason, as they should be, and Walker is up for a supermax with Charlotte.
There are five guys in the Starter tier. In order: D’Angelo Russell, Goran Dragic, George Hill, Darren Collison, and Ricky Rubio.
Russell had a breakout season with the Nets in 2018-19 and will be looking for big money this offseason, though there’s a significant chance he gets overpaid considering he likely cannot be a top-two player on a championship team. Still, given his age and offensive abilities, he ranks at the top of this grouping, which features a number of older Points. Hill’s inclusion here, despite being a bench player in Milwaukee this past season, is based on his defensive versatility and spacing ability offensively. Dragic has a player option which may take him off this list altogether, but his ability as a primary scorer gives him a strong spot in the Starter tier.
The last tier that has an order to it: Terry Rozier, Seth Curry, Elfrid Payton, Tyler Johnson, Austin Rivers, Ish Smith, and J.J. Barea
I still believe in Rozier, who has a role on a team as a 3-and-D Point but may be forever plagued by shot selection and ego issues. He truly believes he’s the best player in the world, which is fine, but some level of self-awareness would be great to see in his game on the floor; if he was a catch-and-shoot threat and eliminated a lot of the other crap from his game, he could vault into the starter tier alongside a guy like Hill, who has embraced his role throughout his career and understands how much value a 3-and-D Point can bring to a team.
Curry’s a nice encapsulation of that value as well, with his lethal outside shooting and strong defense at the point of attack. Perhaps his defense in the Western Conference Finals against his brother overstates his overall impact on that end of the floor, but he’s at least above average defensively.
At his age and coming off a major injury, Barea’s status is very much up in the air. He could very easily be two tiers lower, but the last we saw of him was a very strong player worthy of consistent rotation minutes as a backup Point.
There’s no ordering to this tier, as signing players this far down is more about fit and what a team needs from a particular player. Sorted by salary on their last team, this tier includes Rajon Rondo, Tony Parker, Emmanuel Mudiay, Tomas Satoransky, Yogi Ferrell, Jerian Grant, Tyus Jones, Raul Neto, Shabazz Napier, Trey Burke, Quinn Cook, Shelvin Mack, Derrick Rose, Jeremy Lin, and Michael Carter-Williams.
There are a whole bunch of different names in this list, from older guys hanging on at the end of the career to former first-rounders who never quite panned out to up-and-coming guys who need to prove it a bit more before they can be trusted as full-time High Rotation guys. Most of these players bring different skills to the table and are at different points in their career, so teams are going to have these guys ranked in different orders based on what they need from a Low Rotation Point. Players like Rondo, Parker, Rose, and Lin have all had success in the past and might bring a bit of veteran stability to proceedings, though Rondo’s personality quirks might turn a team off from him.
Teams who are looking to take a swing on a younger guy might turn toward players like Jones or Cook, in an attempt to sign those guys before they really blow up, though by the time Cook gets to free agency, he may jump up a tier. He wouldn’t be a High Rotation player in Golden State if it weren’t for the injuries sustained by…just about everybody, but he’s shown flashes of a player with some upside to get into that tier.
Again, there’s no order to this tier. The list, sorted by their last salary: Jerryd Bayless, T.J. McConnell, Devin Harris, Isaiah Thomas, Ian Clark, Raymond Felton, Frank Mason, Ryan Arcidiacano, Shaquille Harrison, and Chasson Randle.
This tier is mostly for minimum guys who can fill a role as the third point guard off the bench and may play sparingly throughout the year. From a free agency perspective, the difference between Low Rotation and Bench is that the Low Rotation guys are players to whom a team could give $3-4 million and feel good about that value, whereas the players in the Bench tier are purely minimum guys. They’re not quite on the fringes of the league and deserve a spot somewhere, but relying on them as a full-time backup Point is unwise.
The most difficult inclusion here is probably McConnell, whom I value a lot less than the rest of the league. The fact that he was completely unplayable against Brooklyn scared me away from thinking he could be a rotation player in the playoffs and his skillset doesn’t give me confidence that he’s somebody who should consistently be in a team’s regular season rotation. The lack of an outside jumper and inability to create his own shot leaves him as a massive offensive negative. He’s perhaps a slight positive on defense, depending on how much you value effort over tangible size and athleticism, but overall he’s not someone I would want as a primary backup.
These guys finished the season on a team and therefore have to be included on a free agency list, but the players listed here aren’t that much different from some of the high-end G League Points or some international guys. This tier includes Jose Calderon, Jaylen Adams, Tim Frazier, Chris Chiozza, and Jonathan Gibson.
Calderon’s performance in 2018-19 would normally put him in the Bench tier, but projecting his value into next season puts him further down the list. He’s going to be 38 years old before the 2019-20 season starts and fell off considerably last season. Things could get much uglier for him if he’s in a team’s rotation next season.
The full rankings can be found below: