As the Clippers head into free agency–which could be sooner rather than later–they’ll need a long list of point guard targets to fill out their depth in a number of different scenarios. With the current roster configuration, the team needs to find a replacement in the Derrick Walton Jr./Reggie Jackson role, ideally someone who can both be a competent fill-in for Patrick Beverley in the starting lineup as well as function in a three-guard bench unit with Lou Williams and Landry Shamet. But if Lawrence Frank makes changes higher up on the depth chart, the type of fit the Clippers require on their second unit could change altogether.
Without knowing the team’s precise needs, I figured the best way to take a survey of the point guard market would be to split the candidates into categories based on play style and discuss their potential fit for different offseason scenarios. Players below are listed with their predicted starting salary from ESPN’s Bobby Marks and a statistical projection of their three-year value from Jacob Goldstein’s PIPM Player Projection on WinsAdded.com (for very old veterans I might do a one-year projection). If I disagree with these assessments, I might make note of it.
Fred VanVleet – Projected starting salary: $18-20M; 3-year value: $52.1M
Goran Dragic – Projected starting salary: $12-14M; 3-year value: $29.6M
Mike Conley – Projected starting salary: $10-12M; 3-year value: $31M
As much as we might like it, I’ve given up hope on the Clippers getting any of these three guys this off-season. FVV will surely demand a far higher salary than the Clippers will be able to offer, and Conley isn’t ever going to hit free agency–he’s going to opt in to his $34.5M player option for next year. Dragic is the guy on the list who has an outside shot of becoming available, but his stellar run in the NBA Playoffs pushed him out of the Clippers’ price range. The only hope of him becoming available is if the Heat make a big acquisition this off-season that they have to renounce Goran’s bird rights to facilitate, in which case
DJ Augustin – Projected starting salary: $4-6M; 3-year value: $19.8M
DJ had a bit of a down year for Orlando last season after being a really strong contributor in 2018 and 2019, and there’s a bit of concern about a decline as he turns 33 this month. But he’s a solid veteran who will direct traffic, create looks for others, and limit turnovers, as well as hopefully knock down three-pointers at a decent rate (37.9% on his career). But he’s a minus defensively at 5’11”, and would be a really poor fit next to Lou Williams on that end of the floor.
Considering DJ’s value around the league, the Clippers would have to use the $5.7M mMLE to have a shot at signing him. They shouldn’t use their mMLE on a point guard unless they make a major trade that shakes up their depth at guard–at which point the fit question with Williams would likely be resolved.
Rajon Rondo – Projected starting salary: $4-6M; 1-year value: $3.7M
Rondo is one of the harder players to assess, because his playoff performances so drastically exceeded his regular-season play. Ultimately, while any team could use a reliable postseason role player like Rajon, his regular-season coasting doesn’t fit the Clippers’ needs and his lack of shooting would be more glaring on a team like LAC that doesn’t feature the transition scoring and ball movement of the Lakers. He’d only make sense in limited scenarios.
Jeff Teague – Projected starting salary: $6-8M; 3-year value: $13.1M
Much like Reggie Jackson, the main selling point with Teague is that he’s got a ton of experience playing point guard in the NBA, but he’s underwhelming in action. With nearly 800 appearances and 600 starts, there’s a relatively high floor for having Teague run your second-unit offense compared to an inexperienced option. But he’s declined in recent years and is pretty squarely all-around worse as a bench initiator than Lou Williams. He could be an mMLE target if Lou is moved, but Augustin is just one of many alternatives I’d prefer to see the Clippers add.
Searching for an understudy point guard in the mold of Patrick Beverley? If the Clippers keep things more or less intact, these players present intriguing options of guards who can bring a defensive bite at point guard in Bev’s place while also bringing that ability to allow for cross-matching on the second unit, mitigating some of the issues caused by the aforementioned players who are undersized and poor defensively. But there’s always a trade-off–this group is lacking in “pure point guard” creation.
Kris Dunn – Projected starting salary: $6-8M; 3-year value: $30M
At the end of his rookie contract, Dunn is eligible for restricted free agency, meaning the Clippers’ pursuit of him could be complicated if the Bulls intend on keeping him. Overall, Kris isn’t just a non-shooter but a poor offensive player overall who is below-average at the rim and in the mid-range. But he does get to the rim relatively well, and can use that ability to create for others–and he’s a legitimately very good defender who is probably even better at that end than Beverley. If the Bulls don’t extend an offer to make Dunn restricted, he’d be a great target for LAC but they still might not be able to afford him, and they likely need to invest their resources at center.
Langston Galloway – Projected starting salary: $4-6M; 3-year value: $12.3M
Galloway is strong where Dunn is weakest–he’s shown a consistent ability to hit threes in the NBA. He also almost never turns the ball over, which is nice. But he just doesn’t bring the dynamic strengths of the superior Dunn. He’s smaller, at 6’1″, and isn’t an initiator for others or nearly the defender Kris is. If the 28-year-old slips through the cracks, he could be a value signing, but he’s unlikely to be a major contributor.
Michael Carter-Williams – Projected starting salary: minimum; 3-year value: $16.3M
MCW has never lived up to his promise as a former lottery pick, but at 28 years old he’s proven that he has value in the league as a utility defender. He’s a bit of a poor man’s Dunn–somehow even worse across the board as a scorer, worse but still solid as a distributor, and good but not great on the defensive end. At 6’5″, he’s switchable defensively, and he isn’t necessarily the caliber of player who you’d expect to be guaranteed nightly minutes, meaning the Clippers could probably do worse at the minimum in search of someone who is competent as an injury replacement point guard while also fitting on a second unit with Williams and Shamet.
Gary Payton II – Projected starting salary: minimum; 3-year value: $0M
Payton has been a negative offensively and positive defensively over the course of his career, so he’s the next step down in this category… but in reality, he’s been a fringe NBA player since he came into the league, and at 27 years old he isn’t a prospect anymore. He probably isn’t a candidate for a guaranteed contract.
Scoring (Combo) Guards
Reggie Jackson – Projected starting salary: $4-6M; 3-year value: $30.5M
This is the first time when I’m gonna really deviate from the statistical model and say no, Reggie Jackson is not worth an 8-figure salary. We all know the story here, and Reggie isn’t a particularly popular Clipper. The team does have the slight advantage of being able to use his non-bird rights to pay him around $3M next season, above his minimum salary elsewhere. But if conversations go beyond that into mMLE territory, LAC should look elsewhere.
Austin Rivers – Projected starting salary: $2-4M; 3-year value: $15M
With Doc Rivers departing the Clippers, could Austin return? Austin has a player option for the league minimum with Houston, so you’d expect him to opt out as he can’t do worse in free agency and could potentially find a role on a better team. You know what you’re going to get with Austin: a streaky scorer off the bench who will compete at two positions defensively. He isn’t a true point guard in terms of offensive creation, but his north-south offensive style would bring dribble penetration that this team lacked last year. At the mMLE on the current roster, he’s a questionable value and a questionable fit. But if the team is looking for depth after trades, he’d be a dependable veteran at the minimum.
Shabazz Napier – Projected starting salary: minimum; 3-year value: $22.6M
It’s interesting to see how much the expert opinion and statistical analysis differ on Napier. He’s been good enough as a backup point guard over the last half-decade that teams keep on getting him to fill the role, but not quite good enough that anyone keeps him around. The fit with Lou Williams makes no sense, but he’d be a minimum option in post-Lou scenarios.
Tyler Johnson – Projected starting salary: minimum; 3-year value: $9.5M
A few years ago, Tyler looked like a potential breakout scoring guard, but a series of injuries derailed him to the point that he almost belongs in the “reclamation projects” category. But he was good enough with Brooklyn in the bubble to show that he’s worth a gamble at the minimum next season. He isn’t a true point guard or a plus defender, so the fit is questionable.
Raul Neto – Projected starting salary: minimum; 3-year value: $7.4M
I’ve always liked Neto, but I have to admit that he’s a weird fit here. One advantage is that you know he’ll hit a shot, and he’s well-accustomed to a part-time backup role where he doesn’t need to play nightly.
Emmanuel Mudiay – Projected starting salary: minimum; 3-year value: $18.5M
Mudiay’s box score stats weren’t awful for the Utah Jazz last year, but his teams have been consistently worse with him on the floor compared to off. Point guards can need time to figure things out, and Mudiay is still just 24 years old, but his next stop probably needs to be on a team that can give him more, lower-stakes minutes.
J.J. Barea – Projected starting salary: minimum; 1-year value: $6M
The 36-year-old wasn’t really a part of Dallas’ rotation last season, and I have to imagine he’ll either return to the Mavericks or retire. The model here assumes a level of consistent playing time that he hasn’t been able to earn the last two years.
Brandon Knight – Projected starting salary: minimum; 3-year value: $8.4M
Knight has struggled with injuries in recent years, and hasn’t really posted a respectable NBA line since 2015-16. At 28 years old, though, there’s at least some room for a bounce-back if he can get healthy and settle into the right role. But it’s hard to imagine his high-usage game fitting on the Clippers’ bench, and if they need a new lead 2nd unit guard after trades they need to find a more dependable option.
Matthew Dellavedova – Projected starting salary: minimum; 3-year value: $7.6M
Once upon a time, Delly was a productive rotation player for Clippers head coach Ty Lue in Cleveland, where the two won a championship together. He’s been really bad since. Maybe Ty has a connection with Delly and knows how to utilize him properly, but he’s not a guy the Clippers should be considering as a 10th man. He’s more like a 15th man, and probably isn’t a roster guy at all.
Evan Turner – Projected starting salary: minimum; 3-year value: $0
Turner has been notorious for years because of the massive contract the Portland Trail Blazers gave him, but he wasn’t necessarily awful during his time there. Last off-season, he was salary dumped to the Atlanta Hawks, where he barely played before being flipped to Minnesota at the deadline. He never joined the Wolves but never agreed to a buyout either–though he did work out with the Clippers in February while he was in buyout negotiations with Minnesota. While he has never been a shooter, he can create for others, and his size and skillset give him the versatility to play point guard, shooting guard, and small forward (though he isn’t a very good defender, so the switchability factor is dampened). Depending on the team’s evaluation from Turner’s February workout, he might not be a bad gamble at the minimum with potential to emerge as a rotation player.
Restricted Free Agents
Brad Wanamaker – Projected starting salary: $2-4M; 3-year value: $8.8M
Wanamaker was a solid second-unit contributor for the Celtics last season and will be a cost-controlled restricted free agent with a low qualifying offer. I don’t think a big deal is coming to lure the 31-year-old away, but Boston’s roster crunch might make him available.
Jevon Carter – Projected starting salary: minimum; 3-year value: $8.6M
Carter was really stellar as a backup for the Suns last year, hitting threes and providing strong second-unit defense. I don’t really know how he fits with Lou Williams and Landry Shamet, but he’s a guy you’d love to get in your system if Phoenix somehow makes him an unrestricted free agent. The Suns do have a bit of a glut at point guard, and could even draft a point guard to back up and eventually replace Ricky Rubio. As we track Phoenix’s moves to see is Rubio becomes available via trade, Carter becoming available via free agency is an interesting subplot.
213Hoops is an independently owned and operated L.A. Clippers blog by Clippers fans, for Clippers fans. If you enjoy our content, please consider subscribing to our Patreon. Subscriptions start at $1 a month and support from readers like you goes a long way towards helping us keep 213Hoops sustainable, growing, and thriving.