What is the significance of today’s point guard? Say what you want about the importance of threes and stretch fours, but it’s telling that the majority of last year’s playoff teams and the teams who have started this year on a hot streak have All-Star caliber point guards. You’re not seeing Joe Guy show up and pull off a Linsanity-type turnaround.
Today, we’re going to look at teams that aren’t getting much production from their current point guard and try to identify a potential replacement, whether it be through the trade, free agency, or the draft. For this list, point guards that are currently injured (i.e. Chris Paul) are ineligible, though their replacements would be eligible with the caveat that teams should explore better backup point guards.
And besides, we’re not crazy enough to put Chris Paul on this list. If Paul stays with the Rockets and is battled by injuries next year too, however, it would make sense that James Harden and teammates would want a solid point guard to play minutes, right? That is, when Harden isn’t playing the point or scoring close to 60 in no time at all.
If you’re ready to imitate playing NBA 2K and play matchmaker with teams and players, let’s get to work.
16. Chicago Bulls – Kris Dunn
This is far from an overreaction on Kris Dunn’s mediocre start to the 2017-18 NBA season, but it does instead have to do with the possibility of a new Chicago Bulls regime. Dunn has a great deal of potential, no one is doubting that, but would a new coaching staff and front office really look at him as their point guard of the future if he continues to struggle?
With the Jimmy Butler trade, the key to me in that trade was always Zach LaVine – set to return from a torn ACL – and hoping Dunn would pan out; if he didn’t, the Bulls could always flip him later to help acquire either a proven veteran or a superstar in hopes of speeding up the rebuild. Now, who could fit that bill…?
15. Should Get: Dennis Schroder
Atlanta has been serious about pursuing a rebuild after the past few seasons featured regression, but would they trade Dennis Schroder? Because Schroder is still only 24 and is on pace to finish this season with career-highs in nearly every major category, Atlanta may very well have their next point guard of the future. Hooray for them!
But if Schroder continues to play at his current level, why not see what the German point guard could fetch in a trade? Whether it’s one of the other teams later on this list, the Chicago Bulls, or another team that we’re not thinking of, someone could very well give the Hawks some major assets in the years to come. Is Dennis Schroder set to be the new DeMarcus Cousins?
14. Atlanta Hawks: Dennis Schroder
I already talked about why the Hawks may want to consider trading Schroder, though I don’t really think it will happen this season for a team needing a starter. If anything, I think teams that have young point guards who have uncertain futures – the Bulls, Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks, Phoenix Suns – all could consider him in the offseason, but Atlanta could instead decide to build around their point guard.
When teams make those decisions, though, it’s usually guys like Kryie Irving or John Wall; those No. 1 overall picks – or in the case of a few others, at least top five picks – that were highly-regarded talents. Is Schroder there yet? Well, if the Hawks do decide to offload him, here’s a name they may want to consider…
13. Should Get: Elfrid Payton
Right now, I can’t see Elfrid Payton being in Orlando next year – either he leaves as a free agent or gets traded, but I don’t think he’ll stay. When Payton’s been healthy this season, the fourth-year point guard has been efficient and finally showing why the Magic put so much faith in him, but is it really a given that he’s the guy?
If Atlanta decides to offload Schroder, Patyon is still young enough (24 in February) that he can step in and replace the then-former Hawks point guard and be a solid floor general in Mike Budenholzer’s offense. Remember, Budenholzer comes from the Gregg Popovich school of coaching, one where passing and awareness are vital. Would the Hawks be willing to take a chance on Payton?
12. Orlando Magic: Elfrid Payton
If Payton remains healthy and continues a strong start to the season, teams are going to come calling for the fourth-year point guard. If it’s not Atlanta that the wild-haired guard winds up, Cleveland and Brooklyn both sound like strong options for where he can come off the bench (or potentially split time with D’Angelo Russell in Brooklyn?), while someone like Phoenix may want to make a trade as well.
Some Magic fans are still high on Payton’s potential – and with the team not trading him this past offseason, it’s realistic to think they do as well – so could that help push Orlando to make a trade? Stranger things have happened in the NBA and, who knows, maybe a new stop can give Payton a new haircut.
11. Should Get: Lamar Peters
Who? One of the top point guard prospects in what seems like a weak 2018 NBA Draft class (not as weak as 2013, but far from strong), Peters is a sophomore at Mississippi St. who averaged 10.7 points on 41.9 percent shoting with 3.4 assists, 1.1 steals, 23 rebounds, and 2.3 turnovers per game last year. Not bad! Is there room for improvement? Sure.
Because of how many teams either have young point guards or are locked in with the player they know is their guy (the Stephen Currys of the world), it’s not unrealistic to think Peters can drop to wherever the Magic pick next June. If they hold onto that pick and want to make change at point guard, why not take a chance on Peters?
10. Phoenix Suns: Tyler Ulis
Here we go with the first “not the starting point guard, but actually the starting point guard” player of this list. With Eric Bledose’s trade to Milwaukee and Brandon Knight missing this season with a torn ACL, interim Suns coach Jay Triano turned to Mike James as the starting point guard…then replaced the former international star with Ulis. While Ulis hasn’t been terrible, he’s not giving many people faith about him being Knight’s backup next year.
Now granted, this could very well change because Mike James is on a two-way contract and can only spend so many days at the NBA level, but I can’t feel confident about bringing Ulis in as the guy who relieves Knight when he’s played this mediocre. Maybe the next Suns coach (if Triano doesn’t stay) will feel differently?
9. Should Get: George Hill
Mike James could be Ulis’s replacement as the backup, but I wouldn’t be opposed for the Suns to consider veteran George Hill as a backup. Currently with the Sacramento Kings, Hill has been less-than-inspiring in his first year on a surprisingly veteran-heavy team and it’s not unrealistic to believe he’ll be dealt either by the trade deadline or over the summer. Whether or not Sacramento will try getting actual assets or if they’ll go for matching salaries is unclear, but Phoenix wouldn’t be an awful fit.
When Knight returns, he’ll likely resume his slashing role, allowing Hill to step in as a change-of-pace floor general who can set the team’s big men up for impact plays. Some will argue that only works in NBA 2K, but the Suns’ point guard logjam didn’t work in the game either.
8. Utah Jazz: Ricky Rubio
Don’t get me wrong – I like what Ricky Rubio is doing this season, but I also am concerned about his long-term play. We’re seeing Rubio score more and take more shot attempts this season while racking up less assists, an extremely alarming stat when we remember who Ricky Rubio is and what his game is. Rubio can score, but he has been, is, and always will be a solid to great floor general; it’s what he excels at and why teams like the New York Knicks considered him.
If Rubio is going to stick around in Utah, the Jazz need to make sure he’s going back to dishing passes and spreading the floor, not just scoring. If they don’t, maybe they want to consider another starting point guard?
7. Should Get: Darren Collison
If the Jazz are really looking for a scoring point guard who has shown he can do it over a full season, maybe we’ll see them go after Darren Collison in the coming months. With Collison on a two-year deal and the Pacers potentially being in the position to acquire another point guard next year (they’re not on this list because Collison is playing fine, but if they go that route, I wouldn’t mind see them trying to acquire Marcus Smart), Utah may not be a bad fit for the former first-rounder.
While Collison’s points per game and field-goal percentages are slightly down from the norm to start the season, he’s averaging over six assists per game, meaning he could score and provide a floor general presence in Utah. Not bad!
6. New York Knicks: Jarrett Jack
Now by the time this story is published, rookie Frank Ntilikina could very well have replaced Jack as the New York Knicks’ true starting point guard – especially after how well he handled that spat with LeBron James – so take this with a grain of salt. But for the Knicks to keep Jarrett Jack as the team’s backup point guard when he’s on pace to set a career low in shooting percentage over the course of a full season doesn’t seem like the best bet.
Now, the Knicks have seemingly always had a revolving door of both starting and backup point guards (when is Raymond Felton set to return?), so I feel comfortable in saying it’s not guaranteed Jack is the backup to Ntilikina next season. Who knows with the Knicks?
5. Should Get: Ricky Rubio
Saying the Knicks should acquire Rubio is one of the riskier choices on this list, especially with my concerns earlier about his long-term performance, but I’m going to be optimistic and say a pass-heavy Rubio would work under Jeff Hornaceck. If you get Rubio into the game either as a sixth man or at the point while playing Frank Ntilikina at the two, I’d like to think Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr. would each be very appreciative.
But like I said, we’re talking about the Knicks. I wouldn’t be shocked if they went out and signed Elfrid Payton to a six-year deal, traded for Jeremy Lin’s entire contract, and swung a deal for Kemba Walker to play point guard. It’ll take more than a strong start to convince me all is well, Knicks!
4. Sacramento Kings Have: George Hill
I like George Hill. I think we’ve seen Hill do a lot of good in his time with the Spurs, Pacers, and Jazz before coming to Sacramento this year and I think he provides a solid presence on the court. But with how unimpressive Hill has been to start this season with the dismal Kings in the first year of a three-year deal, I have to think he’s going to be on the trade block soon.
One of three things is going to happen: the Kings will keep Hill into next season with hopes his value will rise; they’ll trade him this season after Dec. 15, or they’ll trade him over the summer. For both parties, I think trading him in the coming months might make the most sense, especially if the Kings can acquire…
3. Should Get: Marcus Smart
The good news for Marcus Smart is that he hasn’t been traded from the Boston Celtics yet. The bad news? With free agency looming and the Celtics currently having their point guard of the future in Kyrie Irving, Smart could be on the way out either through trade or of his own voluntarily leave.
If Smart does wind up going someplace new, Sacramento wouldn’t be an awful fit, especially with Smart still only 23 years old (he turns 24 in March) and the Kings hoping to build a new young core. The Kings already have Buddy Hield, De’Aaron Fox, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere, Josh Jackson, and the injured Harry Giles among their 25 or younger players, so why not add Smart to the mix as your starting point guard?
2. Cleveland Cavaliers Have: Derrick Rose
When Cavaliers guard Isaiah Thomas comes back from his hip injury, the days of Derrick Rose floating up bricks and turning the ball over will hopefully cease to exist for LeBron James and friends. We don’t fault Cleveland for taking a chance on Rose, but what we’ve seen this season confirms what we already knew: Rose is never going to be the same player he was after his knee injuries and is going to be broadcasting games soon.
At this point in Rose’s career, it’s hard to really see him having a future beyond a veteran presence, but what we know about his time in Chicago and Cleveland tells us that’s not an ideal role. If you’re someone hoping Derrick Rose will ever be the same, even as a backup, it might be too late.
1. Should Get: Jeremy Lin
Right now, Lin could potentially be a free agent because he has a player option for next season, although the veteran point guard would be silly not to accept the $12 million Brooklyn would owe him. Lin has missed nearly all of this season following a gruesome knee injury and has played only 37 games in the past two seasons, but would the Cavaliers take a chance on him as a reserve point guard?
While the Cavaliers are going to likely need to re-sign Isaiah Thomas through free agency, Cleveland will have Channing Frye’s $7.4 million contract come of the books and several veterans making the minimum become free agents. At only $12 million, a healthy Lin would be a steal, but will he stay on the court?
Which of these teams do you think most needs a new point guard? Let us know in the comment section below!
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