NBA Free Agency: Looking for value in a backup point guard

Mike Ehrmann

Fear the Sword's look at the free agency class continues with a look at point guards available

The Cavaliers are blessed with one of the best young point guards in the game. While there has been plenty of speculation and rumors surrounding Kyrie Irving this season, it appears as though the Cavaliers will be choosing to make him their franchise point guard with a max extension July 1st. With Irving in place and Jarrett Jack signed for the next three seasons (two of which are guaranteed), the Cavaliers are in a pretty stable position at the point. But decisions do still remain at the position and alternatives must always be considered in case the opportunity to move Jack came along.

The first decision the Cavs have in front of them is what to do with restricted free agent Matthew Dellavedova. "Delly" surprised many this season by becoming a productive member of the roster after an underwhelming stint with the team in summer league. It seems fitting that in a season where nothing went according to plan, an undrafted point guard would end up carving a significant role on the team. But while Delly was a fun story in an otherwise disappointing year, how much of a role will he have moving forward with the team and how does he compare to this years crop of free agents?

Diving into the stats from Dellavedova's rookie season, you can see the paradox that is Delly's effect on a game. None of his numbers jump off the page, but the team played better with him on the court than with him on the bench. The Cavs ORtg with him on the court? 107.3. Off? 103. Their oppositions ORtg when Delly was on the court? 103. With him on the bench? 110.2. While these numbers seem to suggest a significant impact, you can't help but be underwhelmed by his raw numbers. He shot 41.2% from the floor and 36.8% from three for the year, but was plagued by a horrific two month slump in January and February where he posted a 32.73 FG% and 23.33 3PT%. So how much of team's success with him on the floor can be attributed to playing against backups as well as small sample size? Probably a fair amount. But his post all star numbers of 6.2 PPG, 3.9 APG on 42.4 FG% and 36.6 3PT% seem to suggest he can be a contributing member of a rotation. It's fairly safe to say that the list of unknowns surrounding Delly is longer than the one stating what we know for certain. But are there any options in free agency that would cause the Cavs to not retain his services?

Unrestricted Free Agents

Steve Blake

34 yrs old (37.7/ 37.6/ 76.7) 1.9 TPG, Stats.

Blake was at his best this season when he was playing for the Lakers. He had a solid balance to this game averaging 9.5 points and 7.6 assists a game. After the trade to Golden State he was forced to take on a smaller role, but still managed to be effective and even reduced his turnovers per 36 by 1.1 despite playing with a new team and system. Blake is a consummate professional that is a steadying force for whatever team he's on. My philosophy with point guards is similar to running backs in football, you want a change in pace. If your starting point guard is a dynamic, score first guard; then it's best to have a back up that's a stabilizing presence that distributes the ball or vice versa. While Blake would be a pretty solid backup for Kyrie Irving, he deserves more minutes than he would receive as a third string point guard. You can file him under "options if Jarrett Jack gets traded".

Shaun Livingston

28 yrs old (48.3/ 16.7/ 82.7) 1.2 TPG, Stats.

Another candidate for the Jarrett Jack folder. Livingston ended up playing his way into a starting role with Brooklyn after being a backup in Cleveland last season. Deron Williams struggled with injuries throughout the season, but even when he returned Jason Kidd found the team played better with both guards in their starting lineup. Livingston is a tremendous defender that takes care of the ball and has a great feel for where his teammates are. His health issues appear to be behind him and he is finding his place in the league once again. Livingston chose to leave Cleveland last summer and probably has a good chance of retaining his starting role with Brooklyn next season should he chose to return. Smart money is on him staying put.

Beno Udrih

31 yrs old (43.8/ 45.2/ 83.3) 1.1 TPG, Stats.

Udrih is another player cut in the Steve Blake mold. He is a consistent veteran that takes care of the ball, can space the floor and moves the ball fairly well. Udrih averaged only 5.5 minutes a game after he was picked up by the Grizzlies. In terms of third string point guards, he could certainly be considered as a legitimate option.

Kyle Lowry

28 yrs old (42.3/ 38/ 81.3) 2.46 TPG, Stats.

Kyle Lowry is probably going to get around 12 million a year this summer. Unless Chris Grant is walking through that door, we will not be looking to spend a lot of money at a position that's already addressed.

Ramon Sessions

28 yrs old (46.1/ 35.7/ 84.1) 1.96 TPG, Stats.

Our next contestant on "Who wants to be a backup to Kyrie Irving again" is Ramon Sessions. Sessions had a great season with the now extinct Bobcats until he was traded to the Bucks. Sessions was of course the backup to Irving during his rookie season before being traded to the Lakers along with Christian Eyenga for Luke Walton, Jason Kapono and two first round picks that were turned into Tyler Zeller and Sergey Karasev. I think out of appreciation for all that he's done for this team we should let him go and continue to get significant minutes on other teams. When you love something, you need to let it go.

Kirk Hinrich

33 yrs old (39.3/ 35.1/ 76) 1.6 TPG, Stats.

Hinrich has been around for a long time and had a very productive career. Injuries paired with a decline in ability to shoot and defend all have contributed to a decline in value around the league. While he no longer is the player he used to be, he still reportedly is looking for a decent sized payday. It would probably not be in the best interest of the Cavs to offer a contract to this combo guard on the decline.

Patty Mills

25 yrs old (46.4/ 42.5/ 89) 0.78 TPG, Stats.

Mills is enjoying a breakout season for the Spurs and has contributed throughout their playoff run. Mills is an electrifying scorer with terrific range. Players like Mills usually would kill to be in a situation like the one he is currently in with San Antonio or decide that they are bigger than their role and take bigger money on a bottom feeder. The Cavs would not be able to lure Mills away with the promise of contending, so they would need to do it via overpaying. While Mills would be a terrific addition, we already have one overpaid backup point guard currently on the roster.

Other UFA's

D.J. Augustin, Jerryd Bayless, Aaron Brooks, Mario Chalmers, Toney Douglas, Devin Harris, Jordan Farmar, Derek Fisher, Jannero Pargo, Rodney Stuckey, Earl Watson.

Restricted Free Agents

Brian Roberts

28 yrs old (41.7/ 38.6/ 90.9) 0.91 TPG, Stats. Birthplace: Toledo, Ohio.

Brian Roberts finally broke through into the NBA after going undrafted in the 2008 draft. Roberts showed that he is a more than capable ball handler with a very solid jump shot. While the Pelicans would likely wish to bring him back, money could be a factor as he will likely be offered more than his $1.1M qualifying offer. If Roberts can maintain or build upon this level of play he will be a luxury for a team at the backup point guard position. If it wasn't for the presence of Jarrett Jack, Roberts would be a very logical target for the Cavs. Considering the qualifying offer for Dellavedova is sitting at 816k, it is possible that the upgrade in play may be worth the extra million or so it would cost to sign him.

Eric Bledsoe

24 yrs old (47.7/ 35.7/ 77.2)  3.6 TPG, Stats.

I'll start with the obvious, Eric Bledsoe is not a backup point guard. Bledsoe blossomed into the player Phoenix were hoping for when they traded for him this season despite missing a prolonged stretch due to injury. Bledsoe has shown that he can play and excel as a combo guard next to Goran Dragic. While Bledsoe would be a hell of an addition to the Cavs, odds are that he would come at a steep price and the Suns would match virtually any offer he received.

Greivis Vasquez

27 yrs old (42.1/ 37.7/ 88) 1.62 TPG, Stats.

I was honestly fairly surprised to see Vasquez's numbers this high after watching him all season. Vasquez can be an absolutely maddening player to watch, but overall is a very productive player that teammates seem to love being around. When Vasquez misses, he really misses. The shots look ugly, he is a very slow player by NBA standards but he still finds a way to be effective. Toronto was very successful when running a two point guard lineups with Lowry and Vasquez. Vasquez has stated that he would like to remain in Toronto for the remainder of his career, so it's hard to imagine him exploring other teams unless Toronto decides they aren't going to submit an offer for him.

Isaiah Thomas

25 yrs old, (45.3/ 34.9/ 85) 2.96, Stats.

I'm not sure why the Cavs are extending Kyrie Irving when they could duplicate his production with Isaiah Thomas for less money. In all seriousness though, Isaiah Thomas has been a very effective offensive player for the Sacramento Kings and a more than pleasant surprise as the final pick in the 2011 draft. However, it appears the Kings are exploring alternative options at the point guard position instead of paying Thomas what he would get on the market. While Thomas is talented, he can be disruptive and would be an incredibly redundant player for the Cavs to pursue given their current roster. If the Kings truly are letting him walk, he and Kyle Lowry will likely be at the top of many GM's lists for free agent point guards.

Other RFA's

Darren Collison, Shelvin Mack, Toure' Murry

Players with a player option:

Nate Robinson

30 yrs old, (42.8/ 37.7/ 83.5), 1.3 TPG, Stats.

Pint sized scorer and a tremendous athlete. While Robinson can be a bit of a headcase at times and is capable of swinging the game for any team. He could be a very attractive player for a team that is looking for instant offense off the bench. That being said, Robinson's season came to an abrupt halt after he required season ending knee surgery after falling awkwardly. It's unlikely that Robinson will opt out of the 2.1 million that he is owed next season as he will probably want to show that he can still play again and push for one last contract above the veteran minimum. If he were to opt out, I can't see the Cavaliers having much interest him. Especially when you take into consideration how dependent his production is on his athleticism.

Mo Williams

31 yrs old, (41.7/ 36.9/ 87.6), 2.0 TPG, Stats.

Pros:

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Cons:

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I'm not shy about being a Mo Williams fan. His play did decline this season in Portland, but he still did manage to have a positive impact off the bench. If Williams were to opt out and was available for a reasonable price I would be all for bringing him in to provide some scoring and leadership off the bench.

After looking at the existing pool of free agents, it's easy to talk yourself into retaining the services of Dellavedova in a third string role. Unless you're able to acquire a player like Brian Roberts without paying too much, you're probably better off waiting and seeing if Delly can build off his surprising rookie season. He hasn't yet shown that he's good enough to be a full time backup. But his energy and tenacity proved to be contagious several times throughout a year. When you have a team that sometimes appears to be missing a pulse, it's tough to overstate the value of having guys like Dellavedova, Varejao and Thompson that seem to have a motor that never stops. The other advantage to retaining Dellavedova is that he is capable of being effective playing off the ball. This is an important trait when you play next to Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and/ or Jarrett Jack.

Regarding Jack, it's clear that if the Cavs were presented with the opportunity to move him there are plenty of good options available to replace him. However, it wouldn't be the end of the world if Jack were to be on the roster again heading into next season. Jack struggled with nagging injuries throughout the season and while he can be maddening at times, overall he usually ends up doing more good than harm on most nights. The sense I have gotten from watching Jack over the years is that he's the kind of guy that will stay in line when a team is winning, but if he is in a bad situation and the team is losing... well, then he can take matters into his own hands a little to frequently.

David Griffin has a lot of decisions to make when it comes to the roster construction for next season. Even at point guard, the teams strongest position, there are many directions the team could go when deciding who will back up Kyrie Irving.

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