NBA’s high free-agent taking pictures guards in 2022: James Harden, Bradley Beal, Zach LaVine and extra

Hollinger’s Free-Agent rankings and projections:
Top 25 free agents by BORD$ projections
Top point guards by BORD$ projections

At least in theory, it’s a stellar NBA shooting-guard market when free agency begins. Three max-caliber All-Stars headline the offerings at this position, although that excitement might fade quickly with the reality that all three players seem overwhelmingly likely to return to their current teams. Beyond that, however, this is a deep market as well. Teams in search of quality depth in particular should have some good shopping here.

We’ve already broken down the top 25 overall free agents in this summer’s market. Now it’s time to dig deeper. We’ve been going through the positions this week and continue with the shooting-guard market today.

To evaluate these players, I’m doing what I’ve done the past two offseasons: Using my BORD$ valuations to help develop an idea of what these players are worth. While this method has some limitations — it’s a value for the coming season only, for instance, and factors like health, attitude and fit aren’t taken into account — it provides a 10,000-foot view of the marketplace and what valuations might make sense on player contracts for the coming season.

Keep in mind that I’m listing possible free agents here. For instance, Lu Dort is certain to have his option picked up 2022-23 and thus was omitted from this list. I’ve also declined to list partially guaranteed or non-guaranteed players who are highly unlikely to be waived (John Konchar). Other players who fall under this category and aren’t listed below include Hamidou Diallo, Austin Reaves, Frank Ntilikina, Jaylen Nowell and Armoni Brooks.

Tier 1: The Max Guys

1. James Harden, Philadelphia (player option): $46,617,283

Harden has a player option for $47.4 million next season, and despite his losing a step and not being the MVP-caliber force he was in Houston, the numbers suggest he’d still likely produce roughly enough to justify the money. If he opts out, he can re-sign a new deal starting at a maximum of $46.5 million.

However, things get tricky when we look into the future. Harden turns 33 in August and maxing out for the full five years that he’s eligible seems nuts (that would be a $270 million payout). One wonders how much the Sixers would be willing to commit to Harden and for how many years.

As with his former teammate Kyrie Irving, there also is a limited market for Harden outside his current team. He might be tempted to just opt in for this season and try again for a big payday next summer when there are far more potential teams as landing sites. Alternatively, signing a longer deal at less than max money would go a long way toward smoothing out Philly’s luxury tax concerns.

2. Bradley Beal, Washington (player option): $38,520,130

Beal doesn’t tip the max-contract scales quite as heavily as a couple of other free agents this year, and if he opts out and signs a five-year max, it will be a whopper: a $42.7 million starting salary and a total of $242 million for a half-decade. While teams have been watching the nation’s capital for smoke signals of Beal’s displeasure, everything has long seemed on track for him to take the bag and stay in D.C.

Beal turns 29 in June, so in terms of age we’re not in the danger zone, but the tail end of a five-year deal could still turn south on the Wizards; they just saw this movie with John Wall, too. As a result, one wonders if they could retain Beal with only a partially guaranteed fifth year or some other concession, which would still leave Washington ahead of the four years and $179 million that any other team can offer.

3. Zach LaVine, Chicago: $31,716,188

LaVine played the second half of last season on one leg before his May left knee surgery. And as a result, this valuation likely came in a bit lower than expected. On the other hand, the knee issue is something every team will want to do their due diligence on; he tore the ACL in the same knee in 2017.

LaVine is eligible for a five-year, $212 million deal from the Bulls that starts at $36.6 million for this coming season, which isn’t too far off his BORD$ value. At age 27, a new contract would theoretically cover his prime years as well … provided the knee isn’t an issue. As with Beal above, one wonders if the Bulls can whittle away some at the fifth-year guarantee, knowing that their final offer would still top any other, but it’s a tricky game to play since teams like San Antonio or Detroit could have the ability to ink him to a four-year, $164 million deal.

Tier II: More than midlevel, less than max

4. Malik Monk, Lakers: $16,511,722 

Surprised? Don’t be. Monk is one of the few entries on the brief list entitled “things the Lakers did right in the summer of 2021.” A year later he is one of the rare free agents who is both young (24) and unrestricted. He also comes off consecutive years where he shot 40.1 percent and 39.1 percent from beyond the 3-point arc. And last season, he was far more efficient inside the arc (56.8 percent on 2s) than he’d ever been before.

But is this BORD$ valuation influenced too heavily by Monk’s sterling on-off differential for the Lakers last season? Monk is undersized for a two, can’t play point and, although he improved last season, he still struggles on defense. All of that is perhaps a reason to keep a midlevel exception lid on his free-agent offers. But in a league increasingly tilted toward offense, he’s one of the real sleepers in free agency, especially since there may be further scoring upside to tap.

5. Donte DiVincenzo, Sacramento, (restricted): $15,551,549

DiVincenzo is a good bet to get paid something close to what he’s worth given the sunk cost involved in the Kings’ trading for him in the first place, and the fact Sacramento has full Bird rights to go over the midlevel exception.

As a 25-year-old guard who may be able to ramp up his usage on a lesser team than the Bucks (where he played until his midseason trade in 2022), he seems like a good upside play if he can just straighten out his shooting a bit. The only potential fly in the ointment would be if the Kings take Jaden Ivey in with the fourth pick in the draft, crowding the backcourt and potentially pushing DiVincenzo to the side.

6. Danny Green, Philadelphia: $15,490,585

BORD$ doesn’t know Green is injured and unlikely to be signed at any price until at least later in the season. Green has a non-guaranteed deal for $10 million and almost certainly will be waived by the Sixers after tearing his ACL in the playoffs. He’s likely to miss most or all of the coming season, so I would not expect much of a push to sign him in free agency.

Tier III: Midlevel exception guys

Charlotte’s Cody Martin. (Troy Wayrynen / USA Today)

7. Cody Martin, Charlotte, (restricted): $12,366,850

Martin is another oddball who is unlikely to get paid as much as BORD$ thinks he’s worth because of questions about his offense.

But he did a lot to answer those questions in 2021-22, hitting 38.4 percent of his 3s (albeit on low volume) while continuing to be one of the Hornets’ best (only?) defenders. He excels in transition, and while you wouldn’t call him a true 3-and-D player given the low shot volume, he’s not that far away from getting there.

Charlotte has luxury tax concerns that could leave it vulnerable to a rival bid for Martin, especially if the Hornets also pay Miles Bridges and guarantee Kelly Oubre’s deal. However, I don’t see Martin’s price getting above the midlevel exception, and it could end up considerably less if teams don’t believe the shooting numbers from last season.

8. Pat Connaughton, Milwaukee (player option): $11,408,836 

Connaughton is likely a fairly straightforward case, as he is all but certain to opt out of his final year at $5.7 million and re-sign for something in this price range. The Bucks will have full Bird rights and so should be able to keep him if they’re interested (and can stomach the luxury tax hit for him and Bobby Portis), especially since rival bids are unlikely to exceed the non-taxpayer midlevel exception.

9. Collin Sexton, Cleveland (restricted): $10,816,788

Welcome to the most interesting free-agent conversation of the summer. Sexton is a restricted free agent in Cleveland and is young enough (23) to be of great interest to the rebuilding teams that have cap room. He also is a proven scorer (20.0 points a game) and a 37.8 percent 3-point shooter for his career.

And yet … Sexton’s valuation here barely pops above the midlevel exception because of his other, glaring weaknesses. Offensively, his scoring exploits haven’t translated into outsized team results because of his fairly severe limitations as a passer. Also, while he scores at a high rate, the accompanying career true shooting percentage of 55.0 is unremarkable. Defensively, he’s just not very good. Most advanced analytics register him as among the league’s worst, not quite on par with Anfernee Simons or Trae Young but not too far away either.

It seems like Sexton would be an ideal sixth man in a Jamal Crawford/Jordan Clarkson type of role and a case can be made for paying him in the low- to mid-teens. But that would be a step back from the current perception of what he is. I’m fascinated to see where this ends up.

10. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Wizards (non-guaranteed): $8,995,329

Caldwell-Pope is set to make $14 million in Washington next season but only $4.8 million of that is guaranteed. It’s a tough call in terms of valuation: Based on the BORD$ value, Washington would be a $1 million further underwater keeping him rather than cutting him.

However, roster realities might dictate that Washington keeps him. The Wizards are likely to land short of the luxury-tax line either way, even with a max deal for Beal and a full midlevel deal for one other player, and can potentially use Caldwell-Pope’s expiring deal in a trade later in the season. If I had to handicap it, I’d say it’s 40-60 against him becoming a free agent.

11. Caleb Martin, Heat (restricted): $8,867,433

In addition to providing a jolt of transition energy and taking charges by the bushel, Martin also rather unexpectedly hit 41.4 percent of his 3s last season, turning into one of the league’s most valuable two-way acquisitions. Miami won’t have Bird rights on him this summer, so although the Heat have his restricted free-agent rights, they will have to use their midlevel exception to match an offer sheet. That could lead to some healthy offer sheets at or near the full non-taxpayer midlevel exception for the 26-year-old. One of the offseason’s more entertaining subplots will be which Martin twin gets paid more.

Tier IV: More than minimum, less than midlevel

12. Damion Lee, Warriors: $5,999,073

Lee has been a perfectly decent backup shooting guard the last three seasons but seems to have fallen out of favor in Golden State, especially with the recent drafting of Moody. Retaining him at anything above the minimum also would appear prohibitively expensive, regardless of who his brother-in-law might be.

All of this leaves an opportunity for another team to snap up a 29-year-old wing, who plays competent defense and knocks down open 3s, with the taxpayer, room or biannual exception.

13. Amir Coffey, Clippers (restricted): $5,171,704

Amir Coffey to you, maybe, but life-altering sustenance for me. (Yes, I will continue making these jokes until I die).

Coffey played his way out of a two-way contract in L.A. and may be worth more than the minimum on his next contract. He’s a 38.0 percent career 3-point shooter, plays solid defense, has good size (6 foot 7) and handles the ball well enough to play point guard in an emergency. He’s also only 25 years old as of this summer, which means he might still progress. If anything, this BORD$ value may be too low.

14. Bryn Forbes, Denver: $4,954,857

Forbes cost the Nuggets two second-round picks and then hardly played when he got to Denver. His lack of size combined with his inability to play point guard means that he requires a specific set of circumstances in which to thrive. Nonetheless, pairing him with a big backup point guard could allow him to let it rip from distance. He’s a 41.0 percent career 3-point shooter on a lot of volume (more than 11.0 3-point attempts per 100 possession for four straight seasons).

15. Jeremy Lamb, Sacramento: $4,933,281

Lamb can still score and punches above his weight as a rebounder, but his struggles on the defensive end and inability to space the floor well for others (34.2 percent career from 3) blunt the impact of his on-ball creation skill. At 30, he’s lost a step from his Charlotte prime, but he’d be a good get on a veteran minimum deal.

16. Josh Okogie, Minnesota (restricted): $4,911,151

One of the more bizarre things about watching Minnesota’s pre-game workouts was seeing Okogie at the 3-point line knocking down shot after shot. For whatever reason, it has just never translated to games because he’s a 27.5 percent career 3-point shooter. Combined with his lack of size for a wing and iffy decision-making off the dribble, it’s left him to be reliant on defense and his transition game to stake his career.

But Okogie is a legitimately good defender and will barely be 24 when training camp opens. If he can straighten out his shot when the lights come on, there’s still a possible 3-and-D player hiding in here somewhere.

17. Gary Harris, Orlando: $4,683,690

It only seems like he’s 52 years old. He’s 27 and is coming off a year where he shot 38.4 percent from 3. Harris has lost some athleticism since his Nuggets heyday, but he still defends competently and can leak out for the occasional transition basket. While he’s a bit undersized for a wing and not a threat to create off the dribble, the idea of him as a poor man’s Danny Green will likely increase his market to a much higher price than the BORD$ estimate listed here.

18. P.J. Dozier, Magic: $3,788,174

Dozier was injured for most of last season — not to mention most of the seasons before that too — but he’s a rotation-caliber wing in his rare bouts of health. Despite his iffy shooting (31.9 percent career from 3), Dozier has value thanks to his defense, plus ballhandling and transition finishing. The Magic will have early Bird rights on him and could easily slot him into the minutes played last season by Gary Harris. The 25-year-old is the right age for Orlando too, as the rebuilding Magic look to take a step forward this season.

19. Frank Jackson, Detroit (team option): $3,143,013

The Pistons have an option to pay Jackson $3.15 million for the coming season, an almost to-the-dollar match for his BORD$ value. It feels like a 50-50 proposition on Detroit picking it up, depending on whether the Pistons would rather have the additional cap room or if they’d prefer to have his contract as a potential trade piece.

They almost might choose to have him play basketball, of course, something he did well in stretches last season. The problem was the streakiness of his 3-point shot, which slumped to 30.8 percent. He is an undersized wing with little on-ball shot-creation juice so he has to be a knockdown shooter to have real value. He’s entering his fifth season but is still only 24, so time remains on his side.

Miami’s Victor Oladipo. (Paul Rutherford / USA Today)

20. Victor Oladipo, Miami: $3,123,828

I would say this is very, very much on the low end for Oladipo. He has only played 12 regular-season games over the past two years, but his playoff performances for Miami this spring probably got some teams’ attention. His shooting remains streaky and he’s too dependent on pull-up jumpers, but his defense was notable enough that an offer in the midlevel exception range no longer seems bold. The Heat have full Bird rights on Oladipo, even though he was on a one-year minimum deal, and that could open up some sign-and-trade possibilities if he doesn’t stay in Miami.

21. Tomas Satoransky, Washington: $2,823,544

Satoransky was bad in New Orleans last season, but he played much better in 22 late-season games for the Wizards that hardly anybody watched. The combination of that and his long-term history suggests that he might be able to bounce back at age 30 and provide a viable veteran combo guard at the back end of the rotation.

22. Davon Reed, Nuggets (restricted): $2,226,845

Denver not signing Reed onto the roster for the playoffs remains one of last season’s more baffling moves; he had taken over a rotation spot even though he was on a two-way deal.

While Reed may not replicate his 43.0 percent 3-point shooting and 62.2 percent true shooting from last season, his combination of solid defense, legit wing size and respectable shooting should make him a desirable Plan B or C for teams that miss on their primary wing targets. Denver can make him a restricted free agent, but the Nuggets’ luxury-tax situation could make them reluctant to match even mildly significant offer sheets.

23. Lonnie Walker, Spurs (restricted): $2,186,315

Walker has a qualifying offer for $6.3 million, and I suppose there’s a chance the Spurs offer it, given their commitment to playing Walker the past two years despite his only sporadic on-court contributions. A highlight-reel finisher in transition, Walker has never converted his athletic assets into consistent production at either end, and after four years, one can question if he ever will. But he’s still only 23, so somebody will probably take the shot.

Tier V: Minimums

24. Tony Snell, Pelicans

A theoretical 3-and-D guy with a comically low usage rate (10.1 percent) for a guard, Snell is a 39.3 percent career 3-point shooter but averaged just 10.1 field-goal attempts per 100 possessions. Snell’s increasingly invisible box score lines make it tough to envision him as more than a fifth wing in a rotation, but he might fit in as a role player around lineups with multiple high-usage performers.

25. Austin Rivers, Nuggets

The Nuggets were far too enamored of Rivers’ defense, playing him a whopping 1,480 minutes despite his anemic offense, and making him a key piece of the rotation in two straight postseasons. A gunner earlier in his career, he’s quietly slid to Snellian depths production-wise, averaging just 13.4 points per 100 possessions despite playing with the greatest passer on the planet. And Rivers isn’t even converting a high percentage of the shots he takes. He had four different games last season where he played at least 15 minutes and finished with zero points and zero assists.

26. Gabriel Lundberg, Suns

A Danish combo guard with some scoring chops, Lundberg was signed away from CSKA Moscow at midseason on a 2-way once the Russian teams became radioactive. Lundberg likely can make more money in Europe than on an NBA minimum deal, but with the 27-year-old Lundberg having proved everything he can overseas, he might prefer to stay stateside. He’d be a good value option to fill out a team’s backcourt, especially a rebuilding side that could use some scoring.

27. Avery Bradley, Lakers

Bradley started 45 games last season for the Lakers for his on-ball defense, but offensively he’s difficult to keep on the court. Bradley remains a decent 3-point threat, but he had more than turnovers for every assist last season and hasn’t had a player efficiency rating above nine in a half-decade. He’ll likely stick somewhere though.

28. Skylar Mays, Hawks (restricted)

A late second-round pick in 2020, Mays is neither a high-wire athlete nor a knockdown shooter but is crafty enough to stick around for a while as a fifth wing who won’t hurt you and could still have some upside to be a tad more than that. It’s problematic that he couldn’t get chances ahead of Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot, and perhaps that’s indicative of his limitations, but I’d at least want to look at him for another season. The Hawks would have to offer him a one-year guarantee for $2.01 million to retain his restricted free-agent rights.

29. Ben McLemore, Blazers

McLemore was supposed to be veteran bench support for the Blazers, which hoped to contend but instead spent the second half of the season watching 20-year-olds running around doing whatever. He’s a career 36.2 percent 3-point shooter who has jacked up his volume in recent seasons (15.9 attempts per 100 in 2021-22) but should latch on somewhere as a fifth guard.

20. Wayne Ellington, Lakers

The 34-year-old Ellington didn’t have quite as much left in the tank as the Lakers hoped, as his usage rate shriveled and he stopped attempting 2-point shots (he only took 26 in 43 games). Wherever he ends up, he’ll likely have to fight for minutes as a bench sniper.

31. Jay Scrubb, Clippers (restricted)

Scrubb is worth a look because he’ll only be 22 in September, and he has size and some shooting ability. However, as a late second-round pick in 2020 who put up meh numbers in the G League, he needs to start showing more progress. Because he was on a two-way deal, the Clips can retain him by offering another two-way contract as a qualifying offer.

32. Matt Thomas, Bulls

Thomas is a crazy good shooter (40.4 percent from 3 in three NBA seasons and even better in Europe) but one whose other limitations have made it difficult to keep him on the court. At this point, one suspects he might be more valuable to a team in Spain than he is in the NBA.

33. Michael Carter-Williams, Magic

Carter-Williams was good in 2019-20 but struggled in 31 games the next season and then disappeared into the witness protection program after offseason ankle injury; he didn’t play a single game in 2021-22. He turns 31 this fall and it’s possible he’s played his last game, but if the ankle holds up he could provide second-unit ballhandling and defense.

(Top photo of James Harden: Bill Streicher / USA Today)