Top NBA Sharpshooters in Free Agent Market: Low Risk, Solid Reward Acquisitions
An NBA "sharpshooter" has a very precise role in the NBA: shoot and hit three-pointers.
A low risk, high reward acquisition, a top sharpshooter routinely earns about $4 - $6 million a year to meet exacting qualifications:
- Will shoot at least 160 three-pointers a year over a 82 game season (i.e., around two a game)
- Will hit better than 38 percent of three-point attempts.
- Will shoot at least 40 percent overall from the field (the "you must be able to diversify your shooting past three-pointers" clause).
- Will hit at least 80 percent free throws
Some sharpshooters offer a little something extra with their expertise and are therefore more expensive.
Should teams covet these extra skills at two or three million dollars more a year, or go for a more limited skill-set at a lower cost?
Both options are available in the upcoming 2012 free-agent market.
Steve Novak (Unrestricted Free Agent)
2011-12 Team: New York Knicks
2011-12 Resume: 9ppg, 161/ 337 3FG (47 percent, NBA leader) 48 percent FG, 85 percent FT, weak defender.
An under-the-radar sharpshooter for most of his career, Novak blossomed under a Knicks offense that emphasized the three.
His salary was $800,000 in 2011-12. Expect that to increase to $3-$4 million a year for Novak's limited, yet extremely valuable services.
Even at $4 million a year, a Novak acquisition has good, but not great, value. His 47 percent three-point shooting last year was not a fluke. In the 2008-09 season as a LA Clipper, Novak shot 43 percent from the three-point line on 286 attempts.
Novak, however, has had a history of injuries. He has routinely missed more than half a season for most of his NBA career due to various ailments.
The Daily News has reported that the Knicks are likely to win their "Birds Rights" arbitration cases for Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak. Those wins will allow the Knicks to pay Novak his likely market value.
Brandon Rush (Restricted Free Agent)
2011-12 Team: Golden State Warriors
2011-12 Resume: 9.8ppg, 99/219 3FG (45 percent) 50 percent FG, 80 percent FT, an average defender.
Because Rush is a restricted free agent, the Golden State Warriors will be required to make an initial qualifying offer of $4 million to retain his services.
The 26 year-old forward is a solid overall field-goal shooter with routinely good health. Some other team should offer Rush a multi-year contract worth about $5 million a year.
Excellent. For $4 to $5 million a year, Rush will give a team maximum value.
Rush's overall offensive game may have room for upside beyond the "sharpshooter" role, which could make a $5 million per year acquisition of his services a major coup. He should be sought after by many teams on the free-agent market.
Randy Foye (Unrestricted Free Agent)
2011-12 Team: Los Angeles Clippers
2011-12 Resume: 127/329 3FG (39 percent) 40 percent FG, 85 percent FT, impressive three-point shooting (14/32, 43 percent) in this year's playoffs indicates a cold-blooded shooting mentality.
Foye made $4 million last year, and that number should stay more or less the same. His reputation is as solid as it is mundane: He's not afraid to hoist up three-pointers and he can make them at a decent clip.
Also, Foye's health has been consistently sound.
A $4 million a year acquisition of Foye by just about any team is fine. A team would rather have Rush or Novak, but Foye can never be a bad acquisition.
If Foye proves to hit threes consistently in high pressure spots—as he did in last year's playoffs—he could be considered a small steal by a top squad.
Many teams could wind up signing Foye.
Jerryd Bayless (Restricted Free Agent)
2011-12 Team: Toronto Raptors
2011-12 Resume: 44/104 3FG (42 percent) 43 percent FG, 85 percent FT, respectable defender, 3.8 assists per game shows room for overall game to flourish. He has shown, at times, flashes of excellent speed and agility, and he's only 23 years old.
The Toronto Raptors will have to make a qualifying offer of $4.2 million to keep Bayless.
Expect teams to offer about $2 million more per year for the 23-year-old guard, who has shown that in addition to having the potential to be an elite sharpshooter, he can also be a fine all-around NBA player.
A moderate risk for what could be a small loss in value or a huge gain.
Bayless shot an impressive 42 percent from the three over a small sample size of 31 games (he was injured for most of the 2011-12 season).
However, can Bayless become a regular sharpshooter in this league? Does he want to assume this role, or will he ineffectively try to diversify his game?
Still, even if Bayless receives a multi-year contract at $6 million a year, the investment is worth it. If Bayless's game flourishes, he could be a sixth man of the year candidate in the NBA by 2014.
The Raptors should take a gamble on Bayless and promise him a lot of minutes this year.
Ray Allen (Unrestricted Free Agent)
2011-12 Team: Boston Celtics
2011-12 Resume: 106/234 3FG (45 percent) 46 percent FG, 91 percent FT, future Hall of Famer and one of the best pure shooters in NBA history (career 40 percent 3FG, 45 percent FG, 90 percent FT). One time NBA champion (Boston Celtics, 2008).
Allen made $10 million in 2012 on the last year of his contract. Due to his age (36) and health concerns (Allen missed more than 20 games last year including the playoffs), his next contract won't be as impressive.
Allen could make anywhere from $6 to $9 million in 2012 on a two-year deal.
Because Allen is vying to sign up with a championship contender like the Miami Heat, his value will be extremely high. He will only be expected to play 25 minutes a night—likely as a sixth man—and will act strictly as a wing and corner shooter.
Allen's sharp shooting on a contender will be an acute and meaningful contribution.
His "extra" skills—sound defense and veteran leadership—will be worth the extra couple of million he earns over the $4-$6 million range.
On the other hand, Allen's value could be lower if a team desperate for a "star" name decides to overspend $8 to $9 million for his services. Allen simply isn't going to be able to put in 35 minutes of all-around basketball a night; his body won't let him.
Jason Terry (Unrestricted Free Agent)
2011-12 team: Dallas Mavericks
2011-12 Resume: 138/365 3FG (38 percent) 43 percent FG overall, 88 percent free throws. Solid defender. He's one of the best sixth men of his generation and a one-time NBA champion (Dallas Mavericks, 2012).
The 34-year-old Terry earned $10.7 in 2012, the final year of his contract. Terry is an established three-point sharpshooter who can score anywhere on the floor. His salary expectation should be around the $8-$10 million a year.
Even at a late stage in his career, Terry's health is still pristine. Over the last three seasons, he missed a total of just eight games.
Even at 35, Terry seems to have a couple of strong years of sharpshooting and versatile scoring ahead of him. His best value will be off the bench on a contender. The Indiana Pacers—who have a lot of cap room and are in need of an elite bench scorer—could afford Terry's services.
Mo Williams (Player Option)
2011-12 Team: Los Angeles Clippers
2011-12 Resume: 13ppg, 93/236 3-FG (39 percent) 42 percent FG, 90 percent free throws. He's a strong passer and competent defender.
ESPN reports that Williams will not exercise his player option to remain a clipper. He wishes to be a starting point guard on another team instead.
This is probably not a sound financial move for Williams. The point guard position is ultra-competitive in the NBA, and Williams' services are by far more valuable as a sharp shooter from the bench.
If he gets signed, it will probably be at a lesser salary ($7 million).
At $7 million, you love a sixth man like Williams who will hit the threes at a high rate. However, Williams wants to be a starting point guard, which basically means he will be looking to make more than that.
Being a starting point guard means a lot more responsibility for Williams, which will detract from his greater strengths as a role player.
If someone is going to pay Mo Williams that kind of money, expect it to be a mediocre team desperate for an average point guard.