If the Wizards want to win playoff games this season, they'll need a better backup than A.J. Price.
When researching an article on the Wizards' 2014 playoff hopes, I came across an interesting stat, courtesy of SportingCharts.com: In the 1,602 minutes John Wall was on the floor last season for the Wizards, their point differential was plus-44. In the 2,369 minutes when someone else manned the point, their point differential was minus-252.
To be fair, some of that will be helped by John Wall not sitting out large portions of the season due to injury. But the rest of it needs to be helped by the Wizards getting themselves a halfway decent backup point guard.
The Wizards' next backup shouldn't be another youngster like Bradley Beal (his plus/minus is gosh-awful when you move him from 2-guard down to the point) or A.J. Price. No, what the Wizards need is a veteran point guard who can mentor not only Wall and Beal but also incoming draft picks Otto Porter Jr. and Glen Rice Jr.
Here are five men who could be that man.
Salary in 2012-13: $11,046,591
The Spanish national team has two point guards. One is the over-hyped Ricky Rubio. The other is a man who’s finished in the top five in assists per game in four of the last seasons and first or second in assist-to-turnover ratio in each of the last three.
Yes, Calderon made over $11 million in 2013, which is well out of the Wizards’ price range, but it’s likely that this season his salary corrects more into a two- or three-year contract, valued between $5 and $12 million. If it goes much higher, it’s pretty likely Calderon plays ball next season in a city that isn’t Washington.
Besides the price tag, there are two other drawbacks to Calderon. One is his lack of playoff experience; Calderon has played just 266 career playoff minutes, starting just one playoff game. The other is that Calderon doesn’t take a lot of shots. Though he has a career 57.6 percent true-shooting percentage (65.4 percent with Detroit), he averages a paltry eight shots per game.
Salary in 2012-13: DNP
Only a few years removed from max contracts with the Hornets, Warriors and Clippers, Davis signed with the Knicks in 2011-12. He missed all of last season with torn ligaments. The downside to Davis is that that type of injury is one that often leaves players permanently incapacitated. Because of his injury and the fact that he was forced to sit out for a season, Davis could likely be had with a one-year deal of $1 million or less.
The upside is that Davis has a wealth of experience at the point. He's played in two All-Star games and made an All-NBA Third Team. He’s sixth among NBA actives and 22nd among all NBA players in assists per game. Davis has also always been more of a scoring point than a “pure” point: He’s averaged 15 or more points per game in eight of his 13 seasons.
Davis could be a low-risk, high-reward option for the Wiz at the point.
Salary in 2012-13: $261,343
Derek Fisher is very much a veteran: If he plays this season, this will be his 18th. However, those 17 previous seasons include seven trips to the NBA Finals.
Aside from the intangibles, the one stat that Fisher could offer to the Wizards is three-pointers off the bench (Fisher is fourth all time in career playoff three-pointers). A team that was 18th in made threes per game and 28th in total points could use some threes off the bench. Fisher is also a good option because he could likely be signed for around the veteran minimum, a plus for the cash-strapped Wizards.
One final note about Fisher is that he's a family man, meaning he's never played far from his southwestern/west coast-based wife and children. In his 17 seasons, he has yet to suit up for an Eastern Conference squad.
Salary in 2012-13: $1,146,337
The 5'9" journeyman, affectionately known as Krypto-Nate may not be the most productive of the people on this list, but he is certainly the most exciting. Nate has had a player efficiency rating better than 15.0 in six of the last seven seasons, according to Basketball-reference.com.
Look for Nate to command somewhere in the $2-3 million-per-year range (probably in a multiyear contract) as a result of a 2012-13 season where he averaged 13.1 points and 4.4 assists while shooting 40.5 percent from downtown in the absence of Derrick Rose.
Besides the amount to get him, there are some other downsides to Nate: He doesn’t do particularly well in value-added stats, per Basketball-reference.com. He’s only started 104 games in his entire career. In last season’s playoffs with the Bulls, he averaged 2.7 turnovers per game. Of the five men on the list, I’d venture to say that Krypto-Nate may have the least to offer in terms of leadership.
Salary in 2012-13: $1,352,181
For the last decade, Jamaal Tinsley’s been beating around the relative backwaters of Indiana, Memphis, Utah and the D-League. Tinsley has 539 games under his belt, 399 as a starter. Tinsley fits more the mold of a “pure” point guard, with a career average of more than six assists a contest.
But while he may be easily had (probably for a two-year, $2-3 million price tag deal), Tinsley may not be the druid the Wizards are looking for. Much of his career has been marred by injuries: He’s only played in more than 60 games in four of his first 12 seasons.
And with the Wizards looking to bolster their near-cellar scoring numbers, a person who’s averaged only 10.3 points per 48 minutes (and even fewer per actual game) since 2009 may not be the right call.