Ranking the Top 10 Shooting Guards in 2022 NBA Free AgencyApril 26, 2022
Ranking the Top 10 Shooting Guards in 2022 NBA Free Agency
Even in the midst of the 2022 NBA playoffs, teams all over the league are surely laying plans for this summer, when the draft, trades and free agency can dramatically alter the landscape.
It's that last avenue for team building that will be the subject here. Despite the fact that there is very little cap space available this summer, you can be sure plenty of players will switch teams, thanks to exceptions and sign-and-trades.
Over the next several days, Bleacher Report will break down the top 10 available free agents at each position.
In today's positionless era, those distinctions can be difficult. And while it helps to consult sources like Cleaning the Glass or Basketball Reference, some judgment calls had to be made.
For example, James Harden is listed as a shooting guard by Basketball Reference, but Cleaning the Glass has him exclusively at the 1. Because of his playmaking duties, we'll defer to Cleaning the Glass there (which is why you won't see Harden in this slideshow). The same distinction was made for Anfernee Simons.
As for who qualified for the top 10 in terms of ability, that was even more subjective. Past performance and projection models can help, but there's no way to perfectly predict the future.
So, with all of that in mind, let's move on to the shooting guards.
Top 10 point guards can be found here.
10. Hamidou Diallo (Team Option)
Three-point shooting (or lack thereof) is a problem for Hamidou Diallo. And he's never really developed as a creator for teammates, but he scores well inside and is just 23 years old.
This season, Diallo averaged 11.7 points per 75 possessions in the paint, a mark that was tied for 51st in the league.
9. Victor Oladipo
Going forward, there will always be concerns about Victor Oladipo's health. Over the last four years, he's averaged just 24 appearances per season. And he'll turn 30 in May. The list of players who dealt with this volume of injuries and suddenly turned into an iron man in their 30s is short.
But the Miami Heat's regular-season finale offered a glimpse of what Oladipo might still be able to provide. Granted, the huge performance came in a loss to the lottery-bound Orlando Magic, but Oladipo went for 40 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and two steals.
8. Luguentz Dort (Team Option)
Luguentz Dort has yet to have a season where he finished anywhere near league-average scoring efficiency, but an undrafted player averaging 17.2 points by his third season is unusual. And offense isn't even his main selling point.
Dort is a 6'3" bulldog on defense who can legitimately guard three to four different positions. When you look at the players he spent the most time on this season (Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Devin Booker, Donovan Mitchell and Luka Doncic make up the top five), the sizes and skill types paint a picture of one of the game's more versatile perimeter defenders.
7. Patty Mills (Player Option)
His shot seemed to abandon him after the All-Star break (when he shot 33.3 percent from the field and 33.1 percent from three), but Patty Mills is still one of the NBA's better off-ball movers and catch-and-shoot threats.
Over the course of the entire season, he made 184 catch-and-shoot threes (second behind Malik Beasley) and had a 63.2 effective field-goal percentage on catch-and-shoot attempts (17th among players with at least 100 catch-and-shoot three-point attempts).
6. Gary Harris
It took him a while to get going, but Gary Harris started to look like the Denver Nuggets version of himself by the end of the season.
Over his last 47 appearances, Harris averaged 12.8 points and 2.3 threes while shooting 40.6 percent from three. Estimated plus-minus also pegged him as an above-average defender in 2021-22.
Teams are seemingly always in the market for three-and-D wings, and Harris will surely draw attention as one.
5. Malik Monk
It took him a few years to find his NBA groove, but Malik Monk is starting to play like a starting-level shooting guard who can do more than just space the floor (though that might still be his most marketable skill).
Over the last two seasons, Monk has averaged 18.4 points, 3.7 assists and 3.1 threes per 75 possessions while shooting 39.4 percent from three (there are only seven other players who match or exceed all four marks over the same span).
What may be most intriguing from that stat line are the assists. Volume three-point shooting is helpful in most contexts, but when you can get a little playmaking from the same player who's hoisting from distance, offense becomes far less predictable.
In 2021-22, Monk handed out an assist on 13.9 percent of his drives. That number is a significant improvement on the 9.6 percent he posted last season and the 7.0 percent he put up the year before that.
Monk probably isn't going to become a wing playmaker like Jimmy Butler any time soon, but his development on that front is worth paying attention to. It should also make him a more valuable target this summer.
4. Gary Payton II
Gary Payton II's three-point shooting cooled significantly over the course of the season. Before the calendar flipped to 2022, he shot 42.1 percent from deep. Afterward, that number was 30.2.
Even if his long-term effectiveness from deep falls near the halfway point between those two marks, Payton can be one of the game's more effective three-and-D wings during the life of his next contract.
He defends multiple positions and does so with a tenacity few can match. When he does get beat off the bounce or with a cut, he recovers well. And he knows when to attack passing lanes.
He was third in the league in deflections per 36 minutes this season (barely behind Matisse Thybulle and Paul Reed), second in steal percentage and fourth among players his height (6'3") or shorter in defensive rebounding percentage.
All of that equated to a real, measurable defensive impact on the Golden State Warriors, who allowed 2.2 fewer points per 100 possessions when Payton was on the floor.
3. Collin Sexton (Restricted)
Advanced numbers still don't love Collin Sexton. And his departure from the rotation with an injury this season coincided with a rise from both Darius Garland and the Cleveland Cavaliers, but there's something enticing about his raw scoring ability.
Sexton averaged 24.3 points in 2020-21, the 25th highest mark ever for a player in his age-22 season. Add a qualifier for his 4.4 assists, and he climbs to 11th.
Of course, those numbers went up on the back of a below-average effective field-goal percentage, and Cleveland was still worse when he was on the floor, but those things might be flipped (or at least mitigated) with Sexton in the right role.
To this point in his career, Sexton has been cast as a lead ball-handler. But his penchant for creating his own scoring opportunities over creating for others lends itself to heat-check minutes off the bench.
Sexton could feast against second units and wouldn't be as easily targeted on defense there.
And of course, at 23 years old, there's no reason to think he'd be consigned to that role for the rest of his career. If he becomes more committed to defense and facilitation, he could become a worthy starting combo guard.
2. Bradley Beal (Player Option)
After averaging over 30 points in each of his two seasons prior to 2021-22, Bradley Beal's numbers took a significant tumble.
Before undergoing season-ending wrist surgery, Beal was posting his lowest scoring average since 2017-18, his lowest field-goal percentage since 2015-16 and the lowest three-point percentage of his career.
Of course, his ailing wrist may have had a lot to do with those drops. And if he'd had a chance to play more than 40 games, he may have rehabbed some of those numbers. But the decline may have been concerning enough to give the Washington Wizards some pause this offseason.
If he declines his $37.3 million player option, he's eligible to sign a five-year, $242 million extension with the Wizards. And while the nature of team-building almost obligates Washington to offer that deal, it'd at least have to consider what that would do to roster flexibility for the next half-decade.
Having said all that, the prospect of letting Beal walk might be even scarier than re-upping. Assuming 2021-22 was a gap year, it's not easy to replace 25-plus points on decent efficiency and five or six assists per game, especially when Washington will be over the salary cap with or without Beal.
1. Zach LaVine
DeMar DeRozan may have gotten most of the Chicago Bulls-centric attention this season, but Zach LaVine has somewhat quietly transformed into one of the league's most efficient high-volume scorers. And his willingness to essentially play second fiddle to DeRozan should help his free-agency prospects.
Since the start of last season, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Joel Embiid are the only players who match or exceed both of LaVine's marks for field-goal attempts per game (18.5) and true shooting percentage (61.9), but he never stirred the pot over DeRozan leapfrogging him in usage during his first season in Chicago.
LaVine could be the primary scoring option on plenty of teams in the NBA, but he's now shown the unselfishness necessary to take on a slightly less glamorous role.
During his next contract, the Bulls (or whoever else might sign him) may not actually ask him to do that, but knowing he'll put the team first is big.