Free Agent Breakdown - Point Guard

By Kevin Pelton
July 27, 2004

David Aldridge does a great job of covering the free-agent market, but for those of you who want to go even deeper -- we're talking Jason Hart deep -- Page 23 offers its annual free agency breakdown, starting a long time ago at center, the day after that at power forward, the day after that at small forward and a slightly less long time ago at shooting guard, and finally concluding today at the point. Two years ago, Page 23 told you Chauncey Billups was a bargain, and last year Page 23 advised GMs to steer clear of Michael Olowokandi and look at players like Brian Skinner and Brad Miller instead.

The Stats

Player          MPG   PPG   TS%  Reb%  Pass  Win%  WARP   Value  Age
Nash           33.5  14.5  .590   4.8 11.36  .590  10.4  $9.193   30
B. Barry       30.6  10.8  .668   6.7  4.42  .610   7.9  $7.591   32
Arroyo         28.3  12.6  .517   5.7  3.56  .535   5.6  $5.736   25
Hudson         17.3   7.5  .492   4.0  1.99  .445   0.5  $2.306   28
Alston         31.5  10.2  .509   5.1  3.02  .515   6.2  $5.908   28
M. James       27.1   9.3  .528   6.2  3.25  .534   6.1  $6.045   29
D. Jones       24.6   7.0  .516   4.8 13.03  .489   3.7  $4.223   28
Fisher         21.6   7.1  .451   4.9  1.32  .459   2.2  $3.092   30
An. Johnson    21.9   6.2  .497   4.8  2.15  .462   2.1  $3.096   30
Ward           17.6   6.0  .528   6.4  3.30  .530   3.4  $4.283   34
Hart           12.5   3.3  .497   6.7  2.10  .475   1.0  $2.680   26
Knight         18.5   4.7  .475   6.1  5.49  .496   2.1  $3.333   28
R. Strickland  19.6   6.3  .482   7.5  5.97  .530   3.2  $4.192   38
Hunter         20.0   3.5  .399   5.9  2.07  .425   0.3  $2.134   33
Av. Johnson    13.8   4.6  .454   2.9  3.30  .433   0.4  $2.217   39
S. Williams    14.4   4.8  .495   4.5  2.84  .481   1.3  $2.831   29
K. Anderson    20.6   6.0  .473   5.3  2.38  .435   0.7  $2.277   34
Dooling        19.6   6.2  .458   4.0  1.31  .403   0.1  $1.702   24
Wilks           5.6   1.9  .606   6.5  1.67  .519   0.4  $2.373   25
M. Williams    13.6   5.0  .433   5.8  0.72  .389  -0.2  $1.667   21
TS% = PTS/(2*(FGA+(.44*FTA)))
Reb% = Player's rebounds/Estimate of available rebounds while he was
on the court
Pass = ((AST/MIN)^2)*(AST/TO)*50
Win% - A player's theoretical winning percentage when added
to a team of four average players
WARP - Wins Above Replacement Player
Value - Ties WARP to salary using the marginal cost of a marginal win
Age - As of 11/1/04

1. Steve Nash, Dallas

There is little question that in terms of 2003-04 performance, Steve Nash is far and away the best free agent point guard on the market. I ranked him as the second-best point guard in the NBA before this season, with only Jason Kidd ahead of him. A year ago, Kidd was a free agent and the same age (30) as Nash as this summer, and he turned down the overtures of several other teams to sign a max deal with New Jersey. A max deal for Nash should have been a no-brainer, right?

Wrong. A year later, with Kidd's knee a serious concern, that deal isn't looking so wonderful. If New Jersey has to trade Kidd after letting Kenyon Martin go, the deal will probably provide more salary relief than it will add talent.

Jeff Angus, who writes a fascinating blog called "Management by Baseball", which seeks to apply lessons from our nation's pastime to business, recently discussed the problems teams composed of old players face.

By way of Rich Lederer's reviews of Bill James' Baseball Abstracts, Angus quotes James as saying, "When you acquire any player over 28, you are getting about 40% of a career -- and that on the downhill slide. You can do that, perhaps, to fill a hole."

I've yet to see or do the definitive study on peak age in the NBA, but all the research I've seen and done seems to suggest that it's around 27, the same as in baseball. As James suggests, when you sign a player older than this, you're getting the wrong half of his career. For a 30-year-old, that means getting even less than 40% of a career, maybe only 1/3 or so. Compounding this problem in basketball is that standard raises are 10% or 12.5% per year (depending on whether a player is re-signed using Bird Rights), while the cap goes up less than this -- an average of 7% over the life of the current CBA. So an old player's share of a team's salary cap keeps increasing, even as his production is falling. That's not a good situation.

(One potential solution to this is not signing guys using the standard increases, but this rarely happens, mostly because teams need to fit players in under the cap. For example, the Phoenix Suns, who signed Nash, wanted to preserve the rest of their cap room to sign Quentin Richardson to an offer sheet. Staying under the luxury tax threshold is another reason not to do this. I'm surprised, however, that we don't see more declining contracts for older players signed using full Bird Rights to contracts under the maximum.)

In general, signing players in their 30s to long-term deals is a risky proposition. In Nash's case, the argument in his favor is that his skills -- accurate shooting, passing -- seem to age better than do more athletic talents like defense and rebounding. On the downside, Nash is rather slight -- 6-3, 195 -- which could work against him as he ages.

To get a better idea of how Nash can be expected to age, I took a look at his five best age-30 comparables using my similarity system -- John Stockton, John Lucas, Terrell Brandon, Brad Davis, and Mark Price. There actually have been very few point guards who have effectively combined high efficiency with great passing as Nash has; subjectively, I like Price the best as a comparison.

Stockton is, of course, Nash's dream comparison, playing outstanding basketball -- at least on the offensive end of the court -- for another decade. Brandon's career was ended by leg injury the following season. Lucas and Davis enjoyed relatively similar conclusions to their careers, playing until 36, but last being productive around 33 or 34. Price was a regular until retiring at 34, but nowhere near as effective in the last years as he was in his prime. Based on these guys and subjective evaluation, it seems unlikely that Nash is still a starter at the end of the six-year contract (last year believed to be at the team's option) he got from the Suns.

In Phoenix's favor is the presence of Leandrinho Barbosa, who was a competent starter as a rookie learning the language at age 21. Signing Nash gives the signal that the Suns weren't completely sold on Barbosa as a pure point guard, but as a backup, he's well above-average, and he could eventually take more and more of Nash's minutes before replacing him.

On the downside, the rest of Phoenix's core players are 21, 23, and 26. Amaré Stoudemire and Joe Johnson are still growing. Why would you add to them a player in an entirely different part of the development cycle? When Stoudemire and Johnson are peaking, Nash is going to be on the decline. It also stuns me to think how much effort the Suns went to replacing Stephon Marbury with Steve Nash. Marbury has his problems, Nash is a better fit for a team with several other scorers, and the move afforded Johnson a chance to step up, but still … if Nash isn't the second-best point guard in the league, Marbury is, and he's also 27. So I'm not entirely sure what to make of all of this.

2. Brent Barry, Seattle

While Barry is no longer with the Sonics, the less commentary I provide here, probably the better. Let me just say you can generally mark me down as agreeing with Eric Neel. If you don't feel you're getting enough of me in this column (and I can't possibly see how that would be the case), here are a couple of articles I wrote about Barry for last season and a two-year-old scouting report I wrote that still does a pretty good job of breaking down what Barry's all about:

  • Barry's Transition Game
  • Barry Makes the Sonics Better
  • Brent Barry Scouting Report

    3. Carlos Arroyo, Utah

    Quick, name all the free agent point guards on the market who a.) started last season and b.) are under 27 and still likely to be improving. This is under Arroyo's name, so he's a given. Then, we have … well, that's it. It's just Arroyo and a bunch of guys in their late 20s or early 30s, amongst potential starters. And, in this summer of insanity, the Jazz got Arroyo back for a reasonable four-year, $16 million deal? Sometimes, this league, it boggles the mind.

    Arroyo posted pretty good numbers in limited minutes two seasons ago, which impressed me so much I didn't rank him amongst my top 20 free agent point guards (which, incidentally, includes a striking number of members of this year's top 20). Good call on Smush Parker! John Hollinger was slightly more positive in Pro Basketball Prospectus, but even he commented that Arroyo was too turnover-prone to be an NBA starter.

    Alas, Arroyo turned out to be a competent starter last season, averaging 12.6 points and 5.0 assists per game. While there are those who will write off his success to the Jazz's system, Arroyo's assist rate was unremarkable. He was better at putting the ball in the hoop, averaging 21.4 points per 48 minutes -- more than Nash -- with league-average 51.7% shooting efficiency.

    Arroyo is already a pretty good offensive player and young enough to improve some more, especially if he can become a greater three-point threat. He's good enough to get by on defense, and should be a starter in this league for many years to come. Utah got a very good buy here.

    4. Troy Hudson, Minnesota

    This ranking assumes that Hudson can return to full health. After a severely sprained right ankle limited him to just 29 games last season, Hudson had surgery in April and recently had a boot removed from the ankle. The injury was a pretty devastating blow to the Timberwolves, as they had to resort to some pretty desperate measures to back up All-Star Sam Cassell. When Cassell was knocked out during the Western Conference Finals, Darrick Martin had his moments, but things were otherwise not pretty. That made Hudson a priority for Minnesota to re-sign, and he and the Timberwolves have reportedly agreed to a deal that has yet to be finalized.

    When healthy, Hudson can be a starting point guard in this league, as he demonstrated during a 2002-03 when he averaged 14.2 points and 5.7 assists per game. The injury kept Hudson from being particularly effective last year, but his 6.0 WARP two seasons ago places him solidly in this tier of starting point guards. I'm more optimistic about Hudson being able to maintain that form than some of the players below him, and he should be able to step in for Cassell in a few years, as the 34-year-old can't defy age forever.

    5. Rafer Alston, Miami

    A year ago, I lamented how Alston was being treated as a streetballer, not an NBA player, as a free agent. I'll grant that "Skip to my Lou" is a mighty fine nickname, as much as Kevin "Skip to my Lou" Pelton has failed to catch on, but that Alston could play was right there in the numbers. I saw Alston as a reserve with breakout potential, and break out Alston did, starting 28 games on a playoff team, averaging over 30 minutes a game and 10.2 points and 4.5 assists. Not bad for the minimum, eh?

    Alston shot 37.1% from downtown and was in the NBA's top ten with 161 makes from three, meaning that he was decently efficient despite a poor 37.6% overall shooting percentage. Scoring more efficiently when he gets to the basket is this year's project. Besides shooting, Alston's other main weakness entering last year was turnovers, and he addressed that as well. Despite playing more than 10 more minutes per game, Alston cut his turnovers by a little more than a quarter per game, allowing him to finish in the league's top ten in assist/turnover ratio.

    According to, Alston also graded out as a pretty strong defender last season. The overall package isn't spectacular like Alston's moves, but he was a pretty competent starting point guard last year. I suggested last summer that Alston might be a late-bloomer because of his limited NBA court time, so I'm pretty optimistic about Alston's ability to maintain this level of play. The six-year deal he got from Toronto to return -- a year after they had little interest in bringing him back, hardly the only time that happened this summer in free agency -- is a little longer than I would have been comfortable handing out but for a very reasonable yearly salary.

    6. Mike James, Detroit

    What does it say that two of my top six free agent point guards this season were free agents a year ago and weren't good enough to crack my top 20? It says player performance is tough to predict, and don't you forget it.

    James was essentially worthless as a backup in Miami, posting True Shooting Percentages of 45.6% and 46.9%, but he's always had a reputation as being able to shoot from the perimeter. Last year, that showed itself, and he hit 106 at a 37.7% clip last season to boost his true shooting percentage to 52.8%. He also did a better job of distributing the basketball, posting a respectable 2.73 assist/turnover ratio. The combination made James an above-average contributor on offense.

    James was in the NBA in Miami because of his defense, and we now have the statistics to demonstrate that he's an asset at that end of the court. In Boston, where he played the vast majority of his minutes, James held opponents to a 13.1 PER. (Editor's Note: PER is John Hollinger's linear-weights rating, which tracks for opponents at the same position as a player while he is on the court. League average is 15.0; lower numbers are better, bigger numbers worse.)

    At 29, James is a bit old to expect him to maintain all of the improvement he made last season, but if he's even an average contributor on the offensive end of the court, he's a valuable player. James hasn't seemed to draw a ton of interest on the free agent market, but Houston would make sense.

    7. Damon Jones, Milwaukee

    Jones more or less completes the run of guys who were free agents a year ago and not nearly so well thought of. Stat guys have always liked Jones because of his mistake-free offensive style. He rarely turns the ball over and shoots a ton of threes, meaning that while he doesn't shoot a phenomenal percentage from the field, he's still a reasonably efficient scorer.

    During his one season with the Bucks, Jones completely switched up his game. He'd traditionally been more of a Steve Kerr-type point guard, leaving much of the ballhandling in halfcourt sets to other players, but last year he became much more of a traditional point, handing out 5.8 assists per game in a little over 24 minutes, about 11.6 per 48 minutes -- one of only nine players in the league over 10. Maybe it was the influence of T. J. Ford. At the same time, Jones kept on avoiding turnovers, posting a 4.64 assist/turnover ratio, second in the NBA only to Seattle's Antonio Daniels. Add it up, and Jones rated tops in the NBA by my Pass rating, which combines assist rate and assist/turnover ratio.

    Has any player ever taken a comparable jump? That's a good question. The answer, so far as I can tell, is no. Jones rated 1.5 standard deviations above average in my Pass rating in 2002-03. I took everyone since 1978 who's rated that good or higher and looked at their rate of improvement the next year, and Williams' improvement -- he was 4.5 times better in terms of standard deviations last year -- was far and away the highest. In fact, there were only five players to jump 2.5 times or more. The list (year, incidentally, refers to year two):

    Player           Yr  Pass1  Pass2  Pass3
    Foots Walker     80   1.8    5.0    2.8
    John Lucas       84   2.2    6.0    2.9
    Jason Williams   03   1.9    5.1    4.9
    Johnny Moore     82   2.4    6.3    4.4
    Gus Williams     87   1.6    3.9     -
    Averages              2.1    5.6    3.8

    Williams is thrown out because he retired after the 1986-87 season. Lucas' 1983-84 is probably best described as a fluke; while he was always a good passer, his assist rate went into John Stockton territory (17.9 per 48 minutes) that season. Moore is not really comparable to Jones because he made his jump in his second NBA season, beginning a run as one of the league's better assist men for a five-year stretch. Walker looks mostly like a fluke. Williams changing his game is probably the best comparison for Jones, although he did it in a different way (cutting turnovers, not increasing assists).

    Basically, I'd conclude that Jones will probably be a considerably better passer next year than he was early in his career, but also way down from where he was last year.

    8. Derek Fisher, L.A. Lakers

    Since the Sonics pursued Fisher pretty heavily before he signed with Golden State, I'm probably best off skipping him over as well.

    9. Anthony Johnson, Indiana

    Scary thought: The usually reliable Patricia Bender has Johnson as signing a six-year, $37 million contract. In reality, his deal is for four years at about half the yearly salary, but that imaginary deal would be one of the worst in NBA history.

    Johnson gives us another player who improved his stock on a one-year deal (actually a two-year deal, technically; he opted out of the second year). A minimum player pretty much throughout his career, Johnson got the security of a four-year deal from the Pacers; he's basically this year's Kevin Ollie. And, as with Ollie, the Pacers will probably be trying to get out of this contract in a couple of years when they remember that players of Johnson's ilk are available for a million, two at the most, in free agency every year. It's not a cap-buster, but deals like Johnson's do usually end up hurting; look through a list of players exposed (and not taken) in the Expansion Draft for evidence.

    What's odd is that, unlike Ollie, Johnson was not coming off of a career year. I figured he was, based on an improvement in reputation and a tremendous start to the season (Johnson's best three scoring months were the first three of the season, and he made 15 of his first 32 three-point attempts). In reality, Johnson saw his assists spike, but otherwise he was pretty much the same mistake-free, defense-minded backup he was in New Jersey. I don't mean to disparage Johnson, but there's a reason he was available for the minimum last summer.

    10. Charlie Ward, San Antonio

    Ward's long been a guy I've felt was underrated because he split time at the point in New York. He shoots enough threes to produce a good true shooting percentage (52.8% last season), hands out plenty of assists (about five in 24 minutes with the Knicks) and doesn't turn the ball over that much. For a backup point guard, that's a fine combination, especially now that he's completed a contract that was pretty bad.

    The concern is that Ward turns 34 in October (hard to believe, isn't it?) and was pretty much worthless after the Suns cut him to save money (his contract was only partially guaranteed) and Ward went to the Spurs as a free agent. He was bad enough that San Antonio phased him out as a backup point guard in the playoffs in favor of youngster Jason Hart. Still, at the minimum, Ward is a good buy. He's another guy who would make sense in Houston, where he could re-team with Jeff Van Gundy.

    11. Jason Hart, San Antonio

    Last October, Sonics Coach Nate McMillan talked about how tough it was to make Hart the last cut as the team got down to 14 players. Well, maybe it wasn't that tough in hindsight -- eight days later, Hart signed with the defending champion San Antonio Spurs. Injuries allowed Hart to claim San Antonio's backup point guard role, and he kept the role until Ward was signed, reclaiming it in March and into the playoffs.

    That was a pretty impressive season, given that Hart had played just 102 NBA minutes entering the year. Hart had a surprisingly positive influence on the Spurs, improving them by 4.4 points per 100 possessions. The difference was defense; Hart dominated his opponents, holding them to a .404 eFG%, which is simply outstanding. Offensively, Hart was merely adequate.

    Hart parlayed his season into a three-year deal with the Charlotte Bobcats, which probably was longer than I would have offered, but the money is not unreasonable. It looks like, barring something big, Hart will be the Bobcats' first starting point guard, which isn't exactly a good sign, but incredible progress from being a training-camp invitee a year ago. At 26 and playing heavy minutes for the first time, he should still have room to improve.

    12. Brevin Knight, Milwaukee

    Knight has blown through four teams in the last two years, officially beginning the journeyman status of his career before he hits 30. He played three games in Phoenix and had more regular roles with Washington and Milwaukee. For whatever reason, Knight was far more effective with the Bucks, handing out more assists (5.9 vs. 4.7) in only slightly more minutes, shooting better percentages from the field and the free-throw line, and playing vastly superior defense (13.8 opponent PER as opposed to 20.0).

    Knight will keep getting NBA jobs for some time because of his ability to create steals (1.76 spg career in 24.9 minutes) and his passing (5.49 pass rating, fourth amongst free-agent point guards). And he'll keep being replaceable because he can't shoot (41.9% career field goal percentage) and his height can make him a defensive liability. I tend to like the combination of skills he brings to the table, and he can be a good fit if used correctly (read: no more than 20 minutes a night).

    13. Rod Strickland, Toronto

    Logic tells us that Strickland should stop being an effective NBA player sometime soon -- he celebrated his 38th birthday earlier this month -- but so far, Strickland has beaten logic and reason like a hapless defender. Each of the last two years, I've downgraded Strickland in my free agent rankings because of his age, and each year he's made me look pessimistic.

    Last year, Strickland did what he could to bail water out of the sinking ship that was the Orlando Magic, averaging 6.8 points and 4.6 assists in 46 games with the Magic and improving Orlando by 4.0 points per 100 possessions when he was on the court. Out of mercy, the Magic released Strickland late in the season so he could try to help a better team, and he played 15 largely ineffective games with the Toronto Raptors.

    Offensively, Strickland is still a useful player, posting the third-best pass rating amongst the free agent points behind Nash and Jones. His 48.2% true shooting percentage wasn't good, but most of the point guards in this class were inefficient scorers. Strickland was a surprising asset on the boards, pulling down 7.5% of available rebounds, tops amongst the free agent group.

    The biggest question is on defense, where Strickland's age is most readily apparent. He surrendered a 16.8 opponent PER last season, hardly out of line on the woeful Magic but still not good. Strickland's legs aren't getting any younger, and he might have more appeal to zone teams. Strickland is far from a long-term solution, but for a fringe contender with a solid third-stringer, he still has value as a number two point guard.

    14. Lindsey Hunter, Detroit

    Hunter was the unsung hero of Detroit's stunningly good defensive performance over the last two months of the season. It was Hunter's insertion into the starting lineup in place of an injured Rip Hamilton that sparked the Pistons on their string of five straight games where their opponent failed to reach 70 points. One of those games was in Seattle, where Flip Murray replaced an ill Ray Allen in the starting lineup. Before the game, the media was setting an over/under on Murray's points and shots around 20, but Hunter completely locked him up, limiting Murray to five points on 2-for-5 shooting.

    The data backs up Hunter's incredible defensive prowess; he limited point guards to a 10.7 PER, shooting guards 12.0. Some of that clearly owes to Ben Wallace's defensive presence in the middle, but Hunter also made the Pistons 9.0 points per 100 possessions better on defense, so clearly he was doing something well.

    On offense, Hunter was a liability, shooting 34.3% from the field, his fourth straight season under 40%. Both Hunter's offensive and defensive ratings by my calculations were the lowest amongst my top 20 free agent point guards. Hunter has never been much of a distributor. As a regular backup point guard, Hunter is stretched, but he's useful as a change-of-pace backup coming in for 10 minutes a night or so to lock a hot opponent or a high scorer down defensively.

    15. Avery Johnson, Golden State

    I'm not really sure how to rate Johnson. At age 39, Johnson's value on the court is limited at best, but Johnson's coaching future is quite bright. Several teams were reportedly competing for Johnson's services as something of a player-coach, a role he unofficially has worked in the last couple of seasons. It looks like the Dallas Mavericks, who dealt Johnson to Golden State last summer to match salaries, will get Johnson back, and he may not be far away from a head coaching position. If he turns out as well as many people seem to expect, Johnson's contract will be money well spent.

    16. Shammond Williams, New Orleans

    A little "Page 23" did you know: Shammond Williams is currently playing in a tournament for the Georgian National Team, having been granted citizenship. He's playing with former Orlando teammate Zaza Pachulia.

    At 29, it's probably safe to say that the long-anticipated Williams breakout isn't happening. He is what he is, a player with incredible ability to create shots who is not as effective at making them, too short to play shooting guard but too scoring-minded to play the point, and a horrendous defender. For limited minutes off the bench, that's an acceptable combination, but Williams is too flawed to be a regular. Last season, Williams shot 37.5% between the Magic and the Hornets, his worst performance since his de facto rookie season in Seattle.

    17. Kenny Anderson, Indiana

    Anderson got off to a quick start with the Pacers, taking Jamaal Tinsley's starting job and starting the first 28 games he played in Indiana. Once Tinsley got out of the doghouse and Johnson proved a better backup, Anderson's role was slashed, and he played just 221 minutes after New Year's.

    Anderson shot a relatively respectable 44.1% from the field last season, but he hit just one three all year and rarely gets to the free-throw line, so his true shooting percentage was just 47.3%, which is inadequate. He still tries to play largely like the star he once was, so his playmaking is unimpressive, and he's a poor defender as well. Anderson isn't ancient -- he'll be 34 during training camp -- but his NBA age seems much older, and he's nothing more than a stopgap solution at this point.

    18. Keyon Dooling, L.A. Clippers

    Dooling is young, turning 24 late last season despite having four NBA years under his belt. That about sums up his positives. The negatives? Most everything else. Dooling was the 10th pick in the 2000 Draft after two years at Missouri, and the Clippers envisioned him using his long arms to be a force on defense and his quickness and scoring ability to be an offensive star. Four years later, we're still looking for evidence of those skills.

    Dooling has shot 39.5% in his NBA career, settling in at 38.9% each of the last two seasons with a 45.8% true shooting percentage last year. He's an iffy distributor who posted an assist/turnover ratio of precisely two last season. And the arms haven't proven all that useful on defense, with opponents posting a 15.6 PER against Dooling last year. That actually qualifies defense as probably his best skill.

    The Miami Heat somehow signed Dooling to a two-year deal, explaining the money guys like Jones and James wanted was too great. The market is cool for these guys, so a little patience could have gotten them in the Heat's range. Even if Miami felt it really needed to bargain shop, there were better options than Dooling. The Heat only has so much money to surround Shaquille O'Neal, Dwyane Wade, and company with a supporting cast, and the double Ds of Doleac and Dooling aren't a great start.

    19. Mike Wilks, Houston

    How much confidence did his hometown Rockets have in Wilks? After trading Moochie Norris, instead of giving Wilks the backup job, they signed 39-year-old Mark Jackson. Wilks was surprisingly effective in the 145 minutes he did play, shooting 47.2% from the field and backing it up with 6-for-10 from three-point range. Wilks was a high scorer at Rice, but that's never been his calling card at the NBA level. Instead, Wilks is in the NBA for his defense. It was little more than garbage time, but he did back that up last year with a 10.0 opponent PER. At 25, Wilks is in position to have a Jason Hart-type season or a couple years away from becoming a neo-Anthony Johnson. Or he's bound for the D-League. Could go either way.

    20. Mo Williams, Utah

    Perhaps someday, when science has made great advances, we can finally answer life's great mysteries, including how Williams played 772 minutes for a team in playoff contention. Williams' translated college statistics revealed little in the way of NBA talent, and he did nothing to change that perception last season, shooting 38.0% from the field (43.3% true shooting percentage).

    Like his fellow free-agent Williams, Mo is 6-1 but lacks the requisite distribution skills to play the point; according to, about 40% of his minutes came at off guard. From watching Utah, I'd have guessed an even higher number. Last year, Williams posted a 1.5 assist/turnover rate, which is simply unacceptable for a point guard. Defensively, he did pretty well against point guards but was abused by twos, which makes sense considering he was giving away at least four inches to most of them.

    Williams isn't yet 22, so time is on his side -- that's why he at least cracked the top 20 -- but he has a lot of improving to do.

    Everyone Else

    Dana Barros, Boston - Instead of going out after a disappointing year ended early by injuries, Barros goes to retirement after scoring 26 points per 48 minutes on 67% shooting. So what if it was in 11 minutes?
    Travis Best, Dallas - Only 32, but close to finished after completely flopping as backup point for the Mavericks.
    J.R. Bremer, Golden State/Charlotte - After remarkable rookie season, couldn't hit ocean from the shore last year, shooting 27.2% from the field; taken by Charlotte in the Expansion Draft.
    Jamison Brewer, Indiana - Good size, but has played 283 uneventful minutes in three years with the Pacers.
    Anthony Carter, San Antonio - Shot 29.7% in five games before reaching injury settlement with Spurs; possibly worst shooter in recent memory.
    Mateen Cleaves, N/A - Played four decent games for Cleveland on 10-day contract; like Carter, a jumper away from being an NBA regular.
    Bimbo Coles, Miami - Expected to retire after playing career-low 22 games in Miami.
    Omar Cook, Portland - Portland was very interested after Cook set an NBDL record for assists per game, but even worse jump shooter than Carter and Cleaves.
    Bryce Drew, N/A - Cut loose by Hornets mid-season, a major free-agent disappointment in New Orleans; can shoot, but struggles at point and on defense.
    Anthony Goldwire, N/A - Has subsisted on 10-day contracts and in the minor leagues for several seasons; showed scoring potential as younger.
    Shane Heal, N/A - Aussie probably got last NBA shot in Australia at age 32; didn't show trademark shooting ability, hitting four of 18 threes.
    Mark Jackson, Houston - Slowed down dramatically at age 39, shooting 34% from the field. Probably finished.
    Rusty LaRue, N/A - Played four games in Golden State; mistake-free type player with surprisingly decent athleticism.
    Randy Livingston, N/A - Has played 21 NBA games last four years; incredibly heady future coach lost athletic ability to repeated knee injuries.
    Darrick Martin, Minnesota - Shot 29.9% from the field during the regular season, but, at age 33, had last great hurrah in Game 1 of Western Conference Finals with 15 points and six assists.
    Keith McLeod, N/A - Forced into backup role in Minnesota much of season by injuries; shot 32.9% from the field.
    Doug Overton, L.A. Clippers - Got regular minutes as backup with Clippers; distributed pretty well, but shot 40.4% from field.
    Robert Pack, N/A - 35 and nearing end of line despite decent performance in New Jersey.
    Jacque Vaughn, Atlanta - Saw numbers fall dramatically for second straight season; still quality distributor, but shot just 38.6% and no longer young at age 29.
    Chris Whitney, Washington - Only 32, but role declining quickly. Did shoot 44.4% from the field last season.

    Kevin Pelton is an intern for the Seattle SuperSonics and is responsible for original content on He writes "Page 23" for on a semi-regular basis. He can be reached via e-mail at