Unsigned guards looking to make mid-season NBA impact
The season is barely a month old, but this is plenty of time for teams to have determined what is wrong with them. With unguaranteed contracts becoming guaranteed on January 10th, and 10-day contracts becoming available, now is the time to start looking to the free agency market and the D-League for potential call-ups. Over a three-part series of posts, we will take a comprehensive look at possible candidates, starting here with guards.
Great care is taken not to include players signed elsewhere (e.g. Quincy Douby and Lester Hudson, both signed in China), or who have declared themselves retired (e.g. Morris Almond and Chris Quinn, who both retired this offseason). Often times, all players not in the NBA are assumed in the media and the public consciousness to be available to NBA teams, when this is just not the case. The below list therefore deals with unsigned and D-League players only.
D.J. Augustin - Waived yesterday by the Raptors to accommodate the Rudy Gay trade package, Augustin has declined significantly over the past four seasons for no apparent reason. He is still only 26 years old - however, never an elite shooter or playmaker, and too small to be of much impact defensively, Augustin has no obvious role to fill in the NBA right now and needs to begin again. The Bulls are considered frontrunners for his services.
Leandro Barbosa - In direct contrast to promise of the opening blurb, Barbosa is currently signed in his native Brazil with Pinheiros, but on a contract that permits him to leave should a playoff team come in for him. He is averaging 22.2 points in 33.4 minutes per game in five games this season, his scoring output improving in every game. As his conditioning continues to improve, Barbosa is a highly likely mid-season call-up candidate.
Rodrigue Beaubois - Beaubois, profiled here a few weeks ago, remains unsigned since that time.
Raja Bell - After being DNP'd the whole of last season with Utah, and waived at the very end of it, Bell worked out for the Knicks this summer in the hope of making a comeback, but was unsuccessful. Six seasons removed from when he was last an effective role player, Bell's chances of a comeback are slim, but name recognition counts for a lot.
Mike Bibby - Bibby sat by the phone last season waiting for a phone call that never came. He continues to let it be known that he would like one more chance - however, the gap year, and his precipitous decline in the three seasons prior to it, make it unlikely.
Dee Bost - Bost went to camp with the Blazers on a small guarantee, but was cut and joined the Idaho Stampede of the D-League, for whom he is averaging 17.4 points, 9.0 assists (second in the league) and 2.4 steals per game (5th). Forming a dynamic backcourt with Pelicans draft pick Pierre Jackson, Bost's blazing speed and constant attack makes for a player constantly putting the opposition under pressure, and although he is small, inefficient, a poor shooter and prone to mistakes, he could make it in the NBA in the same way that Ishmael Smith has.
Earl Boykins - Now 37, Boykins did not play last season, yet never officially retired.
Shannon Brown - Cut by the Wizards days after acquiring him, Brown is coming off a streaky season and has documented flaws in his game, yet is in the prime of his career and has proven quality.
Seth Curry - Stephen's brother was an unpopular cut by the Golden State Warriors at the end of camp, and joined their namesake D-League affiliate Santa Cruz Warriors immediately afterwards. Needing to prove he is more than an off-ball scorer, Curry is off to a strong start, averaging 19.8 points and 7.7 assists.
Troy Daniels - Daniels is fifth in the D-League with 24.3 points per game, the leading scorer on a Rio Grande Valley Vipers team that is averaging a whopping 134.1 points per game thus far. He is almost exclusively a shooter, but with 93 three point attempts in only seven games, and a 47% success rate, this is nonetheless enticing.
Baron Davis - Davis has name recognition working in his favor, and will need it if he is to make a comeback. After missing last year due to injury, and being ineffective in the one before, Baron has a lot to prove.
Keyon Dooling - In 21 games of a comeback with the Grizzlies last year, Dooling struggled, noticeably so in the playoffs. A coaching gig is perhaps more guaranteed than a playing one at this point.
Maurice Evans - Evans did not sign last year as his only offers were not guaranteed, and despite speaking of plans to move to Europe this season, he did not do so. He remains unsigned, but was only ever a fairly negligible contributor and might not make it back.
Jonny Flynn - Although he was an Australian league All-Star last season, averaging 17.4 points and 5.9 assists per game, Flynn barely played in summer league, didn't catch on for training camp, and although he did catch on in China with the Sichuan Blue Whales, he was released without playing a game due to injury. His uphill battle continues.
Daniel Gibson - After shooting 47% alongside LeBron, Gibson shot 40%, 35% and 34% over the next three seasons and is now out of the league. So steep was his decline, and so limited is his game, that it will be difficult to prove he merits a second chance ahead of a first chance for someone like Daniels above.
Chris Duhon - Cut by the Lakers to save on the unguaranteed portion of his contract this offseason, the always streaky Duhon is working on a three year ineffectiveness streak and will find it difficult to land another guaranteed contract.
Jorge Gutierrez - Former California guard Gutierrez posted a tripe double this week with the Canton Charge, putting up 25 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists in a win over Springfield. He is a big guard and a hard nosed, effective defensive player, the 2012 PAC 12 DPOY and a 2013 D-League All-Defensve first teamer, who continues to develop his offensive game in the D-League. However, not being a great half court creator and being a poor outside shooter, Gutierrez will struggle to overcome both of those things.
Richard Hamilton - Waived by the Bulls after two injury-ridden inconsistent seasons, Hamilton denounced retirement talk and vowed to continue playing, yet has yet to find a suitable NBA offer.
Royal Ivey - Ivey brings with him a great defensive reputation and a good three point shooting percentage. However, the shooting is on so few attempts that it misleads, and the defensive effectiveness is not as good as the reputation suggests. Nevertheless, reputation is a huge factor in these matters, so Ivey might yet return.
Armon Johnson - Former Blazers and Nets guard Johnson played very briefly for the ambitious, wealthy but ultimately underwhelming Kazakh team BC Astana last season, but barely played, and indeed has not done so for about 18 months. It is unclear if he is injured.
Trey Johnson - Long time cusp player and big time scorer Johnson is unsigned, perhaps uninspired by the thought of another D-League season and waiting for a European offer. Last year, Johnson ranked 5th in the Italian league with a 16.4 points per game scoring average for Angellico Biella, yet despite his proven scoring credentials, he continues to wait for a significant NBA opportunity. Turning 30 next summer, it is one that might not now be coming.
Darius Johnson-Odom - Johnson-Odom replaced Flynn with Sichuan, and appeared in four games for the team. However, despite scoring 82 points on 48 shots and 58% shooting in 120 minutes, the last placed Blue Whales replaced him last month, and he is again unsigned.
Cameron Jones - Northern Arizona graduate Jones landed his second training camp gig this summer with the Warriors, and later joined Santa Cruz in the D-League for his third season down there. To make it in the NBA, he was told, Jones needed to turn his mid-range jump-shot into consistent NBA three point range. He got the message - thus far on the young D-League season, Jones is averaging 22.3 points per game, shooting 46% from three; after 56 made three pointers in his first 98 D-League games, Jones already has 13 in six this year. If this sustains, Jones now has a chance to make it as a high IQ three-and-D guard.
Dahntay Jones - Dahntay never offered the "three" part of the three-and-D role player, and has his athleticism has waned, so has any effectiveness. Nevertheless, he is still represented by Priority Sports, and thus is always a candidate for a comeback.
DeQuan Jones - After surprisingly sticking with the Magic for last season, Jones was not so lucky with the Kings this time around, and joined the Reno Bighorns of the D-League, where he averages 13 points and 5 rebounds. The D-League is the best place for him, as every facet of his game except his athleticism and body type needs work.
Malcolm Lee - Waived along with Brown by the Wizards immediately after acquiring him, Lee has had multiple surgeries on each knee, including a cartilage transplant, and also a hip operation. He is not ready to play right now, and even when he is, he has a lot to prove. But he remains on the radar.
DeAndre Liggins - Cut by the Thunder before camp after being charged with nine counts relating to domestic violence, Liggins returned to the D-League with the Sioux Falls Skyforce. Thus far on the season, he is averaging 13.0 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game, splitting ball handling duties with Larry Drew II (5.3ppg, 5.8apg). However, Jones is no full time playmaker, and his offensive inefficiency and high turnover rates undermine his point forward potential.
Kalin Lucas - Signed by the Bulls for training camp, but never with a legitimate chance of making the team, Lucas too has hit the D-League, and is averaging 17.7 points and 5.7 assists. However, he too is no half court point passing guard, instead often a scorer, a status undermined by his diminutive stature and merely decent jump-shot. He must improve two of the playmaking, defense and shooting to make it back.
Scott Machado - Cut by the Warriors just before the season's start, Machado has an intriguing floor game and perennially high assist numbers, but he needs to play under greater control to survive at the NBA level.
Kendall Marshall - The third waived Wizard, Marshall reluctantly headed off to the D-League despite still being paid on his rookie scale contract, yet is off to a great start there. In three games with the expansion Delaware 87ers, Marshall is averaging 21.3 points, 9.0 assists, 6.3 rebounds and 2.0 steals, shooting 55% from three point range. Marshall fell out of the league because he is too slow to be of any great effect at getting to the basket or preventing others from doing so, yet while there is not a great deal he can do about this, Marshall can still work on his craft. He will definitely get another NBA opportunity one day, particularly if this improvement in his jump shot sustains.
Trey McKinney-Jones - Jones was an unlikely training camp signing for the Bucks. He is now in the D-League, averaging 17.0 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game for Fort Wayne, yet he was signed after not playing in summer league and averaging only 9.1 points and 3.4 rebounds per game as a senior for Miami. However, he has all the makings of a good wing role player - athletic, with good size, tough defensively and with a decent jump shot. Sometimes it might be better to make role players out of role players rather than reassigning one time stars.
Darius Morris - Despite signing a four year contract with the Sixers, Morris managed only nine weeks before being waived, averaging 6.9 points and 2.6 assists in 14 minutes per game in that time. Morris's NBA career has started poorly, but he has shown some flashes as a playmaker and defender in that time, along with an improved jump shot. He is still only 22 and will have chances down the road.
Kareem Rush - A forgotten man, Rush is making a second comeback via the D-League after an initial one month attempt in March 12 that has been his only other action since January 2010. In five games for the Los Angeles D-Fenders, Rush has averaged 10.6 points and 5.2 rebounds - he has looked healthy, but unspectacular.
Walker Russell - Now 31, Russell seems to be done with the D-League, and started the season on a short term contract with Galatasaray. He left before the season started and is now unsigned. Russell's pass-first skill set is refreshing, but it is difficult to be a heady veteran when you have only one year of high level play to your credit.
Josh Selby - Still only 22, Selby went to China to start this season, one of the youngest to ever do so, and averaged 29 points in 3 games for Qingdao before being released. (Chinese teams are fickle like that.) He will receive another NBA chance at some point, though there is work to do before then.
Mustafa Shakur - Shakur has split the last two years between Italy and the D-League, looking for one more NBA shot. His last one came three years ago, yet Shakur, a provenly solid and versatile player, has made no noticeable improvement since then. His NBA window may have passed.
DeShawn Stevenson - Stevenson's NBA career may be over. The guaranteed money ran out and he has not been effective since 2008.
Jamaal Tinsley - Tinsley was a starter in the NBA as recently as a month ago, but was waived for sheer ineffectiveness. His offensive game is by this time a complete nothing - Tinsley never could consistently shoot, and yet now, being as slow as he is, he can no longer get to the basket either. And that same slowness makes him an open door defensively. Tinsley can still pass, but he can only pass, and it is insufficient.
Ben Uzoh - It is two years since Uzoh fell out of the NBA, and he has spent all of the interim in the D-League. This season he is averaging 13.6 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.1 assists for the Tulsa 66ers, but the same holes in his game remain. Uzoh is a big athletic guard with decent defense and transition, but he doesn't do enough with the ball, and he is not very effective without it.
Sasha Vujacic - After two years away, Sasha came back to America this offseason to work out with several teams, determined to rejoin the NBA and not have to go back to Europe. He did not succeed in this aim, but nevertheless is still unsigned, so may still be trying.
Reggie Williams - Williams was the final cut by the Rockets in camp, despite having his contract 50% guaranteed. And despite once proclaiming he wanted to be the Warriors's best perimeter defender, Williams actually regressed in that department in his two years with the Bobcats, and was one of the worst defensive wing players in the league. This, combined with his lack of consistent jump shot range, undermines his diverse high IQ offensive game.