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Kyrie Irving has opted to stay with the Nets, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the story ends there. There’s still plenty of guards in the free agency.
Kyrie Irving has opted to stay with the Nets, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the story ends there. There’s still plenty of guards in the free agency.TOM PENNINGTONAFP


Top 5 NBA free agents: Point Guards

Kyrie Irving has opted to stay with the Nets, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the story ends there. There’s still plenty of guards in the free agency.

The talent that lies amongst the free agents this summer can mainly be found at the guard position (though admittedly positions are getting harder and harder to define at all). Kyrie Irving is the most obvious talent in the free agency, but as a player option, he’s decided to stay with the Nets on a $36.5 million deal. Because of this, we’re leaving him off the list of top five guards available in the free agency, considering he’s not really available anymore. That doesn’t mean he is necessarily 100% staying with the Nets though. Technically, as a player on an expiring contract, Irving is even easier to trade than free agents are. It doesn’t seem like that will be the case, considering Irving bypassed several opt-in and trade situations to stay with the Nets, but it’s still a possibility. So besides Irving, let’s take a look at the other top talent in free agency at the guard position.

Jalen Brunson - UFA - Dallas Mavericks

It would be a huge loss if the Mavericks don’t sign Jalen Brunson, who became the team’s second-leading scorer behind superstar Luka Doncic. In Game 2 of the NBA playoffs first round, Brunson stepped up with Doncic out and brought the Mavs to victory with 41 points on 15-of-25 shooting. In the playoffs, he proved he can score on all three levels and thrive on increased minutes and usage. The Mavs have to be regretting not signing a four-year extension when he was eligible for it. Now, they are competing with the New York Knicks, who could offer him around $100 million. The Mavs can afford it, but will they be willing to do it?

Ricky Rubio - UFA - Indiana Pacers

The Cleveland Cavaliers traded Ricky Rubio away to the Indiana Pacers last season, but are apparently hoping to bring him back again as he enters the free agency on Thursday. He started off hot with the Cavs, but was sidelined with an ACL injury after just eight starts. Rubio would still be a risk to them if Collin Sexton walks (he is a restricted free agent), as they’d be stuck waiting for him to recover. He will be less expensive since he’ll be a mid-season start, so if he can prove he’ll be healthy at that point, he may be worth it to the Cavs, whose time enjoying his success was cut too short.

Russell Westbrook - PO - LA Lakers

Westbrook had an off season - inefficient and inconsistent and never really finding his place with the Lakers. As a player option, he can choose to take the $47 million deal with the Lakers or opt out. The Lakers have made it clear they not only intend to keep Westbrook, but that they are enthused about it. Considering he couldn’t do much of anything as a supporting player, they’ve also made it clear they don’t expect him to be a superstar, but rather to do those supporting efforts he didn’t do in the first place. It seems his return is inevitable, as its’s doubtful any other team will be willing to pay that price for him at this point.

James Harden - PO - Philadelphia 76ers

James Harden may not be the player he used to be, but he did still put up decent numbers, with 21 points, 10.5 assists, 7.1 rebounds, and 2.2 threes per game and a 60.1% shooting last season. The production was clearly not the same, but he’s not a lost cause. As far as free agency goes though, it’s likely Harden will opt in to the $47.4 million player option with the Sixers. If he opts out, they could still re-sign him for an extension worth up to $223 million over four years, but it’s not likely given his age. Both parties would benefit more from Harden opting in, as the Sixers already gave up Simmons, Curry, and Drummond for Harden, and Harden could use the security if he can get back into the shape he was pre-injury.

Tyus Jones - UFA - Memphis Grizzlies

Tyus Jones led the league in assist-to-turnover ratio and averaged 8.7 points, 4.4 assists, and 2.4 rebounds per game during the regular season. Jones has been limited to a backup guard throughout his career, but has proven himself worthy of taking on a bigger role this last year. The Grizzlies went 19-5 without superstar Ja Morant in the regular season and that’s a lot to do with Jones. The Grizzlies will likely fight to keep him on the roster, but the young talent could be lured away by the promise of being part of the starting lineup rather than a backup to the star.