2018 NBA free agency guard rankings: Marcus Smart tops best available after Chris Paul re-signs

With Chris Paul predictably off the market already, the point guard position has become a bit more about fit than game-changing ability. However, there's still plenty of talent available. Some big playmakers are still on the table, which means that teams can still find a very good facilitator in free agency.

We will begin with a loosely ranked accounting of 15 of those guards -- here, we mean point guards and combo guards (not shooters like J.J. Redick and Wayne Ellington; those guys will be on our list of available wings).

It's a weird offseason to be a free agent in general, but it is particularly weird if you're a play-making guard. While every team wants to employ multiple creators, the point guard position is loaded and there are few open starting jobs in the backcourt. 

Top 15 Free-Agent Guards
1
Chris Paul Houston Rockets PG
Paul may be 33, but he's coming off a season where he should have been All-NBA and could have won a championship had he not hurt his hamstring at the worst possible time. He is a free agent only in theory -- everybody expects him to return to the Houston Rockets -- but there are two questions surrounding him. The first: Will he sign for the full five years and $205 million? The second: Can he recruit LeBron?
2
Marcus Smart Boston Celtics PG
It's not crazy to imagine Smart signing the qualifying offer and trying his luck as an unrestricted free agent next summer, given that he told ESPN's Jackie MacMullan he is "worth more than $12-14 million" after the Boston Celtics were elminated by the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. He is unlikely to get more than that this year, but it'll be fascinating to see what happens if he does sign an offer sheet. Smart is obviously valuable to the Celtics, mostly because he is an elite defender, but they can't pay everybody.
3
Tyreke Evans Memphis Grizzlies PG
The combo guard is coming off the best season of his career -- yes, even better than his famous 20-5-5 Rookie of the Year campaign -- and, after three years of solid 3-point shooting, it seems (relatively) safe to assume the improved jumper is real. Always able to get in the paint and make plays, Evans' newfound ability to hit off-the-dribble 3s has completely changed his offensive game. It still boggles minds that the Grizzlies didn't get anything for him in a trade before February's deadline.
4
Fred VanVleet Toronto Raptors PG
VanVleet is ranked higher than many more seasoned players because he is a genuinely great defender for his size and he proved to be the most important part of the Toronto Raptors' dominant bench unit last season. If he doesn't become a starter eventually, then there's no reason he shouldn't remain a Sixth Man of the Year candidate. Toronto should prioritize re-signing him, but what will it do if some team gives him a Tyler Johnson-style offer sheet?
5
Isaiah Thomas Los Angeles Lakers PG
After finishing fifth in MVP voting and making his second straight All-Star appearance in 2017, it looked like this would be the summer that Thomas could make up for a career of being underpaid. Alas, a hip injury ruined his 2017-18 season and cost him more money than anyone else on the market. The Thomas of two years ago could carry an efficient offense and finish around much larger defenders with ease, but it's not clear whether or not that player will be seen again. The 29-year-old might have to sign a one-year deal with a team that will put the ball in his hands, then try to re-establish his value. I wonder how he'd feel about a potential return to Phoenix.
6
Zach LaVine Chicago Bulls PG
Are the Bulls ready to commit big bucks to a player like this? It's not surprising that LaVine had the least efficient season of his career coming off an ACL injury while being his team's No. 1 option for the first time, but there is real risk here. While he is only 23, LaVine has never been an adequate defender and, heading into his fifth season, still needs to prove he can be more than a scorer. ESPN's Nick Friedell reported that Chicago plans to let him look for an offer sheet.
7
Avery Bradley Los Angeles Clippers SG
This is another player who is hitting free agency at the wrong time. Bradley didn't duplicate his Boston efficiency with the Detroit Pistons last season, and a sports hernia injury limited him to only six games for with Los Angeles Clippers after being included in the Blake Griffin deal. His free agency is a conundrum because he is the kind of player who is clearly more valuable to a winning team, but most winning teams don't have cap space. Also, how do you evaluate a player whose elite skill is one-on-one defense against point guards in a league that is placing so much more emphasis on switching?
8
Rajon Rondo New Orleans Pelicans PG
The veteran fit next to Jrue Holiday much better than many people, myself included, expected he would -- especially after the DeMarcus Cousins injury. Rondo is still a disinterested defender (during the regular season, at least), but has shown that he can still be effective as long as he has the ball in his hands. Hardly any teams need point guards, so he doesn't have a ton of leverage here -- how much will the Pelicans be willing to pay him?
9
Dante Exum Utah Jazz PG
The fact that Exum has proven to be more of a combo guard than a point guard is perfectly fine in Utah, but could limit his value elsewhere. His defense is obviously appealing, as he showed in the playoffs, but there is still much more potential than actual production here. Exum is difficult to project at this point in his career because he has so rarely been healthy -- perhaps he should take the qualifying offer and treat next year as a prove-it season.
10
Seth Curry Dallas Mavericks SG
Curry is the forgotten man of this list after a stress fracture caused him to miss the entire 2017-18 season. He was going to be a starter next to Dennis Smith, but the presence of Luka Doncic now makes that a virtual impossibility. I actually like the idea of him re-signing in Dallas and playing with Doncic -- Rick Carlisle likes to have two playmaking guards on the court at all times -- but, if he is healthy, other teams could pounce on the 27-year-old combo guard. Curry could always shoot, but his 2016-17 season proved that he could survive on defense with anticipation and trickery.
11
Elfrid Payton Phoenix Suns PG
It wouldn't be surprising if the Suns simply renounced Payton and let him become an unrestricted free agent. He is still just 24, but there are serious questions about his game. If it was just the shooting that was an issue, he would be in a much better place -- the bigger problem is the deterioration of his defense. Can the right situation bring the best out of him on that end?
12
Dwyane Wade Miami Heat SG
It's weird to see his name all the way down here, but that's because it's hard to imagine there being much of a market for Wade at this point. He has already said he plans to finish his career in Miami or retire -- the only potential drama here is whether or not he would entertain the idea of following LeBron somewhere else again.
13
Raymond Felton Oklahoma City Thunder PG
Oklahoma City got what it wanted from Felton last season, especially when you take into account how disastrous its backup point guard play was the previous year. As solid as he was, though, do the Thunder want to reinvest in a 34-year-old guard?
14
Tony Parker San Antonio Spurs PG
Parker is 36 and heading into his 18th season, and he has said he wants to make it to Year 20. He is coming off his worst season as a pro, but that should have been expected coming off a quad injury. It wouldn't be a total shock if he looked better at 37 than he did at 36. While it is easy to assume he will be a Spur for life, Parker has not guaranteed it, saying in May that "it's not the end of the world if I change my club."
15
Jamal Crawford Minnesota Timberwolves SG
Crawford has been linked to the Golden State Warriors, but does the front office want to sign anyone who is a liability on defense? If they do, it will be because the 38-year-old will probably still be able to create his own shot when he's 50 -- and he's just a good guy to have around a locker room.

Ten more names to watch: Yogi Ferrell, Ty Lawson, Shane Larkin, Shabazz Napier, Bryn Forbes, Shelvin Mack, Raul Neto, Ian Clark, Devin Harris, Derrick Rose

CBS Sports Writer

James Herbert is somewhat fond of basketball, feature writing and understatements. A former season-ticket holder for the expansion Toronto Raptors, Herbert does not think the NBA was better back in the... Full Bio

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