John Lucas III is a journeyman, but he’s appeared in each of the past five NBA seasons, and the Pistons, Magic, Spurs, Mavericks and Clippers all had interest early last month, as Marc Stein of ESPN.com reported then. Still, nobody’s signed him yet, despite his position atop the list of remaining free agents who dished out the most assists per 36 minutes last season. Lucas didn’t play much in 2014/15, barely meeting our thresholds of at least 20 games played and at least 10 minutes per game, but when he did see the floor for the Pistons, his ball distribution led to points.
The same could be said of Ish Smith, who saw significantly more action with the Thunder and Sixers. He started 14 games for Philadelphia, but he’s no stranger to uncertainty about his NBA job security, having been waived by the Rockets and Pelicans within the past year without having played a single regular season game for either of them.
The market for free agent assist makers is not particularly strong at this point, though it is somewhat surprising to see Norris Cole, who has a qualifying offer of more than $3MM outstanding from New Orleans, down at No. 8. That’s a testament to the notion that point guards, particularly today, do more than just pass. Conversely, point guards aren’t the only ones who hand out assists, and even though swingman J.R. Smith isn’t known for his passing, he checks in at No. 9 below.
Here’s the full list, ranked by assists per 36 minutes from the 2014/15 season:
- John Lucas III (7.9)
- Ish Smith (7.8)
- Kendall Marshall (7.4)
- Donald Sloan (6.2)
- Nate Robinson (5.9)
- A.J. Price (5.1)
- Luke Ridnour (5.1)
- Norris Cole (5.0)
- J.R. Smith (3.4)
- Jason Terry (3.3)
- Brandon Davies, with 2.6 assists per 36 minutes, would be No. 11, just as with Wednesday’s list of top available rebounders, but he’s close to signing with Pallacanestro Varese of Italy, a source told Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia.
- Nick Calathes (6.3), Alexey Shved (5.0) and Jordan Farmar (4.6) would all appear on this list if they hadn’t already found deals overseas.
- Jason Richardson, who compiled 3.3 assists per 36 minutes, just missed out on qualifying for the list, having played in only 19 games. One more game would have also put him among the best per-minute scorers left unsigned.
Which player on the list would you most want your team to sign? Leave a comment to tell us.