C.J. Watson: Could he be the answer at PG?
Did you like what you saw from Warriors point guard C.J. Watson last night?
Well, he’ll be a free agent this offseason.
Watson has had an interesting road. Despite an excellent college career at Tennessee, Watson went undrafted in 2006 N.B.A. draft. He played professionally in Europe for a season before heading back over to this side of the pond. He then battled his way up through the D-League ranks as a rookie, but last season left no doubt that he’s an N.B.A. caliber guard. He finished up the season strong, with seven straight double-figure outings — including a 38-point explosion that helped the Warriors stun Utah on the road.
Still just 25 years old, Watson plays about 27 minutes per game this season for the guard-heavy Warriors and is averaging 10.1 points, 2.6 assists, 2.6 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game. He’s been on a tear of late to help fill the void of Monta Ellis’ absence. He dropped a career-high 40 to lead the Warriors to a 130-98 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night. He’s scored 20 or more points in five of his last 7 games. Against the Heat last night, he dropped in 20 points (9-15 from the floor) to go along with 6 steals.
Watson is an excellent outside shooter off the catch or on the dribble. He’s more of a catch-and-shoot, off-the-ball point guard than a pure playmaker. As such, his assist totals are unspectacular. But his ability to put the ball in the basket is no longer in doubt.
Watson signed Golden State’s qualifying offer for one year, $1.03 million even though he had better possibilities, because he was worried that Warriors would match a multiyear offer sheet. Free agents with three or fewer years of experience are deemed “restricted,” in that their current teams are able to match any outside offers. He previously rejected a three-year contract from the Warriors worth $5.4 million. Apparently, Watson didn’t want to commit to three years with the Warriors, in large part because they have so many guards currently under contract.
Taking the one-year qualifying offer was risky, however. For one, Watson left more than $4 million on the table, a gutsy move for someone who was playing in the D-League less than two years ago. In addition, when Watson’s contract expires at the end of season, he’ll be in the exact same spot he was this past summer: a restricted free agent.
The risk appears to have paid off. C.J. will certainly improve upon his current $1.03 million salary next season. It does appear the Heat would have enough cap room to sign both Watson and a max contract free agent if it so chooses.
Is he the right choice?