The good news: guard Shaun Livingston’s fresh off the best season of his career in Brooklyn, averaging 8.3 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game and keying the team’s evolution into a turnover-creating, havoc-inducing, hell-breaks-loose defense.
The bad news: he’s now an unrestricted free agent, and any team with cap room or cap exceptions can sign Livingston away from the Nets.
Could he stay? It’s possible. But including the Nets, here’s five potential teams Livingston could hear compelling offers from this offseason.
Brooklyn Nets. Let’s start with the happy idea: that Shaun Livingston, after a career-defining season in Brooklyn that featured a number of highlights and career-highs, decides to stick around the borough and accept the taxpayer mid-level exception. That offer sits at a little over $10 million over three years. If other teams offer Livingston more money, the Nets can offer the cachet of Brooklyn, an opportunity for the career nomad to make a home in New York, and possibly a chance to compete — though that window looks like it’s closing fast.
Chicago Bulls. The Bulls are in need of guard depth, with Derrick Rose often hurt and Kirk Hinrich headed to unrestricted free agency, and they could make a solid play for Livingston’s services. The lanky, intelligent Livingston is tailor-made for Tom Thibodeau’s strong-side overload defensive scheme. Plus, if the Bulls amnesty Carlos Boozer, they won’t just have exceptions to offer, but real cap room. Their combination of potential contention and nearly $12 million to spend if Boozer is let go makes Chicago a solid destination.
Miami Heat. Don’t discount this. Even if their Big 3 all opt in and all the Heat can offer is the taxpayer mid-level exception, the lack of state income tax in Florida and the opportunity to compete for a championship makes Miami a preferable destination if Shaun Livingston can’t command a higher price. Livingston is a natural fit in Miami’s inverted post-up offense, as he led the NBA in points per possession in post-up situations this year thanks to his length and soft touch inside. With Dwyane Wade on the decline and Mario Chalmers possibly opting out, he’d have a lot of playing time to work with.
Los Angeles Clippers. Is a return to his first team in the cards? It’s possible. Like the Nets, the Clippers are expected to be in the luxury tax, but they also offer Livingston a better chance at competing for a championship than the Nets, and the opportunity to return to where he spent his first few years. The only downside: there’s a slim chance he’d have a starting role.
San Antonio Spurs. Could it work? The Spurs will have about $9 million in cap room even if Tim Duncan and Tony Parker opt in (which they will) and only a few spots to fill. Boris Diaw may be their first priority after his fantastic play in the playoffs, but Livingston could fill the backup point guard role or even play next to Parker in the starting lineup if Diaw bolts. The Spurs led the NBA in three-point percentage last year, but Livingston would likely have to develop at least a corner three-pointer to fit in San Antonio: hard to imagine a five-man unit with he, Duncan, and starting center Tiago Splitter all crowding the lane.