Shane Larkin, who spent last season with the Boston Celtics, is arguably the best point guard who’s still available in free agency. Throughout the first few weeks of free agency, he received some level of interest from 10 NBA teams and his representatives have since met with some potential suitors.
Last season, the 25-year-old averaged 10.7 points, 4.6 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals per 36 minutes. He only played 14.4 minutes per game with the Celtics, but that’s because he was in a loaded backcourt with Kyrie Irving, Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart. It’s worth noting that in Larkin’s two starts, he averaged 10.5 points, 5.5 assists, 7.0 rebounds and 1 steal while shooting 53.3 percent from the field and 62.5 percent from three-point range (on 4.0 attempts per game).
Larkin has played on four teams in four NBA seasons (and he spent 2016-17 in Spain), so he’s no stranger to joining a new squad. The 25-year-old continues to weigh his various free-agency options and, as he recently told The Boston Globe, he’s “not afraid” to return overseas if that’s the best situation for him (which gives him even more to consider). HoopsHype sat down with Larkin to discuss what he’s looking for in free agency, how he’s continuing to develop his game and more.
What factors are you considering in free agency? What things are most important to you as look at potential destinations?
Shane Larkin: Playing time is important to me. I’ve been in a lot of different situations throughout my career thus far. Sometimes I’ve played a lot of minutes, sometimes I haven’t gotten many minutes, sometimes the minutes have been very inconsistent. I’m just trying to find a team that wants me to play good minutes so that I can continue to grow and develop for their team. And hopefully I can stop this streak of playing for a different team every single season. I would probably prefer a multi-year deal.
How does this summer compare to last summer? Last summer, you were coming off of your season with Baskonia in Spain whereas this summer, you’re coming off of your season with the Celtics. How do the two offseasons compare?
SL: I think last summer, it was harder. A lot of teams pay attention to what players are doing overseas, especially in the Euroleague, but it’s not like being in the NBA. Now, having been in the NBA this past year, I feel I showed that I can be an every-night contributor on a great team and accept my role – no matter what it is. I’m willing to go in there and play five minutes and pressure the ball-handler 94 feet or I’m willing to play around 35 minutes and close out a game, like I did versus Utah [in March]. I can do both of those things, and I’m happy to do either. But I think NBA decision-makers saw me more this past season than they had the previous year, so I think I’m in a much better position this summer than I was coming off my season in Spain. Some teams pay attention to how you perform in Europe, but it’s not like playing NBA playoff minutes or playing significant minutes on the team with the fourth-best record in the NBA. I think I’m in a better situation this summer.
With playing time being the biggest factor in your decision and Boston having so many talented guards in that backcourt, with Kyrie Irving, Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart returning, does that mean you’re looking to leave the Celtics? Or are you still open to re-signing with them?
SL: At the exit meeting at the end of the year, Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens both told me that they enjoyed having me on the roster and that we’ll be in communication throughout this summer. You never really know what’s going to happen there regarding trades. Like, if I would’ve told you at this time last year that Kyrie Irving would be a Boston Celtic soon, you would’ve told me, “You’re out of your mind.” So you never really know what’s going to happen with Boston.
To be clear, I have no problem going back to the Celtics. I loved it there this year. I loved the role I had and they have a great, up-and-coming team that’s going to be outstanding for many years. This was the most fun year I had in the NBA, the most fun I’ve had since I left college. Boston is always an option that I would be interested in, but whichever team offers me the best chance go out there and continue to grow will be my main focus in free agency. I’d love to be back in Boston, given the right circumstances, though.
Does the team’s market have any impact on your decision or is it mainly playing time?
SL: For me, it’s mainly just playing time. All that other stuff, that comes after. Money, the city, all of that stuff comes after playing time for me. I just want to get to somewhere I know I can play and continue to grow as a player. And I’ll do whatever it takes to find another good opportunity.
Now, I’ve gotten my first real playoff experience – I went to the postseason during my rookie season with Dallas, but I only played about 10 minutes over two games. I didn’t play much back then, but this year I was actually in the playoff rotation and that was important experience for me. Now I know how hard you have to fight. I know how important every single loose ball and box out and small detail is. I just learned so much this season and now I want to put it to use.
During free agency, every NBA fan is monitoring rumors closely and they love to watch the player movement. As a free agent who’s actually involved in the circus, do you closely follow everything that’s happening or do you try to take your mind off of it until you have a deal?
SL: It’s kind of hectic because things can change in an instant. When there’s a free agent like LeBron James, who’s the best player in our league, he can literally call any team and say, “Hey, clear space. I want to sign with you,” and that team is going to do whatever they have to do to in order to land him. It’s always interesting to watch what the stars do, like seeing LeBron go to the Lakers, and there’s definitely a domino effect. The pieces have to fall into place for me to get my deal. The way I look at it is that there are these tiers – from LeBron James to Paul George and Kawhi Leonard and so on. Everyone follows along to see what the top guys do, I watch to see where the big dominoes will fall. Then, after they’re off the board, teams start putting their roster together with the guys who are remaining.