If you want your team to sign a hardnosed, alwaysmaketherightplay backup point guard, look no further than the Brooklyn Net’s bench. Adjectives for Chris Chiozza are dominated by “uns.” Undrafted. Undersized. Underrated. But ball-handlers who perpetually think one play ahead while playing bulldogian defense rarely escape my gaze. It was only right to give Chiozza a detailed free agency preview.
The former Florida Gator has begun his young career as a journeyman, yet this season, he may have played his way into a more permanent home. When he manned the helm of Brooklyn’s offense, Chiozza pushed the pace while also leveraging his vision and passing chops to create clean looks for teammates. And although his height (5-foot-11) provides an obvious challenge defensively, Chiozza has found a way to make positive contributions on the less-glamorous end of the court.
When scouting a third guard for an NBA roster, many scouts and general managers place an emphasis on players who can simply make the right read – easy passes are often the best passes. Chiozza checks that box, but he can also do much more. His playmaking vision is among the league’s best, and truly shines after he warps past defenders and draws in the help.
Good distributors react to what the defense shows them. Great ones already know how the defense will react and take advantage accordingly. Chiozza commands a shifty handle that draws multiple eyes. The instant a defender looks away from their assignment, Chiozza takes advantage with precision passing. It is a big reason why his assist-to-usage ratio placed in both the 100th percentile while Washington this season and in the 80th percentile during his Brooklyn stop.
According to NBA.com, Chiozza sank a scorching 53.7 percent of his catch-and-shoot triples this season. What’s more, he did it on 1.5 attempts per game, an impressive feat for someone who played less than 20 minutes most nights. Considering he only shot 32.7 percent from deep during his college days, Chiozza’s 37.7 percent conversion rate at the pro level is encouraging. His shot isn’t as effortless as other undersized point guards, but there are no glaring concerns. Sure, he may never become the off-the-dribble shooter that someone like Fred VanVleet is. He can, however, provide adequate spacing in an off-ball role.
There must be some areas of concern for Chiozza, right? What is holding him back from a major NBA role? For starters, while he excels at setting up teammates, he is unreliable when it comes to creating his own shot, a premium skill for modern guards. More specifically, Chiozza has a terrible time converting at the rim. At 5-foot-11 without any head-turning explosiveness, this is understandable and won’t be an easy fix.
What’s more concerning, however, is the number of shots Chiozza takes at the rim. Cleaning the Glass shows that he placed in the 73rd percentile for at-rim shot frequency, but finished all the way down in the 16th percentile for makes once there. NBA length causes Chiozza to opt into difficult reverse layups. He also has not yet learned the art of jumping into bigger defenders to either draw the foul or absorb contact while mitigating the impact of length.
Smart, Pesky, Defense
Chiozza’s physical limitations do not necessarily hinder him on the defensive side of the ball as much as you might think. On the contrary, his low center of gravity actually helps him fight around screens and disrupt pick-and-rolls. His agility is also top-notch, and ball-handlers have a tough time shedding Chiozza. Combine those traits with active hands and a steady dosage of high-IQ play, and you’ve got the blueprint for a bargain-bin roster signing.
What impresses most about Chiozza’s defense is not his effort, but his timing on gambles. The above steal against Joel Embiid is evident of this. Whoever Chiozza’s next coach is will love how perfectly he pairs his ability to cause turnovers with his transition playmaking. One of Chiozza’s greatest strengths meshes perfectly into another one. Creating easy points during second unit play is a coveted skill.
Fits & Potential Contract
With Kyrie Irving returning to the lineup and Brooklyn also sporting Spencer Dinwiddie, the Nets may not have any playing time to give to Chiozza. With his two-way contract set to expire, the Nets have to offer him a qualifying offer of $50,000 by October 17 or risk losing him and/or matching rights.
With the recent success of players like the aforementioned VanVleet and Monte Morris, it is easy to see a team offering Chiozza a short-team deal worth somewhere between $2–4 million per year. The question becomes: Will Chiozza prioritize a deal that maxes out his earnings or his playing time? Which teams could be in the market for his services?
The likely affordability of Chiozza’s next deal keeps most teams in play, as teams could use some of their exception money to sign him. The Sixers seem like a solid fit. Atlanta could need a backup guard if they don’t re-sign Jeff Teague, and the young Hawks have both the time and money to take a risk. If Chicago decides to let Kris Dunn leave, then Billy Donovan can work his Florida connection to bring in a guy to turn around the Bulls culture and provide strong bench play. Wherever he lands, though, both fans and executives alike are going to be pleased with the deal.
BONUS – Opinion From An Expert!
There are some great Nets writers who simply spend more time covering the team than I do. I reached out to Billy Reinhardt of SB Nation for his opinion on Chiozza’s free agency outlook. Here are his thoughts:
“I think his market is a minimum contract. For Brooklyn, he’s a fringe roster piece and a return will likely dependent on what happens with other priority free agents. Jamal Crawford and Tyler Johnson seemingly have a leg up on Chiozza for third string guard spots.”
Welp, shows what I know! Differing opinions are a good thing, however, as groupthink seems to run wild inside of #NBATwitter. Regardless, Chiozza could be a fun players to monitor in the coming weeks.