NBA AM: Unexpected Big Paydays Of 2017?


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Unheralded Players Potentially Headed for a Big Payday

The 2017 unrestricted free agency class will be headlined by Chris Paul and Stephen Curry, but notables such as Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Paul Millsap, Kyle Lowry and Gordon Hayward have player options and can enter the frenzy as well.

All of the above guys, barring injury, are going to command top dollar. Without question.

However, there will be a group of unexpected guys headed for a large payday as teams will look to find the next diamond in the rough. We saw it this past summer with players like Tyler Johnson, Allan Crabbe and Evan Turner commanding large deals on the open market.

With the salary cap expected to endure another bump upward next summer, you can expect there will be another crop of unheralded guys inking lucrative contracts.

Let’s take a look at some candidates who could walk away from next summer with a somewhat unexpected fortune:

Jonathan Simmons, Guard-Forward, San Antonio Spurs
2015-16 Stats: 6.0 points, 1.7 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 50% FG, 38% 3PT
2017 Free Agency Status: Restricted

As a rookie last season, Simmons played in just 55 games on a stacked Spurs squad that rolled off more than 60 victories. But his per-36-minute averages of 14.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists speak volumes on what Simmons could potentially offer in a bigger role. For a recent example of how reserve guys in San Antonio that play the good soldier fare in free agency, look no further than center Boban Marjanovic.

Marjanovic inked a three-year, $21 million deal with Detroit earlier this summer after a rookie campaign of logging just 508 minutes of court time in 54 appearances. Of course, the Pistons are banking on the 7’3 center’s upside, but Simmons could be next up to receive an unexpected big deal in 2017.

Andre Roberson, Guard-Forward, Oklahoma City Thunder
2015-16 Stats: 4.8 points, 3.6 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 50% FG, 31% 3PT
2017 Free Agency Status: Restricted

Roberson upped his average points (5.6) and rebounds (5.6) per game during last season’s playoffs and his role should be bigger this season after guard Dion Waiters’ departure in free agency. Yes, Roberson has his limitations as a shooter, but he is a strong perimeter defender who can guard multiple positions on the floor. Also, Roberson had an exceptional Western Conference Finals, averaging nine points and 7.4 rebounds on 44 percent shooting from three-point range.

The Thunder have other priorities next summer with guys such as Victor Oladipo and Steven Adams eyeing free agency. Will their presence be what’s needed for Roberson to slip through the cracks and secure a larger deal elsewhere?

James McAdoo, Forward, Golden State Warriors
2015-16 Stats: 2.9 points, 1.4 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 54% FG
2017 Free Agency Status: Restricted

While Golden State may have won free agency this summer by securing Kevin Durant’s autograph on a new contract, the team took a hit with their usual depth in the process. Gone are guys such as Andrew Bogut, Harrison Barnes, Brandon Rush, Leandro Barbosa and Marreese Speights.

McAdoo has played sparingly in his first two seasons, but there is a prime opportunity for the forward to secure meaningful minutes in the rotation each night. With the Warriors expected to be in the title hunt, this could serve as a perfect opportunity for McAdoo to showcase his skills while improving his market value for next summer in the process.

Jared Sullinger, Center, Toronto Raptors
2015-16 Stats: 10.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 44% FG, 28% 3PT
2017 Free Agency Status: Unrestricted

Sullinger is expected to assume the backup center duties behind Jonas Valanciunas. This is not a bad spot for Sullinger considering the fact Bismack Biyombo received a four-year, $70-plus million deal in Orlando this summer after primarily serving as Valanciunas’ backup.

Sullinger signed a one-year deal with his eye on 2017 free agency. Toronto represents a great locale for Sullinger and his monetary pursuits.

Shaun Livingston, Guard, Golden State Warriors
2015-16 Stats: 6.3 points, 2.2 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 54% FG
2017 Free Agency Status: Unrestricted

The 30-year-old Livingston has carved out a niche as one of the best backup point guards in the game today. Livingston’s versatility will have him in high demand next summer. With Steph Curry (definite) and Kevin Durant (likely) headed to free agency in 2017, expect the veteran guard to do his due diligence and fully explore his market value.

Michael Beasley, Forward, Houston Rockets
2015-16 Stats: 12.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 52% FG, 33% 3PT
2017 Free Agency Status: Unrestricted

We have been down this road with Beasley before. He puts together a solid season of work, raises expectations and then struggles the following year. Inconsistency has plagued Beasley, but there’s no denying he’s an above-average scorer when locked in.

Beasley, 27, is still young enough to change the narrative of his career up until this point and he will have every opportunity in Houston this season to prove his worth before free agency in 2017.


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About Lang Greene

Lang Greene

Lang Greene is a senior NBA writer for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last eight seasons

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