Each year during the playoffs, we see various players step up and help lead their respective teams when games matter most. With a championship on the line, players will do everything that they can to try to achieve the ultimate goal of winning a championship.
We expect to see players, like LeBron James, Stephen Curry, James Harden and Isaiah Thomas among others, to rise to the occasion and lead their respective teams. While it’s important for these players to perform at a higher level, role players are expected to step up as well.
Basketball Insiders decided to take a look at some players that have stepped up and helped raise their stock on the open market and are set to hit free agency this summer. For this list, non-top-tier players whose strong play this offseason helped boost their value were primarily considered. Notable free agents like Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, J.J. Redick and Otto Porter Jr. among others were not considered since it’s likely their value on the open mark is already set.
Last year, players like Bismack Biyombo, Maurice Harkless and Austin Rivers turned strong playoff performances into big contract offers.
Here are several players (in no particular order) who have helped their free agency value after a successful postseason:
JaMychal Green, Memphis Grizzlies (Restricted):
Green turned in a career year this season and should be in line for a significant pay raise this summer. Once the Grizzlies issue him a $2,820,497 qualifying offer, Green will become a restricted free agent and the Grizzlies will have the right to match any offer sheet he may agree to with another team.
Green averaged 7.3 points and 3.3 rebounds in six playoff games for the Grizzlies this season. He also shot 43.8 percent from three-point range this postseason and had a couple of huge outings for the Grizzlies. Green recorded eight points off of the bench in Game 3 and had 14 points in Game 4 to help the Grizzlies even up the series at 2-2.
For a player that went undrafted in 2012, Green proved all season long that he can be a valuable role player that can come into a game and give his team a spark. While his stats may not jump off of the page, his defense is one of his best attributes and will likely earn him a lot of money in his next contract.
Jonathon Simmons, San Antonio Spurs (Restricted):
Like Green, Simmons will be a restricted free agent once the Spurs extend him a $1,671,382 qualifying offer. His remarkable path to the Spurs has been well documented, but it seems inevitable he’ll sign a big contract this summer.
Simmons has increased his points per game from 6.2 during the regular season to 7.9 this postseason. He didn’t play much against the Grizzlies in the first round but is averaging 12.2 points and 2.4 rebounds so far against the Houston Rockets.
If there was ever a question in how much confidence head coach Gregg Popovich has in Simmons, it came Tuesday night in Game 5. The Spurs tried to use their size throughout much of the game, but it failed to work and they went with a smaller lineup in the first quarter and called upon Simmons. He responded by scoring 12 points in 32 minutes.
It was perhaps his defense in the final seconds that proved to be his best sequence of the playoffs. With time winding down in regulation, Simmons was matched up with James Harden and drew a charge after Harden attempted to drive to the basket. Simmons displayed great defense on the play and helped prevent the Rockets from scoring to force overtime.
The Spurs would hold on in overtime and take a 3-2 series lead. Now, Simmons is on the verge of a big payday this summer.
JaVale McGee, Golden State Warriors (Unrestricted):
In limited minutes this postseason, McGee has been extremely effective. In fact, he has proven all season long that he doesn’t need a ton of minutes to make an impact on a game. In eight postseason games, McGee is averaging 7.4 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in just 11.4 minutes per game.
During the Warriors’ closeout game against the Utah Jazz, he recorded 12 points and three rebounds in just 11 minutes. With so many playmakers on the Warriors, it’s obvious that they don’t need McGee to play a ton of minutes, but he’s making big contributions when he does play.
McGee has been quite the steal for the Warriors this season, which is remarkable considering he signed a non-guaranteed deal in the offseason. He appeared in 77 regular season games this year, which is more than the past three seasons combined. It’s safe to say his career has been resurrected with the Warriors.
It’s reasonable to think his strong play won’t necessarily earn him a huge contract this summer, but given how few games he’s appeared in over the past three years, it may have just landed him a guaranteed deal next season worth more than the $980,431 he earned this year.
Joe Ingles, Utah Jazz (Restricted):
With the Jazz’s season on the line in Game 7 against the Los Angeles Clippers, Ingles turned in what would be his best outing of the playoffs. He recorded 12 points, five rebounds and four steals to help the Jazz advance to the next round.
Of course, the Jazz were swept in the next round by the Warriors but Ingles’ play this postseason certainly earned him more than the $2,150,000 he made this season. He gave the Jazz great defense at times throughout the playoffs and is credited with slowing J.J. Redick down in the first round.
Ingles has been used mostly up until this point as a reserve player, but he has proven he can be effective either as a starter or a reserve. He’ll likely be an attractive option for a team in need of depth.
Andre Roberson, Oklahoma City Thunder (Restricted):
The argument can be made that Roberson likely already had his free agency value set heading into the playoffs, but his remarkable postseason play with the Thunder can’t be overlooked.
If you can get past his free throw numbers (3-of-21), Roberson was arguably the Thunder’s second most important player after Russell Westbrook. He averaged 11.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.4 blocks, 2.4 steals and 1.8 assists per game in the playoffs, which were all up from his regular season numbers.
While he was a liability on the floor at times given his poor free throw shooting, he provided tough defense on one of the game’s best players in James Harden. He was the team’s second-leading scorer and has emerged as a valuable piece to the franchise. It remains unclear what others teams will offer in free agency, but losing an elite defender may be tough for the Thunder, so they may elect to match an offer sheet for him.
Honorable Mention: Nene, Tim Hardaway Jr., Patty Mills, Gerald Green, Kelly Olynyk, Shelvin Mack and Ian Clark.
Each of these players above helped their respective case for free agency in one way or another. Whether it was getting hot at the right time or providing a spark off of the bench, these players likely just earned themselves a bigger payday.
NBA Daily: Jaylen Brown Set To Return For Celtics
The Celtics finally got some good news on Thursday. Jaylen Brown’s return is imminent.
Finally, some good news for the Boston Celtics.
Jaylen Brown is set to return to action.
Brown has been M.I.A. since sustaining a concussion during the team’s 117-109 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves back on March 8, but has traveled with the team to Portland and is expecting to return to the lineup on Sunday when the Celtics do battle with the Sacramento Kings.
As the Celts gear up for a playoff run, which they hope will result in them ending LeBron James’ reign atop the Eastern Conference, they’ve picked the wrong time to run into injury issues. Along with Brown, both Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart have each been conspicuous by their absences, and the team could certainly use all of their pieces as they attempt to enter the postseason on a high note.
Fortunately for Boston, with the Toronto Raptors leading them by 4.5 games in the standings and the Celts ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers by a comfortable six games, Brad Stevens’ team is enjoying the rare situation of having a playoff seed that appears to be somewhat locked in.
Still, with the team only able to go as far as its young rotation will carry it, Brown addressed the media on Thursday.
“I’m feeling a lot better. I’m just trying to hurry up and get back,” Brown said, as quoted by Celtics.com.
“I’m tired of not playing.”
Stevens is probably tired of him not playing, too.
As we head into the month of April, playoff-bound teams and conference contenders begin to think about playing into June, while the cellar-dwellers and pretenders begin to look toward the draft lottery and free agency.
What’s funny is that in the midst of the Raptors and their rise out East, the Celtics and their dominance has become a bit of a forgotten storyline. When Gordon Hayward went down on opening night, the neophytes from the Northeast were thought to be a decent team in the making whose ceiling probably wasn’t anywhere near that of the Cavs, the Raptors and perhaps even the Washington Wizards.
Yet through it all, with the impressive growth of Jaylen Brown, impressive rookie Jayson Tatum and the rise of Irving as a franchise’s lynchpin, the Celtics stormed out the games to the tune of a a 17-3 record. What made the strong start even more impressive was the fact that the team won 16 straight games after beginning the season 0-2.
Although they weren’t able to keep up that pace, they began the month of February having gone 37-15 and turned a great many into believers. With their spry legs, team-first playing style and capable leader in Irving, the Celtics, it was thought, were a true contender in the Eastern Conference — if not the favorite.
Since then, and after experiencing injuries to some of its key cogs, the team has gone just 11-8.
In the interim, it seems that many have forgotten about the team that tantalized the Eastern Conference in the early goings of the season.
Brown’s return, in one important respect, will signify a return to Boston’s prior self.
With Marcus Smart having recently undergone surgery to repair a torn tendon in his right thumb, he is expected to be out another five weeks or so, meaning that he’ll likely miss the beginning of the postseason.
As for Irving, although reports say that his ailing knee has no structural damage, everything the Celtics hope to accomplish begins and ends with him. FOX Sports 1’s Chris Broussard believes that it’s no slam dunk that Irving returns to action this season, but he’s in the minority. This team has simply come too far to not give themselves every opportunity to compete at the highest level, so long as doing so doesn’t jeopardize the long term health of any of the franchise’s cornerstones.
Make no mistake about it, the Celtics are far from a finished product. With their nucleus intact and flexibility preserved, they will have another offseason with which to tinker with their rotation pieces and plug away at building a champion.
But here and now, with what they’ve got, the Celtics are much closer than any of us thought they would be at this point.
And on Sunday, when Jaylen Brown rejoins his team in the lineup, to the delight of the Boston faithful, the Celtics will be that much closer.
Winslow and the Miami HEAT Are “Believing in Each Other”
Justise Winslow discusses the all-around team effort of the Miami HEAT with Basketball Insiders.
The days of LeBron James in Miami are over. Chris Bosh isn’t there anymore, either. No more Ray Allen or Shane Battier. Dwyane Wade is back, but he’s not “Flash” nowadays.
Actually, check the entire Miami HEAT roster; there’s no superstar. They have an All-Star in Goran Dragic, even if he was the third alternate. But during this most recent playoff push, the HEAT don’t have a worldwide household name to plaster all over billboards as a reason for their success.
With 10 games remaining until the playoffs, Miami doesn’t have a player averaging more than 33 minutes per game. Instead, they have 11 players who average at least 20 minutes a contest. Their approach is that of a deep rotation, and its led them to a 39-33 record and the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference. All while the rest of the league is star-driven.
One of those key cogs to the Miami machine is third-year wing, Justise Winslow. A former top-10 pick out of Duke, Winslow is enjoying most efficient season so far for the HEAT. To him, the fact that his squad isn’t littered with names like LeBron and Steph doesn’t make a difference.
“I think our team is extremely confident in each other,” Winslow said. “I think that’s a big thing is that we all believe in each other. We play to each other’s strengths, and most importantly we’re a defensive-minded team. We hang our hats on the defensive end, and that’s really what gets us going as a team.”
Winslow isn’t exaggerating. The HEAT is seventh in the NBA in defensive rating. Head coach Erik Spoelstra harps on the team’s defensive scheme and preparation. Without a go-to scorer capable of getting the team 30 any given night, Miami needs to do their job as a collective unit on the defensive end of the floor night in and night out.
“Each night the coaching staff preaching to us that we have enough, no matter who is in the lineup,” Winslow said. “So it’s just about going out there and executing and putting together a good game of 48-minute basketball. I think our belief in each other that we have enough to get the job done is key.”
In the current NBA landscape, a lot of the playoff contenders are centered around players with big resumes and bigger names. As a result, the HEAT get lost in the shuffle of the national conversation from time to time. Their culture of togetherness and slight from the media outside of their city could make for the perfect “chip on the shoulder” recipe. Or so you would think. Winslow doesn’t believe the chatter, or lack thereof, matters any to Miami.
“We don’t pay too much attention to that,” Winslow said. ‘We’re so focused, and locked in on our team, and each other, and trying to win each game. For us, it’s about having the respect of your peers, of the other team. I think every night no matter who we have or who’s healthy, I think teams know we’re going to be a tough, physical team. Guys in this league don’t want that, you don’t want to have to play against a Miami HEAT team that’s going to be physical, that’s going to get into your body, that’s going to make you play a hard, 48-minute basketball game.”
Because of the HEAT’s brand of basketball, an 82-game season can be grueling. For Winslow, keeping his body right throughout the grind is important to him. After dealing with a few injuries last season, and ultimately being shut down for the year last January to undergo right shoulder surgery for a torn labrum, Winslow was determined to make sure he kept his body in check throughout his comeback so he would be available for a long playoff run.
While his numbers aren’t flashy, Winslow is showing improvement. His 49.3 true shooting percentage is the highest of his career, along with shooting nearly 43 percent from beyond the arc, Winslow made strides in arguably the biggest knock against his game since coming out of college.
Because NBA players have the freedom to form partnerships with whichever companies they’d like, Winslow made the choice to strike up a partnership that he felt would not only help him off the court but more importantly, on it as well.
“My partnership with MET-Rx has been great,” Winslow said. “They’ve really helped take my game to the next level with all their nutritional supplements, and the Big 100 bar. So, for me, I’m always looking for ways to stay off my feet, but also get in the best shape possible and this was just a great way to help.”
The grind of the NBA season is also eased for playoff teams by a veteran presence. So, when the HEAT brought back franchise legend Wade at the trade deadline, their locker room suddenly had a face and feel of someone who’s been there before. A player who reached the pinnacle, with the very team that traded for him nonetheless.
Getting Wade back to Miami was crucial for the team’s playoff run down the stretch, and more importantly for Winslow, who benefited greatly from his time with the future Hall of Famer when he was fresh out of college.
“First and foremost, it was great to get him back,” Winslow said. “Just the role that he played in my career as a rookie, and everything I learned from him. But then also, just the energy and positivity that he brought to the locker room, and also the community of Miami, the city of Miami as a whole. It was a much-needed energy boost, and good vibes that he brought back for that post All-Star break push for playoffs. So, it’s just been great having him back, and it’s kind of rejuvenated the team and the locker room, and just the city in general.”
Wade is the MVP-caliber player he once was this time around, though. But that’s okay. This version of the Miami HEAT is charging toward the postseason with a team-first mentality.
NBA Daily: The Road Ahead for Michael Porter Jr.
Michael Porter Jr. is an elite prospect, but questions surrounding his back will determine his landing spot in the NBA.
The Road Ahead for Michael Porter Jr.
While some of the highly thought of college players have made their intentions on declaring for the 2018 NBA Draft known, Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr still hasn’t made his proclamation. Most people in NBA circles believe he’ll be in the 2018 NBA Draft class—you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t think he’s in.
Back in November, the Missouri staff was somewhat vague and guarded about Porter’s condition until it was announced that he’d have back surgery on a couple of problematic discs in the lumbar area of his spine. The procedure is called a microdiscectomy and by all accounts was a success.
Porter missed virtually all of his college season but opted to play in the post-season for Missouri, who got eliminated fairly quickly.
There were certainly a lot of ugly things about Porter’s game. He looked out of shape, and certainly wasn’t the overwhelming dominating force he’d been in high school. Some executives applauded his decision to play, even though he wasn’t at a 100 percent. Some pointed to that fact that too many college players play it safe and that’s not always viewed positively. Almost no one Basketball Insiders spoke with was holding the less than stellar outing against him. In fact, most had far more positive things to say than negative. There was one resounding theme from the NBA executives who spoke about this situation—none of it matters until they see his medical.
Assuming Porter does as expected and hires an agent and enters the draft, the next challenge he’ll face is how open he wants to be to teams looking at drafting him.
In recent years, NBA teams have not shied away from using high draft picks on injured or recently injured players. Once a team can get a sense of how the player is recovering, they can make a value judgment.
Agents often use this information and access to the player to help steer their client to the situation they deem most favorable. While fans and outsiders often get caught up in the pick number a player ultimately lands at, more and more agents are concerned with fit, especially for a player that may need time to get back to 100 percent.
Most agents would want to steer their client to a team with favorable medical staff, a team with a proven track record of patience or more importantly, a team with the best chance at a long and fruitful career.
This won’t be good news for some team that could end up in the top 10, as it’s more likely that Porter isn’t made available to everyone. NBA executives will tell you, they can certainly draft him if they wanted to, but most teams won’t draft a player if their medical staff doesn’t sign off, and without information and access how can they do that?
There is a significant financial difference in going third in the draft ($5.47 million) and 10th ($2.964 million) – but several agents commented that the short-term money shouldn’t drive the long-term decision, especially if the player isn’t 100 percent. The fit and situation typically trump everything in these situations.
Another concept to consider is while Porter did play, there are questions about whether he’ll host a pro-day, take part in private team workouts or simply let his body of work drive his draft value.
Almost no one who spoke about this situation believed Porter would take part in the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, as he’d have to subject himself to the medical testing that’s part of that event.
The common perception on Porter is he’s a top-five talent, although it seems more likely that his camp is going to try and work the process to ensure he lands in a favorable situation. That could mean he falls out of top-five selections, simply because he and his agents choose to.
There is still a lot that needs to play out for Porter, including his announcement that he will enter the draft. But given where things stand with him, it’s more likely than not he’s coming into the draft, and it’s more likely than not he’ll have a lot of questions NBA teams will want to understand before his real draft position is clear.
The NBA Draft Lottery will be held in Chicago this year and is scheduled for May 15th. The annual Draft Combine, also in Chicago, gets underway on May 16th.
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