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NBA PM: Players That Helped Free Agency Value in Playoffs

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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.

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About Cody Taylor

Cody Taylor

Cody Taylor is an NBA writer in his fourth season with Basketball Insiders, covering the NBA and NCAA out of Orlando and Miami.