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NBA Daily: Free Agents Who Have Increased Their Value This Postseason

Drew Maresca identifies six players primed for a raise and/or contract extension this offseason as a result of their respective 2019 Playoff performances.

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The postseason always shows us something new about players and their respective skillsets — some of which is accurate, and some of which is less reliable. And it’s fair to wonder whether a player can substantially change their perceived value in 28 games or less.

Despite how increasingly sophisticated NBA front offices have become over the past decade – and they have become smarter, just look back at signings like Jerome James to the New York Knicks in 2005 based after an 11-game playoff run for proof – playoff performances probably still influence free agent signings more than they should.

With that being said, let’s identify a few players primed for a raise and/or extension based on their respective play in the 2019 postseason up to this point. Disclaimer: We will not cover the best free agents in 2019, nor will we cite stars like D’Angelo Russell who will obviously get raises based on the fact that their contracts are expiring. Instead, this piece highlights players who may have altered their own narrative positively or extended their careers with strong performances.

Additionally, this piece will avoid discussing players like Bojan Bogdanovic, Brook Lopez and Al-Farouq Aminu, who are each lined up for more significant contract offers this time around. Yes, they are all in line for BIG raises; but NBA front offices were already familiar with their abilities entering the 2019 NBA Playoffs and their performance, be they good or bad, arguably didn’t do much to influence the overall perception of them around the league.

Rodney Hood

Status: Unrestricted; 2018-19 Salary: $3.472; Projected contract: 3 years, $33 million

Did playing alongside the ball dominant LeBron James mitigate Hood’s impact? It sure seems like it, especially recently. Has Hood redeemed himself from a below-average 2017-18 season and a poor 2018 postseason? It also seems like it.

Hood averaged 16.8 points per game in the 39 games he played in Utah in 2017-18. He scored only 10.8 per game in the next 25 games in Cleveland. He bottomed out in the 2018 playoffs, averaging only 5.4 points on 16.7% from three with multiple DNP-CD. His struggles continued in 2018-19 for 45 games in Cleveland and 27 in Portland.

And the first-round of the playoffs this year went mostly the same way. But Hood had a breakthrough for the Trailblazers in Game 1 of the second-round against the Denver Nuggets, scoring 17 on three-for-four shooting from three. He followed that up with 15 points on two-for-six from three, and then a spectacular four overtime Game 3 win in which he scored 19 points and hit the game-winning three.

Hood has re-established himself around the league to the extent that someone may make him an offer that exceeds three years and $30 million.

Austin Rivers

Status: Unrestricted; 2018-19 Salary: $1.15 million; Projected contract: 3 years, $21 million

Back in 2011, it was assumed that Rivers was a future All-Star – and rightfully so. Rivers was ranked as high as the best overall prospect for his high school class. Fast forward to Saturday night and no one would blame you for assuming that premonition came true based solely on that night’s performance. In reality, it’s been a far bumpier ride through Rivers’ first seven seasons.

But Rivers could be righting the ship right in front of our eyes. Rivers has performed well through his first seven playoff games this year, averaging 7.6 points in just under 20 minutes per game on an effective field goal percentage of 62.5. He’s had a few very good games, including this past Saturday, when he shot 2-for-4 from three and held Steph Curry in check the entire night. Basketball Insider’s writer Matt John covered Rivers’ importance to the Rockets’ postseason run earlier this week, and many in the media have said the series could have easily been 2-1 in favor of the Rockers if Rivers hadn’t come down with the flu in late April. Regardless of your thoughts on Rivers, it’s clear that he’s due for a significant raise from his current $1.15 million salary.

Mike Scott

Status: Unrestricted; 2018-19 Salary: $4.325 million; Projected Contract: 3 years, $15 million

Scott has been a Swiss army knife for Coach Brett Brown and the Philadelphia 76ers since coming over from the Clippers in the Tobias Harris trade, averaging 7.8 points on 41% from three in 27 games. He has especially shown his value in the 2019 NBA Playoffs.

Scott is a tough veteran with a knack for defense and shooting. He has hit some critical shots in the playoffs thus far, none bigger than the dagger that sealed Game Four against Brooklyn in the first-round, which all but eliminated the Nets.

The 6-foot-8 Scott is about as versatile as they come. He has a 6-foot-11 wingspan and can guard four positions, including some centers. He hasn’t shot too well this post-season, but his defense has been on full display. He’s had tough matchups with Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam when he’s been on the floor, but that only speaks to Coach Brown’s confidence in the 30-year old forward.

After signing a one-year deal prior to this season, look for Scott to either sign on for a longer-term deal or seek out a higher annual salary on a short-term contract.

Seth Curry

Status: Unrestricted; 2018-19 Salary: $2.795 million; Projected Contract: 2 years, $10 million

While confidence hasn’t been an issue for Curry since entering the NBA in 2013, his belief in himself and his understanding of what’s expected of him seems to have developed a bit since landing in Portland. This postseason, Curry is averaging 6.1 points in 18.8 minutes per game on 48% from three – highlighted by a 16-point Game 4 against the Nuggets in which he shot 4-for-6 from three.

If nothing else, the six-year veteran has proven that he’s not afraid of the moment and can be reliable in clutch situations – which was never a foregone conclusion in years’ past. Curry has caught the league’s attention and should net himself a nice contract this offseason.

James Ennis

Status: Player Option; 2018-19 Salary: $1.6 million; Projected Contract: 3 years, $9 million

The 76ers are probably more than a little worried about the potential for turnover on their roster considering that nine of their 14 potential rotation guys will be unrestricted free agents or possess a player option. James Ennis is a part of the latter group. Ennis is seen as a similar, albeit less developed player to Mike Scott. He is a strong defender who can stretch the floor with his three-point shot. Lucky for him, Ennis has come up big at the perfect time. He scored 11 points and shot 4-for-5 from three in Game 1 against the Raptors. He followed that up with 11 points in Game 2 and 10 points and five rebounds (two offensive) in Game 3. At 6-foot-7, Ennis can guard three positions effectively. And Ennis is a career 36% three-point shooter. Ennis will be 29 in July, meaning he is arguably in his physical prime. It would be wise for a team to lock him up through his prime before he continues his ascent and increases his value.

Jared Dudley

Status: Unrestricted; 2018-19 Salary: $9.5 million; Projected Contract: 2 years, $18 million

Dudley demonstrated that he brings more to the table than just veteran leadership in 2018-19. He proved that he is still an above average defender who makes good decisions offensively. Dudley’s play in the playoffs was certainly noteworthy. He made Ben Simmons work his tail off and also spent a fair amount of time guarding Joel Embiid. In Game 1, Dudley guarded Simmons on 22 possessions and Embiid on three possessions, allowing only a combined two points. That kind of versatility is hard to find. And when it comes along with a positive locker room influence and a reliable jumper, that sort of value cannot be understated. Dudley won’t get a long-term deal given that he’ll turn 34 shortly after free agency begins, but he proved enough to warrant a generous, fully-guaranteed two-year deal.

Hopefully for the teams that ink the above-mentioned players, the playoffs was less a flash in the pan and more an indication of things to come. It’s impossible to know who of the bunch will boom and who will bust, but it’s likely some will continue their upward trajectory while others fall short of expectations. With teams making better decisions now than ever before, we’ll see if they can correctly differentiate between flashy performances and tangible skill. Only time will tell.

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Bulls’ guard Zach LaVine desires respect for new contract

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According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, Chicago Bulls star Zach LaVine wants the respect he deserves for his contract extension. On Monday morning before Team USA’s practice to prepare for Tuesday’s match against Spain, the 26-year-old guard said to reporters, “I just want my respect, that’s the main thing. I outplayed my contract. I’ve been very loyal to Chicago. I like Chicago. I just want my respect. If that’s now or later, it’s something we’ve got to work out internally.” In the 2020-21 season, in 58 games played, LaVine averaged 27.4 points, five rebounds and 4.9 assists per game. He also shot 50.7 percent from the field and was selected to his first NBA All-Star Game.

Regarding the “outplayed my contract” comment, his argument his fair. Last season, with 200 three-point field goals made, he ranked ninth overall in the league. Despite the Bulls finishing 31-41 (.431) last season, he led the team in points and assists. Per ESPN, they are also reporting that Chicago is trying to work out a four-year, $105 million contract extension for their star guard. Though, this deal is expected to fall below his market value. In terms of signing available free agents this offseason, some Bulls fans are speculating the organization will pursue either Knicks’ shooting guard/small forward Reggie Bullock, Lakers’ power forward/center Markieff Morris or Pelicans’ point guard Lonzo Ball.

On July 13, 2018, the 2014 13th pick of the draft signed a four-year, $78 million contract with the Bulls. LaVine earned $19,500,000 last season, and he is set to earn $19,500,000 in the upcoming season. It is not urgent for Chicago to extend LaVine’s contract this offseason. The organization will have the full rights to re-sign him to a new deal for next season in 2022.

However, the guard will also become an unrestricted free agent next year, so the Bulls should work towards fixing their salary cap issues right now. Referencing Spotrac, center Nikola Vucevic has a cap figure of $24 million. Of this amount, his future guaranteed cash is $22 million. One notable 2021-22 cap hold is Lauri Markkanen. His qualifying offer is $9,026,952, and his cap figure is $20,194,524. On March 2, 2020, Markkanen was recalled from the Windy City Bulls of the G League.

Furthermore, on March 25, 2021, center Nikola Vucevic and forward Al-Farouq Aminu were traded by the Orlando Magic to the Bulls in exchange for Otto Porter, Wendell Carter Jr., a 2021 first-round pick and a 2023 first-round pick. This is quite the gamble for the Bulls organization, considering they traded away two future first-round picks. Vucevic is set to earn $24 million for the 2021-22 season. Chicago has $56,679,846 available in cap space. Their current luxury tax space is $29,405746.

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Rockets decline Avery Bradley’s $5.9 million team option

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First reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Houston Rockets are declining Avery Bradley’s team option for the 2021-22 NBA season. On November 23, 2020, the 30-year-old guard signed as a free agent with the Miami Heat. He signed a two-year, $11.6 million deal. On March 25, 2021, the Heat traded Bradley, Kelly Olynyk and a 2022 first-round pick to the Houston Rockets for two-time NBA All-Star guard Victor Oladipo. The 2022 first-round pick is an option to trade for a potential Heat or Nets pick. Plus, Houston received a trade exception, too.

Moreover, Bradley earned $5,635,000 this previous season; the Rockets declined his 2021-22 team option of $5,916,750 for next season. In other words, both sides have mutually agreed to part ways, so the six-foot-three guard is now an unrestricted free agent. In early February, it was first reported that the Washington native would miss three to four weeks due to a calf strain. Before this injury, he averaged 8.5 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game for Miami. Furthermore, he also shot a career-high percentage of 42.1 percent from behind the arc last season.

Though, Bradley disappointed both of his teams last season, leading to the Rockets finishing 17-55 (.236), ranking 15th overall in the Western Conference. Last season was the first time since the 1982-83 season that Houston failed to win at least 20 games. Since the 2011-12 season, it was the first time the Rockets had failed to qualify for the playoffs. In only 27 games played, the 11-year NBA veteran averaged 6.4 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game. He shot 37.4 percent from the field as well.

Likewise, the Miami Heat finished 40-32 (.556) last season, regressing from the team’s 44-29 (.603) record and sixth NBA Finals appearance from the 2019-20 season. Fans across social media are already speculating that the 2010 19th overall pick will end up playing for the Los Angeles Lakers next season. If this happens, he would join the team’s newly established big three: LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook.

After Bradley signed with the Lakers for the 2019-20 season, he joined the list of players in the league’s history who played for both the Celtics and Lakers. The list includes Brian Shaw, Clyde Lovellette, Mel Counts, Rick Fox, Don Nelson, Bob McAdoo, Isaiah Thomas, Charlie Scott, Gary Payton, Shaquille O’Neal and Rajon Rondo. According to Bleacher Report, the Lakers are also interested in signing Carmelo Anthony this offseason.

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Mavericks will pick up Willie Cauley-Stein’s $4.1 million option

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Per ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, the Dallas Mavericks are planning to pick up center Willie Cauley-Stein’s $4.1 million option for the 2021-22 NBA season. The deadline is tomorrow. Last season, in 53 games played, the seven-foot big man averaged 5.3 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. The sixth-year player also shot 63.2 percent from the field last season.

On July 8, 2019, Cauley-Stein signed a two-year, $4.46 million contract with the Golden State Warriors. Then, on January 25, 2020, Cauley-Stein was traded to the Mavericks for a 2020 second-round pick. If everything goes smoothly, the 27-year-old center is set to earn $4.1 million next season. The 2015 sixth overall pick’s contract consumes less than three percent of the team’s total salary cap.

This news comes right after Dallas received center Moses Brown from the Boston Celtics. Brown is a seven-foot-two, 2019 undrafted player out of UCLA. In 2021, Brown was named to the All-NBA G League First Team and All-Defensive Team. On March 28, 2021, the 21-year-old center signed a four-year, $6.8 million contract with the Thunder.

However, on June 18, 2021, the Oklahoma City Thunder traded Brown, Al Horford, and a 2023 second-round pick to the Celtics for Kemba Walker, a 2021 first-round pick and a 2025 second-round pick. With Boston, Brown was set to earn $1,701,593 next season. Of course, the Mavs organization is finalizing a trade to send Josh Richardson to the Celtics as well. In other news, today is Mavs owner Mark Cuban’s 63rd birthday.

Referencing Spotrac’s 2021-22 luxury tax totals, the Mavs’ current luxury tax space is $52,326,531. The 2021 NBA salary cap maximum is $112,414,000. Their current cap space is $27,595,632. Cauley-Stein’s contract is recognized as a club option, not a player option or guaranteed money. Richardson’s deadline is also tomorrow, so because he is getting traded to Boston, the team will not collect his $11,615,328 player option.

Plus, Jalen Brunson’s deadline is also August 1st. His guaranteed value is $1,802,057. Leading into the 2021-22 season, Kristaps Porzingis has the highest cap figure on the team, which is an amount worth $31,650,600, consuming 22.73 percent of the team’s total salary cap. At the moment, Porzingis is a popular name in trade rumor articles. Bettors and NBA analysts are predicting a possible trade to the Brooklyn Nets, Sacramento Kings or Philadelphia 76ers.

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