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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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