NBA AM: Free Agency Stock Watch, Playoff Edition
Under the bright lights of the postseason many have shined and many have withered under the pressure. The playoffs also serve as a time for players to boost their values around the league as potential free agency looms on the horizon.
Let’s take a look at five guys who will likely draw interest this summer in free agency and how they’ve performed on the big stage thus far:
Jameer Nelson, Point Guard
Status: Player option for 2013 season worth $7.8 million
For the first two months of the 2012 season it was painful to watch Jameer Nelson struggling on the court trying to find his rhythm as he averaged just 9.4 points and 5.2 assists on 39 percent shooting (December – February).
The common train of thought was either Nelson was quietly playing through the pain of an unknown injury or he was mentally being impacted more than he would publicly acknowledge by the daily Dwight Howard contract circus which dominated the NBA landscape until the trade deadline passed.
Coincidental or not, the veteran point guard got his game on track soon after Howard announced he was committed to the Magic franchise long term – well, at least through 2013.
In April, Nelson averaged 15.2 points and 7 assists per game as the Magic solidified their playoff footing.
The eighth year veteran continued playing at a high level in the Magic’s first round playoff series versus the Indiana Pacers without Howard who was nursing his surgically repaired back.
Although the Magic were sent home packing by the Pacers in just five games Tuesday night, Nelson shined averaging 15.6 points, 6.6 assists and 3.8 rebounds in the series.
Nelson, who has a player option for the 2013 season worth $7.8 million, can decide to become an unrestricted free agent and sign a multi-year deal.
This would be smart business given his history of injuries and decline in recent years.
There are a few teams who would likely be interested in his services.
One potential candidate could be the Portland Trail Blazers who will be in the market for a point guard.
The Blazers are rumored to be interested in Brooklyn Nets point guard Deron Williams, but as Jason Quick of the Oregonian point out in late April, the team needs a locker room leader first and foremost during its rebuilding process.
Whatever the case, Nelson’s strong end of the year run will likely net him a few extra bucks and give him options this summer.
J.R. Smith, Shooting Guard
New York Knicks
Status: Player option for 2013 season worth $2.6 million
Smith returned to the league midseason and signed with New York after tearing up the Chinese Basketball League.
The sometimes erratic shooting guard has a player option worth $2.6 million for next season and it is all but a given he will test his market value this summer in free agency.
It is no secret Smith desires to be one of the primary focal points of a team’s offense and one of the reasons he signed with New York was to play in departed head coach Mike D’Antoni’s up tempo offense.
The problem for Smith is his postseason run with the Knicks hasn’t exactly been the smoothest.
Smith is shooting just 34 percent from the floor and 21 percent (5-of-24) from three-point range in the team’s first round series versus the Miami HEAT.
The Knicks trail the HEAT in the series 3-1, but Smith has the opportunity to step up as New York will be playing without guards Iman Shumpert, Baron Davis and Jeremy Lin for the foreseeable future.
There will be plenty of teams in the market for a shooting guard this summer such as Indiana, Minnesota, Boston and Phoenix.
Question is can Smith get hot at the right time and convince one of those teams to give him a long term deal?
Ryan Anderson, Power Forward
Status: Restricted Free Agent
The story of Ryan Anderson was one of the feel good stories of the year; a former reserve rising to prominence as a starter and taking home the league’s Most Improved Player award.
Anderson averaged 16.1 points and 7.7 rebounds during the season and his perimeter game served as perfect complement to Dwight Howard’s interior presence by stroking 162 three-pointers.
However, the uncertainty for Anderson’s potential free agent suitors was whether his rise was more to do with playing with Howard attracting double and triple teams on a nightly basis which freed him up to do work on the outside.
The answer became clear in the playoffs as Anderson posted averages of just 9.6 points and 4.6 rebounds on 34 percent shooting from the field without Howard in the lineup.
Three-point marksmanship from 6’10 power forwards still comes at a premium around the league so he’ll draw interest this summer, but his postseason slump may favor the Magic matching any offers for his services.
Spencer Hawes, Center
Status: Unrestricted Free Agent
See this as a note, NBA big men are routinely overpaid based on the lack of size and quality at the position in today’s game.
Before the start of the season journeyman center Kwame Brown signed a one-year $6.8 million deal with Golden State. Samuel Dalembert signed a two-year $13.6 million deal in Houston.
This puts Spencer Hawes in a solid spot to choose his destiny this summer as the Sixers are positioned to advance to the second round of the playoffs granting him even more exposure.
Hawes has averaged 12.5 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game on 55 percent shooting in the team’s first round matchup versus the Chicago Bulls – a team known for its defensive tenacity.
Expect Hawes to be no different from centers of years past and lock down a lucrative multi-year deal once free agency begins.
JaVale McGee, Center
Status: Restricted Free Agent
The same theory mentioned with Hawes will undoubtedly apply to McGee as well.
The Nuggets traded for McGee at the trade deadline sending veteran center Nene to Washington.
Denver has $51 million in salary commitments on the books for the 2013 season and can match any offer for McGee he receives once free agency begins.
It is all but a given the Nuggets will keep McGee in the fold, but at what cost to the salary cap?
McGee’s postseason performance up until point versus the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round has given everyone a glimpse of the type of potential he possesses posting averages of 10.4 points, 9.6 rebounds and a whopping 3.2 blocks per game.
What makes the numbers stand out more is the fact it they have come up against the Lakers’ vaunted All-Star frontline of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.
Please believe there will be teams calling when free agency begins, although Denver will likely match anything thrown his way.
Celtics Folded Down The Stretch: Once seemingly on the ropes, the Atlanta Hawks were injected with new life as they defeated the Boston Celtics 87-86 Tuesday night to extend their first round matchup to game 6.
The Celtics still lead the series 3-2.
However it was Boston’s late game execution, or lack thereof, which was the topic of conversation after the loss.
The Celtics trailed by just one point late in the fourth quarter after Paul Pierce shot an air ball from about twenty feet with around 20 seconds left.
But as the Hawks inbounded the ball, Boston surprisingly didn’t foul immediately which left Celtics head coach Doc Rivers confused at the team’s unawareness of the game situation.
Since the Celtics didn’t commit the foul immediately to stop the clock roughly nine precious seconds ticked away.
“We signaled to foul, and our guys decided to try and go for a steal first,” Rivers told Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald. “They didn’t understand we had a foul to give, and I told them after the game. We talk about it every night. Every night and in practice — end-of-game execution is going to lose playoff games for you.”
The Celtics were able to get a steal after an errant pass from Hawks forward Josh Smith, but the Celtics couldn’t get up a potential game-winning short as point guard Rajon Rondo was forced into a turnover by Al Horford on the ensuing fast break as time expired.
“You think about that seven extra seconds Rondo would have had,” Rivers said referencing the lost time from not fouling previously. “It doesn’t mean we would have made a shot, you never know, but we would have had the extra time, and we didn’t have it.”
“We were in a jumble. I wish [Rondo] would have gone down the middle of the floor. You should always do that when you have a big up on you. But it was a turnover and it was a fast break. We were just trying to go. I thought Kevin set a nice step-up pick. I was hoping (Rondo) would attack the basket, but he lost the ball. He made the play though, a terrific defensive play. We got the steal, but we didn’t capitalize on it.”
The series heads back to Boston for game six on Thursday night and only time will tell if the Celtics’ late game woes in game five will come back to haunt them.
Pistons Want Maxiell Back Long Term? There wasn’t much to smile about in Detroit as the Pistons missed the playoffs for the third consecutive season after being fixtures in the postseason from 2002-09.
But one guy who was a consistent force for the team this season was power forward Jason Maxiell.
Maxiell has a player option worth $5 million for 2013 that he can exercise and become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
The Pistons, who currently have $ 63 million in salaries already committed next season, would like to bring him back according to president of basketball operations Joe Dumars.
“It’s a player option so that’s totally in his hands,” Dumars told Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press. “Obviously we’d love to have Max back. “I think clearly this was his best year. He was in the best shape of his life. He looked great.”
Maxiell averaged 6.5 points and 5.1 rebounds on the season, but 7.6 and 5.5 respectively after the All-Star break.
The seven year veteran has until June 30 to notify the Pistons on his plans regarding the player option.
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