Performing well on the big stage of the NBA Playoffs has always been a good way to secure a nice payday. For example, the 2009 Finals and ensuing offseason will always be memorable to me since it helped earn a $54 million contract for Hedo Turkoglu at age 30 and a $34 million contract for Trevor Ariza, who had only started 52 regular season games to that point. Just last year both Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli went from buyouts in Atlanta to hitting some playoff shots in Philadelphia, and they subsequently received multi-year deals above the Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception despite being in their 30s.
For stars and role players alike, the playoff prestige is real, so as we wait for the Finals, here’s a look at five players ready to cash in after improving their stock this postseason.
While Kawhi Leonard is probably the biggest winner of the playoffs, he was already set to receive his max contract this summer no matter what, so Lillard is the star who stands to gain the most from his strong showing. He averaged nearly 27 points and 6.6 assists per game while maintaining a solid 56.6% true shooting to help lead Portland to their first Western Conference Finals since 2000, aka all the way back when Rasheed Wallace, Steve Smith, and Scottie Pippen were their leading scorers. As a result, Chris Haynes reports that the Trail Blazers are ready to add a $191 million extension to the $29.8 million and $31.6 million he was already set to make over the next two years. It pays to hit crazy shots that end series.
Toronto’s other forward ranks just behind Leonard and Giannis Antetokounmpo in defensive win shares these playoffs, and that tough coverage helped limit the Greek Freak’s production in the Eastern Conference Finals. Siakam’s emergence as a versatile offensive piece this season is what has put him in position for a rookie extension that may surprise the casual fan, though. After breaking out for 16.9 points and 3.1 assists per game with 79 threes made during the regular season, he’s shown it’s not a fluke with 18.7 and 2.4 averages and 24 treys in 18 playoff games. His remarkably efficient 62.8% true shooting has dropped a bit to 53.3% as he’s carried a higher usage against playoff defenses, but overall his lineup flexibility on both ends has been a key part of Toronto going to the Finals. Do-it-all forwards are immensely valuable in today’s NBA, especially ones who only just turned 25, so the Raptors would be wise to lock him up this summer.
Fellow Buck Khris Middleton almost got this spot as someone who is going to get PAID this summer, but he didn’t really play up to his usual standards to improve his stock. Instead, I’m highlighting the big man who was a bargain at just the $3.4 million Bi-Annual Exception this season. Lopez showed that he can man the middle for a top-notch defense as Milwaukee had the best defensive rating in the playoffs at 102.5 points per 100 possessions.As always throughout his career, Lopez also provides valuable floor spacing with his outside touch. After a nice showing against Detroit, he suffered a shooting slump versus Boston, but erased that from everyone’s minds with that 29-point outburst in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. He finished that series as the Bucks’ second-leading scorer and should be in line for a much better payday than last summer.
Another big man who had to settle for a lower deal than expected, Looney played on just a minimum contract of under $1.6 million, but the 23-year-old is looking at a much larger deal now after stepping up in a bigger way these playoffs. He leads the playoffs with 75% true shooting and an absurd 150.5 offensive rating while also ranking 5th in offensive rebound percentage. And with sound defensive fundamentals, he holds his own on switches and typically positions himself well in help defense, even if he won’t blow you away with block totals. Unlike last year, Golden State holds his full Bird rights to offer as much as they’d like, so that could help him in negotiations across the league as a solid rotational big.
All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com
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