Just like players can make themselves a lot of money following strong postseason performances, they can just as easily cost themselves money after disappointing showings.
Sometimes, players who were once expected to get max-salary consideration fail to leave a big impression in the playoffs, and thus take themselves out of the running for such deals. Other times, it’s the mid-tier players who follow up impressive regular seasons by falling flat on their faces once the games get more important.
Any way you slice it, it’s unfortunate whenever players lose money in such manners.
Below, we break down five players who hurt themselves ahead of free agency in the 2019 playoffs.
Orlando Magic big man Nikola Vucevic had a forgettable postseason showing, averaging a meager 11.2 points on 36.2 percent shooting, chipping in just 8.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists besides that and, most concerning of all, getting completely outplayed by 34-year-old Marc Gasol.
The fact that the Swiss center struggled so mightily to get it going over five playoff contests could very well raise concerns among teams planning on courting him this summer, especially for those who planned on offering him a huge contract.
After all, seeing his play deteriorate after such a spectacular regular season has to make prospective suitors wonder whether Vucevic can be counted on in the playoffs, or if he’s more suited to dominate games with lower stakes.
Regardless, Vucevic did post a ridiculously productive regular season, one in which he put up 20.8 points, 12.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.1 blocks and 1.1 three-pointers on 51.8/36.4/78.9 shooting splits.
Teams will remember that, as well.
Plus, for a franchise like the Sacramento Kings, who have been rumored as interested Vucevic suitors and who desperately want to make the playoffs next year, adding a guy that has proven he can tear it up in the regular season like the 7-foot floor-spacer would be very much worthwhile.
By multiple advanced metrics and regular-season statistics, Indiana Pacers small forward Bojan Bogdanovic just had his best season as an NBA player. The Croatian sharpshooter averaged 18.0 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.0 assists per contest in 2018-19, knocking down a fiery 42.5 percent of his three-point looks.
What’s more, after Victor Oladipo was lost for the year in late January, Bogdanovic was one of the players who took on a bigger load for Indiana, and helped the team still win 48 regular-season games and finish the campaign as the East’s No. 5 seed.
Bogdanovic’s in-season form did not carry over into the postseason, though. Throughout a four-game sweep at the hands of the Boston Celtics, the 30-year-old managed to maintain his 18.0-point-per-game average, but his efficiency took a huge hit, as he shot just 39.7 percent from the floor and 31.8 percent from deep.
More than anything, Bogdanovic showed that if he’s counted on as a team’s No. 1 perimeter scoring option, that team is going to have much success late in the year.
Thankfully, whoever does sign Bogdanovic likely won’t be counting on him for that role, so his list of potential suitors should not change that much even after his brutal postseason showing.
It’s very possible, however, that he did cost himself some money over 148 playoff minutes.
From a job as a key role player on the best regular-season team in basketball to getting benched in the playoffs and ending the year with a DNP-Coach’s Decision, Nikola Mirotic experienced a great deal of ups-and-downs in 2018-19.
Sadly for him, his season culminated on a down ahead of hitting unrestricted free agency.
Truth be told, though, Mirotic very much earned his late-year benching, as he was downright brutal for the majority of the playoffs. The 28-year-old power forward averaged 9.5 points and 4.3 rebounds in the postseason, shooting a paltry 37.6 percent from the floor and 28.9 percent from three. Additionally, with him on the floor in the postseason, the Milwaukee Bucks were 9.5 points per 100 possessions worse than when he was on the bench, leaving head coach Mike Budenholzer with little decision but to sit him late in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The fact that Mirotic can space the floor from the frontcourt and defend multiple positions should help him maintain some level of interest around the league as a free agent, but there’s no doubt his stock is the lowest it’s been in quite some time heading into the summer.
Over 12 postseason outings, Philadelphia 76ers swingman Tobias Harris put up 15.5 points, 9.1 rebounds and 4.0 assists per contest while shooting 42.5 percent from the floor and 34.9 percent from deep.
Decent numbers to be sure, but for a player who many expect to receive max-contract consideration this offseason, was Harris’ play on that level?
Even more worrisome is the fact that Harris’ good-not-great playoff numbers were actually buoyed by a strong first-round performance against the Brooklyn Nets. But when the competition picked up and the Sixers were forced to face the eventual Eastern-Conference champion Toronto Raptors in Round 2, Harris’ play regressed mightily.
Against the Raptors, Harris averaged merely 14.0 points and 9.3 rebounds over seven games, shot an ugly 38.0 percent from the floor and an even uglier 27.9 percent from three.
Teams will still be lining up to sign Harris this summer; he can space the floor from the power-forward position, attack opposing bigs in isolation and do some scoring out of the pick-and-roll, both as a ball-handler and screen-setter.
But there’s little doubt that potential suitors who may have previously been considering offering him a max deal this summer will at least think twice about doing so now after he failed to display elite-player status in the playoffs.
DeMarcus Cousins’ brutal recent luck continued in the postseason, as, in Game 2 of the first round against the Los Angeles Clippers, the Golden State Warriors big man injured his quad and was forced to sit out the middle rounds of the playoffs before finally returning for the Finals.
And although Cousins deserves all of the praise and commendation for rushing back from the injury in order to help his team, things haven’t gotten much better for the enigmatic center in the Finals.
To his credit, Cousins did have a decent Game 2 against the Raptors, putting up 11 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, and helping Golden State even the series 1-1, but it was his flat-out bad Game 3 performance that could end up costing him some money this summer.
With Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Kevon Looney all out with injury, Cousins had a chance to prove – on the biggest stage of basketball – that he can still produce as a high-level option when called upon.
He wasn’t able to do that.
Cousins had just four points (on 1-for-7 shooting), three rebounds and two assists (to three turnovers) in the crucial contest, was constantly attacked on the defensive end of the floor (to much success for Toronto) and finished the game with a -12 plus/minus.
He could turn things around quickly with a good performance or two to cap off the season, but Game 3 was especially important since it may have been Cousins’ only chance to have a huge role with so many of Golden State’s best players sitting out the contest.
His failure to do so made it look like he is still quite a ways away from his pre-Achilles-injury self, and that, more than anything, could prove costly once he hits free agency this offseason.
You can follow Frank Urbina on Twitter: @FrankUrbina_.
Basketball, Business, NBA, Top, Bojan Bogdanovic, DeMarcus Cousins, Nikola Mirotic, Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris, Golden State Warriors, Indiana Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks, Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers