Free agency stock watch: Lonzo Ball, PJ Tucker, Gary Trent Jr. and more

Free agency stock watch: Lonzo Ball, PJ Tucker, Gary Trent Jr. and more


Free agency stock watch: Lonzo Ball, PJ Tucker, Gary Trent Jr. and more

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As the 2020-21 NBA season progresses, players around the league are making a case to solidify the earning potential of their next contract.

Front offices often make decisions based on the “what have you done for me lately?” philosophy, which means that how much a player will receive in free agency is fluid and constantly changing. That means that while some have increased their value, there are others whose recent performances may end up costing them some money.

Of course, an overall body of work is the most important factor for an NBA contract. But for our newest series at HoopsHype, we are looking at whose stock has gone up – and down – over the last several games.

Stock up: Gary Trent Jr. (Portland)

Feb 14, 2021; Dallas, Texas, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Gary Trent Jr. (2) dunks the ball against the Dallas Mavericks during the second half at the American Airlines Center.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers guard Gary Trent Jr. was one of the breakout players in the bubble during seeding games last season.

Trent then had the opportunity to parlay that into a contract extension worth $53.8 million over the course of four seasons, but he declined, opting instead for restricted free agency.

The former Duke Blue Devils guard started the 2020-21 season in the role of a second-unit sparkplug scorer, recording 28 points while shooting 7-for-11 from beyond the arc against the Los Angeles Lakers on Dec. 28.

But he eventually moved into the starting lineup when CJ McCollum got hurt, and since then, he has impressed even more.

Due to injury, Portland is also without key players including McCollum as well as Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins. However, with a lot of credit to Trent, the Trail Blazers are 9-1 in their last ten games and have won six games in a row.

In fact, since the beginning of February, only two NBA players (Stephen Curry and Malik Beasley) have connected on more three-pointers than Trent has (34) thus far.

Stock down: PJ Tucker (Houston)

Jan 15, 2020; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Rockets forward PJ Tucker (17) talks with an official during the fourth quarter against the Portland Trail Blazers at Toyota Center.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Houston Rockets’ PJ Tucker reportedly came into the season “irate” over his contract situation. While the front office has reportedly offered him a deal, he has not accepted.

Since then, however, matters have only gotten worse. For example, he is currently averaging 4.7 points per game, which has been the lowest of his career since his rookie season back in 2006-07.

Tucker, 35, has been held scoreless in seven games so far this season despite playing 22 minutes in each of those appearances. During a 25-point loss vs. the Charlotte Hornets on Feb. 8, he played 23 minutes and did not manage a point or a rebound. He did, however, record two turnovers and three personal fouls.

On the defensive side of the ball, meanwhile, he had not recorded a block in any of his last nine games.

Tucker led the league in total games played since 2012-13. He had played in 267 consecutive games before snapping the streak on Feb. 15, missing the action with a thigh bruise. The veteran was also held out of the game on Feb. 17.

None of this provides very much leverage in negotiations for his coveted contract extension, which is becoming increasingly less likely with each passing day.

Stock up: Lonzo Ball (New Orleans)

Feb 9, 2021; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball (2) goes to the basket against Houston Rockets guard John Wall (1) during the second half at the Smoothie King Center.

Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans were not able to reach a rookie contract extension with Lonzo Ball during the offseason, which will make him a restricted free agent at the end of the season.

He recently found himself at the center of trade rumors, making sense as a potential fit for the Chicago Bulls among other teams. But with the improved play we have seen from Ball of late, perhaps the Pelicans will now prefer to hold on to the former No. 2 overall pick.

One of the most encouraging aspects of his game has been his willingness to shoot.

Ball attempted 8.9 three-pointers per 100 possessions last season. Since the beginning of February, however, that rate has increased to 12.3 – the highest mark for the Pelicans during that span. Even though he is not known as much of a shooter, he has connected on multiple shots from beyond the arc in nine consecutive games.

This has been his best season as a free-throw shooter, too, jumping from 56.6 percent at the charity stripe last year to 74.1 percent at the line in 2020-21.

He has also been stuffing the stat sheet as a rebounder and as a playmaker in recent games. The guard added 7 assists and 7 rebounds on Feb. 6 against the Grizzlies. He also recorded 7 assists and 5 rebounds on Feb. 10 when facing the Bulls, then added 7 assists and 6 rebounds on Feb. 12 vs. the Mavericks.

ESPN’s Bobby Marks projected that Ball could receive an offer sheet worth an average annual value between $16 million and $18 million this offseason. But that number could be even higher if he continues to show that he is such a dynamic player.

Stock down: Nemanja Bjelica (Sacramento)

Jan 8, 2021; Sacramento, California, USA; Sacramento Kings assistant coach Bobby Jackson talks with forward Nemanja Bjelica (8) before the game against the Toronto Raptors at Golden 1 Center.

Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

During a contract year, the last place anyone wants to be is out of an NBA rotation. But that is exactly where forward Nemanja Bjelica currently falls with the Sacramento Kings.

Bjelica, 32, started 67 out of 72 games for Sacramento during the 2019-20 season. This year, he has not yet made an appearance in the first unit for the Kings. His scoring is down from 11.5 points per game last season to 6.9 ppg this season.

Meanwhile, his minutes have also dropped all the way from 27.9 mpg to 16.2 mpg. Even when active, he appeared on the floor for less than five minutes of action on Feb. 15 against the Brooklyn Nets.

While he is the subject of many trade rumors, a buyout could be in his future as well. If that happens, his reputation as someone worth a decent paycheck this offseason could be damaged significantly.

Stock up: Doug McDermott (Indiana)

Feb 5, 2021; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Doug McDermott (20) celebrates a made three point basket in the fourth quarter against the New Orleans Pelicans at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

There were high expectations for Doug McDermott, a three-time first-team All-American and a consensus recipient of the national college player of the year awards, when he was selected at No. 11 overall in the 2014 NBA draft.

It has taken seven years, but now, he is currently breaking out and is in the midst of his most impactful season yet. He is averaging career-high marks in points per game (13.1 ppg), rebounds per game (4.1 rpg), assists per game (1.4 apg) and steals per game (0.3 spg) thus far.

He has played well as a spot starter for Indiana, contributing productively both off the bench and in the starting lineup. McDermott recorded 28 points off the bench on Jan. 27 during a victory over the Charlotte Hornets and as a starter on Feb. 13, he added 26 points in a win against the Atlanta Hawks.

When he hits unrestricted free agency, he looks like a promising option for a team looking to add a scoring forward.

Stock down: Duncan Robinson (Miami)

Jan 6, 2021; Miami, Florida, USA; Miami Heat forward Duncan Robinson (55) attempts a three point shot on Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) during the second half at American Airlines Arena.

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

During the bubble postseason, Miami’s Duncan Robinson was one of the league’s top breakout players. After helping the Heat take home the Eastern Conference title, this season, Robinson was moved into the starting lineup.

Robinson has seen his playing time increase from 29.7 minutes per game last season to 33.3 minutes per game in 2020-21. Unfortunately, despite having a bigger role, his productivity has dropped from 13.5 points per game in 2019-20 to 12.6 points per game so far this season.

His three-point percentage has taken a hit as well, falling from a red-hot 44.6 percent to 38.9 percent. While that is still an above-average rate from beyond the arc, he needs to be an elite shooter to make up for how little he provides as a playmaker, defender and rebounder.

The 6-foot-8 forward is coming off two tough performances during losses for Miami. He was 3-for-11 (27.3 percent) from three-point range on Feb. 15 against the LA Clippers and 3-for-10 (30.0 percent) when taking long-distance shots on Feb. 17 against the Golden State Warriors.

Stock up: Jeff Green (Brooklyn)

Jan 29, 2021; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Brooklyn Nets forward Jeff Green (8) shoots a three point basket against Oklahoma City Thunder center Mike Muscala (33) during the first half at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

When the Brooklyn Nets traded big man Jarrett Allen to the Cleveland Cavaliers, they took a risk by thinning their frontcourt depth. But that blow has been softened by NBA veteran Jeff Green, who has proven his value.

Green, who reached double-digit scoring totals just once in his first twelve games this season, has since reached 10 points or more in 16 of his last 18 appearances. His best game came against the Washington Wizards on Jan. 31, notching a season-high 23 points while shooting 4-for-5 on three-pointers.

The 34-year-old also soared for a remarkable dunk over 21-year-old Sacramento Kings forward Marvin Bagley III on Feb. 15, showing his athleticism hasn’t faded during his tenure in the league.

But the best performance from Green was in a come-from-behind victory over the Phoenix Suns on Feb. 16. He hit four crucial buckets in the fourth quarter, swinging momentum in Brooklyn’s favor, and Nets superstar James Harden even called his name in crunch minutes because he knew he could trust his teammate.

Green, who played for Brooklyn’s assistant coach Mike D’Antoni on the Rockets last season, has proven himself to be an impactful member of the rotation for the Eastern Conference favorites. He could earn a nice contract this offseason, beyond the previously expected minimum, if he continues at this pace.

Stock down: Ryan Arcidiacono (Chicago)

Dec 16, 2020; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Ryan Arcidiacono (51) dribbles the ball down the court against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the second quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t too long ago that former Villanova guard Ryan Arcidiacono was a regular on the floor for the Chicago Bulls, averaging 24.2 minutes per game as recently as 2018-19.

This helped him earn a multi-year contract with the organization, though he has been less impressive recently. Arcidiacono missed some time this season due to health and safety protocol and he has since struggled to find much of a rhythm.

During his last five games between Feb. 6 and Feb. 15, he has appeared on the floor for a total of 35 minutes. He was held scoreless the entire time and has not scored during NBA action since Jan. 23.

Arcidiacono is not expected to be a high-impact scorer, but if he is unable to get any points on the board, it feels unlikely that Chicago picks up the team option on his deal.

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