With the NBA playoffs underway, the biggest stars are playing under the brightest lights to separate themselves before the free agency market opens this offseason.
Of course, executives around the league always have tough decisions to make about who they plan to re-sign as well as who they plan to pursue or let walk during free agency. But with postseason play, some of those hard choices are becoming easier to make.
As part of our ongoing series at HoopsHype, we are looking at whose free agency stock has gone up – and down – over the last several games.
Stock up: Norman Powell (Portland)
The Portland Trail Blazers have rolled out a three-guard lineup, flanking stars Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum with Norman Powell in the first unit.
The series against the Denver Nuggets is even, tied at two games thus far. But in the minutes that Portland has played with those three players, they have outscored Denver by 11.3 points per 100 possessions.
Powell struggled out of the gates to start the postseason, shooting 3-for-11 in his playoff debut for the Trail Blazers. But he has increased his scoring total in each of the four games he has played thus far, tallying 10 in the first game, 15 in the second, 18 in the third and 29 in the fourth.
— NBC Sports Northwest (@NBCSNorthwest) May 29, 2021
In fact, during the fourth game, Powell was the leading scorer and outpaced both Lillard and MVP favorite Nikola Jokic. He was able to lead the Blazers to a victory during an appearance in which Lillard was only able to notch 10 points while shooting 1-for-10 from the field, which makes Powell a wildly valuable foundational piece.
With any more performances like that in the future, fans will be devastated to see him leave the Trail Blazers, ensuring Portland’s front office secure him on a long-term deal.
For the latest news and rumors on Norman Powell, click here.
Stock down: Montrezl Harrell (LA Lakers)
After winning the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year last season, there were high hopes for Montrezl Harrell in 2020-21. But his place in the rotation became shaky, especially after the organization also added big man Marc Gasol and later Andre Drummond.
We have previously written about why Gasol is such a good fit in the lineup for the Lakers. But his increased playing time has come at the cost of Harrell, who has not been able to make much of an impact against the Phoenix Suns.
He was 4-for-5 from the field with another four points from free throws during the first game of the postseason, recording 12 points in less than 15 minutes of action in the series opener. There were some concerning moments on defense, however, that may raise some red flags in the film room.
Harrell then did not play at all in the second or third game and appeared for less than five minutes in the fourth game. However, that is likely to increase over the next stretch with Anthony Davis likely sidelined due to injury.
But the damage may already be done, considering that he will be a free agent this offseason, these would have otherwise been essential minutes to increase his value for either the Lakers or a rival suitor before the offseason.
For the latest news and rumors on Montrezl Harrell, click here.
Stock up: Bryn Forbes (Milwaukee)
After four seasons on the San Antonio Spurs, Bryn Forbes found his way to the Milwaukee Bucks during the recent offseason.
Since moving from the first unit during his time with San Antonio to a bench role in Milwaukee, his counting stats for scoring (10.0 ppg), playmaking (0.6 apg) and defense (0.3 spg) were all down from his averages over his previous three seasons. But he shot a career-best 45.2 percent on his three-pointers.
While he failed to connect on any of his three attempts from beyond the arc during his first playoff game with the Bucks, he was electrifying in each of the subsequent three. He landed six of his nine attempts in Game 2 and then hit seven of his looks in the series-clinching matchup.
When it was all said and done, despite a tertiary role, Forbes somehow managed to outscore Miami’s star scorer Jimmy Butler in the series.
Points scored in the series-
Bryn Forbes: 60
Jimmy Butler: 58
— Justin Phan (@jphanned) May 29, 2021
During the playoffs so far, with 4.0 three-pointers per game, he trails only Damian Lillard and Luka Doncic for the most per game.
But considering both have had significantly more playing time, Forbes leads all players (min: 10 minutes) with 7.2 three-pointers per 36. Throw away the first game, where he was 0-for-3, and that number then spikes to an absurd 8.7 three-pointers per 36.
To put this all in context, since postseason play began, Forbes is averaging 1.43 points per possession. Among all players who have finished at least 20 possessions, according to Synergy, only one player has been more efficient.
For the latest news and rumors on Bryn Forbes, click here.
Stock down: Duncan Robinson (Miami)
When you are 6-foot-7 and can shoot over 40.0 percent from beyond the arc during your NBA career, you will likely have a solid contract offer waiting.
But it will be harder to justify the money Duncan Robinson may have once expected after watching him struggle so much during the playoffs. After the Heat lost the first game of the series, Robinson was unable to get momentum at all against the Bucks.
Between the second game and fourth game, he was just 21.4 percent beyond the arc and only 25.0 percent from the field. His job is to hit catch-and-shoot jumpers, and while getting swept, he was only 4-for-14 (28.6 percent) off the catch.
Defensively, he was even more of a liability, as Milwaukee star wing Khris Middleton continued to torch him possession after possession whenever the two players matched up.
The Athletic’s John Hollinger estimates that Robinson can earn more than $15 million per season, especially when comparing his market value to what other sharpshooters like Joe Harris and Davis Bertans earned. But that will be harder to justify now than it was after his playoff run in 2020.
For the latest news and rumors on Duncan Robinson, click here.
Stock up: Cameron Payne (Phoenix)
Last season, during the play-in games leading up to the NBA playoffs, we wrote about why Cameron Payne deserved a spot in this league. Since then, he has taken the opportunity and run with it.
Payne has a score-first mentality, eclipsing at least a dozen points in each of his most recent three games against the Lakers. With a limitless range, he is able to draw defenders to guard him even when he is near the logo.
CAM PAYNE FROM DEEP. pic.twitter.com/YUN50pkR7X
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 26, 2021
But his playmaking has made strides as well, dropping seven dimes in the second game and another six in the third. Meanwhile, Phoenix plays at their fastest pace when Payne is on the floor, occasionally blowing by LeBron James.
Then, on defense, his steal percentage ranks fifth-best among all qualified players. That two-way value will make it so the Suns absolutely must re-sign Payne this offseason.
For someone who was not even in the league this time last year, now back in action and with a new mentality, Payne is making his presence known and is here to stay.
.@ginamizell asked Cam Payne what changed about his mentality this year. He said he works hard now to keep his job.
"It hit me in the face already. I got hit with that reality check and I don't wanna not be in the league. I just work really hard every day to stay here." pic.twitter.com/I7aEWBq8pB
— Kellan Olson (@KellanOlson) May 26, 2021
For the latest news and rumors on Cameron Payne, click here.
Stock down: Lou Williams (Atlanta)
With no disrespect to the legend, perhaps the bench scorer of all-time, this has not been a postseason to remember for veteran guard Lou Williams.
It is hard to believe that it was just last season that Williams averaged 28.7 minutes per game for the Clippers. This year, in the playoffs, Williams has not yet reached 13 minutes in any of the four games thus far against the New York Knicks.
Despite reaching 13 points in the first game of the playoffs, Williams has since gone quiet, failing to hit double-digits in any of the following games. Williams was 1-for-6 with two turnovers in the second game and was a non-factor despite a victory in the fourth game, going 0-for-3.
Williams is just 3-for-12 (25.0 percent) on his jumpers off the dribble, really struggling to score off the bounce in the same way that he once was able to.
For the latest news and rumors on Lou Williams, click here.