With the NBA trade deadline behind us and the buyout market taking shape, general managers are reacting to transactions to form plans for the 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 as the season progresses, it becomes a bit easier to evaluate who would be a good fit for their franchise and who might not be.
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: Mike Conley (Utah)
At 33 years old, Mike Conley is in the middle of one of his best seasons yet. Despite his age, his win shares per 48 minutes (.191) ranks as the second-best mark of his career.
Standard metrics say that what Conley is doing is incredibly valuable to the success of his team. Utah has outscored opponents by 412 points with him on the floor, the second-best mark in the league. His team has now won each of the last seven games they have played in which Conley has been active.
Advanced stats confirm this as well. Among all players, ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus has him pegged sixth-overall, 538’s RAPTOR player rating has him third overall and his defensive regularized adjusted plus-minus (dRAPM) ranks second-best as well.
— SLAM (@SLAMonline) April 1, 2021
Conley, who is set to hit unrestricted free agency this offseason, has said that he wants to stay with the organization beyond this year. Considering just how well they have played in the regular season, it is pretty hard to imagine Utah’s front office letting him walk.
For the latest news and rumors on Mikey Conley, click here.
Stock down: Lauri Markkanen (Chicago)
It seems that Chicago Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen, the No. 7 overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft, has reached a fork in the road with his team.
It was not long ago that Markkanen was a centerpiece of the trade in which the Bulls moved on from Jimmy Butler. But after trading several assets for big man Nikola Vucevic, the Bulls reportedly attempted to trade Markkanen at the deadline.
Per a source: The Chicago Bulls are still looking at Lauri Markkanen trades. Chicago doesn't see him and Nikola Vucevic as a long-term fit next to each other in the frontcourt.
— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) March 25, 2021
The front office was not able to get a deal that satisfied them and rather than moving him for pennies on the dollar, Markkanen currently remains with the organization.
Despite his camp believing that he would still stay in the starting lineup, earlier this week, the 7-footer was actually moved out of the first unit for just the second time in his professional career.
Chicago has now lost five games in a row and Markkanen was 0-for-2, 1-for-5 and 1-for-6 from beyond the arc during the first three of their losing streak.
Lauri Markkanen's first 15 games: 19.4 ppg | 52.6% FG, 43.5% 3P (shot 44.3% on 5.3 wide-open 3PA per game)
Markkanen's last 10: 13.9 ppg | 41.3% FG, 31.8% 3P (36.2% on 4.7 wide-open 3PA per game)
via https://t.co/qIw6Hycmry tracking data
— Rob Schaefer (@rob_schaef) March 30, 2021
When he enters restricted free agency, the Bulls will have an opportunity to match any offer that he receives. Perhaps they could see value with him as an oversized wing.
Performances like what he has had recently are going to hurt his value, however, potentially make it a bit easier for Chicago to retain him on a cheaper deal than previously expected.
For the latest news and rumors on Lauri Markkanen, click here.
Stock up: Blake Griffin (Brooklyn)
Hold up, wait a minute. You all thought Blake Griffin was finished?
Since he parted ways with the Detroit Pistons and signed with the Brooklyn Nets, six-time All-Star has given his new team what they have been waiting for. First of all, the former NBA dunk contest champion is throwing it down again.
Blake Griffin dunks
Last 25 Pistons games: 0
First 5 Nets games: 3 pic.twitter.com/x5zxmCarg0
— StatMuse (@statmuse) April 1, 2021
Brooklyn has not lost in the five games that Griffin has played and while he had a limited role in his first appearance, he is 65.2 percent from the floor and 55.6 percent on his three-pointers.
His best game came against his former team, the Pistons, on March 26 as he was able to score 17 points, including a vicious staredown of Detroit’s bench after a slam.
Blake Griffin has been just fantastic for the Brooklyn Nets.
Through fives games, he’s shooting 65% from the field, 56% from deep, and is a +62.
So happy for Blake, man. pic.twitter.com/pauvEIUPts
— Joey Linn (@joeylinn_) April 1, 2021
That was only the fourth time he has been able to reach that many during his 25 games this season. Griffin, however, has also provided value in other ways considering he has recorded at least 6 rebounds and 4 assists in each of his last two appearances.
Griffin doesn’t need to be in All-NBA form to make himself valuable to the Nets. If he plays well within his role, he can be a useful piece for them in the postseason. Then, he could have legitimate value on the market either staying on the Nets or with another contender.
For the latest news and rumors on Blake Griffin, click here.
Stock down: Avery Bradley (Houston)
If there is one thing we learned about the new management for the Houston Rockets so far, it’s that they don’t intend to have long-term money tied up on the books.
As such, marching into a rebuild, it is incredibly unlikely that the Rockets pick up his team option for the 2021-22 campaign.
Unless there is a contract buyout, which could be in the works, this decision will likely make the veteran an unrestricted free agent this coming offseason.
A name to monitor as the Lakers look to fill their final roster spots: Avery Bradley. He was traded to HOU from MIA today. Rockets already have logjam of guards to back up John Wall. Bradley, a former Pelinka client, made strong impression on LAL before opting out of the bubble
— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) March 25, 2021
While he is respected by his peers as an above-average defender, the reality is that Bradley is not as impactful as he once was in that regard. But further, his offense is far below the level any team would hope for from him.
During his first two games with the Rockets, in a stop-gap role, he was 5-for-17 (29.4 percent) from the field and 1-for-9 (11.1 percent) shooting from long distance.
Those types of numbers make him far more likely to earn a veteran minimum contract on his next deal (wherever that may be once he leaves Houston) than anything else.
For the latest news and rumors on Avery Bradley, click here.
Stock up: Enes Kanter (Portland)
The Portland Trail Blazers, currently enjoying a four-game winning streak, have gotten stellar play out of veteran big man Enes Kanter.
Alongside Rudy Gobert and Andre Drummond, he is one of the only players who has pulled down at least 20 rebounds on three different occasions so far in 2020-21. In fact, he has played so well that Portland bowed out of the buyout market for LaMarcus Aldridge to instead ride his hot hand.
Enes Kanter becomes the first player in Trail Blazers history to record back-to-back games with 9️⃣ or more offensive rebounds.
— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) March 26, 2021
Kanter has now recorded a double-double in twelve of his last nineteen games. The 28-year-old has also been incredibly efficient, shooting 73.2 percent from the field over his last five games. He is also a ridiculous 26-for-33 (78.8 percent) within five feet of the basket during this span.
Portland has a long-term starting-caliber center in Jusuf Nurkic, who was recently able to return from injury. But it is hard to imagine a world in which Kanter is out of an NBA rotation, which will make him a desirable player in free agency for the Trail Blazers or with another team.
For the latest news and rumors on Enes Kanter, click here.
Stock down: Moritz Wagner (Boston)
At the trade deadline, Moritz Wagner, who was a first-round pick in 2018, was traded from the Washington Wizards to the Chicago Bulls and then to the Boston Celtics.
Since playing with the Celtics, however, the 23-year-old center has struggled to find his footing. During 37 minutes of action, he is 3-for-11 (27.3 percent) from the field and 1-for-4 (25.0 percent) from beyond the arc. He has turned the ball over five times but has not yet recorded a block or a steal.
Boston also lost the only game that Wagner has played in the starting lineup, which was an underwhelming showing in and of itself.
Wagner, who is celebrated for doing the dirty work like drawing charges and setting screens, could eventually carve a role for himself in this league. But it might not be on a hefty contract unless he is somehow able to make a bigger splash before free agency.
For the latest news and rumors on Moritz Wagner, click here.