With the NBA trade deadline coming up next week and the All-Star game in the rearview mirror, general managers are beginning to form more solid plans for the offseason.
Executives around the league always have tough decisions to make about who they plan to re-sign and who they plan to 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: John Collins (Atlanta)
Earlier this season, there were reports that Atlanta Hawks big man John Collins felt Trae Young needed to get him more involved in the offense.
— HoopsHype (@hoopshype) January 11, 2021
Now that the two have established better chemistry, the results have been promising. In fact, since Nate McMillan took over as head coach, the Hawks are currently enjoying a seven-game win streak.
Since the beginning of the month, the Hawks have outscored their opponents by 16.8 points per 100 possessions when both Young and Collins have been on the floor at the same time. Atlanta’s plus-minus during these minutes (65) also ranks third-best among all two-man lineup combinations in the Eastern Conference during this span.
Collins is reportedly drawing heavy interest before the upcoming deadline. But especially now that the Hawks are making a playoff push, Adrian Wojnarowski believes that it is unlikely the big leaves Atlanta via trade.
Rumors are that he covets a contract in the range of $25 million per season and if he keeps playing this well, he may very well earn that steep price tag during restricted free agency.
For the latest news and rumors on John Collins, click here.
Stock down: Kyle Lowry (Toronto)
The Raptors have had a tumultuous season in 2020-21 and a challenging time finding a rhythm.
As such, it is no surprise to see a less effective version of guard Kyle Lowry. Compound that with the fact that the veteran’s name has been at the center of trade rumors, too, and it becomes easier to forgive a disappointing campaign this year.
Story: The Miami Heat expressed interest in acquiring Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry and San Antonio Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge. Details of the trade packages discussed on @hoopshype. https://t.co/wGYNAHpn8W
— Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto) March 14, 2021
The Raptors, as well as teams interested in trading for Lowry, know that the 34-year-old will require a new contract at the end of this season. Decision-makers will consider his championship experience, sure, but they will also factor in how he has played of late.
That includes just one win for the Raptors over his last eight games. It also features a career-worst mark in single-game turnovers (9) on March 11 and an 0-for-7 night from beyond the arc on March 17.
Rumors indicate that Lowry is expecting to earn a contract worth around an average annual value of $30 million. Recently, that figure is starting to seem less realistic than ever.
For the latest news and rumors on Kyle Lowry, click here.
Stock up: Talen Horton-Tucker (LA Lakers)
Don’t look now but Los Angeles Lakers wing Talen Horton-Tucker is starting to heat up, averaging 15.3 points over his last three games.
He has been efficient, shooting 7-for-10 on March 15 during a victory over the Golden State Warriors and 6-for-9 against the Minnesota Timberwolves on March 16. Those types of performances led LeBron James to say that the Lakers are “super duper lucky and blessed” to have Horton-Tucker.
But if they want to keep him beyond this season, the reality is that it might end up being fairly expensive for the front office.
Los Angeles will be able to match any offer that Horton-Tucker receives during restricted free agency. He cannot receive anything more than the mid-level exception of $9.5 million.
But as noted by ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, his contract could include a backloaded salary. That means rival front offices can extend Horton-Tucker an offer sheet worth around $60 million over four years.
Some teams would only want to do that to force the Lakers to use more of their salary cap than they had planned. Others, based on the way that Horton-Tucker has played, could be legitimately convinced that the 20-year-old is a franchise player.
For the latest news and rumors on Talen Horton-Tucker, click here.
Stock down: Frank Ntilikina (New York)
Now in the fourth year of his NBA career, former Top 10 overall pick Frank Ntilikina has still not quite turned into the promising player many had hoped he would become.
The guard, who is still just 22 years old, played just four games to start this season before injuries and COVID-19 concerns kept him sidelined. He did not appear again between Dec. 31 and Feb. 23 but returned to action towards the end of last month.
Even at the time, he was not expected a ton of playing time under head coach Tom Thibodeau, who historically prefers implementing shorter rotations. If he made the most of that opportunity, though, that could have changed.
However, he has since been held scoreless in half of the 10 games he has played since re-entering the rotation on Feb. 25. Ntilikina, unfortunately, failed to record a basket in any of his four appearances between March 11 and March 16.
"All along here, Tom Thibodeau has been very positive about Ntilikina even amid that recent shooting slump"@IanBegley has more on Frank Ntilikina's future with the Knicks as next Thursday's trade deadline approaches 👇 pic.twitter.com/O0Cegxq6hr
— Knicks Videos (@sny_knicks) March 19, 2021
SNY’s Ian Begley reported that Thibodeau still believes that Ntilikina can develop into a valuable player for the organization. He has defensive upside and New York has played fairly well during the limited sample size in which he has played in the starting lineup.
But as the guard inches closer and closer to restricted free agency, the front office will need to be convinced with a bit more consistency from Ntilikina.
For the latest news and rumors on Frank Ntilikina, click here.
Stock up: Richaun Holmes (Sacramento)
Sacramento Kings big man Richaun Holmes, who signed a two-year deal worth $10 million during the 2019 offseason, has played on a team-friendly deal for a starting center.
Holmes, however, has been one of the more pleasant surprises of the 2020-21 NBA season. While playing a career-high 30.0 minutes per game, he has put up personal bests in scoring (13.7 ppg) and rebounding (8.6 rpg) on the year as well.
Richaun Holmes' push shot is a total enigma. He shoots 75% on all shots between 10-14 feet (the FT-line area and just inside).
Nobody else in the NBA with 50+ attempts in that spot even cracks 60%. It's totally absurd and hilarious. pic.twitter.com/15M8oKheK0
— Sam Cooper (@scooperhoops) March 17, 2021
He has arguably the league’s most lethal floating jumper, shooting an excellent 49-for-77 (63.6 percent) on these opportunities. Holmes leads all NBA players in points scored off these runners (144) this year, per Synergy, which makes him lethal from midrange.
Meanwhile, the 27-year-old has now recorded a double-double in seven of his last eleven appearances for the Kings. He has scored in double figures during all but one of his last sixteen games as well, recording 20 points in back-to-back games on March 13 and March 15.
Holmes has said that he absolutely loves playing in Sacramento, but when his contract is up and he becomes an unrestricted free agent, don’t be surprised if the productive big man garners interest around the league.
For an interview with Richaun Holmes on HoopsHype, click here.
Stock down: Kent Bazemore (Golden State)
Kent Bazemore, who started his career with the Golden State Warriors back in 2012, rejoined the organization during this past offseason.
This journey has had some highs, like a 26-point performance on Feb. 17 during a win over the Miami Heat. That eventually led to him earning a nod in the starting lineup against the Portland Trail Blazers earlier this month.
But after just one game with the first unit, Bazemore has been in the midst of a scoring drought over the last few games. He is 0-for-8 from beyond the arc in his last two appearances and just 15.4 percent on three-pointers in his last five on the floor.
During this stretch, he is averaging more turnovers (1.4) than assists (0.8). He has also recorded as many turnovers (7) as he has rebounds, steals and blocks combined.
That will not help his case when the 31-year-old has to advocate for a new contract this offseason.
For an interview with Kent Bazemore on HoopsHype, click here.