With the NBA playoffs now in the second round, many players have made a case for why they deserve even deeper consideration in free agency.
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: John Collins (Atlanta)
Before the season, John Collins turned down a $90 million extension from the Atlanta Hawks. While it was once unclear if that was a good idea, now in the second round of the playoffs, it seems smart.
While his total output may not jump off the page, averaging just 13.7 points per game in the playoffs, Collins is doing exactly what he needs to do and score efficiently when he does have the ball. In fact, he is in the exclusive 50-40-90 club while shooting 58 percent from the field, 45.5 percent from beyond the arc and 93.3 percent from the free-throw line in the playoffs.
Collins, who also connected with star teammate Trae Young for the most hilariously impressive alley-oop during a statement win over the Philadelphia 76ers, is a primary player in what Atlanta is building.
THE EXCLAMATION FROM JOHN COLLINS 😤 pic.twitter.com/Tcm5sWRsl0
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 6, 2021
But the free agency market is going to be fairly small this offseason and Collins may be one of the top players available. Because he is a restricted free agent, there may even be teams that offer him an enormous contract just for the sake of hoping that Atlanta has to match the max figure.
For the latest news and rumors on John Collins, click here.
Stock down: Dennis Schroeder (LA Lakers)
When it comes to what went wrong for Dennis Schroeder during the postseason, it is hard to even know where to begin, but let’s put it this way: the troubles were nothing short of immense.
It is going to be hard for the Los Angeles Lakers to look past the 0-point, 0-for-9 performance he had during the blowout loss in Game 5 against the Phoenix Suns. It will be tough to forget all of the missed jump shots, shooting 13-for-46 (28.3 percent) on his jumper during the postseason.
As a whole, Schroeder averaged 0.89 points per possession on offensive possessions that he finished in the playoffs. That ranked in the 26 percentile among all players in the postseason, per Synergy.
Lakers guard Dennis Schroder explained why he didn't agree to an extension and stressed he ultimately wants to re-sign with Los Angeles and win a championship. pic.twitter.com/D8QNlJeGVt
— Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto) June 4, 2021
Aside from the struggles on the floor, he also had some distractions off it. Throughout the year, he reportedly rejected multiple contract extension offers from the team, but that came with some other drama as well.
He started off the season essentially demanding a spot in the starting lineup despite playing a bench role with Oklahoma City. He missed extended periods due to violating COVID-19 protocol on multiple occasions and told the media that he refused to get vaccinated. All of this eventually culminated with him getting caught removing the Lakers from his bio on Instagram, putting them back, then removing them again like a high school couple in the middle of a breakup.
Schroeder is seeking more than $20 million per season, based on reports, and if the Lakers had won a title that may have happened. But overall, with the way that he, it seems more likely that figure could be cut in half than exceeded.
For the latest news and rumors on Dennis Schroeder, click here.
Stock up: Blake Griffin (Brooklyn)
During his final stretch with the Detroit Pistons, people spoke about Blake Griffin the way you would talk about someone who experienced a career-ending injury. It was always past-tense as if we would never and could never see a productive version of Griffin again.
Sure, after nagging health injuries that have plagued him for seasons, perhaps he was no longer fit to be the primary option for an NBA offense. Griffin, however, is never someone who relied solely on his physicality to make his biggest impact. He was also incredibly skilled for a frontcourt player and that, it seems, never went away from the former Rookie of the Year.
Griffin has found his way into the starting lineup for the Brooklyn Nets, who have won six of their seven games in the postseason. During their one loss, the Nets posted a 16-point positive point differential when he was on the floor.
BLAKE. GRIFFIN. pic.twitter.com/G2uauVUQ1D
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) June 8, 2021
He already has seven dunks in the seven playoff games he has played, which is more than he recorded, combined, during his time with the Pistons in 2019-20 and 2020-21. He is dunking with all of the force and authority that he brought to the rim that we remember from him too.
As a whole, Griffin produced an excellent 18 points and 14 rebounds during the series opener against the Milwaukee Bucks while connecting on four of his nine attempts from beyond the arc.
With that kind of output, once an outcast, Griffin is now a fundamental piece of a championship contender. While his contract may look like that of a high-end role player than an All-Star, he is someone who has proven that he deserves NBA money and belongs in an NBA rotation.
For the latest news and rumors on Blake Griffin, click here.
Stock down: Evan Fournier (Boston)
For reasons in some ways out of his control, thanks to the mere existence of the Brooklyn Nets, Boston’s Evan Fournier experienced a nightmare during the 2021 playoffs.
Offensively, like most players against the Nets, he was at least competitive. The way Brooklyn plays, you can score, but they will score more than you. That is exactly what they did and, unfortunately for Fournier, he took the brunt of it.
Fournier allowed 1.37 points per possession on defense, per Synergy, which ranked as the worst among all players who have defended at least 35 possessions in the postseason. He ended up being the guy who took on James Harden and Kyrie Irving in isolation and that ended with him on the wrong side of too many highlights.
Harden vs Fournierpic.twitter.com/LYw2ahNp3j
— L'Analyste (@LanalysteFR) June 2, 2021
He ended up fouling on 4.7 percent of team plays, per Cleaning the Glass, the second-highest rate among all wings that played in the postseason.
The Celtics seemed committed to re-signing Fournier after trading for him before the deadline but they now have a revamped front office with Brad Stevens at the helm.
While our own Michael Scotto recently reported that Fournier is seeking approximately $15 to $20 million per season, other league executives told Scotto that it is hard to imagine him even collecting north of $10 million.
Ultimately, the last thing you want before your free agency is to be scored on as often as Fournier was in the playoffs.
For the latest news and rumors on Evan Fournier, click here.
Stock up: Reggie Jackson (LA Clippers)
Reggie Jackson, who arrived to the Clippers via buyout in Feb. 2020, has far exceeded the expectations that were set for him before the playoffs.
After a disappointing run in the postseason last year, in which he averaged less than five points per game, Jackson has completely reversed the ship and is now providing the scoring punch a team that already has Kawhi Leonard and Paul George could possibly want.
Reggie Jackson since Game 2:
He was the X factor. pic.twitter.com/n5QjyoIzFT
— StatMuse (@statmuse) June 6, 2021
Jackson scored just two points in the playoff opener but then averaged 17.7 ppg during the next six games to close out the series.
Despite also missing on all three of his three-pointers in the first game, he hit at least three shots from beyond the arc in those appearances as well, even connecting on as many as six three-pointers in a single game.
Only four players (Damian Lillard, Luka Doncic, Joe Harris and Tim Hardaway Jr.) have more connections from deep than Jackson so far in the playoffs. For a league that always has value on shooting, Jackson has managed to make himself a difference-maker, and that will show when he signs his new contract as one of the best guards available in unrestricted free agency.
For the latest news and rumors on Reggie Jackson, click here.
Stock down: Nerlens Noel (New York)
While this season was a success for the New York Knicks, it was not the ending one would have hoped for, especially not for Nerlens Noel.
The big man was never brought on to be an offensive finisher for New York, so his 4.6 points per game was hardly a concern when it was all said and done.
But on the defensive end, he was unable to contribute at the high level that head coach Tom Thibodeau needed from him. Noel averaged just 2.0 defensive rebounds and 0.6 blocks per game against the Atlanta Hawks, hardly making a difference with his counting stats.
Worse yet was his defensive impact defending ball screens Trae Young consistently hunted him in the high pick-and-roll for dribble jumper after dribble jumper without a stop.
Even though some of the performance could be excused by the fact that he was in the midst of recovering from an ankle injury, his ineptitude as a floor spacer may make him a bit cheaper in the open market than he was amidst his peak value during the regular season.
For the latest news and rumors on Nerlens Noel, click here.