When free agency approaches for a player, they have a chance to prove themselves extra for their next contract. Here are seven players who will hit the market this summer, and are making their cases for more money based on their stats this season.
D’Angelo Russell is having the best season of his career. In his second year with the Brooklyn Nets, Russell, along with other young talent, has propelled the team to the playoffs.
Russell is averaging 20.7 points, 3.7 rebounds and 6.9 assists this year. Up five points since last season, he is averaging career highs in both points and assists, as well as increasing his field goal and three-point percentages.
Russell had a signature game last week. In a 25-point fourth quarter comeback to beat the Kings, Russell scored 44 points along with 12 assists, after which he exclaimed “Im built for this s—!”
With the playoffs around the corner, it will be exciting to see how Russell, the team’s best player, performs in high-pressure situations. Making his first All-Star Game this year, Russell’s best season is coming at the right time for him: a contract year.
In his first season of a two-year deal with New Orleans, forward Julius Randle is playing some of his best basketball. Randle is averaging 21 points per game, an increase from 16 last season. Along with a career-high in points, he is averaging 8.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists.
With Anthony Davis to be likely traded this summer, the Pelicans should make keeping Randle a priority. Randle has a player option after this season, and could choose to play for another team with a better chance of winning.
The 24-year-old is having the best year of his career, giving him more leverage for his upcoming free agency, should he opt-out.
An unrestricted free agent this summer, Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic is having a stand-out year. Making the All-Star Game for the first time this season, Vucevic is posting career-highs in several categories, as well as putting the Magic on the edge of the playoffs.
The eighth-year player is averaging 20.6 points, 12.2 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game this season. Vucevic has become one of the best stretch-fives in the league, increasing his scoring from 16.5 last season.
Orlando is close behind Miami for the last spot in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, with Vucevic playing a key role in improving the team, who were 14th in the conference last season.
Keeping Vucevic should be Orlando’s top priority this offseason. But after this stellar year, it may cost them extra.
Despite a disappointing ending, Derrick Rose had an excellent season this year, and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. In a sixth man role, Rose rebounded after three injury-ridden seasons where he only played a handful of games.
In 51 games this season, Rose averaged 18 points, 2.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists while shooting 48 percent from the field, and 37 percent from behind the arc.
While not totally his old self, Rose proved this year that he can still be an excellent basketball player.
If Rose doesn’t want to stay in Minnesota, he could find himself in a sixth man role on a contending team. While his health is a big factor, Rose’s performance this season should make him an attractive player this summer.
While one of the more unsung members of Philly’s stacked starting five, JJ Redick has been key for the team’s success this year. At the shooting guard spot, Redick provides sharp-shooting and efficient scoring.
This season, Redick is averaging a career-high 17.7 points, shooting 43 percent from the field and 39 percent from three.
What makes these stats all the more impressive is the talent Redick plays with. Among four All-Star caliber players, Redick still manages to play a big role in the 76ers offense.
With Redick and Tobias Harris unrestricted free agents this summer, and with Jimmy Butler having a player option, Redick could find himself on a new team. A different potential contender could shell out some extra money to bring Redick’s scoring to their roster.
Kelly Oubre’s fourth season in the NBA has been his best. In 29 games with the Wizards, Oubre averaged 12.9 points per game. After being traded mid-season to the Suns, Oubre has elevated his scoring to 16.9, along with 4.9 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game.
This summer, Oubre is an unrestricted free agent. In the last two seasons, Oubre has gone from minimal impact to a strong sixth man in the league.
The 23-year-old forward is still developing, and has a lot of upside going forward. If they decide to keep him, Phoenix could have a great young trio of Oubre, Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton.
Oubre could catch the eye of other teams, looking for a young and promising wing on the market.
After suffering a serious injury last season, DeMarcus Cousins has come back playing better basketball than some may have predicted. While Cousins is a level above the other players on this list, he is regaining much of his value heading into unrestricted free agency.
With Golden State, Cousins has made an impact in the 23 games he has played. He is averaging 15.9 points, 7.9 rebounds and 3.6 assists, while making an impact on defense with 1.2 steals and 1.5 blocks per game.
In signing with the Warriors, Cousins has the opportunity to get comfortable on the court again, as well as be part of a championship team.
Proving he is healthy and productive again, Cousins can hit the market this summer and expect several offers. Cousins is proving this season that he is still worth serious money, and not worth the $5 million he is earning with the Warriors.
Featured image courtesy of USA Today.
Stats courtesy of basketball-reference.com.