With nearly a full month of NBA playoff action in the books,
we've witnessed a handful of players surprisingly exceed
expectations and drive their league-wide value to increasingly high
levels. On the other end of the spectrum, several stars have seen
their market price dip quite a bit.
So whose stock has soared? Whose has plummeted? Let's dive in
with an in-depth breakdown.
Jalen Brunson, Dallas Mavericks
Heading into the 2021-22 season, the Dallas Mavericks could have
signed Jalen Brunson to a four-year, $56 million extension.
However, ESPN's Tim MacMahon reported
that the Mavs chose not to make an offer and didn't even engage in
negotiations with Brunson's representatives. You have to assume
Dallas is now regretting that decision.
After averaging career-highs in scoring (16.3 points), assists
(4.8), rebounds (3.9) and steals (0.8) during the regular season,
Brunson has taken his game to another level in the playoffs. With
Luka Doncic sidelined early on in the Mavs' first-round series vs.
Utah, Brunson got off to a scorching hot start, tallying 96 points,
16 rebounds and 16 assists over the first two games. He became just
the third player in NBA history to tally at least 70 points and 10
assists while committing fewer than 2 turnovers over a two-game
span in the postseason. Incredibly, Brunson led all players in
total points scored in the first round (167).
After struggling a bit in the first two games of Dallas'
first-round series vs. Phoenix, Brunson was again a crucial factor
in the Mavs' victories at home in Games 3 and 4 over the
Through 10 postseason contests, Brunson is averaging 23.5
points, 4.6 boards and 3.9 dimes per game. He's done most of his
damage by relentlessly attacking the rim. Among all postseason
performers, Brunson ranks third in drives per game (behind only Ja
Morant and Doncic) and third in points scored off drives.
It could be argued that no player has boosted his stock more
over the past few weeks than Brunson. And it couldn't come at a
better time for the versatile combo guard, who will become an
unrestricted free agent on July 1. We know the New York Knicks are
interested in making a run at Brunson, and according to Marc Stein, Detroit
and Indiana have shown interest as well. However, Mark Cuban has
stated publicly he plans to re-sign Brunson — even if it has an
outsized impact on Dallas' luxury tax bill.
Victor Oladipo, Miami Heat
Due to a slew of serious injuries that limited him to only 88
games over the past three seasons, Victor Oladipo was forced to
settle for a one-year deal with Miami on the veteran minimum back
in August. The hope was he'd be able to show teams during the
2021-22 campaign that he was finally fully healthy. Unfortunately,
Oladipo was sidelined for nearly all of the regular season as he
recovered from a debilitating right quadriceps injury. 'Dipo didn't
make his season debut until March 7.
After playing sporadically in late March and early April,
Oladipo exploded for 40 points in the Heat's regular-season finale.
Yet, he was a DNP-CD in each of Miami's first three playoff games.
However, with both Jimmy Butler (knee) and Kyle Lowry (hamstring)
ruled out for Game 5 of the Heat's first-round series vs. the
Atlanta Hawks, Oladipo slid into the starting lineup. He finished
that contest with 23 points (8 of 16 from the field, 4 of 4 on free
throws), 3 assists, 3 steals, and 3 triples in 36 minutes. Needless
to say, 'Dipo has been a part of the Miami rotation since. In Game
2 of Miami's second-round matchup vs. the Philadelphia 76ers, he
tallied 19 points, 6 rebounds and 3 triples. He also chipped in 15
points off the bench in Game 4.
Oladipo will undoubtedly have plenty of interest on the
free-agent market this summer.
Al Horford, Boston Celtics
Al Horford's 2022-23 salary is only partially guaranteed. And
when the Celtics initially acquired Horford last summer in a trade
with the Oklahoma City Thunder, some pundits speculated that Boston
might look to get out from under the $26.5 million owed to Big Al
But with as well as he has played this postseason, that will no
longer be a consideration. Horford has been a godsend for Boston,
averaging 15.9 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.1 blocks per
contest through the Celtics' first eight playoff games. In Game 3
vs. Milwaukee on Saturday, Horford became the first player in
Boston's franchise history with at least 20 points, 15 rebounds, 5
assists and 4 made three-pointers in a single playoff game. Then,
in Monday's Game 4 victory, he exploded for 30 points, 8 rebounds,
5 triples and 3 assists.
Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
Rumors of a rocky relationship between Donovan
Mitchell and Rudy Gobert have been swirling for years.
Unfortunately for Utah, it appears the team will be forced to trade
one of its two best players at a time when their respective values
The two pillars of the Jazz franchise played relatively well
during the regular season, but the rumblings of toxicity in Utah
grew louder as the year dragged on. Mitchell not sharing the ball
with Gobert has become a topic of conversation in early April.
Shortly thereafter, Gobert called out his teammates for not wanting
to play physically and "get our hands dirty." When asked
about the perceived finger-pointing, Mitchell characterized it as
Utah backed into the playoffs after losing five straight games
in late March, but was hoping to take advantage of a Mavericks team
playing without its best player, Doncic, who was sidelined by a
calf injury for the first two contests. However, the Jazz lost Game
2 and lost the series in six games.
Over the six-game series vs. Dallas, Mitchell averaged over 22
field-goal attempts per contest, but shot just 39.8% from the floor
and 20.8% from downtown. He became the first player in league
history to attempt more than 20 field goals but shoot below 40%
from the field and under 21% from three-point territory over a
postseason run. And Mitchell's poor defense was arguably more
problematic than his offense. Utah allowed over 115 points per 100
possessions vs. Dallas with Mitchell on the court. That number
dropped to 104.5 with Mitchell on the bench.
Gobert averaged just 12.0 points per game on 5.5 attempts per
game (a career-low in his six postseason appearances) and blocked a
total of 6 shots in the six-game series. It was the first time in
his career he averaged more turnovers than blocks and steals
combined. The Mavs often attempted to take advantage of Gobert's
difficulty covering the perimeter by going small and spreading the
Dating back to the 2021 postseason (when they dropped four
straight to a shorthanded Clippers team that lost Kawhi Leonard to
an ACL tear), the Jazz have lost 8 of their last 10 playoff games.
With Gobert, Mitchell, Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic, Jordan
Clarkson and Royce O'Neale locked into contracts that will pay them
north of $133 million in guaranteed money next season, Utah won't
be able to make any significant upgrades via free agency.
it was reported that Gobert had reached a "him or me" point
with Mitchell and would demand one of the two be traded this
summer. It's difficult to envision the Jazz entering the 2022-23
season with both Gobert and Mitchell on the roster.
Duncan Robinson, Miami Heat
As noted above, Oladipo has stepped in and stepped up for the
Heat over the past two weeks. On the flip side of the coin, we have
Duncan Robinson, who has gone from a crucial contributor to a
Robinson started all 72 games for Miami in 2020-21, averaging
13.1 points and 3.5 rebounds while shooting 40.8% from beyond the
arc (on 8.5 three-point attempts per game). The Heat rewarded him
with a five-year contract worth $90 million. However, Robinson
regressed during the 2021-22 regular season, as his production and
percentages dipped. After starting 68 of the team's first 72 games,
he was bumped to the bench in late March. Following a solid outing
in Game 1 vs. Atlanta, coach Erik Spoelstra clearly didn't feel
comfortable trusting his sharpshooter. Robinson averaged just 2.3
points in 10.7 minutes per contest in the final four games of the
Remarkably, Robinson has logged a total of just 55 seconds thus
far in Round 2, and has been a DNP-CD in 3 of the 4 contests. This
is obviously not what Pat Riley and company had in mind when they
ponied up $90 million less than nine months ago.
With $74.5 million still owed to Robinson over the next four
years, will Miami look to dump his contract this summer
Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Nets
As I detailed in this space last
month, the Nets are on the precipice of a difficult
Kyrie Irving has a player option worth $35,328,700 for the
2022-23 campaign. If he declines his option, he would be eligible
to sign a new five-year deal with Brooklyn worth up to $248
million. While Kyrie is still capable of playing at an incredibly
high level, the Nets have to decide how much he's worth considering
his injury history (since signing with Brooklyn in 2019, Irving has
appeared in just 103 of 216 regular-season games) and the off-court
drama he brings to the table.
In the three years since Brooklyn added Kevin Durant and Kyrie,
the Nets have won just one playoff series. This past season, Nets
owner Joe Tsai spent $266 million in salary and luxury tax
payments, the second-highest amount in league history. The Nets
don't have a single playoff victory to show for it.
And over the team's final three games in the first round, Irving
averaged just 15.3 points while shooting a putrid 37.2% from the
floor and a frigid 18.2% from downtown.
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