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NBA Free Agents 2012: Playoff Stars Ready to Cash in This Summer

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NBA Free Agents 2012: Playoff Stars Ready to Cash in This Summer
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There's no better time for an impending free-agent to improve his stock on the open market than during the NBA playoffs.

It's one thing to put up gaudy numbers against subpar competition in games that don't mean anything, but another entirely to make steady-to-spectacular contributions when championship hopes are on the line.

In short, the better the play, the more bucks to come. Don't be surprised, then, if and when these soon-to-be free-agents parlay their postseason success into life-changing contracts in July.

Which potential free agent deserves the biggest payday?

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Roy Hibbert

Contrary to popular belief, Roy Hibbert is NOT a seven-foot stiff.

Not anymore, anyway. The 7'2 center out of Georgetown earned his first trip to the All-Star Game during a 2011-12 season in which he averaged career-highs in points (12.8), rebounds (8.8), field goal percentage (.497) and blocks (2.0).

Clearly, Hibbert can walk and chew gum at the same time, and has continued to show as much against the Orlando Magic.

Granted, Hibbert hasn't had to worry about contending with Dwight Howard, who's out after back surgery, though there's still something to be said for pouring in 11.0 points, pulling down 11.8 rebounds and blocking 4.3 shots per game through the first four against guys who, though smaller, are also quicker and more agile.

In any case, the Indiana Pacers will have to show their restricted free-agent big man the money, though that shouldn't be a problem. They'll be well under the salary cap, with only $34.76 million currently committed to next year's roster, and should have enough flexibility to satisfy Hibbert and go after Eric Gordon or OJ Mayo on the open market.

 

Lou Williams

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It's not every day that a team's leading scorer and its sixth man are one in the same, unless that team is the Philadelphia 76ers and that man is Lou Williams.

Williams was Philly's top scorer during the regular season and has continued to produce off the bench in the playoffs. He's averaged 12.5 points per game so far, including a 20-point, six-assist outburst in Game 2 against the Chicago Bulls.

There's no guarantee that Lou will exercise the early termination option on his current deal, or that he'd be willing to risk losing the $6.39 million he's currently owed for next season if he does.

Then again, if Williams can talk a man out of robbing him at gunpoint, he can surely make a case with the Sixers' brass for a bigger deal.

So long as he treats them to McDonald's. 

 

Ramon Sessions

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers were already convinced that they needed to keep Ramon Sessions after seeing him provide the sort of speed, athleticism and productivity that the team had long sought to slot next to Kobe Bryant in the backcourt.

Sessions has continued to produce in the playoffs, albeit not quite as efficiently, though 13.8 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.3 assists aren't exactly numbers at which one would be wise to turn his or her nose up at.

Lakers fans better enjoy what they're seeing out of Sessions while they can, though. According to The Los Angeles Daily News, Sessions is likely to opt out of the final year of his deal, which would pay him $4.5 million next season, to pursue a more lucrative contract on the open market.

The Lakers, for their part, would love to keep Sessions around, but with $63.83 million in salary already committed to next year's roster, Andrew Bynum due for an extension and the league's more punitive luxury tax on the horizon, the team might not have the money to pay him.

Whether Sessions would be willing to stay for a discount remains to be seen, though, if another team throws enough dough his way, chances are he'll wind up playing ball elsewhere.

 

 

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