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NBA Free-Agents-to-Be Who Killed Their Market Value in Playoffs

Luke PetkacSenior Analyst IIApril 21, 2016

NBA Free-Agents-to-Be Who Killed Their Market Value in Playoffs

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    The NBA playoffs are all about a shot at the title, but for every future free agent participating, it's also a chance to up their market value.

    Much like a strong showing in the NCAA tournament can propel future players to higher spots in the NBA draft, a strong playoffs can sometimes mean a bigger payday for a future free agent.

    Obviously, the postseason shouldn't be the primary measuring stick for any player, but it is important to see how players do when the teams are a little better and the lights a little brighter.

    With that being said, not everyone parlays the postseason into more money. There are always a few players who have less-than-admirable postseasons and really do a number on whatever market value they originally had.

    Such is life in the NBA.

Earl Clark

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    Free Agency Status: Unrestricted

    Earl Clark was one of the few players who kept Los Angeles Lakers fans sane through the team's injury-plagued regular season.

    Don't get me wrong, Clark was no superstar, but he played with energy and passion (something that was sorely needed on a lethargic Lakers team) and gave the team a real shot in the arm when he was on the floor.

    He racked up 10 double-doubles (including five in March) and, outside of Kobe Bryant, was maybe the only player who made this team bearable to watch on some nights.

    However, by the time the playoffs rolled around, Clark wasn't able to give the Lakers the same boost. Clark averaged just four points and three rebounds in 20 minutes per game and didn't look like the same player who had nearly limitless energy in the middle of the season.

    It's hard to hold Clark's playoff dud against him because, with all of the Lakers' injury concerns, they were asking most guys—including Clark—to do way more than they're actually capable of.

    Clark had to try to create his own offense against the Spurs when he's really just a hustle guy. He gets rebounds, plays defense and scores points off of putbacks, cuts and occasional spot-up attempts.

    Even in that sense, Clark didn't have a very good series, though. Clark's a fine role player, but anyone hoping they would see more against the Spurs came away disappointed.

Daequan Cook

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    Free Agency Status: Unrestricted

    It may seem unfair to knock the Chicago Bulls' Daequan Cook since he only played six minutes per game in the playoffs. But the fact that he played such few minutes on a banged-up Bulls team is actually part of what hurt his value so badly.

    It's worth mentioning that Cook would never be a blockbuster free agent signing, but he does have a good bit of value coming off the bench.

    It's been a down year for him, but he's built a reputation as a good spot-up shooter (a career 37 percent from beyond the arc), and he had some good moments for the Oklahoma City Thunder in last year's playoffs.

    Not a bad guy to add for some wing depth. But you wouldn't think so from this year's playoffs.

    Tom Thibodeau gave Cook serious minutes in just one game this postseason—Game 2 against the Miami Heat. And Cook was so bad that he touched the floor for all of two minutes for the rest of the series. Despite the fact that Chicago had roughly four healthy players on the squad at that point.

    Cook was awful. No two ways about it. He turned the ball over. He went 0-for-6 from three. He blew defensive assignments. When he didn't blow assignments, he just plain played terrible defense. It was an all-around performance in the worst way possible.

    Cook can ball, but it sure didn't look like it in the postseason. And that might cause teams searching for an outside shooter to turn elsewhere this offseason.

Brandon Jennings

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    Free Agency Status: Restricted

    Brandon Jennings is likely to get a sizable payday sometime soon because he's young, puts up decent numbers (17.5 points and 6.5 assists per game this season) and at least should improve.

    But the Milwaukee Bucks' series against the Miami Heat highlighted a lot of Jennings' flaws, and for the first time in quite a while, a national audience got to see those flaws.

    Basically, Jennings is a very inefficient scoring guard who does almost all of his damage from outside. Against the Heat, nearly half of his shot attempts came from beyond 20 feet (per NBA.com). And since his outside shot wasn't falling (he hit just over 20 percent of those shots), he had virtually no other offensive options.

    Jennings is a poor shooter from everywhere but outside and is a particularly poor finisher. He hit just 45 percent of his shots at the rim this season (per NBA.com), which is awful even for a guard. When teams crowd Jennings and blitz him off of pick-and-rolls (as the Heat did), he's nearly harmless.

    Jennings made just 38 percent of his shots in the paint against Miami, the same percentage that he shot from three in the regular season (per NBA.com). That's terrible, especially when you consider that the Heat mostly play small and have few true rim-protecting bigs on the roster.

    If that wasn't bad enough, Jennings' defense was similarly poor. With Jennings on the court, the Bucks allowed 12 more points per 100 possessions (per Basketball-Reference) than they did when he was on the bench.

    To get a sense of how bad that is, the difference between the Oklahoma City Thunder's league-best offense and the Washington Wizards' league-worst offense was 12 points per 100 possessions (per Basketball-Reference).

    Jennings will still get paid a decent amount thanks to everything I said at the beginning of this slide. But people certainly noticed his poor play in the playoffs, and you have to imagine that will hurt his market value.

Dwight Howard

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    Free Agency Status: Unrestricted

    I know, I know—Dwight Howard's not healthy. But at some point, Dwight's got to prove that he will be the player he was with the Orlando Magic. And he certainly wasn't able to do that against the San Antonio Spurs.

    Dwight wasn't terrible. He averaged 17 points and 11 rebounds per game and chipped in a few blocks as well. But he didn't impact the game the way that the Howard of old always did.

    Dwight didn't command double teams in the post and get the ball to open shooters on the wings. He didn't get the Spurs to crowd the paint by cutting hard to the hoop as a roll man.

    He didn't even stop the Spurs at the rim—they shot 62 percent for the series, almost exactly what they shot in the regular season (per NBA.com).

    At no point in the series did Dwight make it seem like he could take over a game or even make it tough for the Spurs—something the Lakers needed with Kobe Bryant out. And while some of the blame goes to the very injured Lakers roster, most of it falls on Dwight.

    When Dwight was in Orlando, no game seemed unwinnable because there was always the chance that he would throw up a 30-20, stop everyone at the rim...basically dominate the game on both ends of the floor. Watch him in this 2009 game against the Charlotte Bobcats. Just watch him. How long has it been since Dwight's looked like that?

    Let's put it this way: If you were the GM of a bad NBA team with a lot of cap space, would you feel entirely comfortable throwing Dwight a max deal and saying, “This guy can be the best player on a championship team?” Maybe, but probably not. Which is a problem since that's what Dwight's banking on this offseason.

Kevin Martin

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    Free Agency Status: Unrestricted

    Kevin Martin's numbers this postseason weren't that bad. He scored 14 points per game and shot 37 percent from three-point land.

    But here's the problem—in the regular season, Martin scored 14 points per game and shot 43 percent from three. He was almost the exact same player both before and after Russell Westbrook's injury. That's not a huge concern for the Oklahoma City Thunder, but it is for almost any other team that might consider signing Martin.

    Martin has a reputation as a pure scorer, but he didn't live up to that in the playoffs. He scored almost all of his points in only a few ways—namely as a spot-up shooter, coming off screens or as a cutter (via Synergy Sports Technology).

    He's extremely efficient at all of those things, but it is troubling that Scott Brooks didn't trust him to handle the ball even though the Thunder were so starved for playmakers.

    When you factor in how poor Martin's defense is (he allowed roughly 8,000 points over the course of the postseason on backdoor cuts), his offensive limitations should be a huge concern to any team that might consider signing him.

    Martin's reputation alone gives him a relatively high price tag, and not many teams can afford to pay top dollar to an off-ball scorer who can't defend. Not many good teams anyways.

    It's not a concern for the Thunder since Westbrook and Kevin Durant can run the offense and score in pretty much every way imaginable. But most other teams are going to have to think twice about Martin, and that should drive his price down.

Jerry Stackhouse/Keith Bogans

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    Free Agency Status: Unrestricted

    We'll just slip this in as a bit of a side note since neither player is likely to be a hot commodity in the offseason (the understatement of the century), and there's a good shot that Jerry Stackhouse will be retiring after this season (via Fox Sports Florida's Chris Tomasson). But let's look at the postseason numbers anyways.

    Bogans and Stackhouse played a combined 51 minutes this postseason. Their total stat line was five points on 1-for-11 shooting (0-for-8 from three), six rebounds, two assists and three turnovers. Let's just say the phones won't exactly be ringing off the hook for either player.

J.R. Smith

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    Free Agency Status: Player Option

    At the end of this season, J.R. Smith seemed to have a mini epiphany concerning shot selection.

    Smith has always shown a liking for step-back jumpers from mid-range, but in the last two months of the regular season, all of that changed. Suddenly, Smith started taking defenders off the dribble, getting to the rim and being a general nightmare to defend. 

    It was an amazing—and welcome—change. Smith took a whopping 35 percent of his shots at the rim (making 62 percent of them), and got to the line nearly six times per game (via NBA com).

    Smith's always been one of the best athletes in the game, and when he's actively attacking the basket, the New York Knicks are extremely tough to beat. Not a lot of defenses are equipped to handle stuff like this. It was pretty much every Knicks fan's dream come true.

    Unfortunately, things went south for Smith in the playoffs. And no, it was not because he had the flu.

    Facing two tough defenses in the Boston Celtics and the Indiana Pacers, Smith stopped attacking the basket and getting to the line (just four free throws per game in the postseason) and started heaving up those good old mid-range jumpers. Not so coincidentally, he shot just 33 percent in the playoffs, and the Knicks went home early.

    To be fair to Smith, the Pacers in particular are murderous defensively, and he wasn't getting much when he drove to the basket anyways. Smith shot under 50 percent at the rim in the playoffs, in part because Indiana was funneling every ball-handler towards Roy Hibbert (per NBA.com).

    But at the same time, Smith did nothing to assure teams that his old shot-selection problems are fixed. That could end up costing him a few million if he chooses to opt out of his current deal.

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