6 NBA Playoff Studs Making Best Cases for Bigger Contracts

D.J. Foster@@fosterdjContributor IMay 7, 2014

6 NBA Playoff Studs Making Best Cases for Bigger Contracts

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    There are always the usual suspects who tend to dominate in the playoffs. LeBron James. Kevin Durant. Dwyane Wade.

    But then there are also the players who put up big numbers in the playoffs that aren't already on max contracts or don't have their financial future already decided. These are the players who are playing for extra dollars with every performance.

    With that in mind, let's take a look at six postseason performers who are making a strong case to receive a bigger and better contract than the one they are currently on.

    For the sake of this exercise, we'll look only at players that will be free agents this offseason or in 2015, as playoff performances won't carry as much weight beyond this offseason and next.

    We'll also rule out any first-round pick rookie-scale players, as there are quite a few who deserve and will earn bigger contracts. The following six players will be ranked not by who is best, but instead in order by who has improved their next contract the most going forward. 

6. Marcin Gortat, Washington Wizards

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    Washington Wizards big man Marcin Gortat hasn't been spectacular, but he's been solid. That's the story of his career.

    After a three-year hiatus from the postseason, it's good to see Gortat back in the mix and providing his usual blend of size and skills that make him one of the more dependable big guys in the league. He can bang, he can score around the rim, he can shoot, and he's a willing passer and cutter. He's not great at any one thing, but he has very few weaknesses

    Although he's struggled to score so far in the playoffs, Gortat has battled Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah admirably, and he should come in handy when it's time to keep Indiana Pacers forward David West in check. Very few teams can offer a frontcourt as big or dynamic as Gortat and Nene, and it seems like there's a good chance those two can help carry the Wizards to the Eastern Conference Finals.

    With a salary of just $7.7 million, Gortat is a lock to earn more money this offseason, particularly if his shot starts falling again and Washington keeps advancing. 

5. DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers

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    It's funny how much one year can change things. A lot of people might have said that DeAndre Jordan was overpaid coming into this season, but now his contract looks a little on the lean side.

    While he's not as underpaid as some of the other names on this list, you have to remember that defensive-minded big men come at a premium in the NBA. Center is a position that will always have an inflated price, which makes Jordan's slightly above-average deal worth $10.9 seem like quite a bargain.

    Jordan has been absolutely critical so far in the playoffs, posting a 19.4 PER while leading all playoff performers in rebounds per game (13.9) and blocks per game (3.5).

    Although he can't hit unrestricted free agency until 2015, Jordan is lining himself up perfectly to be the third max or near-max player alongside Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. He's been that critical to the team's defense and to their early postseason success, and a deep playoff run should guarantee that he gets paid more handsomely than his current deal allows for. 

4. Trevor Ariza, Washington Wizards

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    Washington Wizards forward Trevor Ariza has a bit of a history with great contract-year performances, but this one has been his best yet.

    Since he's developed his three-point shot, particularly from the corners, Ariza has become a deadly weapon offensively and a big time playmaker with his length on the other end.

    So far in this year's postseason, Ariza has been playing out of his mind, averaging 3.2 made threes a game on 55.9 percent shooting with a PER of 19.7.

    You'd expect some regression as the playoffs continue, but right now, Ariza is earning himself a nice future payday, just like he did after a big playoff performance with the Los Angeles Lakers that landed him his current deal that pays $7.7 million this year.

    While that may sound like a fair price for Ariza, three-and-D players with length are in high demand, and Ariza has proven to be one of the very best. If he keeps playing like this, there's virtually no chance he doesn't see an increase in salary as an unrestricted free agent this offseason. 

3. Paul Millsap, Atlanta Hawks

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    Even though his Atlanta Hawks were eliminated in seven games by the Indiana Pacers, perhaps no player made a bigger impression than Paul Millsap did in carrying his team as far as he did.

    It was a big surprise when Millsap signed a deal this offseason for just two years and $19 million, but it's safe to say that won't happen again. Teams all around the league have seen how important it is to have a big man who can hold his own defensively and on the glass but still provide stretch, and Millsap is exactly that type of player.

    After posting a PER of 20 despite being the primary focus for Indiana's still-potent defense, Millsap proved he's capable of being a top option offensively. Getting out of Utah and absorbing more offensive responsibility was great for his career, and so was this postseason.

    It's hard to say what Atlanta will do with Millsap's expiring contract next year, but either way, Millsap is going to cash in very soon on his big-time performances.

2. Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors

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    Although his time in the playoffs was ultimately brief, Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry did plenty to prove the best year of his career wasn't a fluke. 

    After pushing the high-budget Brooklyn Nets to seven games largely because of his ability to outplay max point guard Deron Williams, Lowry showed that he's ready for a much bigger contract than his extremely modest deal that paid him just $6.2 million this season.

    Where will that contract come from, though? Lowry will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and although very few teams need a starting point guard, he'll certainly drum up plenty of interest.

    No matter where the deal comes from, though, Lowry's play this postseason has earned him a much bigger deal than the one he's currently on. Don't be surprised if Lowry ends up signing a contract that has him earn north of $10 million a year going forward.

1. Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors

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    Draymond Green is a former second-round pick who won't be eligible for restricted free agency until the 2015 offseason, but he should have a huge payday ahead of him, despite his numbers not popping off the page.

    In Golden State's series with the Los Angeles Clippers, Green was routinely one of the best two-way players on the floor, as he guarded everyone from Blake Griffin to Chris Paul with great effectiveness.

    You have to wonder if the series would have played out differently if Mark Jackson had gone to Green earlier instead of relying so heavily on David Lee. While there are multiple reasons why Jackson is no longer the coach of the Warriors, his reluctance to use Green probably didn't help.

    Green posted a 16.1 PER in the playoffs, which isn't bad for a player that impacts the game defensively more than anywhere else. If Green can continue to work on his perimeter jumper, he'll be the perfect small-ball 4 that allows for a lot of defensive flexibility while providing spacing on the other end.

    The secret on this guy is out. Don't be surprised if he gets a huge offer as a restricted free agent next offseason. 

    All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference and are accurate as of May 6.