Show Me the Money: 10 NBA Players Busting It for a Big Contract in 2011
Without a doubt, the motivation of playing to prove what you're worth is very strong. Every year there are players who are entering their last year of their current contract either as a restricted or unrestricted free agent.
When a player knows that he doesn't have a contract that extends past the current year, a lot of the time we see their production boost dramatically.
The idea behind it is that the better they perform, the higher the odds of earning more money the following season.
So with this year's NBA free agency ordeal finally calmed down, some of the NBA's best are becoming free agents in 2011 as well and are excited to get the season started and prove their worth.
Here's a list of players who you should look for to boost their production in the hopes of earning a more lucrative contract for the future:
Leading the NBA free agency class of 2011 movement, Anthony will be one of several All-Stars going into the last year of their NBA contracts.
'Melo would be in the top 10, but the Nuggets hopefully have learned from the Cavaliers and Raptors, and will want something in exchange for their superstar.
And with Anthony's rumored desires to leave Denver, it is likely that he will be traded by season's end. So, with the prospect of being traded, 'Melo doesn't really need to prove his worth—he just needs to play basketball.
As an unrestricted free agent this coming summer, Butler will have the ability to sign with another team in the NBA if he wishes to leave Dallas.
With Butler's career probably moving slightly past his prime, he may be looking for a long-term deal to be his final home, or he may be looking for a one-year deal and try his luck with several different teams.
Either way, Butler will be out to play for his next contract this season.
Either to convince Joe Dumars that he was right in naming him a franchise player, or to convince another team that he is a worthy asset, Stuckey should be hoping to have a career year this season.
If he continues to underproduce he may have to play somewhere for a lot less money than he'd hoped for. If he produces like an emerging NBA player, then he may have a long life ahead of him in Detroit.
Another unrestricted free agent next summer, Richardson should have a great year this coming season.
With the departure of Amar'e Stoudemire, as well as the fact that he is playing for a new contract beyond 2011, fantasy owners might want to look into snagging Richardson off the board before it's too late.
Does Kirilenko wish to continue his long tenure with the Jazz? Or does he wish to play somewhere else where he can use his full potential?
Either way, somebody has to pay him. Whether it's the Jazz or another team in the NBA, Kirilenko will want them to know that he is capable of great things.
10. Jeff Green
Jeff Green's first NBA contract is about to expire as he will be a restricted free agent next summer.
If he wants to continue to play his role in the Thunder's rise to NBA relevancy and eventual Western superpower, he needs to prove that to them with his play.
He will be a restricted free agent, so the Thunder will be able to get something in return if they decide not to match an offer sheet to which Green agreed with another team.
If Green knows that the Thunder will re-sign him no matter what then the better he plays equivocates to how much money he makes in his following contract.
But if there is a price at which the Thunder will let him go, then Green might want to even limit his production if he wishes to stay in Oklahoma City. This is because his stock will rise in relation to other teams and they will be offering him more money.
Whatever Jeff Green decides he wants, he will need to do one thing: not have a disappointing season.
9. Al Horford
Another situation where it's fairly certain that the Hawks will want to secure Al Horford long term. As a restricted free agent though, the Hawks may have to take a dive into their budget to secure a spot on the roster for their athletic big man.
Horford will be regarded as a very valuable asset next summer, and teams should be pursuing him, especially if they have something ideal in mind to give to Atlanta in return.
His first All-Star appearance last year may mark the beginning of an illustrious career and many other teams would love to have this young talent on their team.
Horford should only build off his career year, emerging as a top big man in the East.
8. Aaron Brooks
His unique skill set is known now not only by the Houston Rockets' organization, but by the entire NBA should be a valuable target next summer for teams needing help in the backcourt.
As a restricted free agent, the Rockets will be able to match any offer made between Brooks and an opposing franchise to keep him in Houston.
However, the price may run high for the Rockets depending on how well Brooks performs this season.
Will playing in a contract year let us see even more of the Aaron Brooks we're beginning to hear of increasingly often?
7. Zach Randolph
Unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2011, Randolph will have a "decision" of his own to make just like many others.
If he continues to play some of his best basketball of his career in Memphis, seemingly having finally found a home amongst the Grizzlies, the organization may want him back for years to come.
But with the continued All-Star play will come perhaps more lucrative offers or more appealing locations for Randolph to play in.
Regardless of the contract year or not, Randolph does seem to be fitting in well with Memphis so look for his production to continue this year.
6. Joakim Noah
Preparing to be a restricted free agent this coming summer, it will be interesting to see how badly teams want to take away one of the league's emerging big men from Chicago.
If he improves off his career year last season, Chicago may have to match a lot of money offered by other franchises.
But what if Chicago acquires the rumored Carmelo Anthony in exchange for Joakim Noah? Not a whole lot changes.
He will still be playing for a more rewarding contract in the future, only Denver will have the option of matching offers made to him. If the Nuggets are willing to trade Anthony for Noah (and perhaps others), then they should be pretty keen on keeping what they got in exchange for their superstar forward.
5. Yao Ming
This will be a fun guy to watch this year. Not only is he playing in the final year of his current contract, he is playing for the first time since May 8, 2009.
If he proves to be injury-free this year, Houston will be willing to "re-invest" in their franchise center, although he is an unrestricted free agent.
It's hard to imagine Yao playing anywhere else but for the Rockets as he has developed such a rapport there between China and Houston.
But if he does get injured again, the Rockets may want to part ways with the long-time face of the Houston Rockets.
Yao Ming will be out to prove people wrong this year, be sure of that.
4. David West
With an early termination option for David West next summer, he will either be able to stay with the Hornets or become an unrestricted free agent.
With the possibility of becoming an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2011, he will surely be out to prove his worth this coming season.
He knows that Chris Paul's future with the Hornets is probably not long term. Perhaps he will be more excited about joining a major contender than continuing his relationship with the superstar point guard.
Chris Paul wants out anyway, right? West may realize that the New Orleans franchise is in jeopardy and choose to exercise his ETO. Or, he may elect to help the franchise stick together and voice his intentions of staying a Hornet.
Either way, it should be interesting to see how his play is affected by his situation. It seems as though he has capped off as a 19/8 player (which by no means is meant to play those kind of statistics down), but fans are curious whether he can break into the ranks of the elite.
3. Tracy McGrady
After signing a one-year deal with the Pistons this summer, McGrady will likely find himself among a pool of the jobless in the summer of 2011 as well.
Whether he be jobless in the sense that he can't find a job (Allen Iverson), or jobless in the sense that he can't decide where to take his talents (LeBron James), remains to be the question.
McGrady will be playing with a target on his back as he has been for several years.
But with his recent proclamations that he is fully healthy and still can play at a high level, it will be interesting to watch him this season as he is surely out to prove doubters wrong.
Not to mention he could be playing for his final NBA contract, and if he produces at a high level this season, a lot of NBA teams could end up wanting him come summer.
2. Michael Redd
With Michael Redd likely to be out until the All-Star break next season, the Bucks seem like they are already ready to move on from the Michael Redd era.
With a new and improved roster that is pretty much full at each position, Redd may have a hard time coming by minutes even when he returns from his injury.
John Salmons looks like the clear starter and part of the new direction for the Milwaukee Bucks.
If Redd gets healthy before the trading deadline passes, the Bucks might want to look into trading him so that they can get something in return for the former USA gold-medalist.
When, and if, Michael Redd gets healthy, he is going to have to be at the top of his game. Redd's career may be on the line next time he steps onto a basketball court.
If he can give one final push to contribute to the playoff seeding of the Milwaukee Bucks, and then deliver solid bench production for them in the playoffs he will get some offers next summer—maybe even from Milwaukee if Redd would like to accept a bench role.
1. Greg Oden
With his first NBA contract set to expire after the 2010-2011 season having only played in 82 games in his first three seasons in the league, the Portland Trail Blazers may not be so willing to match this restricted free agent's offer sheet to another team.
Of course, that all hinges on his play this year. This is the No. 1 overall draft pick we're talking about here. Not to mention one of the most hyped No. 1 overall draft picks in recent history.
If he comes out and plays like he was drafted to play, the Blazers will hold on to him for dear life. He still has the potential to dominate the league for years to come in the future.
And that mostly depends on his health. If he can't stay healthy this year (let's say...over 70 games), the Blazers may decide they've spent enough money on a player who, by the numbers, only plays one season for every three seasons he is paid for.
This is a huge year for Greg Oden, regardless of where his future lies. He could be one of the biggest free agent signings of next summer depending on his season this year.
All the more reason to be excited about the NBA this year. So many evolving stories to keep up with has many NBA fans more excited than ever for the games to tipoff.