Much like the NCAA Tournament, the NBA Playoffs are often a springboard for certain players to showcase their skills to fans and GM’s alike, hopefully landing themselves a lucrative contract. Here are three soon-to-be free agents who, with the world watching, are making the case for a much larger paycheck next season.
Trevor Ariza, SF,
Los Angeles Lakers
2008-09 Salary: $2.91 million
What He Brings: Ariza’s combination of speed, size (6-foot-8, 210 pounds), and determination allow him to be a great defender. Like Bruce Bowen or Shane Battier, he can guard almost any opponent and is regularly asked to track down guards or bang with the big boys down low.
Playing 24 minutes a game for the season, he had decent pers of 8.9 points, 4.3 boards, 1.8-1.1 assist-turnovers, 1.7 steals, and a .460 FG% which would be much better if he stopped shooting so many 3’s (.319). His combination of size and quickness make him a strong inside finisher (his .625 FG% around the rim ranks ahead of Dwight Howard’s .622, but that does include many fastbreak points). At 23 years of age, he’s also still extremely young.
[Ed. note: Say what you will about Isiah Thomas, he deserves all of it, but he also drafted some diamonds in the rough]
Playoffs: Ariza is starting over Lamar Odom and doing quite well. He is playing 32 minutes a night with 11.4 points, has 27 assists to only 14 turnovers, and has knocked down 15 of 29 triples. His defense is more valuable than his 1.4 steals and 0.5 blocks indicate.
Right Situation: He would do well on a team that needs intensity on defense but is not looking for a scorer. Atlanta and Portland both fit the description and have plenty of money to spend. Good luck finding Ariza in a Blazers’ uniform, though, after he wiped out Rudy Fernandez on a breakaway attempt in a March contest.
Trevor Ariza Photo Credit: Icon SMI
Von Wafer, SG, Houston Rockets
2008-09 Salary: $798,000
What He Brings: Wafer drives into the lane with authority and regularity, has a decent pull-up jumper, and can score in bunches. When he gets a chance to play more than just spot duty in a game, he’ll put up decent numbers; in 11 starts this season, Wafer averaged 16.4 points, .497 FG%, .385 3-pt FG%, and 1.4 steals. His decision making can be so-so when he’s not creating his own shot (1.1-0.9 assists-turnovers), but he’s only 23 years old.
Playoffs: Average NBA fans have suddenly become aware of Wafer’s spurty scoring ability in the playoffs. While sporting what Ron Artest calls a Von-hawk, he has hit his 3’s (7 of 16) and continues to be a menace to opponents by consistently getting into the lane.
Right Situation: Wafer should continue to be paired with other quick guards, creating bad match-ups for larger opponents. A fast-paced squad would like him. Indiana and Phoenix (if they’re actually going into rebuilding mode) could have the cash to add Wafer. I’m sure Houston would love to keep him, but the market may set a price a little higher than they can swing, especially if the Rockets re-sign Artest.
One more 2009 free agent-to-be stepping up, after the jump…
Glen Davis, F-C, Boston Celtics
2008-09 Salary: $712,000
What He Brings: “Big Baby” Davis is deceptively quick at 6-foot-9, 290 pounds, making it very difficult for opponents to move him, defend him, or maneuver around him. He doesn’t put up any big-time stats (7.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, .442 FG%), but you can’t miss his impact when watching him play. He’s the beefy guy in green who will occasionally muscle through centers for tough points, but who is more comfortable on the catch-and-shoot around 10-15 feet (59% of his shots are 2-point jumpers, one of the top-20 figures in the league).
Considering how sparingly Boston has used Davis in his 2 years as a pro, his production would spike significantly if a team increased his role and, subsequently, his learning curve. [Ed. note: teams have to wonder though, would Davis stay in reasonable basketball shape if handed a large contract?]
Playoffs: Davis is starting in place of the injured Kevin Garnett and doing just fine. Although the series was played at a fast pace and there were several overtimes, he put up 18.1 points and 6.7 rebounds against Chicago. He showed good fitness in that series, spending at least 40 minutes on the floor in 5 of the games, including 53 in the epic, 3-overtime Game 6. Predictably, his numbers have dropped in the second round versus Dwight Howard.
Right Situation: Boston will pay their Big 3 $55 million next season, so the ideal situation of Davis staying put may not be available. Oklahoma City would love his youthful spirit, are in need of a powerful big man, and are only on the books for $42 million (so far) next year.
Zachariah Blott is an English teacher in Portland, not an Amish Charles Dickens character.