It might seem too early to be talking about free agency with the NBA playoffs still going on, but summer is right around the corner, and many of the players having success in the postseason will be up for new deals when July rolls around.
Not counting players with player options for 2018-19 that might still be exercised at season’s end, here are eight players earning big offseason paydays in the playoffs.
1. Kevin Durant
Besides the fact that he’s shooting just under 28 percent from 3-point range in the playoffs, Durant has been money everywhere else for the Golden State Warriors. His 28 points per game rank fifth among postseason players, and he’s currently top-20 in average rebounds (8.0) and assists (5.0) per game in the playoffs.
Last summer, Durant re-signed with Golden State at a discount so the team could bring back Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, but he should cash in this summer. According to Chris Haynes of ESPN, Durant plans to decline his player option for next season and become an unrestricted free agent, though it’s widely assumed he’ll return to the Warriors on a new deal. As Haynes explains, Durant could choose to sign a four-year max contract valued at $158 million or opt for a shorter deal that would allow him to sign a five-year max contract in the near future that would exceed $200 million.
Either way, the Warriors are going to be shelling out a lot of dough to keep last year’s Finals MVP in Oakland, but it will be money well spent for one of the NBA’s elite players.
2. Chris Paul
If the Houston Rockets had any doubts about signing Paul to a long-term contract at the end of this season because of his age, they were put to rest after Paul’s jaw-dropping performance in Tuesday’s closeout victory against the Utah Jazz. The 33-year-old was dominant, scoring a playoff career-high 41 points to go with 10 assists and seven rebounds. Paul finished the series with averages of 24.6 points, 7.0 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game.
Paul has no reason to leave a team that helped him finally reach the Conference Finals after so many failed attempts with the Los Angeles Clippers, nor do the Rockets have any reason to part ways with Paul, who continues to play at an elite level and shows no signs of slowing.
3. Clint Capela
Although he’s not as big of a name, Capela has been just as important to Houston’s success in the playoffs as Paul and James Harden, and teams will be lining up to make bids for the 23-year-old in restricted free agency this summer. In addition to leading all postseason players in blocks (2.80) per game, Capela is also top-five in rebounds (12.2) and field-goal percentage (63.4), and he has been putting in work at the offensive end with a solid 14.4 points per game.
In just his fourth year in the NBA, Capela is showing tremendous growth and potential, which should make him a top priority for the Rockets this summer. It would be hard to replace his effort on the glass and on defense.
4. Marcus Smart
With Terry Rozier having a breakout postseason, the Boston Celtics might have to choose between keeping Smart, who is a restricted free agent this summer, or Rozier, who is a restricted free agent two summers from now. Rozier is the better scorer of the two, but Smart does a little a bit of everything on the court and is one of the better defenders at his position. He recorded three steals in Wednesday’s closeout victory against the Philadelphia 76ers, including one at the very end of the game that helped seal the win for the Celtics.
In terms of tough, hard-nosed players in the NBA, there aren’t much better than Smart. He will definitely get rewarded this summer wherever he goes.
5. J.J. Redick
Redick’s quick trigger has been a welcomed addition to the Sixers. And even though he had a couple of off-shooting nights in the playoffs, the 33-year-old still finished with a solid 18.2 points per game, including five games where he scored 20-plus points. Redick signed only a one-year contract with Philadelphia last summer, so he will once again hit the free-agent market. If the Sixers don’t bring him back, some team is sure to come calling.
6. Jusuf Nurkic
Nurkic’s appearance in the playoffs, although brief thanks to the New Orleans Pelicans, didn’t go unnoticed. The seven-footer averaged 11.8 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in four games for the Portland Trail Blazers. And while it wasn’t enough to prevent Portland from being swept in the first round, Nurkic certainly helped his cause in summer free agency. In fact, he’s a top-five center in this year’s free-agent class, according to Hoops Hype. And at just 23 years old, Nurkic is a starting-caliber center with upside.
7. Derrick Favors
Some teams might choose to pass on Favors in free agency given his injury history with the Utah Jazz, but the former No. 3 overall pick is a highly productive player when healthy. Take the first round against Oklahoma City for example. Favors averaged 12.3 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in seven games against the Thunder, but he was hobbled by an ankle injury in the second round against the Rockets and was hardly a factor in that series. This year’s free-agent class is not a strong one for power forwards, so Favors has a pretty good chance at getting paid well this summer.
8. Rajon Rondo
Following a very successful postseason with the Pelicans, that’s now two years in a row that Rondo has been a factor in the playoffs. He did it last year with the Chicago Bulls before an injury knocked him out, totaling 23 points, 20 assists and 17 rebounds in two games. This time around, Rondo averaged 10.3 points, 12.2 assists and 7.6 rebounds in nine playoff games for the Pelicans. At 32 years old and given the five different teams he’s played for in the last four years, Rondo probably isn’t looking at max contract money, but he has proven himself as a capable rotation player that can help out a contender.