Today, we’re taking a more positive route and instead talking about the guys who have helped their stock the most with their play in the postseason, a seven-player list featuring some very promising young players who were able to step up on the biggest stage and performed when their teams most needed it over the past couple of months.
Below, check out the free agents who helped up their stock the most in the 2023 playoffs.
Playoff stats: 16.9 ppg, 4.6 apg, 46.4 FG%, 44.3 3P%, +14.4 swing rating
Looking confident and comfortable in his first taste of playoff experience, Los Angeles Lakers guard Austin Reaves was extremely effective this postseason and is now set to receive a payday in free agency this summer, currently ranking 14th overall in our free-agent rankings for 2023.
Able to score, playmake, rebound, play on the ball or off of it and provide tenacious defense, as well as possessing a rare ability among inexperienced NBA players to draw fouls, Reaves may be 25 years old already but still seems to have a higher ceiling he can hit.
Interested suitors will be hoping so, at least, as talk around the NBA seems to be that teams will be willing to offer Reaves more money than the four-year, $54 million max the Lakers can give him. Granted, Los Angeles can still match any offer Reaves gets, as he is a restricted free agent with his rights owned by the Lakers.
Our own Michael Scotto discussed Reaves’ upcoming free agency with The Athletic’s Jovan Buha on a podcast recently, with Buha mentioning the San Antonio Spurs as a potential dark-horse suitor for the former Oklahoma standout.
For the latest Austin Reaves rumors and salary info, click here.
Playoff stats: 13.4 ppg, 3.9 apg, 41.5 FG%, 40.0 3P%, +5.3 swing rating
Tasked with being the Miami Heat’s starting point guard from February on, Gabe Vincent has stepped up in a huge way in the playoffs, playing a pivotal role in Miami upsetting the two top seeds in the East to reach the Finals as an eight seed.
Vincent can really shoot the basketball, off the dribble, too, possessing a willingness to launch it from deep or the midrange with confidence while being a decent-enough playmaker and a tenacious defender.
Vincent’s most impressive performance of the playoffs came in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics when he went off for a career-high 29 points on 11-of-14 shooting (six-for-nine from three) in a blowout 128-102 Miami victory.
Vincent was also clutch in the series, hitting the game-sealing pull-up jumper in Game 2 to put the Heat up two games to zero, off a move that nearly made Boston superstar Jayson Tatum do a split on national television.
GABE VINCENT PUT THE DAGGER IN THIS GAME 😱🔥🔥!
THE MIAMI HEAT DEFEAT THE CELTICS HERE IN GAME 2 111-105. THE HEAT TAKE GAME 1 & NOW GAME 2 IN BOSTON WITH A CHANCE TO SWEEP THE BOSTON CELTICS IN MIAMI WITH HOME COURT ADVANTAGE ON THEIR SIDE 🔥🔥🔥🔥 #NBAPlayoffs @MiamiHEAT pic.twitter.com/j9aClCp4Oz
— Top Bunk Sports (@Topbunksports) May 20, 2023
By proving he can be a starting point guard on a conference champion, Vincent has made himself a lot of money this postseason, jumping all the way to being our 27th-ranked free agent this summer.
For the latest Gabe Vincent rumors and salary info, click here.
Playoff stats: 12.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 55.7 FG%, 48.7 3P%, -1.7 swing rating
Despite a surprising negative swing rating in the playoffs, Lakers swingman Rui Hachimura is undoubtedly coming off the best stretch of basketball of his career, which happened at a great time (at least for his bank account), as the Japanese forward is set to hit free agency for the first time.
Hachimura did a great job attacking the rim and hitting tough jumpers in the playoffs, playing expertly off of LeBron James and Anthony Davis to do a lot of damage against scrambling defenses. He also provided the Lakers with versatile defense thanks to his ability to cover wings and some bigs.
Now, some teams may still question whether Hachimura would be able to perform as well when he’s not playing off of two all-time greats. We do have years’ worth of mediocre evidence from his time with the Washington Wizards, after all.
Regardless, although a team may not get far with the former Top 10 pick as its No. 1 or No. 2 option, he clearly proved he can be a very effective role player on a contender.
Buha had the following to say on Hachimura’s free agency recently:
Jovan Buha: Similarly to Reaves, I’ve heard the Lakers plan on matching any contract offer sheet Hachimura signs… I’ve heard different numbers on Rui. Initially, I heard he turned down a contract extension offer from Washington that was in that $14-15 million range (annually)… He stepped up big time in the playoffs. If Austin was their third-best player most nights, I’d say Rui was their fourth-best player most nights… I think his market is anywhere in that $15-18 million range annually. In that range, the Lakers would retain him. I think where it gets a little dicey is if there’s a team that sells themselves on Rui and offers three years, $60 million or four years, $80 million.
For the latest Rui Hachimura rumors and salary info, click here.
Playoff stats: 23.6 ppg, 7.4 apg, 41.0 FG%, 35.7 3P%, -0.4 swing rating
After a tumultuous – and that’s putting it kindly – run with the Lakers, future Hall-of-Famer Russell Westbrook bounced back magnificently as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers, including in the playoffs, where Westbrook dragged a depleted L.A. roster to at least take one game from the heavily favored Phoenix Suns in round one.
Still, Westbrook’s free agency will be an interesting one.
He’s already 34 and produced a lowlight reel of shocking Laker moments that still has to be on the minds of potentially interested teams. Sure, he was great with the Clippers – and impactful, as his regular season swing rating with the lesser Los Angeles basketball brand was a solid plus-3.0 – but that’s on a 26-game sample size, regular season and playoffs combined.
It’s quite doubtful that a huge multi-year offer will await Westbrook in free agency. After all, the teams with money and cap space to offer are rebuilding clubs that might not be all that keen on adding Westbrook’s high-usage style of play into the fold.
Will Westbrook be able to land the full mid-level of exception from a contender? It’s certainly possible, and his impressive playoff run only increased his chances of that happening.
For the latest Russell Westbrook rumors and salary info, click here.
Playoff stats: 12.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 53.3 FG%, 31.7 3P%, +2.6 swing rating
Even with his three-point shot remaining as streaky as ever, Bruce Brown has been a huge part of the Denver Nuggets’ run to the Finals, attacking the basket with ferocity and providing versatile defense on multiple positions.
Brown will never be a high-level scorer no matter the role, but as a complementary piece, he makes an enormous impact and can be a star in that role. Brown can have the occasional scoring outburst, too, as seen in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals. With the series tied at two games apiece against the Phoenix Suns, Brown went off, scoring 25 points on 11 field-goal attempts to go with five rebounds and a steal in a 118-102 Denver win.
And it’s not like this is a random stretch of games where Brown just happened to get hot, he’s almost always been a positive-impact player during his time in the NBA.
As a slasher and driver of the ball, rebounder and multi-positional defender, Brown can do a lot of damage, and NBA teams have been able to see that all playoffs long.
For the latest Bruce Brown rumors and salary info, click here.
Playoff stats: 18.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 50.9 FG%, 42.9 3P%, -0.2 swing rating
Even though it wasn’t enough to avoid a sweep for the Brooklyn Nets against the Philadelphia 76ers, sharpshooter Cam Johnson had a great, albeit brief, playoff performance, proving that his three-point shooting and occasional pull-up game can translate in the postseason, too.
Johnson is an efficient scorer with a beautiful three-point stroke and great size for a wing, filling an important archetype in the modern NBA. And even though Johnson will be 27 as he hits free agency for the first time, he should have a bevy of interested suitors, as his game is a plug-and-play style in that he could fit in on any team and immediately be a starter or first-off-the-bench backup.
Johnson’s best performance of the playoffs came in Game 2 against the Sixers, a 96-84 loss for Brooklyn when the former Carolina standout dropped 28 points on 57.9 percent shooting, hit five threes and filled the stat sheet with four rebounds, two steals and a block.
For the latest Cam Johnson rumors and salary info, click here.
Playoff stats: 6.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 63.0 FG%, 0.0 3P%, +15.7 swing rating
Suns big man Jock Landale’s quietly had a great playoff showing at an important time as the Australian big man is set to hit unrestricted free agency this summer.
His raw numbers may have been far more humble than the other players on this list but his swing rating tops the list, which speaks both to how impactful he was for Phoenix and also a bit to how badly Deandre Ayton struggled in the postseason.
Regardless, Landale played with a lot of energy in the postseason, really fought on the glass and provided good defense for the Suns. Most importantly, he played well off of the duo of Devin Booker and Kevin Durant, which cannot be said for Ayton.
Since Jock Landale took on a more significant role, the advanced metrics alongside Devin Booker and Kevin Durant are eye-opening compared to Deandre Ayton:
Booker/Durant/Landale (24 minutes): 140.0 OffRtg, 104.0 DefRtg, +36.0 NetRtg
Booker/Durant/Ayton (49 minutes): 121.8…
— Evan Sidery (@esidery) May 9, 2023
A do-the-dirty-work big man who rebounds, sets hard screens, finishes around the basket and doesn’t demand a lot of touches to make an impact is the type of player you want around your two superstars, as proven by Landale in the playoffs.
And though he almost certainly won’t land himself a huge deal this summer, there’s no question Landale made himself some money this postseason.
For the latest Jock Landale rumors and salary info, click here.