The NBA playoffs can make or cost any NBA free agent and this offseason the stakes are raised even further with the revenue losses from the pandemic likely putting a tight squeeze on spending for many NBA teams. The competition will be fierce for the little cap space available and with a sizable gap between the regular season and postseason, a player's value on the open market is more volatile than ever.
Brad Wanamaker: The senior member of the Celtics was forced into a crucial rotation role for much of the postseason once Gordon Hayward went down with a sprained ankle. He easily outplayed his veteran’s minimum deal, providing a valuable scoring spark in multiple games against the Raptors thanks to his 46 percent shooting mark from 3-point range. His age (30) ensures he won’t get a long-term deal but he’s earned a raise from the minimum next year, whether it comes in Boston or elsewhere.
Gordon Hayward (player option): With a shrinking salary cap looming thanks to the loss of revenue in the wake of a coronavirus pandemic, there was never any serious doubt that Hayward would opt out of his $32.7 million player option. However, another injury to the 30-year-old has limited any chance of him making a meaningful impact during the C’s run to this point. That could change of course if Boston fights their way past Miami and gets to the NBA Finals (allowing Hayward’s ankle to get stronger ahead of a matchup against the Lakers). However, his leverage at negotiating a long-term extension has dissipated with bad health luck this year.
Enes Kanter (player option): A strong Game 5 outing against the Heat helped his cause but the painful reality is that he’s only played a total of 32 minutes in the past two rounds. Kanter's defensive limitations are exposed by elite teams in the postseason so it’s hard to see any playoff team thinking he is a long-term solution in the middle. The guess here, barring a Finals breakout, is that he opts into his $5 million option since it’s going to be hard to find that money elsewhere in a shrinking center free-agent market.
Semi Ojeleye (team option): He’s only making $1.75 million next season but could be a victim of a roster crunch in Boston with the younger Grant Williams doing a lot of the things the C’s have asked of Ojeleye in the past. Ojeleye has appeared in 13 games this postseason but he’s shooting just 25 percent from the field and 21 percent from 3-point range over that stretch.
Tremont Waters/Tacko Fall: Both players will be restricted free agents this offseason. Look for Waters to get a chance to earn a roster spot in camp while the team attempts to bring Fall back again on a two-way deal.
FREE AGENTS AROUND THE NBA
Jerami Grant, Nuggets, PF (PO): The athletic forward finished the Nuggets playoff run as the team’s third-best scorer (11.4 ppg). His 3-point shooting has steadily improved in recent years, making him more of a two-way threat (defense has always been his strength). In a weak free-agent market, he should be able to at least fetch the mid-level extension on a long-term deal so that will be enough for him to opt-out of his $9.3 million option to get added security.
Serge Ibaka, Raptors PF/C: The 31-year-old won’t come close to matching his $23 million salary in 2019-20 but he was sensational off the bench for the Raptors all postseason long, averaging 14.8 ppg and 7.7 rpg while knocking down a team-best 51 percent of his 3s. His defense is still a weak spot but he should be a top of the big man options available at center this summer on the open market.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Lakers SG (PO): The 27-year-old has been overpaid by the