Contract Year Studs
Contract year players. 08-09 Trevor Ariza. 08-09 Charlie Villanueva. You know they are and you despise them, the opportunistic &$#%#&@!s. Here are the four I've assessed as classic contract year guys this season.
Depending on which expert you ask, Hawes' stunning ascent isn’t all that stunning; he was supposed to be this good. One of the top recruits in the vaunted Oden-Durant-Conley class and a lotto selection after one year at Washington, Hawes boasts the best nightly line of any center in the league: 16 points, 10 boards, 3 assists, 2 blocks, 2 threes (48%), 53%/73% shooting. With better numbers better than every member of the max 7-footer class of 2011 – Gasol, Lopez and Hibbert – when they signed, I wouldn't dare go there, but to predict he'll double this year's $6.5M salary isn't at all outlandish. Hawes hasn't merely shed his rep as a model mediocre center but asserted himself as one the league's most dynamic bigs, tripling his three-point attempts and connecting at a 12% higher clip while effectively patrolling the paint. No veteran has elevated his game like Hawes this season; the 2 year/$13M deal Hawes inked in 2012 engendered more groans than fist pumps from Philly fans who now would be elated to lock him down for less than eight figures next season, because he's getting that somewhere.
Deng might not have been overpaid but he often toed the line; only a defender dominant as Deng could earn consecutive all-star births on pedestrian averages of 16 points and 6 boards at the small forward position. In line for an Igoudala type offer (4/$48M) prior to this season, the 6-9 small forward is playing the best ball of his career, invigorated by Rose's injury and reaffirming his standing among the league's elite swingmen with averages of 18.2 ppg and 7.1 rpg on the season, including 23 ppg, 7.2 rpg and 4.8 apg over his last five. Suddenly Deng’s glass is half full. Deng won't enter free agency as a wing who peaked on that tragic Bulls team but a bona fide all-star small forward with four years left in his prime. A proven second option on a 60-win team who's led the league in minutes twice, Deng is a defensive stalwart, a workhorse and a winner who may well average 20 PPG for a shallow Bulls team comprised of fairly one-dimensional, deferential players, nearly all of whom built their reputation on the other end of the floor. The Cavs are itching to raise their paddle in the small forward bidding this offseason but their performance and immaturity has likely erased any interest Bron may have had in an already improbable return. Deng is positioned as the best bet to capitalize on the Cavs’ cap room and desire to win pronto.
Stuckey played the best ball of his career in the least year of his rookie contract back in 2011 when he solidified his role in the Pistons’ future, posting 15.5 points, 5.2 assists and 4.8 boards. The Pistons’ selection of Brandon Knight in the 2012 draft affected a slight decrease in his numbers. Last season he genuinely stunk, posting just 11.5 points on 40% shooting for another throwaway Pistons team. Drafting SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope with the 8th pick in the draft, swapping in the trigger-happy Brandon Jennings for Knight and adding trigger-happy PF Josh Smith figured to squeeze Stuckey out of the rotation but the Pistons’ nightmare has prevailed, the three aforementioned alpha dogs floundering while the Eastern Washington product puts up 17 a night on career-high marks from the field and beyond the arc. Perhaps entering his prime at 27 and a capable PG upon assignment, Stuckey’s next paycheck might not be a raise but it no doubt dwarfs the figure he was set to command had he stagnated.
Hill isn’t playing any better than he did last season. He’s simply playing more. Logging more than 20 mpg for the first time in his career, Hill is putting up 9.4 points and grabbing 8.6 boards in 22.4 mpg. Adjusted to 36 minutes, however, his scoring is identical to last season and his rebounding is up a single missed shot. Hill is averaging 15.1 ppg, 13.9 rpg and 1.7 bpg per 36 minutes this season, impressive but not unprecedented, a casual improvement on the 13.7/11.2/1.6 he’s averaged per 36 minutes in his career. Yet you can’t help but feel good for the guy. Hill didn’t request to be taken between Steph Curry and Brandon Jennings and he didn’t beg scouts to hype his scoring potential as they did. This is vengeance. Hill has excelled as the rangier foil to Pau Gasol in the paint, the 6-10 Hill benefiting from Gasol’s 7-foot frame, the Spaniard indebted to Hill for easing his load on the defensive end, especially when the 33-year old is caught far from the hoop. He would be a great fit in the Lakers’ intended run-and-gun 2014 lineup but he’s played himself out of their price range.
While I agree with what you're saying I still think there are other circumstances involved here. Literally everyone on that 76'ers team is playing out of their mind right now, and a lot of it has to do with coaching, and being in a position to succeed.
The same thing could be said about Jordan Hill, who finally is getting some burn after not really getting a chance with his last few teams. Hill looks exactly like he did last year, except he's geting 22 mpg instead of 16.
Another guy who's in a contract year who's exceeding expectations is Jordan Crawford. I know i'm probably a little bias, but I think he's actually turned into a good player, and could play the role of Gary Neal last year for any contender. He's averaging a decent stat line of 12/5/3 while running the show in Boston. Usually known for chucking and playing selfish, it seems Crawford has reinvented himself in his contract year, and his three double-doubles are proof of this turn around.
Trading Spencer Hawes for a 1st Round Pick was one of my biggest goals for Hinke coming into this season. From the way he's played this year, I would like to think some contending team looking for a decent two-way big will be willing to give up a late 2014 1st.
Im not saying he will not produce in the future but I like what he is doing this year.
Isaiah Thomas is averaging 17pts, 4.5 ast, and 2.5 reb while shooting 40% from three. Leading the NBA in points and assists for a bench player.
He is also one of the best 4th quarter players in the NBA this year, sitting only behind Durant in 4th quarter ppg. With great percentages during that time as well (50.7% fg, 43% 3fg, 93% ft).
We will see if he can keep this up next year after earning his pay increase.
How about Trevor Ariza AGAIN this year? He's averaging 15.3 ppg and 5.7 rpg while playing excellent defense and shooting 40% from 3 point range on 6.3 attempts per game. If the Wizards don't think they can make a playoff run, then his expiring contract for 7.7 million could generate some serious interest from contenders.......
Its also realistic to think Marcin Gortat could be traded again if the Wizards don't think they will make the playoffs.... He is in line to get paid by somebody, and is averaging 13.4 and 9.4 per game on 55% shooting.
Wall and Nene both make 13 million a year starting next season, but the contracts of Beal, Webster and Otto Porter are all relatively affordable- ranging from 4.5 to 5.5 million.
It's still very early, but I think Lance Stephenson is going to earn himself a very nice contract.
He's still growing, but he really impressed me during an interview after the game vs the Wizards. The coach took him out in the 4th quarter when he was like 3 points away from a triple double. He was pissed on the bench, but during the interview after the game he said all of the right things. You can just tell that David West/Danny Granger have really had an impact on him and his maturity. It's unbelievable how far he's come since being a rookie.
He's growing into a very good around player. He's got two triple doubles already, which leads the NBA at this point. He's also shooting 37% from 3PT, even though he went through a small game stretch where he made 0-9.