With no second round games tonight as the teams travel for Game 3, I thought this was as good a time as any to look at the biggest names in the summer’s free agency still playing. If they were to be asked by the media right now about their thoughts, chances are they’d respond like a blue chip prospect being asked about their NBA Draft intentions during the NCAA Tournament – I’m just focused on winning a championship right now. But realistically, the following five players are playing for a lot more than just the name on the front of their jersey; win or lose, their contracts expire after the season. With that, here are the top five pending unrestricted free agents still in the NBA Playoffs.
1. Tyson Chandler, 28
2010-11 salary: $12.8 million
Postseason averages: 7.0 points, 9.1 rebounds
The Mavericks basically stole Tyson Chandler from the Bobcats last summer, giving up only Matt Carroll, Erick Dampier and Eduardo Najera in the deal. Now, he’s one of the reasons the Mavs return to Dallas up 2-0 on the Lakers. Everyone knows that Mark Cuban likes to spend money, and if the Mavs continue to advance expect him to invest heavily in Chandler. If not, I could think of a few teams looking for a seven-footer like this.
2. Jamal Crawford, 31
2010-11 salary: $10.1 million
Postseason averages: 19.5 points, 2.6 assists
For some reason, Jamal Crawford has always had a bad rap. Sure you may think he’s just a scorer, but has there been a guy more clutch for the Hawks in the playoffs so far than Jay Cee? I didn’t think so. Before the season, Atlanta was hesitant to sign Crawford to an extension – and for the record, I still don’t know that they should – but if they beat the Bulls, they’ll be hard-pressed not to. If they don’t, expect Crawford to sign somewhere next season and continue doing what he does best: get buckets.
3. Caron Butler, 31
2010-11 salary: $10.6 million
Postseason averages: N/A
Although Caron Butler hasn’t even played a game since New Year’s Day, I’d be remiss not to include him on this list. The only NBA players over 30 that I know work as hard as him are Kobe Bryant and Ray Allen. To put it bluntly, he’s in incredible shape. Word is that he will be able to suit up against the Lakers, but if I’m Rick Carlisle with a 2-0 lead, I save him for the Western Conference Finals. It will be interesting to see if the Mavs bring him back after this season. With over $60 million already slated for their core, chances are a contender can make a run at Butler this summer and steal him.
4. Glen Davis, 25
2010-11 salary: $3.3 million
Postseason averages: 5.7 points, 4.3 rebounds
Yes, his numbers are down in the playoffs, but Glen Davis is a vital cog that makes the Celtics who they are. The last time he was a free agent, no one really bit. Now, with four years under his belt, GMs have seen exactly what he can (and can’t) do on the floor. If the Celtics are going to be able to win four of five against the Heat, they’re going to need Big Baby to do his thing, thus showcasing his skill set for any potential buyers this summer.
5. Jose Juan Barea, 26
2010-11 salary: $1.8 million
Postseason averages: 6.4 points, 3.0 assists
It’s kind of crazy that Barea is the third Mavs player on this list. And he has been so huge for them so far in this series. Coming in, there’s no way that Phil Jackson would have thought to strategize how to stop Barea, but there’s nothing his guards can do to stop him. Of all the players on this list, he’ll be making the largest pay raise next season. And if Dallas is smart, even with Rodrigue Beaubois waiting in the wings, they’d re-sign him.
The rest: Hilton Armstrong, Carlos Arroyo, Shane Battier, Mike Bibby, Rasual Butler, Brian Cardinal, Jason Collins, Erick Dampier, Juwan Howard, Nenad Krstic, Jamaal Magloire, Troy Murphy, Sasha Pavlovic, Leon Powe, Josh Powell, Theo Ratliff, Brian Scalabrine, Joe Smith, DeShawn Stevenson, Peja Stojakovic, Etan Thomas, Kurt Thomas, Von Wafer, Delonte West, Damien Wilkins
What do you think? Where will these guys sign this summer? Who would you want on your team?
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