Three of the four conference finalists should return next season with their rosters largely intact, as the Thunder, Heat and Spurs all have at least eight players with fully guaranteed contracts for next season. By contrast, the Celtics only have four such players, so this week's Money Time has a heavy Boston influence. This week, we'll expand our look at free agents in the playoffs to include players with option years and non-guaranteed deals for 2012/13, and next week we'll wrap it up by identifying the free agents who've had the best and worst postseasons overall.
Kevin Garnett, Celtics: His scoring keeps improving with each round of the playoffs, from 18.7 points per game in the first round, to 19.7 PPG in the second, to 21.7 PPG against the Heat. His 9.7 RPG has helped the Celtics, a woeful rebounding team in the regular season, record just three fewer rebounds than the Heat for the entire series. Yesterday Steve Aschburner of NBA.com suggested Garnett might retire this summer, but if he does, he'd be leaving a lot of money on the table from the Celtics, Nets or anyone else in need of a game-changer at power forward.
Keyon Dooling, Celtics: Seeing increased playing time with Avery Bradley out and Ray Allen hobbled, Dooling helped the Celtics clamp down defensively against the Heat in Game 3. Yet his greatest impact has been on offense, as his 6-for-10 shooting from Game 7 against the Sixers through the first three games of the Eastern Conference Finals has kept defenses honest and helped replace the second-unit scoring lost with Allen back in the starting lineup. He probably won't get another $2.246MM payday like he got this year, but his recent performance has shown his value as a part of a backcourt rotation.
Gary Neal, Spurs (non-guaranteed deal): His 3-for-11 in Game 3 against the Thunder notwithstanding, Neal has been a subtle offensive weapon for the Spurs as they've trounced their way through the playoffs. He's the team's sixth leading scorer in the postseason despite playing just 15.2 MPG. That's in large measure because he's nailed 14 of 28 attempts from beyond the arc during the playoffs, but he's more than just a spot-up shooter, as his 20-for-37 rate on two-pointers demonstrates. He's miscast as a backup point guard, but there's no reason to expect the Spurs won't bring him back, especially since his non-guaranteed deal is only for the minimum salary.
Nazr Mohammed, Thunder: As much as Kendrick Perkins has struggled against the Spurs, it's a little curious why Mohammed has played less than five minutes the entire series. He played in all five games of the conference semifinals against the big bodies of the Lakers, but coach Scott Brooks has gone away from him against the more perimeter-oriented Spurs. Mohammed, shooting 50% in limited action this postseason, could be Oklahoma City's best offensive option inside, and as an ex-Spur, he might know a defensive trick or two that could stymie Duncan. Still, it seems unlikely the Thunder will re-sign Mohammed this summer, and the chances he equals the $3.75MM he made this year are just as remote.
Ronny Turiaf, Heat (player option): Turiaf has started all three games, but he's received fewer minutes than anyone else in the Heat's rotation against the Celtics so far. He's 4-for-5 from the floor against Boston and 10-for-18 in the playoffs overall, but his offense is not why the Heat picked him up midseason. The opposing starter at center in this series is Garnett, and while he hasn't done all his scoring against Turiaf, coach Erik Spoelstra's lack of confidence in his big man is likely to be reflected in the way NBA executives would regard Turiaf as a free agent in the offseason. He'd be wise to take his $1.146MM for next season and stay with the Heat.
Greg Stiemsma, Celtics (non-guaranteed deal): He's had his moments, like his 5-for-5, 10-point game against the Sixers in the second round, but Stiemsma has largely fallen out of the rotation in the playoffs. He's averaging just 8.5 MPG in the postseason, and just 7.0 MPG against the Heat. When the Celtics have used a backup center, Ryan Hollins has most often been the guy. Still, Stiemsma has the team's best postseason defensive rating, per Basketball-Reference.com. Since he's due only the minimum salary if the Celtics guarantee his contract next season, he's a decent candidate to be back in green next year.