This is the time of year reputations are made in the NBA. A breakout performance or a disappointment at playoff time can change how teams view some of their most important players. The stakes are even higher for players about to head into free agency, since this is their last chance to make an on-court impression before they sign a contract.
With that in mind and a week of playoff action in the books, let's take a look at some upcoming free agents who've played particularly well, and some who've played especially poorly:
Nick Young, Clippers: He's always been capable of heating it up, and in his first playoff appearance since his rookie season, he hasn't shrunk from the spotlight. He canned three straight treys in the Clippers' amazing 27-point comeback in Game 1, and is the team's third leading postseason scorer at 15.0 PPG on 10 of 16 shooting so far.
Spencer Hawes, Sixers: When he wasn't in the starting lineup for Game 1, it looked like Hawes would have little opportunity to showcase his abilities, and the outlook was pretty grim when coach Doug Collins got visibly upset with Hawes when he got in foul trouble in Game 2. But as a starter in a Game 3 victory for the Sixers, he went for 21 points and nine rebounds in more than 32 minutes on the floor, and was a go-to option down the stretch.
JaVale McGee, Nuggets (restricted): It looked like he was adding to his lengthy personal blooper reel during an 0-for-6 playoff debut in Game 1. It's easy to get carried away with his 16-point, 15-rebound performance from Game 3, but it's a sign of the potential that makes the 7-footer a commodity. Plus, he had nine rebounds in 24 minutes in Game 2.
Ryan Anderson, Magic (restricted): He might have won the Most Improved Player of the Year award this week, but his performance in the playoffs has fueled speculation that his regular season play was a product of having a dominant center like Dwight Howard around. He's just 10-for-31 from the field, and has averaged 8.5 PPG and 3.8 RPG. He went to the bench early in the fourth quarter during today's Game 4 against the Pacers, and the Magic rallied from 19 down to force overtime without him.
Steve Novak, Knicks: He's played 67 minutes over three games, but the Heat's defense has only allowed him to shoot seven three-pointers the entire series. Novak has proven he's deadly when he gets the chance to fire away, but he's of little value if he can't get a shot off.
Josh Howard, Jazz: You could excuse him here, since he just came back from knee surgery that originally looked like it would end his season, but he's shot just 3-for-13 and averaged 5.0 PPG as the Jazz have struggled mightily against the Spurs.