Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we turn our attention to the Atlantic Division:
Marcus Morris, Celtics, 29, PF (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $20MM deal in 2015
Morris will get a nice bump in pay from the team-friendly contract he signed with Phoenix a few years ago. In the last couple of weeks, he’s been in a shooting slump. He’s 7-for-29 from long range over the last six games and has scored 11 or fewer points in five of them. The Celtics don’t rely on Morris for scoring, as evidenced by their five-game winning streak. He’ll eventually perk up offensively and his defensive versatility and rebounding will keep him in the rotation.
D’Angelo Russell, Nets, 22, PG (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $23MM deal in 2015
Has any free agent increased his value as much as Russell in recent weeks? If so, it’s an awfully close call. Russell has blown up this month, averaging 24.1 PPG and 7.7 APG for the surging Nets. In the past two weeks alone, Russell hung up 34 points and seven assists against Boston and 40 points and seven assists against Orlando. He added a 25-point, 10-assist performance against the Magic on Wednesday. Russell will be a restricted free agent and the Nets now have to consider using a chunk of their cap space to re-sign him. It will intriguing to see if any team calls the Nets’ bluff with an offer sheet.
Enes Kanter, Knicks, 26, C (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $70MM deal in 2015
Kanter is still in his prime but he’s been swept into the undertow of New York’s youth movement. Kanter didn’t leave the bench on Wednesday and is now pining for a trade. With the hope of landing a big fish in the free agent pond, the Knicks had no intention of re-signing Kanter. But his diminished role isn’t exactly enhancing his value during his walk year. Kanter puts up solid numbers in the points and rebounds columns but his defensive shortcomings and lack of shotblocking prowess will depress his market.
Kawhi Leonard, Raptors, 27, SF (Up) — Signed to a five-year, $94.3MM deal in 2015
The Raptors essentially gave Leonard a week’s vacation by sitting him out for four consecutive games. They’re treating him with kid gloves with the hope he’ll take off the gloves in the summer and sign the dotted line with them. When he has played, he’s been dynamite. He’s averaging career highs in points (27.6 PPG) and rebounds (7.9), alleviating concerns that the quad injury that limited him to nine games last season would be a long-term issue. The Raptors have played quite well without Leonard but there’s no doubt that their hopes of reaching the NBA Finals rest on Leonard’s shoulders.
Amir Johnson, Sixers, 31 (Down)– Signed to a one-year, $2.39MM deal in 2018
Johnson has carved out a nice career after getting drafted in the second round by Detroit in 2005. His playing time has gradually diminished over the last six seasons and he’s down to 9.3 MPG for Philadelphia this season. Johnson has never been a prolific rebounder but he can help at the defensive end. Lately, he’s dealt with some migraines. If Johnson wants to continue his career going forward, he’ll be looking at a veteran’s minimum contract once again.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.