If you’re old enough, you absolutely remember Jerome James. He went off in the playoffs for the Sonics—when they still existed—during the spring of 2005. Averaging 12.5 PPG, 6.8 boards, and 1.8 BPG against the Kings and Spurs over two series, the center became a hot commodity in free agency a few months after Seattle’s run ended. He was rewarded with a huge deal—5 years for $30 million from the Knicks—that represented a massive salary upgrade for the reserve center that hadn’t averaged more than 5.4 PPG through five seasons in the league.
James’ contract, of course, will go down as one of the worst in Knicks’ history. Which is saying something. He would start 20 games for New York over four seasons and Knicks fans still curse his name to this day. But I bring up a player that last played in the NBA 11 seasons ago because he’s the perfect reminder that performing above your pay grade and putting up big numbers out of nowhere in the postseason is a surefire way to cash in when you’re about to hit the open market.
With free agency arriving in just a few weeks (Aug. 6 at 12:01 p.m. ET, to be precise), we highlighted eight players that balled above and beyond expectations during the playoffs that will surely cash in on a bigger, better contract this summer than they were playing on during the 2020-21 campaign. And let the record show we’re not predicting any of these guys will be the next Jerome James on their new team (or with their current team on a new contract). It’s just worth remembering that buyer beware when handing out deals based on small sample sizes.
Postseason Stats: 7.7 PPG, 2.2 APG, 43.3 3FG%
The knock on Lou Williams has always been he’s shrunk in the postseason and gets played off the court for being a liability on defense. While he didn’t completely rewrite that script during the Hawks’ run to the Eastern Conference Finals, he did a damn good job of filling in for Trae Young when the superstar missed Games 4 and 5 against the Bucks. Williams scored 21 and 17 points in those two contests sans Young and while the 34-year-old, who is unrestricted free agent, won’t command big money on the open market, those two games will definitely be brought up by his representation when it’s time to negotiate. Williams still has plenty to offer off the bench entering his 17th NBA season.