Labor Day Weekend is right around the corner, which means most of you are either holding tightly to the last vestiges of summer or getting ready for the beginning of football season.
Then there are those of you who are aching and longing for the beginning of the NBA season.
You, we like. We write articles like this for you. If you missed Part 1 of our players with make-or-break seasons, take the time to read it, then come back here for Part 2, featuring important role players on Western Conference contenders and a member of the defending NBA champions.
There also is a trio of players on the Philadelphia 76ers, whose new GM appears more interested in break-and-make than make-or-break.
Darren Collison, LA Clippers
Collison signed one of the most puzzling contracts of the offseason when he inked a one-year deal with the Clippers worth $1.9 million (with a player option) to back up Chris Paul. Perhaps the point guard market ran dry and he didn’t see any better opportunities. If that wasn’t the reason for being this underpaid, Collison needs a new agent yesterday.
Collison turned 26 last Friday after a season where he shot 47.1 percent from the field, 35.3 percent from three and 88 percent from the line for Dallas. Guards like that usually get paid $6 million per season, not one-third of that.
He put up career best numbers in Win Shares and Win Shares per 48 minutes, True Shooting and Effective Field Goal percentages, steals and offensive rating. Put bluntly, if Collison doesn’t put up good numbers next season and passed on decent money this past summer that he won’t see next offseason, then he’s a fool.
Collison’s value will shift one way or the other in 2013-2014, which is why he is most definitely a make-or-break.
Jerryd Bayless, Memphis
Few people benefited from the Rudy Gay trade more than Jerryd Bayless. His minutes quickly increased and he played a much larger role for the Grizzlies than anyone could have anticipated, shifting from relative afterthought to an important bench player on a championship contender.
Bayless’ splits before and after the All-Star break tell the story of how he made the most of his increased playing time:
|Bayless||Min||FG %||3 FG%||Pts||Ast||Reb|
For a team that really lacked consistent 3-point shooting last season, Bayless provided a huge spark and eased the scoring load on the team’s frontcourt. Bayless averaged 13.5 points per game on 44.6 percent shooting from three in March, and that production is what the team (and likely Bayless) is hoping for this coming season.
Bayless just turned 25 and technically is still in the prime of his career as he enters the last year of his contract that pays him a shade over $3.1 million. He can get a nice bump in pay if he continues the kind of 3-point marksmanship he showed during the second half of last season.
Mario Chalmers, Miami
Chalmers is clearly a winner. From that legendary 3-pointer to force overtime in Kansas’ national championship win over Memphis to his key role in two titles with the Heat, he always seems to be in the right situations.
Chalmers just completed the best season of his career and at age 27 is on the last year of his contract at $4 million.
|Chalmers||Min||FG %||3 FG%||Pts||Ast||Reb||PER||O Rtg||D Rtg||WS||WS/48|
There is, of course, the question going forward whether Chalmers’ impressive 3-point shooting is a product of the players around him. We wouldn’t know that unless Chalmers went to another team. Does he want to make more money and play for another team that will give him a bigger contract and role? Or is he content to make less money and compete for championships every year?
Chalmers will get a lot of notice this season as he’s on an expiring deal. It will be interesting to see how he is valued as the year progresses.
Derrick Williams, Minnesota
Who is Derrick Williams? Where’s the explosive game-changer who compelled the Timberwolves to draft him second overall just two years ago? Time is seemingly running out for him in Minnesota based on how this roster is being constructed by new general manager Flip Saunders.
A productive frontcourt player has to hit more than 43 percent of his shots – especially if he is playing nearly 25 minutes per game – and his sub-standard 101 offensive rating shows it. His averages of 12.0 points and 5.5 rebounds are good, but his 14.5 PER could be a lot better and his 0.076 Win Shares per 48 minutes is below average.
In October, Saunders likely will pick up the fourth-year option worth $6.68 million on Williams. But an extension is out of the question and a qualifying offer down the road may be in doubt. Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic will combine to make nearly $28 million in 2014, with Chase Budinger and Corey Brewer already playing at small forward. Throw promising rookie Gorgui Dieng in the mix, and it’s easy to see how Williams could be phased out of the team’s long-term plans faster than it takes Ricky Rubio to go baseline to baseline.
So despite being only 22, it’s put up or shut up time for Williams.
Thabo Sefolosha, Oklahoma City
Sefolosha is one of the premier perimeter defenders in the league and may soon get paid like one. Sefolosha just enjoyed his best all-around season, setting career bests in points per game, field-goal percentage, offensive rating, Win Shares and Win Shares per 48 minutes, True Shooting percentage, Effective Field Goal percentage, steals and PER. He also shot 41.7 percent from three.
Sefolosha is coming off his age-28 season and will make $3.9 million in 2013-2014 on the last year of his contract. Tony Allen just came off his age-30 season and got $20 million for four years from Memphis. Let’s see how both players performed at their age-28 seasons:
|Age 28 Season||Min||FG %||3 FG %||Pts||Reb||Stl||PER||O Rtg||D Rtg||WS||WS/48|
As you can see, Sefolosha is far more advanced at this stage of his career than Allen. So if Sefolosha does as well this season as he did last season, he should be in for a pretty hefty payday next summer.
Can the Thunder really afford to lose Sefolosha? Memphis realized it couldn’t lose its perimeter defensive stopper, and Sefolosha is younger. It’ll be interesting to see how Thunder general manager Sam Presti plays this out come late June of next year.