Wizards

Quick Links

2019 NBA Playoffs free agency stock watch: Kawhi Leonard keeps helping his cause, while Kyrie Irving has questions

2019 NBA Playoffs free agency stock watch: Kawhi Leonard keeps helping his cause, while Kyrie Irving has questions

This summer's free agent class in the NBA is absolutely loaded. Here is a look at some players that have helped and hurt their stock in this year's NBA postseason...

STOCK UP

Kawhi Leonard, SF, Raptors

This is the most obvious case of a guy helping his free agent cause in the playoffs. A year ago at this time, Leonard was coming off a year in which he only played nine games due to a quadriceps injury. He missed the Spurs' first round playoff series and was the subject of a swirl of trade rumors. Even during this regular season, as the Raptors cruised to the No. 2 seed in the East, Leonard missed 22 games, mostly due to load management. But any questions about his health and what he can provide his team when it counts most have been put to rest. He is one of the best players in the NBA both on offense and defense. His playoff numbers - 31.8 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 40.8 3PT% - are absurd.

Khris Middleton, SG, Bucks

Middleton is benefiting a lot from Milwaukee's run to the conference finals by raising his game in the postseason and getting a lot of deserved credit for their success. He is averaging 19.1 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.6 assists while knocking down 46.7 percent of his threes. The points, assists and three-point numbers are all up from his regular season norms. Middleton is also playing good defense per usual and will only be 27 when he hits the open market, if the Bucks let him of course.

Klay Thompson, SG, Warriors

Few believe that Thompson will actually hit free agency and especially after Warriors owner Joe Lacob professed his commitment to the star shooting guard, but if Thompson does choose to leave this summer, he has only helped his cause in recent weeks. With Kevin Durant injured, Thompson has stepped up to remind everyone that he can be the second-best player on a championship level team. In this year's playoffs, he is averaging 18.8 points while shooting 40.4 percent from long range.

STOCK DOWN

Kyrie Irving, PG, Celtics

Irving wanted the chance to lead his own team and he experienced the potential drawbacks of that role this postseason with the Celtics. They underachieved and he took a large share of the blame. He was scrutinized for his play, as he shot just 38.5 percent overall and 31 percent from three in the playoffs, and he took heat for his leadership. Irving will still get big contract offers from many teams, but that list of teams may be a bit smaller than it would have otherwise been.

Nikola Mirotic, PF, Bucks

Mirotic found initial success with Milwaukee this season after getting traded there by the Pelicans, but a thumb injury in March kept him out until the start of the playoffs. He has since returned, but has not been the same, averaging 9.3 points and 4.4 rebounds while shooting just 39.7 percent from the field and 35.6 percent from three. That is a far cry from the 15.0 points, 9.6 rebounds and 43.1 three-point percentage he posted in last year's postseason.

DeMarcus Cousins, C, Warriors

Cousins reportedly may return by the end of these playoffs, but remains out due to a torn right quad. It's all about bad injury luck for Cousins, who missed a year due to a torn Achilles and now has a new injury to worry about. He has played in only two playoff games and averaged 5.5 points and 5.5 rebounds while shooting 30.8 percent from the field. Cousins is likely to lose even more money this summer due to injury and it's a real shame for a guy who is one of the most talented big men in the game.

MORE NBA DRAFT NEWS:

Quick Links

Many Wizards players plan to wear social justice messages on back of jerseys

Many Wizards players plan to wear social justice messages on back of jerseys

The NBA's initiative allowing players to wear social justice messages on the backs of their jerseys, instead of their last names, in Orlando is being fully embraced by members of the Washington Wizards.

Ian Mahinmi and Moe Wagner have said they will wear 'vote.' Troy Brown Jr. and Jerome Robinson will wear 'Black Lives Matter.' Shabazz Napier says he has chosen 'equality' as his message.

RELATED: WAGNER TO WEAR 'VOTE' ON JERSEY

Every Wizards player who has been asked during media availability from Disney World so far has committed to participating. Their reasons are specific to the person, but they are in unity when it comes to the overall message.

"I play 82 games with my name on the back of my jersey," Brown said. "To have an opportunity to put something that I truly believe in and that needs to be addressed on the back of my jersey, I took that opportunity and am definitely going to make the most of it."

"I think for me, I will put 'Black Lives Matter' on the back of my jersey just because that is the biggest symbol of representation of what we have going on right now," Robinson said. "Through the whole quarantine, with the George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the amount of people that were murdered for no reason at all, or for terrible reasoning; I think it's the biggest symbol on one of the biggest platforms."

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE WIZARDS TALK PODCAST

In asking the players, it's clear they thought deeply about which message to choose. The NBA gave them options that also include 'justice' and 'I can't breathe.' 

For Napier, there were many layers to his decision to wear 'equality.'

"I think in this world, in this moment right now, we're fighting amongst each other, whether it's black or white or women or men. I think for us to understand that everybody should be held at an equal standard, no matter the race and no matter the gender. That speaks loudly to me. I was raised by my mother only, so I understand the trials and tribulations that women go through on a daily basis to a certain extent," he said.

"I think that it's very important that as much as the [racial issues] we are dealing with at the moment, it's the same for gays and their equal rights. I think equality means a lot. I think if we get that down, sooner or later things will come to fruition and we will live in a positive world."

There has been some debate about whether the NBA returning will be a negative distraction to the social justice matters percolating around the country. But the Wizards plan to make the most of their platform in Orlando, hoping to raise more awareness for the causes they believe in.

Stay connected to the Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE WIZARDS NEWS:

Quick Links

Report: Kara Lawson expected to be Duke's next women's basketball coach

Report: Kara Lawson expected to be Duke's next women's basketball coach

Boston Celtics assistant coach and former Wizards lead analyst, Kara Lawson, is announced as the next head women’s basketball coach at Duke.

The 39-year-old Springfield, Va. natives basketball resume is quite impressive. Lawson played college basketball at Tennessee under legendary coach Pat Summit and won a gold medal with Team USA during the 2008 Beijing Games. In the WNBA she played 13 seasons in the and helped guide Sacramento Monarchs to a WNBA championship in 2005.

Lawson was hired in 2017 by NBC Sports Washington to serve as the lead analyst for Wizards broadcasts. Last summer, the Boston Celtics hired Lawson as an assistant coach.

Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca, who also is a Duke Board of Trustees member, supports Lawson’s hiring at the school, sources told the Raleigh News & Observer.

Stay connected to the Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE WIZARDS NEWS: