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SportNBA playoffs 2019: Early East upsets only heighten free-agency anxiety

19:16  15 april  2019
19:16  15 april  2019 Source:   sportingnews.com

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Malcolm Brogdon has not played since March, recovering from a plantar fascia tear. Yet he remains one of the handful of players on the conference’s top four teams whose long-term fate could be decided by these playoffs in the East.

Brogdon is looking at a restricted free-agent contact next summer — no matter how quickly he heals — of four years and just north of $60 million, according to executives around the league. As one general manager told SN last week, Brogdon will be due a deal that counts as "Marcus Smart-plus."

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2019 will likely be the summer he gets his first massive contract, likely from Golden State. Agent: Greg Lawrence. Upon returning from a torn Achilles, he has been better than many expected right away. Now healthy, his next free agency should be very interesting, as he’ll likely have a bevy of interested

Smart signed for four years and $52 million with Boston last summer. Brogdon, a good defender who had been the only player this year to go 50/40/90 (field-goal/3-point/free-throw shooting percentages) will be due a bump up from that.

That deal could be contingent, though, on how deep the Bucks’ run into the playoffs goes and whether ownership determines that this 60-win group is worth keeping together at all costs. Brogdon will be caught up in those decisions.

His teammate, Khris Middleton? Probably still a max player (or something close) as he comes off a season in which consistency was still a problem but his overall production was very good. Even as his scoring dipped to 18.3 points per game, his rebounding (6.0) and assists (4.3) were career highs.

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Toronto’s Kawhi Leonard and Boston’s Kyrie Irving? Max contracts ahead. Philly’s Tobias Harris and Jimmy Butler? Likely max contracts, too.

"There’s a lot riding on the playoffs in the East," one executive told SN. "Because a lot of these decisions from the players’ standpoint and the teams’ standpoint are going to be impacted by who wins and who loses."

Five max guys plus Brogdon, who could return in the second round, represent around $1 billion of potential spending just two-and-a-half months from now. And after a head-scratching, brow-furrowing opening weekend of the East’s postseason, it’s anyone’s guess how that spending will pan out.

The Sixers and Raptors lost their openers. Toronto got a terrible game from point guard Kyle Lowry, who failed to score while the journeyman who ran point opposite him — Orlando veteran D.J. Augustin — racked up 25 points.

Leonard was himself, with 25 points and six rebounds, but he and Marc Gasol had a miscommunication on the game-winning shot from Augustin with 3.4 seconds remaining, and Leonard missed a chance to tie Game 1 on a 3-point attempt with 1.7 seconds left.

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It’s likely that the Raptors recover to beat the Magic. We can’t be so sure about the Sixers, however.

There were no blank boxes on the checklist of things that could have gone wrong for Philadelphia on Saturday. The health of Joel Embiid, dealing with a knee issue, was the big concern, and Embiid (22 points, 15 rebounds, five blocks) did not look 100 percent, going 5-for-15 from the field.

But there were also fears that the Nets could expose the Sixers on the perimeter with their deep stable of guards. D’Angelo Russell had 26 points and Joe Harris had 13. Benchmates Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie combined for 41 points, and in all, the four Brooklyn guards were 29-for-64 (45.3 percent) from the floor and 10-for-18 (55.6 percent) from the 3-point line.

Sixers point guard Ben Simmons, who struggled in last year’s postseason, did not inspire confidence, either. He was a minus-21 (as was shooting guard J.J. Redick), finishing with nine points, three assists and three turnovers.

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The Sixers reserves were outscored, 59-26. There were bonus items on the Sixers’ do-not-do checklist, too. Harris played 41 minutes and scored four points. Amir Johnson was fined for checking his cellphone on the bench. Simmons fired back at the booing the team took from Sixers fans, and if there’s one place in which you don’t want to challenge the fans, it’s Philadelphia.

The ship was righted for the East’s top seeds on Sunday, even after a scare in Boston. The fifth-seeded Pacers led by nine points with 40 seconds to go in the first half before the Celtics rattled off a 24-3 run that went into the third quarter, giving Boston control of the game over an overmatched Indiana bunch.

Irving, despite 6-for-17 shooting, still managed 20 points in an 84-74 slog that resembled something out of the 2004 Pacers playoff catalog.

By Sunday night, order was restored in the East, with the Pistons receiving a 35-point drubbing in Milwaukee as seven Bucks notched double-figure scoring, including Middleton, who starred (24.7 points) in last year’s postseason.

Still, the upsets were the story in the East’s opening games, and though there’s obviously plenty to time for the Raptors and Sixers to recover and move on to Round 2, those upsets were good reminders of how much is at stake in the East playoffs: probably, at least, the fate of six players and $1 billion.

NBA playoffs wrap 2019: Rockets close out Jazz.
James Harden led Houston with 26 points and made a key defensive play down the stretch. James Harden swipes it away and makes both at the line!#RunAsOne 98#TakeNote 93 38.3 left on @NBAonTNT pic.twitter.com/HtTmq0oun7— NBA (@NBA) April 25, 2019 Royce O'Neale was an unlikely star for Utah, leading the team with 18 points. The Rockets will face the winner of the Warriors-Clippers series next. Stud of the Night Clint Capela followed up a poor Game 4 by posting 16 points and 10 rebounds on 6-of-7 shooting for the Rockets. Dud of the Night Donovan Mitchell scored 12 points on 4-of-22 shooting in Utah's loss.

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