Secure the bag: 5 NBA players want to make money next summer

It’s never too early to start looking ahead to free agency next summer.

For those on a contract year, a strong showing next season could help them land a lucrative long-term deal.

Here are five players who can benefit from a productive 2022-23 campaign.

Christian Holz, Mavs

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Current salary: $14.3 million; UFA at the end of the season

Wood was one of the NBA’s feel-good stories a few years back. The undrafted center split his first four seasons between various NBA and G-League clubs before breaking through with the Detroit Pistons in 2019-20. He then turned his strong 62-game stint at the Motor City into a three-year, $41 million deal with the Houston Rockets.

Wood’s solid play wasn’t a mirage, as he averaged 19.1 points, 9.9 boards, 2.1 assists and a block over two seasons with the Rockets. The 27-year-old also shot nearly 40% from deep, finishing each of those campaigns in the top 20 in the league in terms of overall rebound percentage.

The Dallas Mavericks acquired Wood this offseason to bolster their frontcourt. His ability to pick and pop and roll to the basket should be a natural complement alongside Luka Doncic. The Mavs’ best playoff lineups last season consisted of a stretch five, which could be a role Wood finds himself in.

Despite posting strong offensive numbers, Wood struggled at the other end throughout his time in Houston. If the big man can make progress in Dallas’ improved defense system, he might deserve another raise.

Gary Trent, Raptors

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Current Salary: $17.3 million; holds $18.6 million player option for 2023-24

Trent delivered great value in his first full campaign with the Toronto Raptors, posting career highs in points (18.3 per game), rebounds (2.7), assists (two) and steals (1.7). The former second-round pick made 38.3% of his 3-point attempts and finished 17th in the association in triples made (209). He excelled while also posting the third-lowest turnover percentage in the NBA (5.8).

Toronto’s halffield offense wasn’t great overall, but Trent proved to be one of the few players on the roster capable of creating his own shot. The 23-year-old averaged one point per possession in isolation scenarios. He also drilled the 11th most field goals (69) from 16–24 feet and ranked 18th in points scored (489) by pull-up jumpers.

Trent’s biggest improvement came on the defensive end, where he was a liability at Duke. He played a significant role in the ninth-ranked Raptors’ defense, forcing turnovers with his overwhelming ball pressure and active hands. The fifth-year guard led his peers in loose ball saves (47) and finished fourth in both total steals (122) and average deviations (3.4 per game).

Floorspacers and multi-position defensemen are highly sought after in today’s NBA. Expect Trent to test the market next summer if he can replicate similar numbers to last season.

Myles Turner, pacemaker

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Current Salary: $17.5 million; UFA at the end of the season

Turner has been vocal about his desire for a bigger role, and the big man will surely have that opportunity regardless of where he ends up this season.

Without Domantas Sabonis, Turner will be the full-time man at center for the Indiana Pacers, having flipped between center and power forward for most of his tenure. While the Texas product has evolved into one of the best rim protectors in the game, it has taken a backseat to others on offense.

Turner has averaged 10 shots or more in just two out of seven NBA campaigns, but his efficiency may indicate untapped potential. At just under 30 minutes per game, he’s a 48.9% career shooter — including a respectable 34.9% from downtown — and has never averaged less than 10.3 points.

Last season, the 26-year-old recorded 1.16 points per post-up possession, ranking third among players with at least one post-up possession per game. He also recorded 1.41 points per possession as a cutter and knocked down 44.8% of his pull-up jumpers.

Turner’s finishing ability in the suit should pair well with Tyrese Haliburton’s pick and roll abilities. He converted 76% of his shots on the rim and 56% from 4ft to 14ft, which placed him in the 85th and 93rd percentiles, respectively, among big men, according to Cleaning the Glass.

“When you show little tidbits and likes how you can play, you see the potential in that,” Turner told The Athletic’s Jared Weiss last December. “I hate that you’re called a finished product in Year 7 and I want to show that I’m not a finished product. I’m just scratching the surface and I want to show that I’m ready to take the next step.”

Josh HartBlazer

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Current Salary: $13 million; holds a $13 million player option for 2023-24

Hart was a prolific role player for the first four years of his career before taking on more responsibilities in 2021-22, particularly after being traded to the Portland Trail Blazers midseason. The Villanova standout benefited from injuries to several key Blazers, averaging 19.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.2 steals with a 23.5% utilization rate. He also recorded an effective field goal percentage of 59.4% during those 13 games, which was in the 94th percentile among combo guards according to Cleaning the Glass.

Hart’s strong end to the previous campaign should give him the inside track to start with the three. The 27-year-old won’t have as much on his table once Portland’s roster returns to full health, but Hart’s diverse skill set ensures he remains vital at both ends of the parquet.

Hart can let the point run if Damian Lillard or Anfernee Simons is sitting. He had a 23.1% assist percentage with the Blazers and was an effective scorer as a pick-and-roll ball handler, scoring 4.5 points per contest in such scenarios.

Defensively, Hart can defend multiple positions and consistently competes at a high level. Portland allowed 4.8 fewer points per 100 possessions when Hart was floored. His relentless drive carries over to the glass, where he has ranked among the NBA’s top defensive rebound wings in each of the last three seasons.

Hart is unlikely to repeat the numbers he produced after the trading deadline. But a solid overall performance for a potential playoff roster could result in a multi-year payday post-campaign.

Jakob Poeltl, Spurs

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Current salary: $9.4 million; UFA at the end of the season

Poeltl is the forgotten piece from Kawhi Leonard’s blockbuster trade. Over the past four seasons, the former lottery winner has quietly established himself among the association’s best defenders. It stays vertical on the edge on challenging shots, closes on shooters, and is quite posable for its size.

Poeltl has fired the fifth most shots in each of the past two seasons. In the 2021-22 season, opponents shot 55.6% against the Austrian-born on attempts within two yards of the basket, who ranked ninth among players who defended at least 350 field goals from that distance. He also finished the year with more contested shots than any other player, including an NBA-best 784 contested two-point shot.

Poeltl was just as impressive on the other side of the ball, averaging career-bests in points (13.5 per game) and assists (2.8) in 68 appearances in 2021-22. The San Antonio Spurs big man was fourth in the league for total offensive rebounds (262) and sixth for field goal percentage (61.8%). Pöltl was particularly effective as a screener on dribbling handoffs and pick-and-roll scenarios. He accumulated the third-most screen assists and finished sixth in points total as Rollman.

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