Nothing focuses the mind like a deadline. In the NBA, the contract year is an 82-game dash that determines whether an impending free agent’s direct deposit stays pop-pop-popping. For non-star players, those who would be lucky to land an ad campaign for a regional supermarket chain or car dealership, the contract year means it’s time to sing for your supper. The following players sang their asses off this season, and they’ll get at least four more chances once the NBA playoffs commence on Saturday. These are your Contract-Year All-Stars:
Kent Bazemore, Atlanta Hawks — Current Salary: $2 million
Baze more than doubled his scoring average over the previous season (11.7 points, up from 5.2), and is averaging a career high in rebounds (5.0) and PER (13.5). Oh, and he was instrumental in getting Steph Curry signed to Under Armour.
Evan Turner, Boston Celtics — Current Salary: $3.4 million
SOMEONE IS GOING TO REGRET PAYING EVAN TURNER THIS SUMMER, AND, BY GOD, I THINK IT COULD BE THE KNICKS. Please enjoy this Reddit master list of Evan Turner quotes.
Marvin Williams, Charlotte Hornets — Current Salary: $7 million
RIP to “This is the year Marvin Williams figures it out,” 2005–15. He finally did it. It took 10 years, but whatever. He did it. Williams is averaging career highs in 3-point percentage (40 percent!), rebounds (6.5), blocks, and PER (16.7) for the low-to-mid-key-fun Hornets.
Michael Beasley, Houston Rockets — Current Salary: League Minimum
I don’t want to say Super Cool Beas saved the Rockets’ season, but — whatever, I’m reckless — he saved their season. Houston had put up a negative net rating two months in a row before Beasley arrived from China with a remorseless, what year is this midrange game in his suitcase to put them back in the black.
Nicolas Batum, Charlotte Hornets — Current Salary: $13 million
Nic struggled with nagging injuries and a demoralizing divorce during the 2014–15 season, his last with the Trail Blazers. Unsurprisingly, it was the worst statistical season of his career. He looked, if not washed, then certainly washed-adjacent. Well, forget all that. Batum has rebounded splendidly in Charlotte. He’s averaging a career high in points (14.9) and the rest of his numbers have stabilized to normal levels.
This piece originally appeared in the April 14, 2016, edition of the Ringer newsletter.