Over the course of the 2023 NBA playoffs, there have been some truly amazing performances from players like Jimmy Butler, Jayson Tatum, Nikola Jokic, and Devin Booker. These performances have led to legendary playoff moments and runs that fans will not forget. At the same time, there have been some truly awful playoff performances this offseason. Some of these players helped seal the fate of their teams with their performances, with many seeing their respective teams moving on from these players. While some are free agents this offseason, others are under contract and already in trade rumors.
From being a key part of the Golden State Warriors 2022 NBA Championship run to being played off the court at times, Jordan Poole had a horrendous playoff run this offseason. After a solid regular season averaging 20.4 PPG, 4.5 APG, and 2.7 RPG, many expected Poole to flip the switch when the playoffs began. In the 13 playoff games the Warriors had, Poole had scored 20 or more points twice. In eight of the 13 games, Poole would score less than 10 points, finishing with 0 in a pivotal Game 4 loss against the Lakers in the second round. From three, Poole looked nothing like the third splash brother fans previously called him, shooting only 25% from beyond the arc. Looking towards the future of the Warriors, the biggest issue for them is the salary cap. With the new changes to the CBA starting in the 2023-24 season, Poole’s contract extension kicking in, and the Warriors needing to retain Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, Poole could be on the move this offseason. There were plenty of chemistry issues with the team, with many people mentioning the Draymond Green punch as a reason why. With the Warriors still in their championship window, trading Poole would ease their salary while potentially bringing in veterans to help the Warriors, something they lacked this season.
Many thought the 2018 #1 overall draft pick was going to leave the Suns last offseason as there were plenty of reports of Ayton’s lack of commitment growing as a player and issues with Chris Paul. Ayton would eventually stay with Phoenix after they matched the contract offer made by the Indiana Pacers, but now it looks like Phoenix may finally move on from Ayton. The Suns’ big man put up decent numbers in the first round but was no match for Nikola Jokic in the second round. In the five games he played in the second round, Ayton averaged 10.8 PPG and 8.2 RPG. Even though the rebounding numbers looked good, many criticized his lack of effort when it came to rebounding when matched up against Jokic. At the same time, many criticized Ayton for not looking like a first-overall draft pick. Following the Suns’ Game 6 playoff exit against the Nuggets, rumors of Phoenix planning to shop him and potentially Chris Paul as well started to hit the NBA world. Owed $30M+ each of the next three seasons, Ayton takes up a significant chunk of the cap while not playing at the level many expected. With the lack of a bench, Phoenix is in a similar position to Golden State. Having a limited championship window with a nearly 35-year-old Kevin Durant, the Suns want to bolster their bench to give KD and Devin Booker the best chance to win a championship. To do that, Ayton may be the first of several Suns players to be moved in the offseason.
Following the Knicks’ Game 5 loss against the Miami Heat, videos floated around social media of fans leaving Madison Square Garden, ripping down a Julius Randle poster and stepping on it. Once the team was eliminated, many blamed Randle’s performances for their losses. Before Game 4, Randle was asked about the Knicks’ Game 3 losses and said the following:
“Maybe they want it more, I don’t know.”
This was one of the final straws for Knicks fans before turning against Randle. In the 10 games he played this postseason, Randle has pretty good numbers, averaging 16.6 PPG, 8.3 RPG, and 3.6 APG. The Knicks are a team on the rise though. Many did not expect New York to have the season they did, and they may be a piece away from taking that next step. Randle may be one of the first players on the move to achieve that missing piece. Some rumors have included names like Karl-Anthony Towns and Kyle Kuzma, with Randle going back to match contracts and overall value. With Jalen Brunson emerging as a future All-Star and number-one option on the team while having a good roster overall, moving on from Randle would be good for both New York and Randle. He can be a great piece for many teams, but he’s not a great fit for where the Knicks are headed.
While he had a solid season post-trade, D’Angelo Russell has been very hit-or-miss in the 2023 playoffs. In the 13 games he’s played (at the time of this writing), D-Lo has averaged 15.1 PPG, 4.8 APG, and 3.0 RPG. Russell has had several postseason games where he’s performed poorly and has even spent an extended time on the bench in favor of other players. In Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, D-Lo finished with eight points and three assists in 26 minutes. That is the shortest amount of time Russell has played in a game this postseason. Looking at the Lakers’ offseason, they have a lot of decisions to make. There are several names the Lakers will likely want to retain key players in Russell, Rui Hachimura, and Austin Reaves. It is unknown if Russell would get the same type of contract he is about to finish up or not. Another question is who else the Lakers have their eyes on. Several players have been linked to the Lakers including Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard, and Draymond Green, all of whom have big contracts or want big contracts. If any of those players were to join the Lakers, other players would be on the move. While D-Lo was a great fit in the regular season, there is no telling if he will be in a Lakers jersey next season.
The second Laker on this list, Austin Reaves’ case is very different from his teammate. In the second year of a two-year deal, Austin Reaves has balled out for the Lakers. In the 13 games he’s played so far, Reaves has averaged 16.0 PPG, 4.6 APG, and 4.5 RPG. While his scoring took a small dip from the Conference Quarterfinals to the Conference Semifinals, he has been a pivotal part of the Lakers’ deep playoff run. A restricted free agent this offseason, numerous teams will be expected to offer Reaves big money. Some regular season reports mentioned the Lakers could offer Reaves a four-year deal around the $50 million range, recent reports have suggested Reaves could be offered more by opposing teams. It is likely that Reaves will be the Lakers’ highest priority when it comes to re-signing players, but they may not be able to match what other teams could offer. Reaves’ hard work this season and postseason will be rewarded with a big money deal, but the right offer could steal him away from the Lakers.