"The postseason is when you make your money." It's a saying that many young players hear in the league. Based on the idea that if you excel during the playoffs, when the stakes are at their highest and everyone is watching, you can boost your impending free-agent value. Fair or not, a memorable playoff run can have a stronger impact on the men with the checkbooks than what was shown during an 82-game season. From Austin Croshere in 2000 to Jerome James in 2005, history is littered with players who received sizable market-value increases based on their playoff performance.
The conference finals, the NBA's version of the "Final Four," provides maximum exposure. Although earlier playoff rounds include multiple games per day, the conference finals feature just one game per day, bringing the exclusivity of the entire basketball-viewing nation focused on each game. Here's a look at the impending 2014 free agents competing in the conference finals and how they've helped (or hurt) their stock so far.
LeBron James | Stock: Off the charts
James has an early termination option (ETO), which he's widely expected to exercise. Because of the limits imposed by the maximum contract, we'll never know James' true value. Just know that it is far above the current max, and nothing he does in the playoffs can change the fact that the most he can make is "just" max.
Chris Bosh | Stock: Even
Bosh also has an ETO, and he also stands to command max dollars in free agency. He was brilliant in the first two rounds but has had his struggles against Indiana in the Eastern Conference finals (despite a big Game 4 performance). Like James, Bosh's value has held constant, although Miami can still outbid everyone but pay him less than max.