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NBA Playoffs: Who Has the Most to Gain in the Trading Card Hobby?

From veterans to league newcomers, players on just about every playoff team can see their card values rise in the coming weeks.

The NBA Playoffs are where players earn their places in the trading card hobby.

While the athletes are focused on hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy, collectors and investors are focused on their performances and ultimately their card value. Some are hoping they’ve placed their chips in the postseason’s breakout star. Others may be watching for seasoned veterans to add to their respective resumes.

Here are the players who have the most to gain or lose this spring.

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NBA Veterans

Devin Booker

Booker used to be known as the player with “empty stats,” or the ability to score a lot of points that don’t translate into wins for the Phoenix Suns. That all changed last season. Booker was able to lead the Suns to the NBA Finals and has them as the No. 1 seed in the West this season. Booker’s base Prizm from 2015 has a relatively low pop count of 1622 in PSA 10, but the value has dropped this year. The same with his Silver Prizm Rookie, even with a pop count of 185. Booker is only 25 and if he leads the Suns to another Finals appearance, expect his value to climb.

Giannis Antetokounmpo
via Card Ladder

The “Greek Freak” is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of player. He won a championship, a Finals MVP, and has multiple NBA MVPs. He’s also only 27. Comparatively, Michael Jordan didn’t win his first title until he was 28 and won his sixth and final championship at 35. The hobby loves championships, but it loves dynasties even more. That’s what drives the value of players like Jordan, LeBron, and Stephen Curry. The Bucks are currently the 3 seed and have a chance to show they will be the team to beat in the East for years to come. Giannis’s 2013 Silver Prizm rookie in a PSA 10 has stayed stagnant in value since last season’s championship and possesses a low pop count of 75. This card can have the biggest boom or bust depending on how Giannis performs this postseason.

Jayson Tatum

The youngest player in this group (24 years old) has the Boston Celtics as the 2 seed in the East and after a hot last month of the season, favorites to make the Finals. It appears the Celtics are clicking behind Tatum’s stellar play. Tatum’s 2017 Prizm Silver PSA 10 had a peak sale of $4,000 over the last year, but is now hovering around $1,500. At Tatum’s age, he doesn’t need to win the Finals. If he shows out and the Celtics defeat the Nets, Bucks, and Heat, you can expect his cards to skyrocket.

Joel Embiid

The Philadelphia 76ers star isn’t your average big man. Embiid led the league in scoring at 30.6 ppg and has the 76ers as the 4 seed in the East. Embiid and Co. had to deal with a lot of adversity this season, but they’ve held it together and are poised to make a run. Embiid is 28 and arguably has the most to lose this postseason in regards to card value. His 2014 Prizm Silver Rookie PSA 10 has already dropped 40% over the year, but can easily regain that value if Embiid is able to lead the 76ers to their first title since 1983.

22-and-Under Club

Tyrese Maxey

Maxey is one of the most fun players to watch in the NBA. He also has fantastic players as teammates in Joel Embiid and James Harden. Maxey has already made a huge splash this postseason with a 38-point performance in Game 1 against the Toronto Raptors. This isn’t a fluke, either. Defenses are going to continue to focus on Embiid and Harden, which will continue to open opportunities for Maxey. Due to his class being overshadowed by the likes of LaMelo Ball and Anthony Edwards, Maxey’s cards are extremely cheap for a player of his caliber.

via Card Ladder
Ja Morant

“He’s already overvalued” is what you’ll hear from the hobby when talking about Morant. He and the Memphis Grizzlies have the 2 seed in the tough Western Conference and are built for the future. Morant’s value can drop if they get knocked out before the Western Conference Finals, but if they win, hiis value can go supernova. His Prizm Silver Rookie from 2019 last sold for $1,783, and that could rise to near-peak levels if the Grizzlies go on a deep run. He’s only 22 and his team has the second-lowest payroll, which means the Grizzlies have money to spend to keep this team together for the coming years.

Anthony Edwards

Edwards has all the intangibles to become a new hobby darling, despite not even being old enough to drink. He’s shown time and again that he can put the Timberwolves on his back. The T-Wolves don’t need to win the NBA championship but if they manage to beat the Grizzlies in the first round or take them to seven games, that’ll be enough to boost Edwards’ stock.

Needs a Great Postseason and More

Stephen Curry

Curry is the greatest shooter of all-time and his value will always be high, but it could climb. He would have to match LeBron for total rings to get a big bump, but he’s just one championship away from doing so. Curry’s 2009 Topps PSA 10 rookie has dropped over the last year from $18,000 to $8,000. Curry is only 34 and the Warriors have their core of Draymond Green and Klay Thompson back in the mix. It’s possible, but just don’t expect Curry’s value to go up anytime soon.

via Card Ladder
Nikola Jokic

What can this man not do? Jokic will probably win the 2022 MVP award, as he’ll possess the NBA single-season PER record. Unfortunately for Jokic, he’s a big man, and big men get no love in the hobby. Over the last year, Jokic’s Prizm Silver Rookie PSA 10 peaked at $6,000. It has since dropped to $3,200. If, somehow, Jokic is able to trek through the Western Conference to multiple NBA Championships, you’ll see increased value and interest in Jokic cards. Jokic could do it because he’s only 27 years old, but the odds are not in his favor.

James Harden

A first-ballot Hall of Famer, but no rings. Harden is part of a good team in Philadelphia and can make a lot of noise this postseason, but the hobby will remember Harden as “choking” in big games when he was with the Rockets. Harden can erase that from the hobby’s collective memory by leading the 76ers to an NBA Championship this year and in future seasons.

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Brett Pickert