Basketball Breakouts: Key Rookie Cards For the 2024 NBA Playoffs

Updated Apr 21, 2024

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The 2024 NBA Playoffs officially begin on April 20th, with the final eight seeds set in each conference. Basketball sports cards often reach the highest when a player reaches or wins the NBA Finals.

A player having a big playoff game performance can automatically see an increase in value in their cards overnight. I had a lot of success with this strategy on multiple occasions last season, by buying up the rookie cards of Jayson Tatum and Nikola Jokic before the playoffs started.

Sometimes, a player you wouldn’t expect to have an impact in the playoffs winds up playing well and their card values increase. Although it's tough to predict, I have a few ideas to try and help you make some profit this NBA Playoff season.

Let’s look at some of the key players and cards you should buy in this year's NBA Playoffs.

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playoff-bracket

image courtesy print your brackets (https://www.printyourbrackets.com/NBAplayoff.html#google_vignette)

Jalen Brunson - 2018 Panini Prizm Silver #250

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Jalen Brunson had another great season with the New York Knicks, named an All-Star for the first time in his career, along with a career-high 61-point game.

Brunson helped lead the Knicks to the number two seed overall in the Eastern Conference. His cards are worth a lot more now than they were in December.

Brunson’s most popular rookie card is his 2018 Panini Prizm Silver, card number 250. In early December, this could have been bought for $100, which I profiled as a great buy at that time; this card is now worth between $250 to $300.

I think Brunson's rookie cards are probably at peak value right now, but if the Knicks make a deep playoff run, his rookie cards could keep rising in value. Brunson is still a solid buy because not many of his cards were graded by PSA versus many other players.

His Prizm base and Prizm Silver don’t have a relatively high POP Report. Many of his other color parallels feature low PSA Pop Reports as well.

Nikola Jokic - 2015 Panini Prizm #335

jokic-prizm

Nikola Jokic has a good chance to win his third NBA title this year. 

Jokic led the Denver Nuggets to the NBA Championship last year and won Finals MVP. Jokic is regarded as one of the top centers of all time, and his 2015 Panini Prizm card, number 335, has already been added to the future PSA Hall of Fame Rookie Registry list.

There are a little over 1000 of Jokic cards graded a PSA 10, which sounds high, but compared to many other Prizm Base PSA 10 examples of other star players in the set, it is still relatively low. 

Some NBA players feature upwards of 15,000-20,000 graded PSA 10s, which still makes the Jokic Prizm base a great buy, since it has a much lower pop compared to other players.

Jokic has a rematch of the Western Conference Finals in the first round this year, facing the Los Angeles Lakers. If Jokic reaches the NBA Finals again, his Prizm PSA 10 rookie card should reach $800, and if he wins, I think it will be closer to $900. Last season in June of 2023, this card reached nearly $850 and right now, just before the playoffs, it can be bought for $650.

Anthony Edwards- 2020 Panini Prizm Silver #258

ant-man

The Ant-Man is one of the best young players in the NBA. He recently stated that he thinks he can be the best player in the NBA within two to three years. And I think Edwards is well on his way to becoming one of the best.

Edwards' most popular rookie card is his 2020 Panini Prizm Silver, #258. A PSA 10 is worth about $650. This card could easily double in value within a two or three-span. 

Edwards has tremendous upside to improve continually. I think it's an excellent, safe investment, both for the short-term and long-term. 

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander - 2018 Panini Prizm Silver #184

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Shai played outstanding this season, and many basketball experts have picked him for first or second in NBA MVP voting. His rookie cards saw one of the most significant increases in value throughout the season.

His 2018 Panini Prizm Silver Rookie #184 is worth about $750. This card was around $400 earlier in the season. Shai's rookie card is an excellent long-term investment, as he has the ability to be a perennial dominant scorer. This card could easily reach $900 to $1k shortly.

Chet Holmgren - 2022 Panini Prizm Silver #266

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Holmgren played well in his first full season in the NBA and helped lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to the number-one seed in the Western Conference. Holmgren’s most popular rookie card is his 2022 Panini Prizm Silver, #266.

PSA 10 copies of the card reached nearly $275 earlier in the season, and right now, just before the playoffs, they are valued at $230 at recent eBay auctions.

Holmgren is a solid player, but his PPG average of just 16.5 is a little low for me to project as an excellent long-term investment. 

Luka Doncic - 2018 Panini Prizm Rookie Silver #280

doncic

Luka Doncic is regarded as one of the best young players in the NBA. Luka's base 2018 Prizm rookie card has an extremely high supply (nearly 20,000 have been graded a PSA 10!), so I would advise investing in his Prizm Silver Rookie card instead. It's not rare by any means, as nearly 2300 copies in PSA 10 grade exist, but I believe it is a better long term investment. 

The 2018 Panini Prizm Rookie SIlver # 280 sells for about $1100 and is a solid investment..  Doncic will most likely be regarded as one of the best European players of all time and I could see this card reaching $1,500 in value shortly.

Jayson Tatum - 2017 Panini Prizm Silver RC #16

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Jayson Tatum helped lead the Boston Celtics to the best record in the NBA regular season. Tatum is, in my opinion, a top 10 player in the NBA. His most popular card is the 2017 Panini Prizm Silver Rookie #16.

Tatum’s Prizm Silver, in PSA 10 grade, saw a huge increase in value during the playoffs last season, following his 50-point game seven performance in the Semi-Eastern Conference Finals. 

Tatum’s card was selling for $800 during that time and reached $1k+ within a couple of days. Tatum’s card is currently valued at around $780 at recent eBay auctions.

We could easily see a repeat of this card reaching 1k+ in value again as the Boston Celtics are one of the favorites to win the NBA Championship.

Kevin Durant - 2007 Topps Chrome Rookie #131

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Kevin Durant had another great season, averaging 27 PPG with the Suns. Durant’s cards are a great buy, considering how expensive his cards used to be a couple of years ago.

His most popular card is his 2007 Topps Chrome rookie, #131. This card is worth about $700 in a PSA 10 grade, the lowest it’s been in years. 

This is a great value buy, in my opinion, especially since this card is already listed on the PSA Future Hall of Fame Rookie Registry list. This card should be valued closer to $1000 and will likely get a bump if Durant can take the Suns to the late rounds of the playoffs.

Giannis Antetokounmpo - 2013-2014 Prizm #290 

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The Greek Freak had another great season with the Bucks this season and is already a future Hall of Famer. Antetokounmpo’s most popular rookie card is his 2013-14 Panini Prizm, card #290. A PSA 10 is valued at $500, but iI think there is some upside here for this card to increase again in value. 

This card should be worth closer to $750, considering the Silver version is much higher. Giannis’s base is still a solid option, even though its value has decreased within the last few years. His Prizm Rookie is already listed on the PSA Future HOF Rookie Registry list.

Damian Lillard -2012 Prizm RC #245

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Damian Lillard was named an NBA All-Star this season with the Bucks. The future Hall of Famer had another stellar season after previously spending his entire career with the Portland Trail Blazers.

Lillard’s most popular rookie card is his 2012 Panini Prizm rookie card #245. This card reached its highest value when Lillard was initially traded to the Bucks just before the season began. 

These were trending near $400 in PSA 10 grade, but, now, just before the playoffs, they are now selling for $200.

At a point during the COVID card craze, this card was valued at nearly $2k. I don’t see it ever getting that high again but I think this is a good value for a first ballot Hall of Fame caliber player.

Joel Embiid  - 2014 Panini Prizm Silver RC #253

prizm-embiid-silver

Joel Embiid recently returned from injury and helped the Philadelphia 76ers reach the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference. Embiid had a dominant season before his injury, including a 70-point game performance.

Embiid is not 100 percent healthy right now, so it will be tough to make a deep playoff run this year, but his card is a great long-term investment. The Embiid card I would target is his 2014 Panini Prizm Silver Rookie, #253

This card features a low PSA 10 Population Report of 86 graded 10s. This card is valued near $1,250 and could easily reach $1,500 in the future.

LeBron James - 2003 Topps Chrome RC #111

topps-chrome-lebron-rookie

LeBron James is back in the playoffs again with the Los Angeles Lakers and will face the Denver Nuggets. This will be a difficult matchup for LeBron and the Lakers but if they win they could make a run to the NBA Finals.

LeBron’s most popular rookie card continues to be his 2003 Topps Chrome Rookie, card number #111. A PSA 9 example can be bought for around $1000, while a PSA 10 example is worth about $4500. 

This card is still widely popular among collectors and is considered LeBron’s most mainstream rookie card. In my opinion, there is still some upside to buying this card in both a PSA 9 and PSA 10 example considering how much higher it used to be just a few years ago.

Vinnie Rullo

About the author

Vinnie Rullo is a passionate sports fan, with a hardcore loyalty to the Yankees, NY Giants and New York Knicks. An avid sports card collector, Vinnie has also worked a collectibles specialist for one of the bigger online auction houses.

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