NBA AM: Headed To Restricted Free Agency?

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The Notable And Likely Restricted:  Free agency in the NBA comes in two yummy flavors: Unrestricted, where the player is free to choose his next team without regards to his previous team and restricted, everyone’s favorite flavor.

Restricted free agency has become the bane of free agency for players and agents, mainly because it ties up a player’s options. In order to make a player restricted a team must offer what’s called a qualifying offer. For first round draft picks this is a slotted number usually worth between 30 percent and 50 percent of the previous year’s salary based on where the player was drafted. For instance the first overall picks qualifying offer is a 30 percent increase over his previous year, wherein the 30th pick’s qualifying offer is 50 percent greater than his previous year’s salary.

Teams can begin making qualifying offers the day following the last game of the NBA Finals and June 30.

A qualifying offer is an offer for a one-year guaranteed contract, which becomes a regular contract if the player signs it.

In making the offer, the “home” team can match contracts offered by other teams, allowing the marketplace to establish terms and a price.

Here are some of the more notable players likely to be restricted free agents and what their teams are currently thinking in regards to their future:

Avery Bradley – Boston Celtics – $2,511,432 – QO -$3,581,302

The Celtics would like to bring Bradley back, but this one is going to come down to price. If a team gets silly with an offer the Celtics may very well let Bradley walk.

The Celtics value Bradley immensely, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out. Much like Tyreke Evans last year – a team could poach Bradley out of Boston with a heavy offer, the question becomes how much is too much for him?

Eric Bledsoe – Phoenix Suns – $2,626,474 – QO – $3,726,967

There is almost no scenario in which Eric Bledsoe is not matched by the Phoenix Suns. There have been some that have wondered if the Suns would match a full max contract offer and the answer there is very much yes. The Suns likely will set the bar themselves with an offer simply to move the process along. It’s doubtful that Phoenix set the price at max, which should be just at $15.75 million, but if someone else put that number on the table its highly likely the Suns match it.

Greivis Vasquez – Toronto Raptors – $2,150,188 – QO – $3,203,780

Vasquez would like to return to the Raptors, but he would also like to play a bigger role than he has in Toronto. Vasquez’s offer amount is not silly, so it is very likely Toronto issues it and lets the market dictate what his price should be. The Raptors feel strongly that they’ll get Kyle Lowry signed to a new deal and they have started to look at guards in the draft. There is a chance that Vasquez is sign-and-traded if a real offer comes his way, especially if Lowry re-signs.

Vasquez’s future in Toronto is very much up in the air and is tied directly to that of Lowry. If Lowry re-signs, it’s more likely than not that Vasquez is moved on for a number of reasons. That likely won’t play out until Lowry’s deal gets done, which means the Raptors restrict Vasquez to insure they have options should Lowry walk to another team.

Isaiah Thomas – Sacramento Kings – $884,293 – QO – $2,875,131

This one is tough. The Kings likely issue the offer sheet to give them options, but with the eighth pick they are already looking at point guards. Marcus Smart, Elfrid Payton and Tyler Ennis worked out there just this week. The Kings say they would like to have Thomas back, but there is a belief that if the price gets silly that Sacramento may let him walk much like they did with Tyreke Evans last year.

Thomas has played incredibly well for the Kings, so there is a chance they sign him or match offers if they are within reason, but if someone starts to get into the $9-$10 million per year range the Kings may pass in favor of other options.

For the last two years the Kings have hinted that Thomas is good enough to start for them, but is he good enough to win playoff games? That’s a debate the team has had internally for some time and likely why they are looking at point guards in the draft.

Thomas is a tough one to call. If the price is right the Kings likely keep him, but if the price gets hefty they may go elsewhere.

Kent Bazemore – Los Angeles Lakers – $788,872 – QO – $1,115,243

The Lakers are very high on Bazemore. His offer sheet is very nominal, so it’s expected they will issue it and lock up his rights. It will become interesting if another team offers a multi-year deal. The Lakers likely match it, but if someone starts to nip at the Lakers cap space it is unclear how committed to Bazemore they really are. In 23 games with the Lakers, Bazemore averaged 13 points on 45.1 percent shooting.

The smart money says he’s is back with the Lakers next season, but it seems likely someone will put a multi-year offer on the table even if it’s just something in the $1-2 million per year range.

Gordon Hayward – Utah Jazz – $3,452,183 – QO – $4,677,708

The Jazz are saying Hayward will be back. The question really becomes at what price? Hayward will get the qualifying offer and the Jazz will likely match whatever he gets offered in free agency. The question is will anyone test the Utah’s threshold of pain and offer silly money.

They say the most expensive players to obtain are someone else’s players and in this case anyone that wants Hayward is going to have to overpay for him. It’s believed the Jazz put a $8-$9 million per year extension offer on the table last summer for Hayward, so will he command more than $10 million per year on the open market?

The Jazz say they will match and Hayward will be back.

Jordan Crawford – Golden State Warriors – $2,162,419 – QO – $3,206,867

This one will be interesting because Crawford isn’t considered a high dollar player. His $3.2 million qualifying offer isn’t crazy money and it would give the Warriors the right to match offers, but at what price does Crawford become unreasonable?

In 42 games with the Warriors Crawford wasn’t exactly electric averaging just 8.4 points on 41.7 percent shooting from the field. Crawford started the final game of the season and knocked in 41 points, so he has scoring potential, but is that worth much more than he was earning last season?

Three years and $8-$10 million seems like the right number for what Crawford is as a player, will he command more than that and will Golden State match it if he does?

Evan Turner – Indiana Pacers – $6,679,867 – QO – $8,717,226

Pacers president Larry Bird sounds resigned to the idea that Evan Turner will be playing somewhere else during exit interviews. Considering his offer value is $8.7 million, it seems unlikely that the Pacers issue that, although they might, but again it seems unlikely.

Turner was not exceptional in his time with the Pacers, averaging 7.1 points per game in 27 games, reverting to more of what he looked like in Philly over the last two years. It will be interesting to see what the market place for the former second overall pick really is.

It’s doubtful that Turner lands a deal paying much more than he earned last year, the question is with Lance Stephenson headed to unrestricted free agency do the Pacers really let Turner walk or do they risk picking up his offer as insurance in case Stephenson bolts? The Pacers would have to make that decision on the offer sheet before they known what’s real with Stephenson.

Greg Monroe – Detroit Pistons – $4,086,454 – QO – $5,479,935

The Pistons continue to say that Greg Monroe is not going anywhere, that a new deal for him is very likely and that they would match offers if it gets to that point. Monroe’s offer value isn’t at all crazy and the Pistons have the flexibility to match Monroe all the way to the max. The question is will anyone really put a $15.75 million first year offer on the table for him?

There is a reality to a max offer sheet. It’s easy to say you would match it, but would the Pistons really do it? New president Stan Van Gundy says he’s watched enough tape to know that he can make a Monroe and Andre Drummond pairing work on offense. It’s the defensive side where the conflicts emerge, but Van Gundy believes if both players buy in, it would be a strength for the team not a weakness.

There is little doubt that Monroe is the top player likely to hit restricted free agency. The question is does he really get a max offer and will the Pistons really match it?

Patrick Patterson – Toronto Raptors – $3,105,301 – QO – $4,319,474

The Raptors credit their swing to the playoffs to their much improved bench this season. After trading Rudy Gay to the Sacramento Kings the Raptors got a handful of bench players in return that really changed the complexion of the team and while Patterson didn’t play a huge role, he is considered a valuable asset for the Raptors.

The question for Patterson is his offer, $4.3 million seems like his range. So do the Raptors issue it and see what the market brings back or do they simply try and work out a deal in that kind of price range?

Keeping Patterson seems like a smart move, the question becomes how much and does it happen after a trip through restricted free agency.

Ed Davis – Memphis Grizzlies – $3,153,860 – QO – $4,361,788

The Grizzlies have invested a lot into Ed Davis, but the question becomes how much is he worth on a new deal? It is very likely the Grizz issue the $4.3 million offer, if only to have the ability to match an offer. The Grizz are hoping to get a new deal done with Zach Randolph, which might make Davis’ value to the team significantly lower than maybe it already is.

Davis logged few minutes in the regular season and almost nothing in the postseason, even when Randolph was suspended. Davis had a few bright spot games, but hardly the body of work to believe he’ll get a major offer.

The Grizz under previous leadership really liked Ed, but it seems if he gets expensive for some reason they may pass on him in favor of someone who might be able to contribute.

This one will be interesting to watch, because Davis might be obtainable.

Kevin Seraphin – Washington Wizards – $2,761,114 – QO – $3,898,693

Seraphin has had some moments, the problem this year was he was parked behind far better players and rarely saw meaningful minutes. With a $3.8 million offer value, it’s almost worth issuing because he has shown some promise at times with the Wizards, especially with the uncertain future of Marcin Gortat.

The smart money say Seraphin gets the offer and the Wizards try and work out a reasonable deal. There may be some outside value, mainly because he is a 6’10 big that can score and he might be had fairly cheap.

Washington has said they would like to keep their core together, but it’s unclear how much they would pay Seraphin, especially if others get involved in the bidding process.

Trevor Booker – Washington Wizards – $2,350,820 – QO – $3,420,443

Much like Seraphin there have been times this year where Booker was pretty solid. With a $3.4 million offer, it’s almost worth issuing just to see if he can be retained fairly inexpensively.

Booker played extended minutes in April and was very productive for the Wiz. With ownership wanting to keep the core together it seems likely that Booker is back, although much like Seraphin, if the pricing starts to get silly, the Wiz may think twice.

Ekpe Udoh – Milwaukee Bucks – $4,469,548 – QO – $5,962,377

Given how committed the Bucks are to John Henson and how much cash they have committed to Larry Sanders and veteran Zaza Pachulia, it seems unlikely that Udoh will get the $5.9 million Offer that it would take to restrict him.

Udoh has had tons of injuries in his NBA career which makes it doubtful there is a huge push for him in free agency.

The smart money says the Bucks move on and Udoh is an unrestricted free agent. There simply isn’t a body of work to justify a $5.9 million offer and the Bucks really have plenty of options at his position under contract and may pick up a few more in the NBA Draft.

As a general rule of process most teams with cap flexibility match offers, simply to avoid losing a valuable asset. If a team matches a contract offer they cannot trade that player for one calendar year without that player’s consent. Teams have three days to match a signed offer sheet.

Players are under no obligation to sign an offer sheet from a team unless they want to play there. Equally, once a player signs an offer sheet the “home” team can either match or decline. Prior to physically signing an offer, the player can notify the “home” team of intent to sign and try and negotiate a sign and trade if the terms are way out of line, although a player is under no obligation to do that.

At any point in the process the home team can withdraw the qualifying offer and make the player unrestricted.

If you are curious about how the Rookie Scale Contract system maps out here are the slotted years through the 2017-2018 NBA Draft Class.

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