NBA Free Agency 2012: Restricted FAs Who Will Cash In with Ridiculous Deals
After breaking out with a season that singularly re-defines what it means to be a "rising star," you might expect Jeremy Lin to be among the most richly-rewarded restricted free agents. But thanks to a rule known as the "Gilbert Arenas Provision," that won't be happening.
In order to make it easier for teams to retain restricted free agents who aren't coming off of a rookie contract, suitors may only extend offer sheets to some restricted free agents that start at $5 million in the first season.
Lin is one such free agent.
His offer may be backloaded enough to make life difficult for the Knicks, but there will still be limits to what the mega-celebrity can earn—at least from the franchise that signs him.
His endorsement deals are another story.
Despite the limitations attached to Lin's immediate financial future, there are a few restricted free agents primed for big-time paydays.
According to Sports Illustrated's Sam Amick, the Portland Trail Blazers and another unnamed team have already offered Indiana Pacers free agent Roy Hibbert a max contract.
Though the Pacers hadn't previously offered Hibbert quite so rich a deal, that doesn't mean they will be unwilling to match the offer. Given the lack of available big men who compare to the first-time All-Star, the only way Indiana would let him go is if it already has its sights set on other free-agent targets.
The four-year veteran has proven to be a reliable rebounder and defender, as well as a competent complementary scorer. That combination would presumably make him invaluable to the Pacers, a team that has taken a giant step toward contending in relatively short order.
On the other hand, Hibbert wasn't much of a factor against the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Semifinals—something of a surprise given Miami's lack of interior defenders.
If that series defines the big man's legacy or otherwise influences how highly Indiana values having an elite center, the 7'2" giant could be on the move.
New Orleans Hornets free agent Eric Gordon is already scheduled to meet with the Indiana Pacers, Houston Rockets and Phoenix Suns.
But that doesn't mean he will be departing New Orleans—at least not via free agency.
Gordon was the centerpiece of the blockbuster trade that sent Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Clippers, so it's unlikely the Hornets would lose him without getting anything in return. Since the organization can match any offers the 23-year-old receives, any change of scenery would more probably be via a sign-and-trade.
Gordon was held to just nine games last season due to injury, but he has otherwise demonstrated steady improvement in each of his four seasons and is easily one of premium guys on this summer's market.
It's not entirely certain that he will command a max contract, but whatever deal he signs will at least be in that ballpark.
The Toronto Raptors, Minnesota Timberwolves and Cleveland Cavaliers are reportedly among the clubs most likely to make a serious run at Nicolas Batum, but the Portland Trail Blazers will almost certainly pay whatever it takes to hold on to the up-and-coming small forward.
Batum averaged 13.9 points and 4.6 rebounds last season, and he possesses the length and athleticism to establish himself as one of the league's better perimeter defenders.
Since all the teams pursuing the rising star have ample cap room, the Trail Blazers may be forced to match a pretty substantial offer. Since the organization has otherwise relied on the draft to surround its young core with talent, breaking the bank for Batum should be an acceptable cost.
If, however, Portland is successful in its grandiose attempt to land center Roy Hibbert, that could jeopardize its attempt to keep Batum on board.
JaVale McGee had something of a mixed reputation during his days with the Washington Wizards, but he was a pleasant surprise in 20 games with the Nuggets after a midseason trade that sent Nene to D.C.
McGee made over 61 percent of his baskets in under 21 minutes a game, but his crowning achievement was unquestionably Denver's first-round series against the Los Angeles Lakers. The seven-footer put together monster double-doubles in Denver's Game 3 and 5 victories.
Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the Nuggets aren't wasting any time in their pursuit of an extension with McGee:
Denver GM Masai Ujiri will meet with JaVale McGee's reps to discuss extension in Los Angeles on Monday, sources tell Y! Sports.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 1, 2012
Given how difficult it is to find an athletic big man who is halfway reliable, chances are McGee won't be cheap.
The four-year deal DeAndre Jordan signed with the Los Angeles Clippers is sure to be a starting point for negotiations with McGee.
The Houston Rockets will sign restricted free agent Omer Asik to a three-year, $25 million contract when the free agent moratorium ends on July 11, according to two sources familiar with the negotiations.
The Bulls will have three days to match the offer, which is backloaded to approach $15 million in the third season.
With Joakim Noah as Chicago's starting center for the foreseeable future, it's hard to imagine the Bulls making such a costly investment in a guy who would continue to spend most of his time coming off the bench.
Asik is a productive rebounder who is known mostly for his defensive abilities, but his offensive game leaves much to be desired.
After trading Samuel Dalembert to the Milwaukee Bucks, the Rockets reasoned to be in the market for another big man. Of course, they had hoped that big man would be Dwight Howard, but they are apparently resigned to move on to their Plan B.
Courtney Lee is one of the more underrated shooting guards in the league, largely due to the fact he hasn't had a consistent starting gig in his two seasons with the Houston Rockets.
With opportunities to play with the starting unit 26 times this season, Lee's production approached what he accomplished in his impressive sophomore campaign when playing with the Nets. Lee is decently athletic, but his offensive bread and butter is spotting up around the perimeter.
The real kicker, though, is his ability to play tough perimeter defense and stay in front of scorers. That skill could help him land a deal that ranges from $30 to 40 million.
Other free-agent shooting guards like Jamal Crawford and Lou Williams won't make many contributions on the defensive end, so teams looking for a guy who can play on both sides of the ball may be willing to spend some money in order to deter the Rockets from matching.
Brook Lopez may become something of a consolation prize for teams missing out on Roy Hibbert. The Brooklyn Nets will have the right to match any offers he receives, but there is no telling what the team's thought process will be given how many movable parts they will have to juggle this offseason.
Lopez has averaged over 17 points per game during his four-year career, but he is not known for much other than scoring. In fact, he averaged just 5.9 rebounds in over 35 minutes a game in 2011-12.
The other strike against Lopez is that he was limited to playing in just five games this season due to a broken bone in his right foot.
That probably won't scare teams away entirely, but it will certainly affect his market value. At the very least, don't expect him to command a price tag quite as rich as Hibbert's.
Still, a slightly lesser deal is almost certainly in order—perhaps one starting at $8 or 9 million a year.
New Orlando Magic general manager Rob Hennigan has a tall task before him, and it begins with making decisions about his club's own free agents—including power forward Ryan Anderson.
Anderson may not be as lethal a long-range threat if and when Dwight Howard leaves town, but the Magic still have little choice but to keep the 2012 Most Improved Player in the mix according to the Orlando Sentinel's Josh Robbins:
Still, aside from Howard, Anderson is the best asset the Magic have, and it seems unlikely that team officials will be willing to lose him via free agency.
“Clearly he had a great season, and I feel like he’s someone who has a skill set that’s pretty rare and a skill set that in today’s NBA has some real sticking power,” Hennigan said. “So I think he’s a good player and I think he’s a good person.”
It's not yet clear what kind of price the market will set for Anderson, but given the shortage of big men who can shoot so consistently from deep, don't be at all surprised if he commands a deal starting at around $6 to 8 million in the first year.
He may not be an especially good rebounder, and spot-up shooting isn't in and of itself a hot commodity, but a big man who can spread the floor is almost destined to be over-valued by an organization with money to spend.
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