Restricted free agents differ from their unrestricted brethren for one key reason: their current teams have the ultimate say in where the athlete will play next season.
The restricted free agents of the 2012 NBA free-agent class can meet with other teams around the league. However, often times if their current organization likes what that player brings to the table, they'll match any offer to keep that guy in town.
For instance, although the Houston Rockets have signed Jeremy Lin to an offer sheet on a four-year $28.8 million deal, ESPN's Marc Stein tweeted that a source with knowledge of the New York Knicks' thought process believes New York "will match any offer on Lin up to one billion dollars."
Lin will have a starting job in New York next season, so I can't imagine he's too upset about that news.
However, for Eric Gordon and other players around the league, escaping the bad situations they're currently in will prove difficult.
Whether these players like it or not, they could stick around against their will or despite better individual situations elsewhere.
Note: While writing, O.J. Mayo and Ryan Anderson both made the list. However, Mayo became an unrestricted free agent when the Memphis Grizzlies didn't extend him his qualifying offer and Ryan Anderson was acquired today by the New Orleans Hornets via a sign-and-trade with the Orlando Magic.
It doesn't appear that restricted free-agent center Robin Lopez will be able to escape the desert this summer even he wants to.
According to Phoenix Suns beat writer Paul Coro via his Twitter account, Suns' president of basketball operations Lon Babby has said that matching any offer to Lopez this offseason is "quite likely, if not certain."
Robin, compared with his twin brother Brook Lopez (also a free agent of the Brooklyn Nets), has had more consistent injury troubles.
Where Brook stayed healthy throughout his first three NBA seasons (before the disastrous, injury-riddled mess last year), Robin has never played more than 67 games in any season up to this point.
Throughout his four-year career, Lopez has suffered from recurring back problems, which has kept him out of action on numerous occasions.
Lopez had a solid sophomore campaign with the Suns, averaging 8.4 points, 4.8 rebounds and one block per game (all career-highs) in 51 games played (31 starts). Despite those respectable numbers, Lopez has regressed statistically in two years since that point, failing to build upon any of those stats.
Last season, Lopez played in 64 of a possible 66 games, but was the designated backup center to Marcin Gortat in Phoenix. Lopez didn't start a single game and averaged 5.4 points (on a career-low 46.1 percent shooting clip), 3.3 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game.
It seems as if the best scenario for both parties involved would be for the Suns and Lopez to part ways.
Lopez could look for a situation that would give him more playing time to return to form, while the Suns could play Channing Frye at center to open up more court time for sophomore forward Markieff Morris.
Even though a change of scenery for Lopez seems smart for both himself and the Suns, Babby seemed adamant in his stance to keep the big man.
Only time will tell, but I doubt Lopez will change uniforms next season.
D.J. Augustin, according to USA Today, has already turned down a lucrative contract extension to remain with the Charlotte Bobcats moving forward.
If Augustin’s No. 1 priority this summer is finding the best situation to win games, the Bobcats, coming off an abysmal 7-59 record, likely won’t be his first choice (in fact, they might be his last choice).
Following the trade that brought Ben Gordon to Charlotte in exchange for Corey Maggette, it appears as if the Bobcats have a bit of a log jam at the guard spot.
Charlotte needs to keep developing Kemba Walker, and with the addition of Gordon, it seems as if Walker's position of the future will be point guard.
Unless Augustin wants to embrace a sixth man role with the Bobcats moving forward, I’d expect him to look at other suitors.
The Los Angeles Lakers were a team in desperate need of a point guard, but following the sign-and-trade deal that brought them two-time MVP Steve Nash, they’ll no longer be in the market for a floor general.
The Toronto Raptors traded for Kyle Lowry, the Phoenix Suns added Goran Dragic and the Knicks appear poised to match the Rockets deal for Jeremy Lin, so the point guard market is quickly dwindling.
If I had to speculate, I’d wager that both the Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets could look at Augustin for point guard duties in order to fill their team’s holes, but there’s no guarantee that the Bobcats will simply let him walk.
If Augustin does manage to move to a new team next year, I’d expect Charlotte to match an offer and look to send him away via trade.
Although Eric Gordon has said, “Phoenix is where my heart is now,” according to Paul Coro via Twitter, I simply can’t see a situation where the New Orleans Hornets don’t match the Suns’ max offer sheet for the stud shooting guard.
Gordon was the key piece to the Chris Paul trade, and if the Hornets let Gordon walk for nothing in return this summer, they’d be stuck with very little to show for trading away the league’s best point guard. That is to say, unless of course you think Al-Farouq Aminu will suddenly morph into an android capable of putting up quadruple his usual stats.
The shooting guard out of Indiana clearly wants out of New Orleans and there has been speculation that Gordon’s animosity for the Hornets’ organization stemmed from the possible mishandling of Gordon’s knee injury last season.
The Phoenix Suns are renowned for having one of the best, if not the best training staff in the entire NBA, so it’s logical to believe that some of Gordon’s draw to Phoenix has to do with staying healthy.
Regardless of where Gordon’s heart lies, I can’t see the Hornets letting him go for nothing (even with their young core of Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers moving forward).
If Gordon will be unhappy in New Orleans and bog down the locker room like what has happened with Dwight Howard in Orlando, it makes sense for the Hornets to part ways with Gordon to keep team chemistry high and avoid off-court distractions.
Nevertheless, the talent Gordon brings to the table may ultimately prove too much to pass up for the Hornets organization.