Restricted free agency has, historically speaking, primarily served as a vehicle to complicate the deals of borderline players with their incumbent teams. Those who are good enough to be coveted but incomplete enough to be denied extensions are put at the mercy, in a sense, of a limited market.
The process has largely functioned very little like free agency at all, as the incumbent team—provided they tendered a qualifying offer—almost always ends up keeping a restricted free agent who has been signed to an offer sheet. The home team is only subjected to the market in the sense that another team is basically allowed to set market value for the player in question, leaving only the slight discomfort of an uncertain deal that can always be turned down.
It rarely is. Even max deals fall within set limits in such a scenario, and thus the Indiana Pacers are reportedly set to functionally match the offer that the Portland Trail Blazers offered their own Roy Hibbert. The decision was originally reported by Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star, but later clarified by David Aldridge of NBA.com:
Indy, per source, will give Hibbert the same terms that Portland was ready to give in offer sheet, & so won't technically "match" the sheet.— David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) July 9, 2012
As noted by John Hollinger of ESPN.com, that clarification from Aldridge isn't at all arbitrary. By offering Hibbert an offer themselves, the Pacers preserve their remaining cap space, and allow themselves a pick-up in addition to a re-signed Hibbert.
But even considering the price tag, the decision to bring back Hibbert hardly comes as a surprise. Hibbert is as close to a vital cog as the Pacers have. The fact that they run a well-balanced offense shouldn't detract from Hibbert's perceived importance, as he plays well off of David West, opens up space for Danny Granger, can nudge opponents into difficult mismatches, and acts as a pivot around which the slashing and shooting Paul George can orbit.
He's almost irreplaceable given the current player pool, and while that may not make him any better than he is, it does make him a fair bit more crucial.
Indiana could've gotten along in some way or another had it opted not to "match" the offer sheet on Hibbert, but it would've required a change of direction, some creative financing down the line, and the audacity to give up on a 25-year-old center just when things are starting to get good.
Hibbert may never be elite and he may never be mobile enough to be a top-tier defensive force, but he's a consistent and reliable post scorer, a solid on-ball post defender, and has the shot-blocking sense to improve over the life of his soon-to-be-inked deal.
Max offer or not, that's a package of skills and potential worth investing in, and a team cornerstone worth doubling down on.
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