NBA Free Agency 2012: Restricted Free Agents Who Will Find New Teams
Of all the compelling elements of the NBA offseason, one of the most fascinating has always been following the fate of the handful of restricted free agents who find themselves in the bizarre situation of not completely controlling their own destiny.
Restricted free agents can either be tendered a qualifying offer by their team, which is a one-year deal that results in them becoming unrestricted, or they can risk taking a longer deal but allowing their current team to match any offer sheet they sign.
Plenty of times in the past, players have expressed a desire to go to one location, only to be retained by the club they last suited up for.
However, there are always a few who wind up in a new jersey, either because their old team opts to let them walk, an interested suitor blows them away with a big-time offer or they push as hard as possible for a change of scenery.
This summer's free-agency class, which features several talented players bearing the RFA tag, will be no different.
Let's take a look at a few restricted free agents who will be calling a new city home when next season tips off.
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Old team: Portland Trail Blazers
New team: Minnesota Timberwolves
The Portland front office and new general manager Neil Olshey have not been definite on whether they will match Minnesota's four-year offer sheet worth $45 million, with incentives bringing the value over $50 million. According to Judd Zulgad of 1500ESPN.com, Olshey is no longer certain that the team will retain Nicolas Batum.
Batum is a solid, rapidly improving small forward. He has great range on his jumper, has the length to be a pest on defense and has the quickness to guard multiple positions on his court.
Last season, Batum averaged 13.9 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game along with a block and a steal. He played well as the Blazers' second scoring option behind All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge and at just 23 years old can still make significant strides in his overall game.
However, it is questionable if a complementary piece like Batum really deserves over $11 million per season. He is not capable of shouldering his team's offense for long stretches of time and can be too hesitant out on the court.
Portland is in a clear rebuilding mode and may not want to commit that much money to Batum if it is looking to build through the draft over the next few seasons.
Though he will not be a star in Minneapolis, Batum will find himself in a featured role with the Timberwolves alongside Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and fellow ex-Blazer Brandon Roy.
Batum is the kind of player a team overpays for, and by doing just that, Minnesota should get its man come July 11.
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Old team: Charlotte Bobcats
New team: Unknown
The Charlotte Bobcats have extended a qualifying offer to point guard D.J. Augustin, The Charlotte Observer's Rick Bonnell reports, but it is not a guarantee that he will be back with the team next season.
Kemba Walker had a strong rookie year, and if he continues to work on his handle and passing game, he could be their point guard of the future, since he is significantly undersized to play the off-guard position.
Augustin is a solid young point guard. He notched 11.1 points, 2.3 rebounds and 6.4 assists per game last season, although he only hit 37.6 percent of his shots from the field.
He is capable of breaking down a defense off the dribble, drawing defenders in the paint and either scoring or dishing to an open teammate.
He is capable of pushing the tempo of a game by playing in transition or working in the half court. His anemic shooting percentage notwithstanding, Augustin is a well-rounded offensive player capable of both scoring and facilitating.
He is just 6'0" tall and not particularly strong, making him susceptible to being beaten by stronger, more physical guards.
Augustin is a talented player, but there are several teams closer to playoff contention, such as the Dallas Mavericks, Sacramento Kings and New Orleans Hornets, that are in position to give Augustin a lucrative contract offer.
D.J. Augustin is a decent lead guard, but he is not a franchise building block, and as an organization in a major rebuild, the Bobcats should opt to go with Walker, who has a higher ceiling as a player.
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Jerryd Bayless was a restricted free agent but has become unrestricted since Toronto rescinded his qualifying offer.
Old team: Toronto Raptors
New team: Team unknown
The Raptors initially extended a qualifying offer to Bayless but have since renounced his rights and made the combo guard an unrestricted free agent, according to ESPN's Marc Stein.
Though there is not a front-runner for Bayless' services, plenty of teams could use a young, scoring guard to provide instant offense.
He played in just 31 games last year but averaged 11.4 points, 2.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists while hitting his threes at a 42.3 percent clip.
Bayless is an extremely athletic guard who is capable of getting into the lane and attacking the basket at will. He can work both off the dribble and moving without the ball, which makes him a very dangerous offensive option.
Last season, Bayless' improved outside shooting helped to open up the floor and force defenses to play him tighter and open up driving lanes. Though he is undersized at the 2-guard spot at 6'3", his quickness allows him to cover larger guards.
Teams like the Houston Rockets, Boston Celtics or Atlanta Hawks that could use another scoring wing off the bench would be wise to throw offers Bayless' way. He is capable of keeping the offense running smoothly both as a spot starter and off the bench.
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Old team: Orlando Magic
New team: New Orleans Hornets
One of the more surprising developments of free agency was the Orlando Magic opting not to extend sharpshooting stretch 4 Ryan Anderson, but instead ship the league's Most Improved Player to New Orleans in a sign-and-trade for center Gustavo Ayon.
Ben Golliver of CBSSports.com reports that the deal is worth $36 million and lasts for the next four seasons. Anderson is just 24 and coming off an all-around career year, so this $9 million per year deal could look very savvy if he can build on his breakout season.
Last season, he averaged 16.1 points and 7.7 rebounds (3.7 on the offensive end) per game while connecting on 39.3 of his attempts from three-point range.
Anderson was the perfect complement for Dwight Howard, benefiting from the attention that Howard creates in the post while opening up the floor with his shooting and drawing opposing big men out of the paint.
Although it is somewhat surprising that the Hornets would sign another power forward after drafting Anthony Davis first overall, both are strong rebounders and should be able to play together in a very mobile frontcourt.
However, the Magic's Howard-less postseason run proved that Anderson plays best when another player on his team catches the attention of the defense.
The Hornets need to bring in enough talent to convince Eric Gordon to want to play in New Orleans, and Anderson will make a great part of their young core along with Davis, Gordon and Austin Rivers.
He is one of the league's most skilled power forwards and at the very least will be able to improve New Orleans' horrendous outside shooting and create room for his teammates to work on the offensive end.
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Old team: Chicago Bulls
New team: Houston Rockets
One of a handful of defense-first young big men available in this year's crop of free agents, it was only a matter of time before Omer Asik received a hefty offer in free agency.
However, few were anticipating a deal like Houston offered the Turkish center: three years, $25.1 million, according to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski.
In his second season in the Windy City, Asik averaged 3.1 points, 5.3 boards and a block per game in just under 15 minutes per contest. He partnered with power forward Taj Gibson and starting center Joakim Noah to give Chicago one of the most intimidating front lines in the league.
He has the size and strength to keep opposing big men from carving out good post position, can sky above the basket for tough rebounds and has improved his timing for rejecting shots and providing help defense.
Still, his offensive game is beyond raw. Asik is a poor foul shooter and does not have any semblance of a consistent post game.
He runs the floor hard and will occasionally throw down an emphatic dunk, but he simply cannot be counted on to contribute much on the offensive end besides some solid screens.
The Rockets desperately need size after trading Sam Dalembert and failing to draft a center with any of their three first-round selections, so they were always going to be looking to make a play for bigs in free agency.
With little available cap room, the Bulls would be extremely unwise to match Asik's massive, backloaded deal. Asik will still be wearing red next year, but he won't be running the floor alongside Derrick Rose and Luol Deng.
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Old team: New York Knicks
New team: Toronto Raptors
CBS New York reports that Landry Fields, the former second-round pick who became a fan favorite teeing up three-pointers and playing tough perimeter defense, is headed north of the border to join a young, exciting Raptors squad.
The team has a glaring hole at small forward, and Fields, who is capable of playing both the 2 and the 3, should step in and contribute immediately.
The deal Toronto and Fields have agreed to is worth around $20 million over three years. Though he regressed slightly statistically with decreased playing time, Fields still averaged 8.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game last year.
He proved to be extremely durable, playing in every possible game and starting all but four.
In Canada, Fields will join a youthful athletic team that can push the ball and play in transition. Fields played the best basketball of his NBA career when he was a part of Mike D'Antoni's free-flowing, high-octane offense, and that style of play should be similar to what Dwane Casey does with the Raptors.
Fields can handle the ball but is also great at cutting and running off picks in order to create a quality look. He is a solid passer who loves to share the ball and does not break his team's offense or care about his own numbers.
Fields had a very down year shooting from distance, but he should be able to help open up the floor alongside Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Andrea Bargnani.
He does not have the highest ceiling, but Fields has proven that he can be a contributor on a playoff team and should mesh well with the Raptors from the get-go.
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Old team: New Orleans Hornets
New team: Phoenix Suns*
According to many sources, Gordon has become enamored with Phoenix and will do anything possible to join the organization.
Gordon played in just nine games last year, but he proved he could be a franchise-level talent, averaging 20.6 points, 2.8 rebounds and 3.4 assists along with a career-high 1.4 steals per game.
He did not stroke the ball particularly well, but Gordon was able to barrel his way to the basket, absorb contact and finish at the rim. In addition, he made strides on the defensive end and continued to show potential of being a devastating two-way player.
Though New Orleans could very well match Gordon's deal, he is pushing extremely hard for a change of scenery, and it is possible that the team could opt to send him packing in a sign-and-trade rather than face a disgruntled Gordon sulking during his time with the Hornets.
Phoenix has reportedly already signed Michael Beasley and Goran Dragic, proving it is wasting no time in moving on from the Steve Nash era.
Adding Gordon would be a huge coup for the organization, as he would give it a go-to scorer and closer who can make his impact felt even when his shot is not falling.
I am not ready to say with complete certainty Gordon has played his last game in the Big Easy, but if he gets his way, he will be suiting up in the desert for the next four seasons.