Which Restricted NBA Free Agents Will Be on the Move This Offseason?
It was a bit surprising this past offseason to see so many good young players reach the extension deadline with no deal in hand. Part of that has to do with the depth of this draft class, but it was interesting nonetheless.
Potential stars like Eric Bledsoe, Greg Monroe and Gordon Hayward are now all set to hit restricted free agency because of that, while plenty of valuable rotation players will be joining them there as well.
While it's very rare that a team doesn't match an offer sheet given to their restricted free agent, that may be a little more prevalent this upcoming offseason. More than ever, rebuilding teams are recognizing the value of cap space and players on rookie deals, so perhaps a few more restricted free agents will be plucked from their current teams without a fight.
Let's take a look at five players headed for restricted free agency that could very well end up on different teams for next season.
Ed Davis, Memphis Grizzlies
Memphis Grizzlies power forward Ed Davis has largely been held under wraps ever since he was acquired in the Rudy Gay trade with the Toronto Raptors last season.
Davis has only played about 15 minutes a night this year, even with frontcourt injuries elsewhere, and so the buzz surrounding him has died down.
The 24-year-old forward will be due a qualifying offer of $4.3 million this offseason, which is probably right in the range Memphis would want to sign him long term with starting power forward Zach Randolph's contract situation up in the air and the luxury tax being a real possibility.
Will another team swoop in and sign Davis to an offer sheet closer to $6 or $7 million a season in hopes that Memphis would let him go? It certainly seems like a possibility, as Davis' career per-36-minute averages of 11.9 points, 10.2 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and 15.9 PER are solid baselines before factoring in further development with more court time.
Unless Randolph really turns down his player option worth $16.9 million and looks to play elsewhere, the Grizzlies probably can't justify spending big money on a backup frontcourt player at this point. Davis is a strong sign-and-trade candidate this offseason.
Greivis Vasquez, Toronto Raptors
The Toronto Raptors will likely have their hands full deciding on another point guard on the roster who is also headed for free agency.
Kyle Lowry will hit unrestricted free agency this offseason, and given how well he's played this year, re-signing him at a low price might be difficult to do.
It's hard to tell if Toronto really is interested in keeping Lowry long term anyway, and that's where Vasquez can come in. The 27-year-old point guard hasn't done much in his backup role after coming over from Sacramento, as he's shooting just 38.8 percent from the field with a 12 PER. Still, his cheap qualifying offer of $3.2 million could make him an easy insurance policy if Lowry decides to go elsewhere or demands too much money.
If the Raptors do re-sign Lowry, however, teams looking to poach a point guard with size will undoubtedly cast their direction Vasquez's way, as it seems incredibly unlikely Toronto will pay both good money.
Vasquez has proven to be an extremely capable distributor in his time in the league, averaging 8.1 assists per 36 minutes over his career. While he's probably not a good enough shooter or athlete to warrant a starting role, he's easily one of the better backup point guards out there.
Lowry will almost certainly be the first domino here, but it's not hard to see Toronto taking the cap space instead of matching on a mid-level-exception type offer for Vasquez, particularly if Lowry re-signs.
Jordan Crawford, Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors earned a lot of praise when they acquired Jordan Crawford from the Boston Celtics this year, but perhaps the expectations were never really in line with reality. Here's what Warriors general manager Bob Myers told Carl Steward of the San Jose Mercury News after acquiring Crawford:
We like the fact that he's a ball-handling guard who can create his own shot. We like the fact that he's shown he can distribute the ball this year in a more point guard primary role.
He's not afraid of the moment -- he takes big shots, makes big shots. He's dangerous, which is a word I like to use for a player like that. He can score points in bunches, and that's a factor we were missing coming off the bench.
Outside of scoring in bunches, Crawford has failed to do much else with the Warriors. He's averaging nearly as many turnovers (3.4) as assists (3.7) per 36 minutes with Golden State, and it's probably telling that Myers felt the need to go get fellow combo guard Steve Blake at the trade deadline.
Crawford should still receive his qualifying offer of $3.2 million from the Warriors, but it's hard to imagine they would match on any long-term offer where Crawford received more money than that.
Perhaps a few teams are hoping that the "real" Crawford is the one that played so well for the Boston Celtics earlier in the year, but Golden State just hasn't seen enough production to justify keeping him around for the future, particularly given their capped-out roster.
Greg Monroe, Detroit Pistons
Detroit Pistons big man Greg Monroe is the best player on this list by a wide margin, and he's expected to get paid like it. Monroe will be entering restricted free agency, where it appears likely he'll receive a max offer sheet somewhere. Here's David Aldridge at NBA.com with his take on the situation:
The problem, as the Pistons knew last fall, is that Monroe's agent is David Falk. He has gotten the price he said he'd get for his clients for two decades -- and he says the price for Monroe will be a max contract.
Two years ago, when a big deal for Indiana's Roy Hibbert, a Falk client, seemed doubtful, Falk created a one-team market. Portland dropped a four-year, $58 million sheet on Indiana for Hibbert. The Pacers matched, and are no doubt happy they did, but Falk proved he can still find suitors when he has to for his guys.
If Falk finds a team ready to give Monroe the max or something close to it, expect Detroit to match the offer sheet and worry about the money later.
The issue with that, of course, is that Detroit has failed to make the Monroe-Josh Smith-Andre Drummond frontcourt trio work, as the Pistons are currently 15 games below .500 and outside of the playoff picture in the dreadful Eastern Conference.
Is sacrificing cap space and fit worth doing in order to retain a promising and already productive 24-year-old big man? It's going to be a tough decision for whoever ends up calling the shots in Detroit, but it would seem like a sign-and-trade deal to a team with cap room might make the most sense here.
Detroit simply can't afford to let Monroe walk and receive nothing in return, but it might not be able to afford keeping him around either.
Monroe should have multiple suitors, so the Pistons could get a decent reward for moving him. Given how poorly the fit has been in Detroit, it would be a surprise if Monroe didn't start next year on a different team, one way or another.
Evan Turner, Indiana Pacers
Hopefully you'll let me slide with a technicality here, because it seems highly doubtful that Indiana Pacers guard Evan Turner will actually end up being a restricted free agent this offseason.
The primary reason for that is because Turner's high draft position means he's due a qualifying offer of $8.7 million, which seems well over what he's worth per year. With that in mind, Indiana could renounce his rights and not give him that qualifying offer, which would make him unrestricted. We've seen it happen before with young players like O.J. Mayo, for example.
Given Indiana's likely desire to stay under the luxury tax and the need to devote nearly all of the dollars under that line to unrestricted free agent Lance Stephenson, Turner probably won't receive that qualifying offer that would tie up a great deal of the cap space.
A lot can change in the postseason, of course, but Turner and the Pacers haven't performed well since the trade was made. It's not fair to make him a scapegoat by any means, but so far the pairing just isn't clicking.
Turner's stop in Indiana should be a short one. Given all the circumstances, it seems like he's the most likely player from this draft class to be wearing a new uniform next season.
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