6 Restricted Free Agents Who Could Be on New NBA Teams in 2014-15
Restricted free agents matter, too.
LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony aren't restricted free agents; nor are Chris Bosh and Luol Deng. They are unrestricted free agents. They are the ones who invade headlines and can be signed without cutting through rolls of red tape.
But restricted free agents still matter.
Most of them aren't superstars. They are players coming off their rookie contracts who didn't receive an extension. They are (typically) modestly paid talents due for some kind of raise.
They are more difficult to acquire, if only because their current teams have the right to match any offer they receive, paving the way for marginal amounts of movement, especially when it comes to star prospects.
Some are still set free, though. Be it through a sign-and-trade or a club's refusal to match an offer sheet which it deems excessive, certain restricted free agents are serious threats to leave.
This year's class of restricted free agents is packed with talent angling for raises, new contracts and, in some cases, new homes.
Certain restricted free agents are serious flight risks...because they aren't restricted free agents anymore.
The following players of note were slated for restricted free agency but became unrestricted free agents once their teams declined to tender qualifying offers.
Kent Bazemore, Los Angeles Lakers
Bazemore has not been extended a qualifying offer from the Lakers, according to Eurobasket.com's David Pick.
Jordan Crawford, Golden State Warriors
Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group brings word that the Warriors have decided to let Crawford reach unrestricted free agency.
Evan Turner, Indiana Pacers
Turner will likely wind up being a half-season rental for the Pacers. Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today says Indiana has elected to not extend him a qualifying offer, making Turner an unrestricted free agent and thus an essential gun-for hire.
Ekpe Udoh, Milwaukee Bucks
A source informs Yahoo! Sports' Marc J. Spears that the Bucks "have told forward-center Ekpe Udoh he will not be tendered an offer thus making him an unrestricted free agent."
Udoh was set to earn nearly $6 million next season, so that's probably why Milwaukee is setting him free. That, or Jason Kidd must really loathe players whose last names begin with "U."
Restricted free agents aren't mercenaries. They can't be. Remember that.
They can try their best to orchestrate departures—also known as The Eric Gordon—but ultimately, the decision lies with their current teams. Those clubs have the right to match any offer restricted free agents receive, whether said players wish to stay put or not.
Here you'll find a (brief) list of untouchable restricted free agents who are going absolutely nowhere.
Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix Suns
The only place Bledsoe will be going this summer is to the bank. And maybe J. Crew, since he's going to need a bigger wallet.
“We’ll have no problem stepping up and paying Eric whatever it takes to keep him,” Suns general manager Ryan McDonough told ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne in December.
There isn't a scenario in which the Suns let Bledsoe walk. Not in your favorite team's dreams. Or even the Suns' pipe dreams. They plan on re-signing Bledsoe even if they're allowed to make a run at James and Anthony, according to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski.
Gordon Hayward, Utah Jazz
Joining Bledsoe is Hayward, who is widely targeted because he's supposed to be attainable.
Which he's not. The Jazz are "prepared to match any offers" he might receive, per the Desert News' Jody Genessy.
Look for teams like the Charlotte Hornets and Suns to drum up an offer sheet to no avail. The Jazz are going to pony up however much it takes to keep Hayward, even if it means overpaying him.
It's the smart play.
It's the only play.
Mike Scott, Atlanta Hawks
Years Experience: 2
2013-14 Stats: 9.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.4 steals, 47.9 percent shooting, 15.3 PER
Mike Scott is available. Let the totally modest, not-at-all-gruesome bidding begin.
After drafting Adreian Payne with the 15th pick in this year's draft, the Atlanta Hawks no longer have a strong need for Scott. Payne spaces the floor more than he does and offers even more value as someone who can create his own shot.
Plus, you know, cap space.
The Hawks flipped Lou Williams and Lucas Nogueira—a legitimate prospect with awesome hair and Tim Duncan-esque crazy eyes—for the Toronto Raptors' John Salmons in what was a blatant salary dump, as ESPN.com's Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst pointed out:
The Hawks, sources say, will immediately waive Salmons to expand their projected salary-cap space for this summer to $15.5 million, though one source cautioned Sunday that the move is more about flexibility and roster-shaping for the Hawks than any specific free-agent target.
Toss in their other free-agent interests—Luol Deng (via Ken Berger of CBS Sports), Pau Gasol (via ESPN Los Angeles' Ramona Shelburne) and Greg Monroe (via Stein)—and the writing is pretty much set in marble:
Scott is on his way out of Atlanta.
Greivis Vasquez, Toronto Raptors
Years Experience: 4
2013-14 Stats: 9.6 points, 2.2 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 0.4 steals, 42.1 percent shooting, 14.1 PER
Collateral damage. That's what Greivis Vasquez stands to become.
Although the Raptors tendered him a qualifying offer, Vasquez could be worth more than the $3.2 million he was earmarked to earn next season. It's not ridiculous to assume that he may net a yearly salary in the $5 million range.
Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri only considers paying top dollar for Vasquez if the team passes on free agent Kyle Lowry, which doesn't appear to be a realistic option.
Lowry is fresh off helping end the Raptors' half-decade-long playoff drought and averaging All-Star-caliber numbers. There's a less-than-slim chance that Toronto permits its MVP to walk—even if it means padding his pockets with bundles of greenbacks. From Stein:
Toronto continues to radiate tangible confidence about its ability to re-sign highly coveted guard Kyle Lowry, with an offer said to be starting in the $12 million range.
There were rumblings in the early hours of Tuesday that the Raptors have begun weighing whether they need to add a fifth year to their pitch to ensure they hold off the competition. Only the Raptors can pitch a five-year deal to Lowry.
Five years is a lot of time, and $60-plus million is a lot of coin. If the Raptors are forced to pay Lowry like a superstar, they'll presumably have less money to invest in his backup. Restricted free agent Nando de Colo would be the cheaper, financially sensible option.
Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics
Years Experience: 4
2013-14 Stats: 14.9 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.1 steals, 43.7 percent shooting, 12.7 PER
UPDATE: Wednesday, July 2, 9:45 a.m. ET
Remember when we acknowledged that restricted free agents are hard to poach? Well, that hasn't changed.
Let the good times roll, Boston.
Where do we begin with Avery Bradley? His 2013-14 campaign was weird—in an unsettlingly good way. He averaged a career high in points and rebounds, shot the three-ball nicely and played stellar perimeter defense.
But the Boston Celtics' backcourt is also weird. They now have Marcus Smart and Rajon Rondo, two guards who cannot shoot. Bradley himself isn't a reliable shooter either. His numbers have fluctuated since entering the league in 2010.
Can these three coexist together? Maybe. If the Celtics prohibit their point guards from taking three-pointers, most definitely. Yet keeping them together suggests head coach Brad Stevens will use a three-man rotation, likely bringing Smart off the bench.
While that's fine in the interim, teams don't draft players at No. 6 with the intent of shackling them to the pine. Some see his arrival as a forerunner for Rondo's departure. Others don't know what to think.
Boston's backcourt is simply weird. And team president Danny Ainge's comments aren't helping.
"Avery is a big part of our future," he said, per ESPN Boston's Chris Forsberg.
Our lingering question: Will he be saying the same thing if some team shoves $5 million or more per year in Bradley's face?
Greg Monroe, Detroit Pistons
Years Experience: 4
2013-14 Stats: 15.2 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.1 steals, 49.7 percent shooting, 18.1 PER
Free Greg Monroe.
To be sure, he can be freed in a variety of different ways. The Detroit Pistons are free to re-sign him if they can find a new home for the space-killing Josh Smith. But if he proves immovable, they must grant Monroe the opportunity to fly the coop.
Interest in Monroe is already high, with outside parties hoping the Pistons can be coaxed into letting him go, according to Stein:
Detroit Pistons big man Greg Monroe is a man in demand. The Pistons have let it be known that they want to retain the restricted free agent -- very much so -- but the perception around the league is that Detroit will not rule out sign-and-trades if the offer sheet he gets is too pricy.
Three teams, in fact, have quickly emerged as serious bidders for Monroe, according to sources close to the process: Atlanta, Orlando and Portland.
Monroe is on the cusp of becoming a double-double machine. Some aggressive team is going to lay serious cash in front of him—a max contract, even.
Coach and team president Stan Van Gundy knows how to make the most of two post-oriented players, but asking him to redefine the identity of this flimsy Monroe-Smith-Andre Drummond troika is too much. It was a recipe for the 19th-ranked offense last season, and little stands to improve if nothing is done to break it up.
Once Monroe moves toward signing an offer sheet—and he will—the Pistons have a decision to make: They can either let him walk or pay dearly to keep their paint-clogging offense alive, all while hoping the Sacramento Kings can still be sold on absorbing J-Smoove's cap-crimping contract and rim-razing shot selection.
To wit: Monroe, out of potential necessity, is a genuine flight risk.
Isaiah Thomas, Sacramento Kings
Years Experience: 3
2013-14 Stats: 20.3 points, 2.9 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 1.3 steals, 45.3 percent shooting, 20.5 PER
Big, productive point guards sometimes come in tiny, generously listed 5'9" packages.
Isaiah Thomas had quite the 2013-14 campaign with the Kings. Six players averaged at least 20 points, 2.5 rebounds, six assists and one steal per game last season; he was one of them. Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Kyrie Irving round out the other five.
So, yeah, Thomas is headed for a credit-card-limit-increasing payday. Soon.
According to NBC Sports' Aaron Bruski, plenty of teams are already showing interest, one of which is prepared to offer him a contract:
The Pistons, Heat, Lakers, Mavs and Suns have all expressed interest, with the Pistons showing the most interest to date and numbers starting in the three-year, $24 million range. Talks with teams in playoff contention have started in the $6-7 million per-year range.
The potency of a potential Brandon Jennings-Thomas backcourt and/or point-guard rotation is up for debate; the peculiar entertainment value is not.
Sacramento did extend him a qualifying offer, allowing it to match whatever contract he receives, implying that he's not unwanted. But the Kings have serious cash tied up in Rudy Gay, DeMarcus Cousins, Carl Landry, Derrick Williams and Jason Terry. Paying Thomas $8-plus million annually isn't necessarily something they see themselves doing moving forward.
Expect sign-and-trades to come into play here. As Bleacher Report's Joel Cordes and Michael Schottey imagined, the Pistons could be trying to force Sacramento into signing and trading Thomas for Smith. Rumors of a deal were leaked by Stein ahead of the draft, and this could be Detroit's last-ditch attempt to revive them.
Not that the Pistons are the Kings' lone threat. Diminutive playmakers who can score in bunches are hot property these days.
Just look at the gobs of intrigue Thomas is generating around the league—interest that may have him wearing a different uniform next season.
Chandler Parsons, Houston Rockets
Years Experience: 3
2013-14 Stats: 16.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.2 steals, 47.2 percent shooting, 15.9 PER
Things are about to get weird in Houston.
Letting Chandler Parsons hit the semi-open market isn't something the Houston Rockets had to do. They could have picked up his team option worth under $1 million and moved on. But restricted free agency ensures Parsons will receive a well-deserved raise.
We're just not entirely sure it will come from the Rockets.
General manager Daryl Morey and friends are going superstar-hunting this summer, according to Bleacher Report's Howard Beck. Their vision, as of now, has them signing a third superstar to place alongside James Harden and Dwight Howard while retaining Parsons.
Part of this grand scheme demands patience on Parsons' behalf. If he doesn't wait to sign an offer sheet, his cap hit will skyrocket, as the Houston Chronicle's Jonathan Feigen details:
Parsons will go from the $964,750 he was scheduled to make to a contract that could start at more than $10 million. (For comparison sake, Portland’s Nicolas Batum signed a four-year $46 million offer sheet that the Trail Blazers matched when he was a restricted free agent.)
As someone who, like Feigen notes, helped recruit Howard, chances are Parsons will be a team player and wait it out until the Rockets know what their free-agent situation looks like.
Then again, the Rockets could decide to use him as bait for another superstar, as Spears reports:
The Minnesota Timberwolves are still interested in acquiring Thompson in a blockbuster trade that would send All-Star forward Kevin Love to the Warriors, a source said. But the T’wolves also have secondary interest in Parsons, the source said. If the Thompson trade doesn’t happen, the source said Minnesota could attempt a deal sending Love to the Rockets and acquire Parsons in a sign-and-trade.
Gun to the head, back against the wall, lighter to the gasoline-soaked foot, we have to bank on Parsons' return to Houston. But we're at a point where his departure cannot be ruled out.
His restricted free agency guarantees him a raise.
It could also give him a new home.
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