We have reached the end of a rather eventful NBA regular season, and are already a week into a very interesting 2017 Playoff campaign. Which means only two months left until the real fun begins; Free Agency! There is no bigger gamble in the NBA than restricted Free Agency; paying developing players oodles of money for what you hope they will become, whilst hoping their original team doesn’t match your offer. It generally leads to an initial overpay, funky contract structures, a lot of smoke screens, disappointment and a bunch of waiting.
Whilst the league has taken steps to reduce the amount of time teams can draw out matching an offer sheet, it is still a nervous wait for the organisation that puts their metaphorical balls on the line in the hopes of stealing away someone else’s talent. Full Bird rights, Early Bird rights, Gilbert Arenas rule, this is when CBA knowledge comes to the forefront and why Magic Johnson went to CBA school (and then possibly committed tampering).
With my initial foray into RFA’s earlier in the year, I looked at who’s stock was on the rise, who was falling and who was sitting steady. Time to check in on the Draft Class of 2013 and see who is getting paid, who is hoping to just get something, and who is joining Anthony Bennett in Europe.
TRISTAN THOMPSON’S “SHOW ME THE MONEY” CONTRACTS
PROS/CONS: KCP is the best 2 guard on the RFA market. His profile fits your prototypical 3&D off guard – capable as a secondary ball handler, decent shooter, ‘lockdown defender’. Whilst KCP has the rep of a stopper, the numbers don’t exactly reflect that. His well below average ratings on Defensive Real Plus/Minus don’t look great, and his PER certainly doesn’t paint the picture of someone who is making major contributions elsewhere on the floor. However, he is developing a reputation as a clutch shot maker, and has the ability to defend 3 positions. Expect someone to pony up a LOT of dough.
POTENTIAL SUITORS: Detroit, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Chicago, Dallas, Minnesota.
PROBABLY OUTCOME: Stays in Detroit. Caldwell-Pope is still young, and one would think the mess that has become the 2017 Pistons has contributed to his somewhat poor advanced numbers. He is relatively indispensable to the Pistons; they literally have no one else to play his position, and no way to replace him if he leaves. It would take a max offer sheet to pry him away, and even then I would expect Stan Van Gundy to swallow hard and match.
ESTIMATED CONTRACT: 4 Years / $100 Mil
PROS/CONS: Hello efficiency! Otto Porter has gone from bust to diverse sharp shooter faster than John Wall on the fast break. Porter is a suped up version of what KCP hopes to be: elite shooter, great cutter, solid defender. All of Porter’s contributions are generally positive, and he can be a legitimate 3rd option on a contender. His D is not quite up to elite standards yet – his Defensive Real Plus/Minus places him 44th among all Small Forwards – and offensive players actually shoot higher percentages against him than the average. But, none of that is going to prevent Porter from cashing in this summer.
POTENTIAL SUITORS: Washington, Dallas, Miami, Orlando, Minnesota, Brooklyn, New York, LA Clippers, Phoenix.
PROBABLY OUTCOME: Chalk up another player on the Wizards making more money than John Wall. Unless Washington do a sign and trade with another team, it’s incredibly unlikely they don’t match on any offer to Porter. They don’t have the cap space to sign a close replacement, and the only other player with a similar game is Trevor Ariza. Good luck prying him from Daryl Morey and the Rockets.
ESTIMATED CONTRACT: 3 Years / $81 Mil thanks to Sean Marks throwing out a curve ball.
PROS/CONS: The cons are obvious. Noel is injury prone and has no range to his game. He is relatively slight of build, meaning he can be bullied by bigger Centres (of which there are starting to become more). He doesn’t rebound a tonne for a 6’11” guy. And…that’s about it. Noel is already a great rim runner out of ball screens, and is an interior presence on the defensive end. After emerging from the glut of bigs in Philly, he has performed well in a somewhat limited role off the bench in Dallas. His PER jumps out straight away. Given the chance, he should turn into Tyson Chandler 2.0.
POTENTIAL SUITORS: Dallas, Philadelphia, LA Lakers, Minnesota, Brooklyn.
PROBABLY OUTCOME: Enjoy Dallas Nerlens. Given that Noel is young and tall and good, the safe bet is Cuban and Donnie Nelson finally let their wheel of fortune style selection of bigs finish with Nerlens in a Mavs uniform. He should be worth the money, but he won’t be cheap. There is gonna be a lot of money tied up in Harrison Barnes and Noel, neither of whom are franchise guys. But what choice do Dallas have?
ESTIMATED CONTRACT: 4 years / $85 Mil
LUOL DENG’S “HOLY CRAP I NEVER EXPECTED THIS MUCH” CONTRACTS
PROS/CONS: A hot streak at end of season for Mirotic has rescued his value (and saved him from a return to the Euroleague) and reminded everyone he can still play basketball. All he needs is to be paired with a defensive big to protect him on that end of the floor and a guard that can create off the bounce. Meanwhile ‘Bush League’ Kelly continues to tantalise as a better, less athletic version of Meyers Leonard (is that a compliment…?). Olynyk has shown the ability to dominate stretches of the game with his shooting and crafty off the bounce game. He is still a deficit on D, but bring him off the bench as a floor spacing 5 and watch the magic happen… every 3 games.
Potential Suitors: Detroit, Minnesota, Chicago, Milwaukee, Boston, Houston, New York, Orlando, Portland, New Orleans, Toronto, Miami.
Likely Outcome: Minnesota would be a good landing spot for Niko. Starting spot, clear role, up and coming team, familiar with the coach. Whether the Bulls decide to push reset given their current playoff performance remains to be seen. For Kelly the outlook is less clear. I could see a return to the Motherland, especially if the Raps don’t sign Ibaka (surely they will though). New York could look to pair him with the Porzingod, or Boston could try and keep him on a hometown discount, although I wouldn’t hold my breath for that.
Estimated contract: 4 years / $60 Mil for Mirotic, 4 years / $45 for Olynyk
PROS/CONS: “Jinglin’ Joe” has become an absolute crowd favourite in Utah, and it’s not hard to see why. He is a steadying influence on an already steady team, and has consistently won more and more trust from Coach Snyder as the season has progressed. Oh yeah, he’s second in the League in 3 point accuracy. Joe doesn’t make mistakes, does the dirty work and makes winning plays. Cha-Ching! Meanwhile, Snell has resurrected himself from the dead to be an effective 3-D guy for the Bucks. Milwaukee have looked so much better since running a line up of Snell, Middleton, Antetokounmpo plus 2 others – Moose/Maker and Delly/Brogdon. Snell is similar to Ingles in that he does what is asked of him, doesn’t demand shots or the ball and doesn’t hurt the team with mistakes.
Potential Suitors: Utah, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Golden State, Houston, San Antonio, Boston, Detroit, Cleveland, Washington, Brooklyn, New York, LA Clippers.
Likely Outcome: Both stay put. There are plenty of teams that should make a run at Ingles, he would be an ideal 7th or 8th man on a playoff contender, but that is exactly why he will stay. Utah took a chance on him and he will reward them. Snell is not as clear since the Bucks have to factor in an extension with Jabari Parker, but the smart money is on him sticking around.
Estimated Contract: 3 Years / $22 Mil for Ingles, 3 Years / $15 Mil for Snell
Others who are set to cash in on better than expected seasons:
- Jonathan Simmons
- Shabazz Mohammad
- Ron Baker
- Alan Williams
ERIC BLEDSOE’S “I THINK I’M WORTH MORE, BUT I’LL TAKE IT” CONTRACT
PROS/CONS: Two polar opposite players who have looked like they could cash in KCP style, but deficiencies will likely hold them back. For Roberson, his defence has been well documented. He has great size length, timing, and enough fast twitchiness to stick with the game’s most elite wings. On O, he can crash the offensive glass, cuts to the rim well when off the ball, and…..literally nothing else. Roberson had been shooting himself to the bench more often than not until his playoff explosion. THJ on paper looks like a one dimensional scorer ala former-Knick JR Smith. But he holds his opponents to a below average FG%, and has shown some ‘clutchness’ in several key games this year. Hardaway needs to round out his numbers, but the potential for growth is still there.
Potential Suitors: OKC, Detroit, Atlanta, New York, Denver, Charlotte, San Antonio, Brooklyn, Philadelphia.
Likely Outcome: Both re-sign with their current clubs. Atlanta have no other shooters in their back court, and OKC have no other reliable defender. I would love to see the Spurs take a crack at fixing Roberson’s broken J though, and Hardaway on a young Philly team would be a good fit.
Estimated Contract: 4 Years / $48 Mil for Hardaway Jr, 4 Years / $60 mil for Roberson.
PROS/CONS: Lets start with Alex Len. On the plus side – he’s 7 feet, young, looks slightly scary, and has shown he can have monster games when given the chance. On the flip – he doesn’t pass, hasn’t shown much improvement since year 2 and Alan Williams looked better when Phoenix turned the team into an AAU squad. Len almost definitely has his best ball ahead of him, but how much will you pay to find out? Mason Plumlee is in a tough spot. He’s already 26, can’t shoot outside of the paint and isn’t a great defender or rebounder. However, he is an excellent passer who fits with the Nuggets offensive scheme, can run the floor and isn’t a head case. Plus, Denver gave up Jusuf Nurkic and a 2017 First to get him. I’d say retaining him is important.
Potential Suitors: Brooklyn, Denver, New York, Phoenix, Indiana, Boston.
Likely Outcome: Denver gave up way too much to let Plumdog Millionaire walk for nothing, although they have to realise he will demand to make more per year than his brother. Len kicks the tires on the market and finds Boston willing to take a punt on some young size, but Phoenix match.
Estimated Contract: 4 Years / $42 Mil for Len, 3 Years $45 Mil for Plumlee
Others who might have to settle for less than they wanted at the start of the year:
- Bojan Bogdanovic
- JaMychal Green
DONATAS MOTIEJūNAS’ “PLEASE JUST GIVE ME A CONTRACT” CONTRACTS
PROS/CONS: A former Champ, a former ROY, and a former ‘Next Ray Allen’. McLemore is still a good athlete, capable shooter and doesn’t appear to be a bad locker room guy. Having said that, he has not improved in four years and doesn’t really defend. McAdoo has been somewhat fortunate to get the run he has received. Steve Kerr plays all his guys, so James Michael has seen the floor. He has decent touch on the interior and his per 36 numbers are serviceable, but so are a bunch of guys. MCW could be great. He has wreaked havoc on the floor in multiple occasions, quick reflexes, long and lean build, good motor. But my god, that jumper could be used as the main villain in a horror movie. Another candidate for Chip England’s School For Broken Jump Shots.
Potential Suitors: San Antonio, Sacramento, Memphis, Brooklyn, New York, Orlando, Toronto, Golden State, New Orleans, Indiana.
Likely Outcome: The Spurs back their player development team by taking a swing on MCW after losing Patty Mills. Memphis takes on McLemore an McAdoo ends up in Brooklyn with the Dubs in penny pinching mode.
Estimated Contract: 2 Years / $6mil for MCW, 2 Years / $8 for , 1 year / Minimum for McAdoo.
Others who will be grateful to land another deal:
- Reggie Bullock
- Cristiano Felicio
- Joffrey Lauvergne
THOMAS ROBINSON’S “WAIT, I’M NOT EVEN GETTING A QUALIFYING OFFER?” LACK OF CONTRACTS
PROS/CONS: Well… Jordan McRae has championship experience, so that is a pro? He can also fill it up, sort of like a poor man’s JR Smith with less range and explosive leaping ability. He’s not much of a defender, but he is young. Expect the Cavs to rescind his QO (if they even offer it) to preserve cap space. As for Aaron Harrison? It must suck to watch your twin get time on a playoff team whilst contemplating which country in Europe you would least hate to live in whilst playing professionally.
Then there is Trey Burke. You can forgive McRae and Harrison – 2nd round picks that were always going to be a long shot to stick around. Burke had a stellar college career, and none of his ability there has translated to the Pro’s. He can’t shoot, isn’t much of an athlete, and might not be able to guard me on the court. If you’re in China next year, be sure to keep an eye out for Burke v Fredette.
Potential Suitors: Brooklyn really should take a look at someone like McRae, as should the Pistons and maybe even the Bulls. The potential market for Harrison and Burke doesn’t appear to be much, but perhaps Sacramento take a swing at some Major College Pedigree. There is also Memphis desperate for guards.
Likely Outcome: All 3 become UFA’s due to their Qualifying Offers being withdrawn. McRae signs with Chicago, Harrison gets a training camp invite from New Orleans (Big Blue connection) and Burke goes to Memphis for training camp in the hopes he can be their back up 1.
Estimated Contract: Jordan McRae, 2 Years / $2.5 Mil. Aaron Harrison, 1 year / Minimum (non guaranteed). Trey Burke 1 year / Minimum (non guaranteed).
Others likely out of the League:
- Arinze Onuaku
- Damjan Rudez
- Nicolas Laprovittola