NBA Free Agency Watch: Day 4
The New Orleans Pelicans have prepared a four-year, $44 million offer sheet for restricted free-agent guard Tyreke Evans, hoping to scare off the Sacramento Kings from matching.
The move appears to have worked, with a sign-and-trade developing that could return Greivis Vasquez and Robin Lopez to the Kings for Evans.
Aside from Evans and Tiago Splitter, who agreed to a four-year deal worth $36 million with the San Antonio Spurs, there hasn’t been much activity with restricted free agents this offseason.
That’s because bidding on a team’s restricted free agent can be a cumbersome process. After an offer sheet is signed as early as July 10 (once the league’s moratorium has been lifted), a team has three days to match the offer. Extending an offer sheet to a restricted free agent ties up that team’s money for three days and prevents them for pursuing other options, which is why most restricted free agents won’t receive offers until the unrestricted pool has started to dry up.
Ugly terms such as front-loaded contracts, back-loaded contracts and trade kickers are among the tools that teams use to try to steal away their target. Overpaying is almost a given, which is why most of the activity since the July 1 start of free agency has involved unrestricted players.
The number of restricted players isn’t especially long. Most are expected to stick with their respective franchises:
Nikola Pekovic – Minnesota Timberwolves
After Dwight Howard and Al Jefferson, Pekovic is arguably the next best center available. His market might not be set until the dominoes fall.
Because Budinger’s cap hold is just $884,293, the Wolves can sign him to a three-year, $16 million deal after they’ve used the rest of their spending power. Until he signs, he only counts at that lower figure.
The Wolves may have to cut non-guaranteed players Greg Stiemsma and Mickael Gelabale in order to free up enough space to give Pekovic up to a five-year, $57 million deal. That might be high, but if another team does offer more, the Wolves may have to move a player to gain space.
It probably won’t come to that. Pencil in a Pekovic return on a long-term deal with Minnesota.
Brandon Jennings – Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks are close striking a deal with O.J. Mayo. They need a point guard and Jennings looks like the path of least resistance.
Will Milwaukee make him a lucrative offer or will Jennings look instead to accept the one-year tender at $4.5 million to try again next summer unrestricted?
Given the Bucks’ spending power, Jennings is more likely than not to stay — the question is for how long?
Jennings spent a year overseas before joining the NBA, skipping college altogether. Would it surprise anyone if Jennings did the one-year thing in Milwaukee?
Jeff Teague – Atlanta Hawks
Atlanta is in the running for unrestricted free agent Dwight Howard but they’re a long shot. Instead, the Hawks may turn to Utah Jazz center Al Jefferson.
Atlanta also agreed to terms with shooter Kyle Korver on a four-year, $24 million deal.
The smart money says Teague works a deal with Atlanta.
Chris Copeland/Pablo Prigioni – New York Knicks
Given the roster, and upcoming addition of Andrea Bargnani, New York is likely to use some of their taxpayer Mid-Level Exception on Prigioni.
Copeland is being pursued by a number of teams including the Indiana Pacers, Utah Jazz, Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers.
Odds are the Knicks won’t have the financial means to match. Prigioni stays — Copeland goes.
Gerald Henderson – Charlotte Bobcats
Henderson is a very solid player. He would help any number of contenders, but how much is he worth in dollars? The Bobcats, in general, can be hard to read.
While the franchise is chasing Al Jefferson, they certainly need a two-guard.
If Henderson doesn’t get a suitable offer from the Bobcats (or another franchise), he might be a candidate to accept his $4.5 million qualifying offer and hit free agency next year unrestricted.
A slightly tough call, but lean towards a Charlotte return.
Timofey Mozgov – Denver Nuggets
JaVale McGee is fully expected to start at the five for rookie Coach Brian Shaw.
The Nuggets need a backup center and for Mozgov’s $3.9 million qualifying offer, that’s an easy move for Denver.
Will another team make a run at Mozgov? A good offer should pry him from Denver pretty easily.
Other Notable Restricted Free Agents
Gary Neal – San Antonio Spurs
Neal is a fit with the Spurs. Would he be helpful somewhere else? Maybe so, but he’s unlikely to get any major offers this summer outside of San Antonio.
Robert Sacre – Los Angeles Lakers
The seldom-used center was a positive in the locker room. He’s happy there, the team wants him back and it’s unlikely any other suitors step in.