Restricted free agency is a lot more interesting than the regular, unrestricted free agency period. If a team offers a contract to a restricted free agent, that player’s previous team has the right to match any offer. Some players end up signing the one-year qualifying offer from their current team that allows them to become an unrestricted free agent the following year.
The way the system is set up, teams usually end up overpaying for restricted free agents, because offering a large contract is the only way to pry them away from their former teams. It’s a delicate game to play, but one many teams end up playing.
Here are five of the top restricted free agents that may or may not be changing teams this summer:
5. Kelly Oubre Jr., Phoenix Suns
15.2 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.2 apg, 32% 3pt
The Suns are aiming to keep Oubre and could match any offer that he gets, especially after he proved that he could score following a few disappointing years in Washington beforehand. Phoenix does consider Oubre Jr. a part of their core for the future as they try to continue their rebuilding efforts.
But that could change if the Suns can sign a top guard in free agency and decide they don’t want to shell out the money for a long-term deal in Oubre’s name. He’s a young, athletic wing who has shown the ability to be a decent shooter from deep, even if he is inconsistent. Someone will bet on his potential if they sense Phoenix isn’t interested in committing serious money to his development.
Potential landing spots: Phoenix Suns
4. Terry Rozier, Boston Celtics
9.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.9 apg, 35.3% 3pt
Rozier wants out of Boston. The question is, will he get it?
Rozier didn’t have a great season in Boston last year; he failed to build off a breakout campaign during the 2018 playoffs, and wasn’t given much leeway with the return of Kyrie Irving as the starter.
A change of scenery and way more minutes could probably help the 25-year-old guard. He’s shown before that he could play and put his talents on display during the Celtics’ Eastern Conference Championship appearance two seasons ago. Teams looking for a guard should keep him on their radar.
Potential landing spots: Phoenix Suns, New York Knicks
3. Malcolm Brogdon, Milwaukee Bucks
15.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.2 apg, 42.6% 3pt
The Bucks seem to be the favorite to keep their solid and continuously rising third-year guard. However, if they re-sign Khris Middleton, other teams could challenge the Bucks to steal Brogdon away as Milwaukee would be facing a steep luxury tax bill.
Teams could embrace the strategy of offering Brogdon the highest salary possible for next season with descending payments in the years following. He’s a valuable two-way guard who shot 50/40/90 before getting hurt this past season. If the Bucks aren’t willing to pay top dollar for him, they’ll have to face the realistic possibility of his departure.
Potential landing spots: Milwaukee Bucks, Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks
2. Kristaps Porzingis, Dallas Mavericks
Porzingis didn’t play a minute of the 2018-19 season and should be fully healed, refreshed and ready to go next season. The question is, does he stay in Dallas or start anew elsewhere? Coming off the year he missed with a torn ACL, many expect him to sign a long deal with the Mavericks, as risky of an investment as that sounds given his situation.
But some others think he’ll sign the one-year qualifying offer to become an unrestricted free agent next year. There still remains the possibility of another team throwing a long-term deal at Porzingis in the hope Dallas wouldn’t match in light of his health situation. He’s likely to stay in Dallas, however, whether it’s a one-year QO or a long-term deal.
Potential landing spots: Dallas Mavericks
1. D’Angelo Russell, Brooklyn Nets
21.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 7 apg, 36.9% 3pt
D’Angelo Russell isn’t just one of the best restricted free agents available, he’s one of the top overall players potentially available this summer. He had a breakout year leading the Nets back to the playoffs for the first time since 2014 – although they won just one game in the first round.
The question really is whether or not the Nets can sign Kyrie Irving, or if they really want to keep Russell in Brooklyn and go after another big-time free agent more complementary of Russell’s skills. Russell may not be happy about being a second option, but he has no say in what his immediate future in basketball holds. If he hits the open market, he’ll be one of the more coveted options in the league, given his age and breakout season.
Potential landing spots: Brooklyn Nets, Minnesota Timberwolves