We told you restricted free agency is tricky. Well, it’s so tricky that the Memphis Grizzlies and Minnesota Timberwolves decided not to participate in it.
This week, the Grizzlies decided against making a $7.4 million qualifying offer to guard O.J. Mayo while making cheaper QO’s to forwards Marreese Speights and Darrell Arthur. The Timberwolves made the same decision on their $8.2 million qualifying offer to Michael Beasley.
Those decisions make Mayo and Beasley unrestricted free agents – and remove them from our updated list of top RFAs.
Most of theguys on this list will re-sign with their teams. But with the supertax looming next summer, it is no longer a foregone conclusion.
You can also read our updated list of top 25 unrestricted free agents.
1. ERIC GORDON: The clear-cut top choice among RFAs has said he plans to listen to offers from teams other than the Hornets, who reportedly will match any offer he receives, which apparently includes a max offer of $80 million over five years. DESTINATION: New Orleans. The Hornets cannot allow a ballyhooed building block to get away, even after drafting Austin Rivers. THE RIGHT PRICE: Five years, $60 million. He’s not a max player.
2. ROY HIBBERT: Can use his All-Star berth and Indiana’s deep playoff run as bargaining chips and apparently has interest from both Dallas and Houston. He has said it is just a matter of the Pacers stepping up. That sounds like he wants max money. DESTINATION: Indiana, which could have its cap room – and ability to add a competitive piece – wrecked by Hibbert and fellow RFA George Hill. THE RIGHT PRICE: Five years, $55 million. That is just below Al Horford, which sounds right.
3. BROOK LOPEZ: Was super durable until this season, when he played just five games. Could really benefit from Brooklyn’s pursuit of Dwight Howard, because his salary could get an undeserved bump to help the money match in a trade. You can play through him on offense but need to give him a rough-and-tumble sidekick at the other end. DESTINATION: Orlando in a sign-and-trade. THE RIGHT PRICE: Five years, $50 million. He is a notch below Hibbert.
4. RYAN ANDERSON: New Magic GM Rob Hennigan has added some new staff members and been through a draft, crossing some stuff off his punchlist. But he still has to hire a coach, deal with Jameer Nelson opting out and resolve the Dwight Howard mess. While all this is going on, he also has to make sure Anderson – the NBA’s Most Improved Player and a fan favorite – doesn’t get away. Virtually everyone on the Magic’s roster is overpaid. Why not add another? DESTINATION: Orlando. In the wake of Howard’s impending exit, Anderson cannot be allowed to leave. THE RIGHT PRICE: Five years, $45 million. But he may get more.
5. NICOLAS BATUM: One of the few RFAs who actually could end up elsewhere. It all depends on whether new GM Neil Olshey can mend fences with Batum’s agent, who is on record as saying, “The Blazers had their chance.” Olshey drafted a point guard and a center with his lottery picks, which means he is interested in retaining Batum. DESTINATION: Several teams have the cap room to scare off Portland, and Charlotte and/or Phoenix have huge holes at small forward. THE RIGHT PRICE: Five years, $40 million. Anything more from any team constitutes overpaying.
6. JAVALE McGEE: The most enigmatic RFA on the market. He is just 24 and appears to have a much higher ceiling that what he has shown in four seasons. But after being acquired from Washington, he came off the bench behind Timofey Mozgov. And is he ever going to stop the knucklehead stuff and take his profession seriously? An ideal case of someone about to get paid on spec. DESTINATION: Denver. After trading Nene, the Nuggets cannot let him leave. THE RIGHT PRICE: Five years, $40 million. As a young center, he will probably get more.
7. GEORGE HILL: The Pacers have to strike a balance between preserving their salary cap room to pursue another piece that will help them contend with the Heat while retaining both Hibbert and Hill, who is a better player than Darren Collison. However, they could allow Hill to leave if they can upgrade at shooting guard with a free agent such as Gordon (unlikely) or Mayo (more likely). DESTINATION: Indiana. Giving him a long-term deal sends a message to Collison to step up or step off. THE RIGHT PRICE: Four years, $28 million.
8. AARON BROOKS: Remember him? In 2010, he averaged nearly 20 points per game for Houston and was Most Improved Player. Less than a year later, he lost his starting job to Kyle Lowry and was traded for Goran Dragic. He jumped to China during the lockout, but Phoenix retained his rights and plans to make him a qualifying offer, making him a nice insurance policy against Steve Nash’s uncertain future. DESTINATION: Phoenix. Our gut says Nash is bound for New York. But Brooks will generate buzz on the open market. THE RIGHT PRICE: Five years, $30 million.
9. JASON THOMPSON: His minutes and production have dropped since the arrival of DeMarcus Cousins, which may help the Kings a bit in negotiations. So will the drafting of power forward Thomas Robinson. Sacramento has a recent history of overpaying ordinary players (Cisco Garcia, John Salmons, Travis Outlaw, Chuck Hayes). Thompson is a better player than all of them. DESTINATION: Sacramento. If the Kings are smart, they will let another team set the market . THE RIGHT PRICE: Five years, $30 million. With the past overpayments to role players and Cousins and Tyreke Evans looming as extension candidates, the Kings need this number to be reasonable.
10. OMER ASIK: When we last saw him, he was missing clutch free throws, and that will not change. But what should be noted was that he was on the floor at the end of a do-or-die game for the Bulls, who rely heavily on his defense and rebounding. In a fallow market for centers, he could get remarkably rich – or Chicago’s team salary could get turned inside out if it has to match a silly offer. DESTINATION: Chicago, which may cut loose some or all of the non-guaranteed deals of Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver and C.J. Watson to keep its payroll under control. But Charlotte, Portland, Dallas and the LA Clippers all have the minutes and the cap room to make things hairy for the Bulls. Remember Jim McIlvaine? Marcin Gortat? THE RIGHT PRICE: Four years, $21 million.
11. JEREMY LIN: Strongly benefited from arbitration ruling as the Knicks can match any offer received by Lin, whose popularity and marketing possibilities already have made him overpriced. Yes, he became an unlikely hero when he saved New York’s season. But he is seeking a multi-year deal based on a mere two months of sustained solid play. DESTINATION: Not going anywhere, but could share the point with a veteran. THE RIGHT PRICE: Four years, $21 million.
12. COURTNEY LEE: He has gone from a Finals team to a 70-loss team to a lottery team but has not forgotten how to shoot, as his career 39 percent mark from the arc will attest. Last season, he averaged 14.0 points as a starter for the Rockets, who appear to be consumed with landing a true superstar and may use Lee in a sign-and-trade. DESTINATION: Likely elsewhere. If you were the Bulls, would you rather have Rip Hamilton or Lee? And what if the Spurs decide to swap out Danny Green for Lee? THE RIGHT PRICE: Four years, $16 million.
FIVE MORE TO TRACK: D.J. Augustin, G; Jerryd Bayless, G; Landry Fields, F; J.J. Hickson, F; Brandon Rush, G.
Chris Bernucca is a regular contributor to SheridanHoops.com. His columns appear Wednesday and Sunday. You can follow him on Twitter.