All but five NBA teams have at least one player eligible for restricted free agency next season, though the number of players who actually become restricted free agents usually isn’t as high as that might suggest. Only 17 players wound up signing NBA contracts via restricted free agency this past offseason, in large measure because teams declined to tender qualifying offers to many free agents they didn’t prioritize keeping. Teams must make qualifying offers to restrict the free agency of their players, but there’s little reason to retain the right to match offers for a player who isn’t in demand, particularly when qualifying offers almost always entail a higher salary than the player saw the year before.
Still, several marquee and second-tier players near the end of their deals will indeed become restricted free agents. Only players who’ve been in the league for three or fewer seasons can be made restricted free agents, with the exception of players on rookie scale contracts, who can be restricted free agents after those four-year contracts run to term.
However, if a team declines a team option on a rookie scale contract, it can’t make the player a restricted free agent, even if the rookie deal ran only two or three seasons. If teams decline their options on non-rookie scale contracts, they can still restrict the player’s free agency. Team options are nonetheless rare for deals that aren’t rookie scale contracts, as most teams employ non-guaranteed salary instead, but if a club waives a non-guaranteed contract, it can’t make the player a restricted free agent no matter how long he’s been in the league.
Here’s a team-by-team look at the players eligible for restricted free agency this year:
* — The Rockets hold a team option on Papanikolaou, but if they decline it, he’ll be eligible for restricted free agency. Houston was in the same position last season with Chandler Parsons, and the team declined its option, making him a restricted free agent and choosing not to match when he signed an offer sheet with the Mavs. The market for Papanikolaou is not expected to approach last year’s demand for Parsons, however.
The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.