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Qualifying Offer Adjustments Via Starter Criteria

The timing of the three-team trade that sent Iman Shumpert to the Cavaliers on January 5th was likely influenced more by the looming leaguewide contract guarantee date than by any other factor. Still, it was rather significant that the move came after Shumpert had played his 24th game of the season, having started each of them. That was precisely the number of starts that Shumpert needed to make this season to average 41 starts over this season and last, which triggered a bump in his qualifying offer via the league’s so-called starter criteria. Shumpert hasn’t started a single game since the trade, but the Cavs will have to make a qualifying offer worth $4,433,683, instead of $3,695,169, to match offers for him in restricted free agency this summer.

Qualifying offers took on a new level of importance this past summer, when Greg Monroe followed through on his threat to sign his qualifying offer from the Pistons as a means to control his future and reach unrestricted free agency as soon as possible. Eric Bledsoe seemingly came close to doing so before he ended up with a five-year, $70MM deal with the Suns. Kevin Seraphin signed his qualifying offer from the Wizards, joining Monroe in a move that only 16 others have made since 1995. A report before the trade deadline this year indicated that Reggie Jackson was open to signing a qualifying offer from the Thunder.

The qualifying offer almost always represents a steeply discounted salary for a player of the likes of Monroe, Bledsoe and Jackson, which helps explain why Monroe is probably the best player ever to have signed one. Still, for others, like Seraphin, it represents a salary in line with their value. That’s why the starter criteria, which help determine how much qualifying offers are worth, are a key factor for many.

The starter criteria are fulfilled if a player eligible for restricted free agency makes 41 or more starts or plays 2,000 minutes in the season preceding the end of his contract, or in the average of the two seasons preceding the end of his contract. The following are the consequences for meeting or not meeting the starter criteria as they appear in our Hoops Rumors Glossary entry on qualifying offers and as informed by Larry Coon’s invaluable Salary Cap FAQ:

  • A top-14 pick who does not meet the starter criteria will receive a qualifying offer equal to the amount the 15th overall pick would receive if he signed for 120% of the rookie scale.
  • A player picked between 10th and 30th who meets the criteria will receive a qualifying offer equal to the amount the ninth overall pick would receive if he signed for 120% of the rookie scale.
  • A second-round pick or undrafted player who meets the criteria will receive a qualifying offer equal to the amount the 21st overall pick would receive if he signed for 100% of the rookie scale.
  • For all others, the standard criteria determine the amounts of their qualifying offers.

The final four weeks of the season will be crucial for a pair of players eligible for qualifying offers this summer. Henry Sims of the Sixers needs to make 10 more starts to bump his qualifying offer from $1,181,348 to $2,725,003. That’s an iffy proposition, since he’s been in and out of the starting lineup this season and last made a start on March 2nd. The Pelicans don’t have enough games left for Norris Cole to make enough starts, but if he averages 32.7 minutes per game over the 15 contests remaining on the team’s schedule, his qualifying offer will go from $3,036,927 to $4,433,683. That’s unlikely but conceivable, since he’s averaging 26.8 MPG as a Pelican.

The following players are former second-round picks or undrafted players who’ve already triggered the starter criteria and are due qualifying offers of $2,725,003 this summer. Their previous qualifying offers are listed by their names.

These are the players selected with picks 10-30 in the 2011 draft who’ve triggered the starter criteria for qualifying offers of $4,433,683 in the offseason ahead. Again, the previous qualifying offers are listed next to their names.

These are 2011 lottery picks who almost certainly won’t meet the starter criteria, meaning their qualifying offers will decline to $4,045,894. The qualifying offers they had been in line to make are listed by their names.

The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.

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