Typically, a few of the top restricted free agents linger on the market, as incumbent teams use the dual hammer of their right to match against dwindling cap space for would-be suitors. That was the case last year with Greg Monroe, who eventually pulled off a power play and signed his qualifying offer, and with Eric Bledsoe, who finally got the Suns to budge and wound up with a five-year, $70MM deal.
This year, only Tristan Thompson lingers among top-flight free agents, and a key deadline looms Thursday. That’s the last day teams can withdraw qualifying offers without the player’s consent. The Cavs almost certainly won’t pull their qualifying offer to Thompson either before or after the deadline, but that might happen for some of the other remaining restricted free agents. If a player gives his permission after the deadline passes, the team loses his Bird rights.
Here’s a look at where each remaining restricted free agent stands:
- Tristan Thompson — The Rich Paul client is by far the most intriguing name left in restricted free agency. His deal was supposed to get done before Cleveland re-signed LeBron James, but LeBron signed a week ago. Thompson and the Cavs were reportedly close to a deal for more than $80MM on the first day of free agency, but even as the sides seemingly maintain amicable relations, the talks have bogged down. Thompson reportedly asked for $85MM, pointing to the deal that Draymond Green received, but while initial reports indicated Green would get that much, he wound up with $82MM instead.
- Norris Cole — The Pelicans are only willing to go so far for their backup point guard, but they apparently remain interested. The Sixers, with max-level cap room to give, are also reportedly in the hunt, and while Philly surely won’t be offering him the max, the team has the power to float an offer sheet large enough to give New Orleans pause. Cole is a Rich Paul client, like Thompson, but while the Cavs were reportedly interested in trading for Cole at the deadline, they can’t pay him a starting salary of any better than $1.276MM, which is all they have left on their taxpayer’s mid-level after signing Mo Williams.
- Matthew Dellavedova — The Cavs and their own backup guard seemingly made progress early in free agency, but the movement seemed to stall, and while GM David Griffin recently reiterated his interest in keeping Dellavedova, the undrafted gem is apparently seeking $4MM annual salaries on a multiyear deal. That would entail a total bill of an estimated $18MM in combined salary and tax penalties, given Cleveland’s soaring payroll.
- K.J. McDaniels — Last year’s 32nd overall pick bet on himself when he signed the Sixers’ required minimum-salary tender instead of a four-year contract, and even though he didn’t see much action after a midseason trade to the Rockets, it sounds like he’s about to cash in. The Rockets are reportedly targeting him for the $5.464MM mid-level exception, though I wouldn’t be surprised if Houston is trying to get him to take only a portion of that. The Knicks, limited to their $2.814MM room exception at this point, reportedly expressed interest at the start of free agency.
- Ognjen Kuzmic — Judging by the mere presence of his qualifying offer, Golden State’s desire to keep its championship team intact extends even to Kuzmic, who’s played more D-League games than NBA games the past two seasons. Negotiations appear to be slow-going, at best, given the dearth of reports about him, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see Kuzmic, a native of Bosnia and Herzegovina, end up back overseas.
- Nando De Colo — Surprisingly, the Raptors made a qualifying offer to the guard even though he spent this past season playing overseas with CSKA Moscow. It doesn’t appear as though the sides have made any progress toward a deal, so the guess here is that Toronto will rescind the qualifying offer before Thursday’s deadline.