Restricted free agency can be a minefield for NBA players, who have to work with their agents to determine whether it makes sense to negotiate directly with their own teams or to seek an offer sheet from another suitor.
For certain players, restricted free agency can be a route to a big payday, since teams looking to pry away an RFA from another team might have to overpay to do it —last summer, for instance, Kyle Anderson probably did better as a restricted free agent than he would have if he had been unrestricted. Clint Capela, Aaron Gordon, Dante Exum, and Davis Bertans were among the other RFAs that secured multiyear deals.
However, for some restricted free agents, seeking out that mega-deal can backfire. In past years, RFAs like Nerlens Noel and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope have reportedly turned down lucrative long-term offers and then had to settle for one-year contracts instead. In 2018, Rodney Hood ultimately had to sign his one-year, $3.47MM qualifying offer after failing to land a longer-term pact.
While it’s not necessarily the end of the world if an RFA has to accept a one-year deal that sets him up for unrestricted free agency 12 months later, a long-term deal is generally preferred if the money is right, since that sort of payday can increase a young player’s career earnings exponentially.
Heading into the 2019 free agent period, there are a number of restricted free agents who appear well positioned to secure big multiyear contracts. Here are six of them:
- D’Angelo Russell, G (Nets): Russell vowed this week that he’ll win the Most Improved Player award. There are enough worthy candidates for the award that he may not deliver on that promise, but he’s one of the few MIP contenders who took his big leap forward in a contract year. Carrying the Nets in Caris LeVert‘s absence, Russell has significantly increased many of his key counting stats (20.4 PPG, 6.8 APG) while also putting up the best shooting percentages of his career (.436 FG%, .366 3PT%).
- Kristaps Porzingis, F/C (Mavericks): Unlike Russell, Porzingis isn’t a candidate for a maximum-salary contract by virtue of the strides he has made this year. In fact, the only strides Porzingis has made are the literal ones required during his ACL rehab. Still, the Mavericks didn’t acquire KP with the intent of taking things year-by-year with him — it would be a major surprise if the two sides don’t reach an agreement on a long-term deal this summer.
- Malcolm Brogdon, G (Bucks): Brogdon has been somewhat overlooked in Milwaukee, where Giannis Antetokounmpo is an MVP frontrunner, Eric Bledsoe just signed a $70MM extension, and Khris Middleton is set to become one of the offseason’s most coveted free agents. But the 26-year-old has been a crucial part of the Bucks’ success, and is on the verge of becoming one of the few players to join the 50/40/90 club, having shot .511/.438/.932 this season. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see a rival team try to pry him away from the Bucks in July.
- Terry Rozier, G (Celtics): Rozier hasn’t looked this season like the player who helped lead the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals a year ago. But that can be attributed in large part due to a somewhat inconsistent role off the bench. A team with a hole at the point may believe in Rozier’s ability to regain his 2018 postseason form in a starting role. Plus, as is the case with Brogdon, there will likely be teams around the league hoping to poach an asset from a contender.
- Tomas Satoransky, G (Wizards): Satoransky’s importance to the 2019/20 Wizards increased exponentially when John Wall tore his Achilles and was ruled out through the ’19 calendar year. Satoransky doesn’t demand the ball a ton, which makes him a solid fit alongside Bradley Beal, and given Washington’s dearth of point guard options if he walks, he’s well positioned to negotiate a favorable deal with the club.
- Kelly Oubre, F (Suns): With Trevor Ariza drawing interest around the NBA earlier in the season, the Suns opted to trade him for Oubre rather than future draft picks, a signal that they view the former Wizard as a potential long-term piece. The 23-year-old has been a good fit so far, averaging 16.0 PPG and a .442 FG% in 34 games with the Suns. Both would be career highs.
For a full breakdown of the players who could reach restricted free agency this summer, check out our list of 2019 free agents.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.