Five Non-Bird Free Agents Who May Be Difficult To Re-Sign

Every player who finishes a season as a member of an NBA roster gets some form of Bird rights as a free agent, allowing his team to go over the cap to re-sign him. However, a player who spent just one year with his club typically only has Non-Bird rights, which are the weakest form of Bird rights, as their oxymoronic name suggests.

With the Non-Bird exception, a team can re-sign a player for up to four years and give him a raise, but that raise has to be a modest one. Non-Bird rights allow for a starting salary worth up to 120% of the player’s previous salary or 120% of the minimum salary, whichever is greater.

In other words, a Non-Bird free agent who earned $5MM can only get a starting salary worth up to $6MM on his new deal unless his team uses cap room or another exception (such as the mid-level) to bring him back.

This cap restriction will apply specifically to a handful of players around the NBA who may be in line for raises this summer. Because these players will be Non-Bird free agents, it may be a challenge for their teams to re-sign them without cap room or an exception like the bi-annual or mid-level.

Let’s take a closer look at five players who will fall into this category this offseason…

Markieff Morris, F, Lakers
Dwight Howard, C, Lakers

During their run to the NBA Finals, the Lakers have matched up with talented opposing centers such as Nikola Jokic, Jusuf Nurkic, and Bam Adebayo, while also facing a Rockets team that doesn’t use a traditional center. Anthony Davis has, of course, been the most important factor in the Lakers winning those frontcourt battles, but Morris and Howard have played major roles as well, proving their value as role players on a championship-caliber team.

Morris signed a $1.75MM contract during the season, while Howard’s one-year deal is worth the veteran’s minimum, so neither player can sign for more than 120% of the minimum if the over-the-cap Lakers hope to use their Non-Bird rights. If the cap doesn’t increase, that would mean a max of $2.8MM for Morris and $3.08MM for Howard.

My assumption is that both players would be able to do better than that on the open market. So if they’re not willing to accept team-friendly discounts to remain in Los Angeles, the Lakers may have to dip into their mid-level exception (projected to be worth $9.26MM) to try to re-sign one or both players.

Carmelo Anthony, F, Trail Blazers

Anthony’s NBA career appeared to be on the verge of ending before he worked out a minimum-salary deal with Portland. He outperformed that modest contract, with 15.4 PPG and 6.3 RPG on .430/.385/.845 shooting in 58 games (all starts) for the Trail Blazers in 2019/20.

Like Howard, Anthony would be limited to a ’20/21 salary of $3.08MM via his Non-Bird rights. If the Blazers need to go higher than that to retain him, they’ll have to repeat a move they used last summer, when they re-signed Non-Bird free agent Rodney Hood with their taxpayer mid-level exception in order to give him a raise.

Jeff Green, F, Rockets

Green was underwhelming during his brief stint with Utah early in the 2019/20 season, but he thrived in Houston, averaging 12.2 PPG on .564/.354/.857 shooting in 18 games (22.6 MPG) as part of the club’s micro-ball lineup. He was nearly as good in the postseason, with 11.6 PPG on .495/.426/.824 shooting in an increased role (28.6 MPG).

Green hasn’t signed a contract worth more than the minimum since 2016, so it’s possible that’s all it will take for Houston or another team to sign him this fall. That’d be a best-case scenario for the Rockets, given how well he fit in their system down the stretch — topping any rival offer exceeding $3.08MM would mean dipping into the mid-level or bi-annual.

Reggie Jackson, G, Clippers

Like most players on the buyout market, Jackson signed a minimum-salary contract with the Clippers to finish out the season, meaning the team will be limited to an offer starting at about $2.8MM.

Jackson was pretty good for the Clippers in 17 regular season games, knocking down 41.3% of his three-point attempts and chipping in 9.5 PPG and 3.2 APG. But he fell out of the rotation in the second round of the playoffs vs. Denver, and the Clippers will likely be looking to upgrade the point guard position this fall. A reunion probably doesn’t make sense for either side, especially if Jackson can get offers exceeding the Non-Bird limit.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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19 thoughts on “Five Non-Bird Free Agents Who May Be Difficult To Re-Sign

  1. I'm a starboy not a Dr...

    Lakers should definitely re up Morris & trade Kuzma and others for a third star….

  2. Sillivan

    Look at my post one month ago.
    Someone will offer 1 year 6 million contract to Jeff Green.
    According to John Hollinger, Rockets are currently 4 million over the tax line. The owner is trying to avoid paying the tax.

    • harden-westbrook-mvps

      Don’t you think that every owner in the NBA is trying to avoid paying luxury taxes, not just Fertitta? It will be nearly impossible for the Warriors and Sixers to avoid paying huge tax bills next year. Boston and Brooklyn will also very likely be paying substantial luxury taxes, but any tax bill for Houston will be just a few million which isn’t that big of a deal.

      • Dodgethis

        Warriors aren’t avoiding taxes like the cheap rockets are. Quite the opposite in fact.

      • LordBanana

        Obviously not all owners try to avoid luxury tax because many of them clearly know that when your team is competitive you pay the tax to try to get the championship. The most profitable teams are winners, sacrificing playoff wins to save a couple million dollars just loses more money in the long run.

        Look at the history of tax paying teams, they are almost always playoff teams and are often champions.

    • x%sure

      Nobody’s going to search for your post. That is YOUR job. It would be exhausting to sift through all those first posts that are just mysterious questions that have no purpose except to be the first to post.

      Jeff Green needs a particular situation where he can get going. It shrinks his market. Why would I look for a predictive post where the prediction result is not in yet? I’ll say 2/$6, double less.

  3. Sillivan

    The teams may sign Jeff Green are
    and any teams are planning to make playoffs

  4. x%sure

    Reggie Jackson should be a great value as a sparking attacker & scorer, like Trey Burke, or the best, Lou Williams, who Jackson has observed. His days as lead guard are over, probably to the liklihood that he can stay healthy with the reduced stress. I would say a 1/$8 do to his 3pt%, but he will probably get just a 1/$3.

    Dwight H is reverting into antic mode at the present, which if anything will make him easier to re-sign. He has lost value but the semi-lockdown does his big personality no favors. Many different offers could happen. The next game will matter.

    • x%sure

      *due* to his 41% 3pt shooting…

      My worry is Dwight declining but maybe getting back to his mansion will even him out in normal regular years lol.

  5. bowserhound

    Resigning Morris is a far more important task to the Lakers. Big hitting 3’s is way more valuable than Dwight Howard in any facet.

    • DeathbyDeathwest

      In their series with the Nuggets, Dwight was faaaaaar more valuable than Morris.

      If LAL can bring them both back somehow, that’d be ideal. If I were LAL, I’d rather lock in Howard and settle for a different aging shooter if I have to.

  6. davethemailman

    I agree with you, and would like to see both Howard and Morris come back for the Lakers. Both of them have been major contributors. Especially if they can win the championship, it is always cool to bring back important players and see if they can defend the title the next year. As for Kuzma, your guess is as good as mine. Go Lakers!

    • piechucker

      Brooklyn are over the salary cap so the can only offer the minimum, which is less than the non-bird rights that Portland can offer

      • Luke Adams

        They’ll also have the taxpayer mid-level exception (worth about $5.72MM if the cap doesn’t increase).

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