NBA Trade Candidate Watch: RFAs-To-Be

With the March 25 trade deadline fast approaching, Hoops Rumors is taking a closer look at players around the NBA who are candidates to be moved this month, breaking them down into several categories based on their age, contracts, on-court value, and other categories. Today, we’ll zero in on players who will be eligible for restricted free agency at season’s end.

Players eligible for restricted free agency make for interesting trade candidates. On one hand, they generally don’t make a ton of money, making them tricky to include in a deal for an impact veteran whose salary must be matched. And many RFAs-to-be will require a significant investment when their contracts expire in a few months, which reduces their trade value.

Conversely though, if a team is unsure about its willingness to match an offer sheet for an RFA-to-be during a coming offseason, or if it knows that player isn’t in its long-term plans, it can make sense to explore the market in the hopes of getting something for that player, rather than letting him walk in a few months for nothing.

In one of 2020’s biggest trade deadline deals, the Timberwolves acquired Malik Beasley and Juan Hernangomez, then signed them to multiyear contracts as restricted free agents a few months later. In 2019, the Mavericks did the same with Kristaps Porzingis.

Who are the likeliest candidates among this year’s RFAs-to-be? Let’s dive in and take a look…


The top RFAs-to-be:

It’s a safe bet that the players in this group will do well for themselves in free agency this summer. Collins should get a maximum-salary offer or close to it; Robinson could command Davis Bertans– or Joe Harris-type money; and Ball and Markkanen have flashed enough of the upside that made them lottery picks to entice a team to make a big multiyear commitment.

The Hawks, Heat, Pelicans, and Bulls will have to decide how much they’re willing to pay to retain their respective players. If they’re worried the price tag will exceed their comfort level, trying to work out a sign-and-trade in the offseason could work — they could also match a summer offer sheet in the hopes of trading the player down the road. But it might be wise to gauge what they could get at this month’s deadline.

Of these four, I think Robinson is probably the least likely to be moved at the deadline — it would only make sense for the Heat to trade him if it’s part of a package for a star, and I don’t expect that sort of star to be available this month.

Ball, and Markkanen are more interesting trade candidates, though I won’t be surprised if the Pelicans and Bulls ultimately don’t feel as if the offers on the table are strong enough to accept. Rival suitors may believe they’ll be able to poach Ball or Markkanen away from their current teams with an aggressive offer sheet, lessening the need to give up assets for them now.

Trent is a key part of the Blazers’ rotation and one of the team’s top outside shooting threats, but it’s unclear if the team will be eager to invest big money in another guard. He’d be an appealing trade chip in a package for an impact player.

Collins is the most intriguing case in this group. Although the Hawks weren’t comfortable going up to the maximum salary when they discussed an extension last fall, I could see them matching a max offer sheet this summer to make sure they don’t lose him for nothing. If a team really wants Collins, now may be the time to make a play for him.


The wild cards:

The first six names in this list are former second-round draft picks or undrafted free agents whose solid play has put them in line for significant raises on their next contracts. Those raises could come from their current teams, but it’s unclear whether they’re all part of the long-term plans for their respective clubs.

Graham, for instance, may be the odd man out in a backcourt that now features LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier. Nunn has been in and out of the Heat’s rotation since last year’s playoffs, raising questions about whether he’s viewed as a long-term fixture in Miami.

Horton-Tucker was a preseason star in December, and while he’s been just okay during the regular season, he’s just 20 years old and has plenty of potential, so he’ll be a popular target in free agency. It remains to be seen whether the Lakers are committed to keeping him as part of an increasingly expensive roster.

Mykhailiuk is a talented young shooter, but he wasn’t acquired by the Pistons’ current front office, and GM Troy Weaver has almost entirely turned the roster over since he arrived — Mykhailiuk could be the next player shipped out.

Davis recently had domestic assault charges against him dismissed, but the Raptors’ front office may not view that outcome as an exoneration. That case could factor into the club’s enthusiasm for a new long-term deal with Davis.

The one player who doesn’t quite fit in this group is Monk. A former lottery pick, he looked for a long time like a disappointment at the NBA level and a player who wouldn’t be part of the Hornets’ future, but that changed, beginning in late January.

In his last 16 games, Monk has averaged 16.9 PPG with a .436 3PT%, and is making a strong case to receive a $7MM+ qualifying offer that seemed extremely unlikely just a few weeks ago. Presumably, Charlotte would still trade him in the right deal, but he has more value than just a salary throw-in now.


The players who probably won’t even become RFAs:

This group is made up of players who are technically eligible for restricted free agency but probably won’t receive qualifying offers, and will instead become unrestricted FAs.

In some cases, these guys may end up as salary-matching filler in a deadline trade — the Sixers, for instance, could include Ferguson in a package to acquire a player who would actually see regular minutes. Ditto for Wilson and the Bucks.

Ntilikina and Jackson may still have a small amount of value if there are teams out there that believe they can get more out of these former first-round picks than their current clubs have. Ntilikina has at least shown he can defend at the NBA level, while Jackson is only a couple years removed from knocking down 35.5% of his threes as a regular rotation player (19.9 MPG) across 81 games.

Dennis Smith Jr. would have been included in this group as well, but he has already been dealt to a new team, with the Pistons auditioning him in advance of his free agency.


The full list of potential 2021 restricted free agents – including Josh Hart, Zach Collins, and others – can be found right here.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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22 thoughts on “NBA Trade Candidate Watch: RFAs-To-Be

  1. I Beg To Differ

    Wonder if the heat would do a Kendrick Nunn and Herro deal for John Collins and other assets.

    Atlanta needs shooting and they aren’t committed to Collins. Heat could use Collins as a big next to Bam.

    Maybe Collins Fernando heading back to Heat for Nunn Herro. Somewhere in there draft picks switch hands, but that’s the essence of the deal.

  2. Julian Lemus

    This may sound like a bad trade but Juan and Malik to the heat and Kelly to the t wolves or bjelica to the heat and Kelly to the kings which one sounds better

  3. Julian Lemus

    What if the lakers trade kuz kcp and Caruso for tlc joe and Jeff lakers nets trade cuz kuz was gonna get traded in the offseason but it never happened

    • x%sure

      Who? tlc joe jeff. Quit mumble-typing. Kuzma supplies necessary depth since they let alternatives go. Maybe, he’s a connection with fans of the pre-Bron Lakers, but they might deny it!

      • Julian Lemus

        Ummm kuz scores like 20ppg one game then scores like 5ppg I have friends that are laker fans and they told kuzma should be traded for demar he’s way better than kuzma and do u want to have a guy that can be trusted to win the game when lebron or Anthony is having a bad game besides kuzma is ain’t no mini lebron I can’t stand when people say that kuzma is mini lebron cause he’s not

        • x%sure

          I suppose Kuzma could be traded for a half-year of Derozan.
          But they are not equal in ability!

          If you think they are, then you appreciate his contribution way more than I do or any GM.

          But retaining him can be justified given AD’s fragility and Kuzma’s lack of value in getting any return.

  4. wildboys

    I really do not understand what Atlanta was thinking when they signed Bogdanovich and Gallinari in the offseason, knowing what they had already in Collins and Hunter.
    Now they’re going to lose the hardest working player on their team, bc they don’t have the cap going forward ?

  5. Cap & Crunch

    THT is an interesting case which probably starts with how much tax Lakers FO is willingly too take on next year –

    I just don’t see them retaining all 5 of KCP Caruso Schroeder Kuzma and Tht next year

    Out of the 5; I think KCP is the least valuable to the Lakers , but also the hardest to move off of via trade . Kuzma is probably the easiest but the Lakers kinda need his size/rebounding moving forward more than “another” guard so its tricky

    And then after all that your just kinda at the peril of Harrell with his player option as well….. Gonna be a hold your breath situation all off season no matter what the case…the tax will be heavy no matter what but are they willing to go heavier is yet to be seen

  6. phenomenalajs

    Jarrett Allen was just traded, but I believe he still fits in this category. It’s clear that the Cavs have chosen him over Drummond, but that won’t stop other teams from sending an offer sheet his way.

    • Luke Adams

      I may not have made it clear, but the RFAs I included in this post are generally the ones I think are the likeliest trade candidates. The Cavs definitely aren’t going to trade Allen, which is why he’s not listed.

  7. KnickerbockerAl

    Somebody will sign Lauri. He’s going to be a top stretch 4. Don’t get why Bulls don’t sign him. He’s perfect next to Drummond. Bulls get a real PG with Drummond. They can be among top 4 teams in East.

  8. Simmons>Russ

    5 crazy ideas of the players mentioned

    1. John Collins, Bogi Bogdanovic and a protected first for Gary Harris, Micheal Porter Jr and Bol Bol.

    2. Kelly Olynyk and Duncan Robinson for Victor Oladipo

    3. Lonzo Ball for Lauri Markeneen

    4. DeVonte Graham for Jalen Smith

    5. KCP and THT for TJ Warren

    • x%sure

      Good exchanges. Markkanon might mix better with BI or ZW as I’m sure you have pointed out, setting up a PG trade. Smith would add height . Harris will need to be packaged to go.

      • Simmons>Russ

        Yeah Markeneen adds some size and shooting. Pelicans need the shooting and spacing it’s how BI and ZW thrive. Plus opens up the minutes for NAW, Hart and Lewis at SG.
        Plus Bulls get Lonzo to go with Coby and LaVine. Ball is a good defender, plays fast up tempo offence it could be a good fit.

        Smith would add height? I’m guessing you talking Hornets deal. Was thinking Graham as a back up to CP3 and then taking over would be awesome. Smith for the Hornets add height and some more versatility.

        Glad someone likes the offers. Not only is it hard to come up with 5 deals that work and make some sense but to also try please people on here gheez

  9. x%sure

    Nice tiering. The last tier is yuck.
    Offers: (All are having down years in PER)
    •Devonte Graham, 3/$24, 8 per… he might take 3 yrs so to re-sign before 30. Does CHA need all of him, Monk & Rozier as size-lacking guard? Could offer the same to the first two, testing them.
    •Malik Monk. 2/$16, 8 per. Is doing better but could backslide… First plus on-off for him. A great shooter, pull-up & now 3ptr.
    •Kendrick Nunn 3/40. Not a good a/t ratio. Best at driving and can force a score somehow while staying up. Can create offense just by bad-assing; Chicagoan. In time may get flawless or may get sidetracked. Miami hiding him so he takes less?— big possible variation in salary. Is he your PG takeover guy?
    •Talen Tucker. 4/$40, 10per… poor on-off and 3pt shooting so will be criticized if a starter. But makes good decisions and reliable with the ball by my eye. Tough Chicagoan. Defense. But Lakers should decide which of their youngsters they can do without.
    •Svi-etc. 4/$22. If he can be had for a 4/$16 then do it fast. He is not the type for the new regime in Detroit. Improved defense, always creative, but he prob cannot change much.
    •Terrence Davis 2/$12 Good on-off but coach dislikes his defense. Athletic but may not be smart or Raptor-like. Will look good as a signing but could get frustrated.

  10. Simmons>Russ

    Lastly I also think the Hornets should be asking about for Lonzo Ball.

    Think what you want but he plays as a 3rd/4th piece in that offence and does decent for himself.
    He’s averaging 14-4-5 and shooting efficiently 43-39-78.

    I’d be either looking at sign and trade Lonzo for Terry Rozier for DeVonte Graham and Malik Monk for Lonzo something like that.

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