Elfrid Payton

Potential 2018 RFAs Whose Qualifying Offers Will Be Impacted By Starter Criteria

The NBA’s rookie scale, which dictates how much first-round picks earn during their first four NBA seasons, also dictates how much the qualifying offers will be worth for those players when they reach restricted free agency after year four. However, the value of those qualifying offers can fluctuate depending on whether or not a player has met the “starter criteria.”

Here’s how the starter criteria works: A player who is eligible for restricted free agency is considered to have met the starter criteria if he plays at least 2,000 minutes or starts 41 games in the season before he reaches free agency. A player can also meet the criteria if he averages either of those marks in the two seasons prior to his restricted free agency. For instance, if a player started 50 games in 2016/17 and 32 in 2017/18, he’d meet the starter criteria, since his average number of starts over the last two seasons is 41.

A player’s ability or inability to meet the starter criteria can affect the value of the qualifying offer he receives as a restricted free agent, as follows:

  • 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 other RFAs, the standard criteria determine the amounts of their qualifying offers.

Extending a qualifying offer to a player eligible for restricted free agency officially makes that player an RFA, ensuring that his team has the right of first refusal if he signs an offer sheet with another club. It also gives the player the option of signing that one-year QO.

Generally, the value of a restricted free agent’s qualifying offer isn’t hugely important, since very few RFAs accept those offers outright. There are exceptions though. Last offseason, for instance, both players who signed their one-year QOs – Suns center Alex Len and Mavericks center Nerlens Noel – failed to meet the starter criteria heading into restricted free agency, reducing the value of their QOs to approximately $4.2MM (from $6.4MM and $5.85MM, respectively). Had Len and Noel met the starter criteria and been eligible for those larger QOs, their free agencies could have played out differently.

Top-14 picks who failed to meet starter criteria:

With that in mind, let’s check in on how this year’s RFAs-to-be will be impacted by the starter criteria. Listed below are the former top-14 picks on track for restricted free agency who have not met the starter criteria. These players will be eligible for qualifying offers worth $4,333,931.

No player was hit harder by missing out on the starter criteria than Parker, whose torn ACL made him fall short. If he’d stayed healthy, the former No. 2 overall pick likely would’ve been in line for a qualifying offer worth about $8.851MM. Instead, his QO will be worth less than half of that.

Major injuries also prevented Exum and LaVine from meeting the starter criteria, while Celtics guard Marcus Smart stayed just healthy enough to meet the necessary benchmarks — he totaled 4,013 minutes played over the last two seasons, barely averaging more than 2,000 per year.

First-round picks between 10-30 who met starter criteria:

The players listed below were picked between No. 10 and No. 30 in the 2014 draft and will meet the starter criteria. That will make each of them eligible for a qualifying offer worth $4,749,591.

Anderson is the biggest winner here, with his projected qualifying offer of $3.23MM set to increase by more than $1.5MM. However, Anderson, Capela, and Nurkic shouldn’t have any issue landing long-term deals, making the value of their QOs somewhat irrelevant. I wonder about Payton though — he didn’t exactly finish this season strong in Phoenix and could be a candidate to accept his increased QO.

Rodney Hood, the 23rd overall pick in 2014, can blame injury luck and lineup decisions for missing out on the starter criteria. He started 78 of 119 total games for Utah and Cleveland over the last two seasons, averaging 27.0 minutes per contest during that span. Without health issues, he almost certainly would’ve logged 82+ starts or 4,000+ minutes during those two years.

Second-round picks and UDFAs who met starter criteria:

Only one player falls into this group this year.

Initially signed to a 10-day contract in 2017, Ferrell parlayed that audition into a multiyear deal and has become an integral part of the Mavericks‘ rotation this season. He has appeared in all 81 games for Dallas, averaging 28.1 minutes per contest — that’s good for 2,274 total minutes, boosting his qualifying offer from $1,699,698 to $2,919,204.

The rest of this year’s restricted free agents won’t have their projected qualifying offers impacted by the starter criteria.

RFA Rumors: Parker, Gordon, Exum, Smart, Randle

Only about a quarter of the NBA’s teams are expected to have meaningful cap room this summer, so restricted free agents hoping for a major payday could have a tough summer, writes Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders. Last week, we identified eight RFAs we believe have positioned themselves well for long-term contracts, and while we’re still bullish on those players, the RFA market may not be as active overall as it has been in some previous offseasons.

Within his latest piece, Kyler took a closer look at a few specific 2018 restricted free agents, so let’s round up some highlights from his breakdown…

  • Most NBA insiders believe the Bucks will ultimately retain Jabari Parker, according to Kyler, who suggests that – with a new arena on the way – Bucks ownership may not be as worried about the rising cost of team salary as you’d expect.
  • The Bucks and Magic may let the market drive the respective prices on Parker and Aaron Gordon, according to Kyler. With Orlando’s new management group looking to shed cap dollars, the team will be wary of overpaying Gordon. Kyler also notes that the Magic could be open to the possibility of a sign-and-trade if Gordon wants to play elsewhere. However, sign-and-trades can be particularly tricky to pull off for RFAs getting big raises due to the Base Year Compensation rule, so that may be a long shot.
  • The prevailing thought on Dante Exum is that he’ll be back with the Jazz, though likely not on a long-term deal, says Kyler.
  • In order to pry Marcus Smart away from the Celtics, it might take an offer sheet at least in the range of $12-14MM per year, per Kyler.
  • The Kings are worth watching as a possible suitor for Lakers big man Julius Randle, though many people expect the Mavericks to be the team “on Randle’s doorstep” when free agency opens on July 1, Kyler writes.
  • Clint Capela (Rockets), Zach LaVine (Bulls), Jusuf Nurkic (Trail Blazers), and Rodney Hood (Cavaliers) are among the RFAs considered more likely than not to stay with their current teams, according to Kyler. For more details on those players – along with an item on Suns guard Elfrid Payton – be sure to check out Kyler’s full piece.

Southeast Notes: Ellington, Payton, Isaac, Hawks

The Heat would almost certainly have to go into the luxury tax to re-sign Wayne Ellington, according to Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. Ellington will be a free agent again after accepting a one-year, $6.3MM deal last summer. He has a chance to set the franchise record for 3-pointers in a season, but team president Pat Riley operates under a policy of only paying the tax when the Heat can contend for a title. Miami will be well over the salary cap next season, with more than $116MM already committed.

The Heat may not have a significant role for Ellington even if he does re-sign, Winderman adds. Dion Waiters should be fully recovered from ankle surgery, and Dwyane Wade will probably return for another season. Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson, Rodney McGruder and Justise Winslow will also be competing for wing minutes.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Suns guard Elfrid Payton has a reunion in Orlando Saturday night, seeing his former Magic teammates for the first time since being traded last month, relays Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel. Payton got a warm greeting from the crowd before the game and from the Orlando players afterward. “A lot of people asked me, ‘Do I still talk to any of those guys?’ We’re still talking all the time,” Payton said. “They support me a lot, want me to do well, and the feeling is mutual. I’ve been through the trenches with those guys, been through a lot of things and a lot of ups and downs. Seeing them go through ups and downs — those types of things build relationships that last forever.”
  • A lingering ankle injury wiped out much of his rookie season, but Magic forward Jonathan Isaac has done enough to keep the Magic excited about his future, notes James Blancarte of Basketball Insiders. “His defense is out of this world. I mean it’s really something else,” coach Frank Vogel said. “Just watch him play and everybody’s getting a taste of it right now. They haven’t seen him a whole lot but he’s an elite defender right now at 20 years old and the sky’s the limit for what he can be on that end of the floor.”
  • The Hawks will reap the benefits of their decision to rebuild, starting with this year’s draft, writes Bobby Marks of ESPN. Atlanta currently projects to have four picks in the top 35 and sits in third place in our latest Reverse Standings. The team could have up to $30MM in cap space available and will be in the market for a third point guard and a combo forward.

Elfrid Payton Facing Uncertain Future With Suns

Having been sent from Orlando to Phoenix at this season’s trade deadline, Elfrid Payton has enjoyed his time with the Suns so far, according to Scott Bordow of The Arizona Republic, who says Payton likes his teammates and the city, and believes the club will be a winner soon.

“I think they have a chance to be really good, especially in the near future,” Payton said. “So I would love to be here.”

However, even though the Suns surrendered a second-round pick for Payton in that deadline deal, there’s no guarantee that the franchise will invest in the point guard beyond this season, says Bordow. The 24-year-old will be eligible for restricted free agency in the offseason, giving Phoenix the opportunity to match any offer he receives, but it’s unclear whether the team will do so, according to Bordow.

Payton got off to a fast start with the Suns, averaging 16.4 PPG, 8.2 APG, and 8.0 RPG with a pair of triple-doubles during his first nine games with the team. However, he has posted just 8.3 PPG, 4.4 APG, and 2.9 RPG with poor shooting numbers in seven games since then.

Additionally, even when Payton was posting those impressive counting stats, the advanced numbers suggested that he was struggling on both ends of the court. In nearly 500 minutes with Payton on the floor so far, the Suns have a -17.8 net rating — they’ve been worse on both offense (97.4 rating) and defense (115.1) when he plays, per NBA.com.

As Bordow notes, the Suns expect veteran point guard Brandon Knight to be healthy and have a role next season. Phoenix will also likely hold multiple first-round picks in this year’s draft, putting the team in a good position to draft a point guard. If the Suns go that route, there may not be a clear-cut role for Payton that would make it worth investing in a new deal for him.

Plenty can change between now and July, so we’ll wait to see how Payton’s free agency plays out, whether that means remaining in Phoenix or joining his third team of 2018. For his part, the former lottery pick is trying to avoid dwelling on his uncertain future.

“It can be a stressful time, but I’m in a good place,” Payton said, per Bordow. “I’m going to work on everything and whatever happens for me, happens for me.”

Pacific Notes: Bradley, Evans, Caldwell-Pope, Payton

Clippers guards Avery Bradley and Jawun Evans are both suffering from ailments that could result in offseason surgery, writes Elliott Teaford of The Orange County Register. For the first time today, coach Doc Rivers brought up surgery as an option for Bradley, who has a sports hernia. The organization is hoping the 27-year-old, who was acquired from the Pistons late last month, can return in a week or two, but they’re being careful with him. He has played six games for L.A. since the trade and hasn’t been on the court since February 14.

“He’s one of the, if not the best, he’s one of the top five defensive guys on the ball in the league,” Rivers said. “And that’s all movement there [in a players’ core muscles]. So it’s tough blow.”

Evans, who has been diagnosed with a “sore lower abdominal ailment,” hasn’t been able to play since January 20.

There’s more news from the Pacific Division:

  • Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has played much better since resolving his legal issues last month, notes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. With free agency looming, Caldwell-Pope has been showing off his scoring ability, hitting eight 3-pointers in a 34-point performance Saturday night. “It was kind of hard with that situation I had, but now that’s behind me,” he said. “I can focus on just one thing — that’s basketball. It’s been good just to be able to get my work when I need it and just be ready for games.”
  • The Suns have the rest of the season to determine if they want to team Elfrid Payton with Devin Booker as their backcourt of the future, relays Scott Bordow of The Arizona Republic. Payton has solidified the point guard position since coming to Phoenix in a trade at the deadline, but the front office has to decide if Payton’s abilities are the best complement for Booker and if he is worth the estimated $10MM annually it will cost to keep him when he hits restricted free agency this summer. The Suns will also consider whether they want to draft a new point guard or keep Payton and use their pick on a center.
  • Shooting guard Danuel House has reached the 45-day NBA limit under his two-way contract, Bordow tweets. House has returned to the Suns‘ Northern Arizona affiliate and can’t come back to Phoenix until the G League season is over unless his contract is converted to a regular NBA deal.

Elfrid Payton Talks Trade, Suns, Future

The Cavaliers’ series of deadline-day trades dominated headlines last Thursday, overshadowing one of the most interesting moves of the day, as the Suns’ acquired Elfrid Payton from the Magic in exchange for a second-round pick.

With Payton’s restricted free agency around the corner, Orlando’s decision to send the 23-year-old to Phoenix signaled that the Magic didn’t view him as part of their future. Still, it was somewhat surprising to see the former 10th overall pick traded straight up for a lone second-round selection.

Speaking to Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype, Payton shared several thoughts on how the trade went down, how he feels about being the newest member of the Suns, and what he thinks his future may hold. The Q&A is worth checking out in full, but we’ll relay some of Payton’s most interesting answers in the space below…

On whether he felt disrespected by being traded for a mere second-round pick:

“A little bit. I think a lot of other people were more upset about it than I was, though. Others took it to heart more than I did, but that’s just because of the type of person I am. I’m pretty nonchalant and I don’t really get worked up, so it wasn’t really that big of a deal to me. I’ve always felt underrated and felt like I have to prove myself. I’m the kind of player who feels like you have to prove yourself every single night – no matter what you’ve done or who you are – because in this league everyone is thinking, ‘What have you done for me lately?’ So it wasn’t too big of a deal to me.”

On the trade in general:

“I’ve seen a lot of people say that it was a steal for Phoenix and stuff like that; I guess time will tell. I heard [the Magic] were offered a lot more than a second-round pick [from other teams], but they just didn’t decide to do one of those other trades… I don’t know all of the details, but I know they had offers from a team in the East and a different West Coast team other than Phoenix.”

On being surprised by the trade:

“About 30 to 45 minutes before the trade actually went down, my agent told me, ‘It seems like the talks are over and it looks like you’ll be staying in Orlando, at least until the end of the season.’ They had heard from [GM] John [Hammond] or [president of basketball operations] Jeff [Weltman] – I don’t know which one exactly, I’m not sure. But they were basically saying the talks were done and a trade was unlikely. Then, maybe seven or eight minutes before the deadline, the deal happened.”

On where his career will go from here:

“I feel like I still have a very high ceiling. Obviously, my shooting has gotten better this year, but I still feel like I can become a way better shooter. And there are still so many different things that I’m learning about the game and so many areas where I know I can improve. For example, I’m finding little tricks to get to the free-throw line more and get my team in the bonus. I’m also working hard to improve on the defensive end. I feel like my ceiling is still pretty high and I have a lot of room for growth.”

On whether he can see himself sticking with the Suns beyond this season:

“Yeah, I really could. Obviously, it’s not only up to me and I understand the business side of the NBA, but this is definitely somewhere I could see myself being for a long time.”

Pacific Rumors: Ball, Bradley, Warren, Payton

Lonzo Ball went through a full-contact practice on Tuesday but won’t return until after the All-Star break, Elliott Teaford of the Orange County Register reports. The Lakers rookie point guard has been sidelined since spraining his left knee on January 13th. Coach Luke Walton remained vague on when Ball would suit up. “When his body is ready, then he’ll play again,” Walton told Teaford and other reporters. “I can’t tell you whether that’s going to be the first game [after the All-Star break], the second game or the third game.”

In other news around the Pacific Division:

  • Clippers shooting guard Avery Bradley admits he’s having trouble finding his place in the team’s offensive scheme, Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times reports. Bradley is averaging just 9.0 PPG in 28.6 MPG since he was dealt by the Pistons to Los Angeles as part of the Blake Griffin blockbuster. “I think it’s a mix of me trying to find my rhythm and my game and trying to learn how to play off these guys,” Bradley told Turner. “They have a lot of offensive-minded guys on this team. So I have to figure out, and not only myself, but (coach Doc Rivers) has to figure out how he wants to use me.”
  • Forward T.J. Warren is making the four-year, $50MM contract extension the Suns gave him look like a bargain, according to Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic. He’s averaging 19.7 PPG and making over 50% of his field-goal attempts. “Coming into the league, I was known for being a scorer,” Warren told Bordow. “Just getting the opportunity and staying consistent is big for me. I’m just trying to get better, make my way in this league and earn the respect of my peers.”
  • It’s no sure thing that the Suns will try to re-sign restricted free agent point guard Elfrid Payton this summer, as Bordow explains in a separate story. Phoenix, which acquired Payton for a second-round pick from the Magic, could free up $10MM in salary-cap space by renouncing Payton’s rights, Bordow continues. With Brandon Knight expected to return next season from a knee injury, the Suns could then draft a point guard as Knight’s eventual replacement and pursue a center in free agency. Bordow adds.

Pacific Notes: Payton, Papagiannis, Green, Suns

Elfrid Payton‘s stint with the Magic ended on Thursday and by Saturday, he was putting up a solid performance in his Suns debut. The former lottery pick posted 19 points, 9 assists and 6 rebounds in the Suns’ 123-113 loss to the Nuggets. Payton’s performance drew rave reviews from his teammates and coaches, NBA.com’s Cody Cunningham writes.

“I thought he was good,” Suns head coach Jay Triano said. “It was different, the pace of play was better, getting the ball up and down the court, getting into the lane when he needed to, and making passes. He made the guys on the floor with him better.”

Payton, 23, has been viewed a disappointment through his first four NBA seasons after being the 10th overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. However, given his age and upside, Payton drew interest from several teams prior to the deadline.

Check out other Pacific Division notes:

  • The agent of now-former Kings center Georgios PapagiannisMarios Olympios, was critical of the team’s decision to waive the 20-year-old, Aris Barkas of Euro Hoops writes. “He (Papagiannis) never got a chance by the Kings,” Olympios said on the Greek radio station Sport FM, Barkas writes. “He had a double-double every time he played in the G-League. He had to travel for two and a half hour everytime he was assigned to Reno and still he performed. There are many details that prove that he never got a real chance”.
  • Warriors forward Draymond Green was fined $50,000 for directing inappropriate and offensive language toward a game official, the NBA announced on its website. The incident occurred during the Warriors’ loss to the Thunder this past Tuesday.
  • The Suns received $1.5MM back in the buyout of new Celtics center Greg Monroe, tweets salary cap expert Albert Nahmad.
  • After a blockbuster trade with the Cavaliers on Thursday, the Lakers freed up a ton of cap space that could be used to lure two premiere free agents to Los Angeles this summer. Mark Heisler of the Orange County Register writes that the organization’s moves have put it in position to be relevant again.

Knicks Notes: Mudiay, Ntilikina, Kornet, Noah

If Emmanuel Mudiay makes his Knicks debut today, he won’t have much preparation, writes Anthony Rieber of Newsday. Acquired Thursday from the Nuggets in a three-team trade, Mudiay wasn’t permitted to practice Saturday because the transaction wasn’t official. Devin Harris, who was sent to Denver in the deal, had yet to complete his physical. All coach Jeff Hornacek could do was talk to Mudiay, who is expected to suit up if the deal gets finalized before today’s 4:00 pm Central game in Indiana.

“Wish he could have been able to get out there and go through things, but he wasn’t allowed to,” Horacek said. “We’re going to have to continue to talk to him. Unfortunately, it’s an early game, so we won’t have a shootaround, but we’ll go over things with him on film. He was able to watch things, at least. I think he has a pretty good idea, so I don’t think it’ll take long for him to adjust.”

There’s more news out of New York:

  • Mudiay’s addition to an already-crowded point guard situation will result in fewer minutes for some players, but Hornacek expects them to handle it like professionals, Rieber adds in the same story. The coach isn’t worried about a negative attitude from rookie Frank Ntilikina, who has watched the organization add four point guards since he was drafted with the No. 8 pick in June. “To me, mentally weak guys think that,” Hornacek said. “Mentally strong guys don’t think that. They say, ‘OK, bring on whoever. I don’t care.’ I can see that in Frank. He has that mentality.”
  • Luke Kornet‘s impressive NBA debut made the decision to trade Willy Hernangomez easier to understand, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Kornet had 11 points and 10 rebounds in 22 minutes Friday and became the first player ever with four blocks and three 3-pointers in his first game. Kornet’s breakout performance makes it even more unlikely that Joakim Noah will return from his leave of absence this year, according to Berman, who adds that the Knicks tried to send the veteran center to Orlando in a deal for Elfrid Payton.
  • Enes Kanter, who has a player option for next season worth more than $18.6MM, wants to spend the rest of his career in New York, relays Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv. Kanter said the city has a negative reputation in some NBA circles, but he believes in the front office led by president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry. “I like this place, man,” Kanter said. “It’s weird because people are scared to come to New York because they think New York is scary, all these bad things but I think this organization is good, man. These guys, Scott and Steve, the coaches and everything. They are just making sure you got everything you need so you can just focus on basketball.”

Magic Trade Elfrid Payton To Suns

8:41pm: The Magic have officially traded Payton to the Suns, the team announced in a press release. Phoenix waived Isaiah Canaan in order to clear a roster spot for Payton.Elfrid Payton vertical

2:52pm: Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel clarifies (via Twitter) that the second-round pick the Magic receive in the deal will actually be the second-most favorable of the Grizzlies’, Hornets’, and Heat’s 2018 second-rounders. For now, that would be the Charlotte pick.

1:58pm: The Magic and Suns have agreed to a trade, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who reports (via Twitter) that the teams will swap point guard Elfrid Payton for a second-round pick. That pick will be the Grizzlies’ 2018 second-rounder, tweets John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7.

The deal signals a new start for Payton, who is headed for restricted free agency this summer. His streaky shooting and problems on defense made him expendable, especially as a new regime took over in Orlando’s front office. Payton was having a fine statistical season, averaging 13.0 points, 6.3 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game, but the Magic still aren’t winning and the organization decided to go in a different direction.

He will get a chance to revive his career with the Suns, who have been looking for a new point guard since trading Eric Bledsoe to Milwaukee. Phoenix lost Isaiah Canaan to a broken ankle at the end of January and was down to just one healthy point guard on its roster. The addition of Payton allows Devin Booker to move back to his natural position of shooting guard, adds Scott Bordow of The Arizona Republic (Twitter link).

The Suns reached the salary floor with the move and have $6.9MM in cap space remaining, posts Bobby Marks on ESPN Now. Payton will carry a cap hit of $3.3MM and will be restricted this summer if Phoenix tenders a $4.8MM qualifying offer as expected.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.