Young Restricted Free Agents Whom NBA Teams Should Poach Next Offseason

D.J. Foster@@fosterdjContributor INovember 13, 2013

Young Restricted Free Agents Whom NBA Teams Should Poach Next Offseason

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    NBA teams projected to have cap space this offseason are likely very excited about how the free-agent market is shaping up thus far. 

    While a lot of the focus will be on the pending decisions of the Big Three in Miami, Carmelo Anthony, Rudy Gay and a host of other potentially unrestricted free agents, an exciting young crop of talent from the 2010 draft class is set to hit restricted free agency as well.

    Teams are usually more hesitant to go after restricted free agents, simply because an offer sheet can tie up cap space for three critical days, yet there will be a few enticing options out there this offseason.

    Can any of the remaining players from the 2010 draft class be poached in restricted free agency? Let's take a look at the options and the teams that could make some very aggressive offers for their services.

Gordon Hayward, G/F, Utah Jazz

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    Potential Suitors: Charlotte Bobcats, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns, Toronto Raptors, Orlando Magic, Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers.

    Offer Sheet Range: $12 million to $15.5 million (max based on projected $62.1 million salary cap)

    Gordon Hayward is going to get paid this offseason.

    The 23-year-old swingman is already putting up a gaudy line of 19.5 points, 6.1 rebounds and 4.4 assists so far, and he'll have no threat to his production going forward.

    Because he's a solid distributor in addition to being a very capable outside shooter, opposing general managers won't have a hard time talking themselves into Hayward as a great fit offensively.

    Is Hayward worth a max contract, though? Probably not. He doesn't make an impact on the defensive side of the ball, which is something max players should do.

    Still, it's very easy to envision a scenario where Hayward agrees to a max offer sheet or something very close to it, primarily because there is a lack of young wing scorers in the league and Hayward has all the tools to become a complete player on that end of the floor.

    Hayward is close enough to being a max player that overpaying a few million a year shouldn't be a roadblock for teams in search of a young wing. Besides, if Hayward and his agent Mark Bartelstein didn't see this scenario happening, an extension likely would have already been negotiated. 

    This is essentially a poker game all the way around. A fellow Western Conference competitor like the Dallas Mavericks or Phoenix Suns might push a lot of chips to the center just to try and scare Utah away from calling.

    The worst-case scenario for an offering team is that they would tie their money up for three days just for Utah to match anyways. Even if that happens, making a conference foe pay top dollar to retain their talent is a smart move. 

Greg Monroe, F/C, Detroit Pistons

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    Potential Suitors: Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs, Toronto Raptors, Phoenix Suns, Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers.

    Contract Range: $15.5 million (max offer)

    Barring injury, Greg Monroe is signing a max offer sheet this offseason.

    Talented big men with great size and a history of reliable production don't come at a discount, and the Detroit Pistons will have to pay up to keep Monroe around.

    Will they? With Josh Smith and Andre Drummond locked in going forward, you could make the argument that moving Monroe for help on the wing would be the best thing to do.

    While a move this year or a sign-and-trade deal this offseason isn't out of the question, Detroit probably shouldn't compound the mistake of signing Smith as a small forward by getting pennies on the dollar in return for a franchise big man.

    Perhaps Detroit's frontcourt can work it out, but it wouldn't be surprising if Monroe really pushed, either internally or publicly, for the Pistons to work out a trade or not match the offer he inevitably signs.

    Pistons general manager Joe Dumars would be wise to hop out in front of any issues and say that he'll match any offer for Monroe once free agency rolls around. If that's Detroit's intention, and Monroe is a lock to get a guaranteed deal anyway, what's the downside? 

    Whether he's in Detroit or not next season, you can safely expect Monroe to be the next max man from the 2010 draft class, joining John Wall, Paul George and DeMarcus Cousins

Eric Bledsoe, G, Phoenix Suns

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    Potential Suitors: Charlotte Bobcats, Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks, Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors.

    Contract Range: $13 million to $15.5 million (max)

    The (wild)cat is out of the bag. Eric Bledsoe is one of the best young guards in basketball already, and he has nowhere to go but up.

    Phoenix Suns general manager Ryan McDonough pulled off one of the biggest steals we've seen in a long time by acquiring Bledsoe, but there will be no financial steal to be had in restricted free agency.

    Although there aren't many teams that need a point guard around the league, Bledsoe transcends traditional position slotting. He can play on or off the ball, and he's already one of the best perimeter defenders around. Every team would like to have him on their roster.

    While it seems incredibly unlikely that the Suns wouldn't match any offer for their young star, a team just might test that by signing Bledsoe to a max offer sheet.

    Right from the start of the season, it's been evident that Bledsoe is the future in Phoenix. It would be stunning if he ends up in another uniform next season, but that doesn't mean an opposing team won't make the Suns pay max money to keep him.

Ed Davis, F, Memphis Grizzlies

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    Potential Suitors: Charlotte Bobcats, Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns

    Contract Range: $6 to $8 million

    The Memphis Grizzlies have a tough decision coming up this offseason on Zach Randolph and Ed Davis, and opposing teams are ready to pounce if Randolph accepts his player option.

    The Grizzlies will be dangerously close to the luxury tax next season and likely won't have room to keep both Randolph and Davis, which could mean a big offer for Davis in free agency.

    Although it's hard to see Davis getting much more than $8 million a year, a team could construct the offer in a way (what's commonly referred to as a "poison pill") that would make Memphis very hesitant to match.

    If the Grizzlies view Davis as the future at power forward, they're doing a good job hiding it. By not negotiating an extension or giving Davis substantial playing time (11 minutes a game so far this year), perhaps the Grizzlies are hoping to keep Davis under wraps and lower his value.

    That plan would almost certainly work if it weren't for the time Davis spent in Toronto, where for a good portion of last year he looked like a legitimate starter with plenty of room to grow.

    If a team is looking for a player to poach, Davis may be the best candidate, especially if Randolph opts in or negotiates long-term with the Grizzlies.

Patrick Patterson, F, Sacramento Kings

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    Potential Suitors: Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Bobcats, Dallas Mavericks, Minnesota Timberwolves, Toronto Raptors, Los Angeles Clippers, Washington Wizards, Portland Trail Blazers

    Contract Range: $3.2 million (taxpayer mid-level exception) to $5.3 million (standard mid-level exception)

    Patrick Patterson is currently a part of the frontcourt logjam for the Sacramento Kings, but there's reason to believe he'd be a good pickup next year as a third big man for an uptempo team.

    Patterson is limited with what he can do, but he's one of the best bigs in the NBA at getting up and down the floor, and his 35.5 percent career three-point mark should be attractive for teams in need of some stretch.

    While you probably wouldn't be comfortable starting him, he's a valuable guy to have around.

    It's hard to see Patterson pulling down a big deal after a contract year when he'll likely struggle for consistent playing time, yet a team might target him late in free agency with a cap exception.

    With Carl Landry, DeMarcus Cousins, Jason Thompson, Chuck Hayes and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute all under contract next season, it seems very possible that a team will swoop in and make Patterson an offer that might be hard for the Kings to match, given their lack of cap space and the depth already on the roster.

Ekpe Udoh, F/C, Milwaukee Bucks

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    Potential Suitors: Los Angeles Clippers, Atlanta Hawks, Minnesota Timberwolves, New York Knicks, San Antonio Spurs, Toronto Raptors

    Contract Range: $3.2 million (taxpayer mid-level exception) to $5.3 million (standard mid-level exception) 

    Ekpe Udoh's situation isn't all that dissimilar to Patrick Patterson's. The two are completely different players, but Udoh is also stuck in a crowded frontcourt on a team that might not be willing to spend to keep him on board.

    Udoh's ability to block shots and play from the high post would be a great fit on a number of teams, even if he's flawed as a rebounder and provides very little in the way of scoring. He's limited, but Udoh should draw interest from competitors who need a little more depth up front.

    While the Bucks would likely match any deal on the lower end of that salary range, keeping Udoh at a deal right around the full mid-level with Larry Sanders, Zaza Pachulia, John Henson and Larry Drew favorite, Khris Middleton, all on salary next year might be difficult. 

    It's not entirely out of the question for the Bucks to pass on giving Udoh his $5.9 million qualifying offer, either, which would make Udoh an unrestricted free agent instead of restricted.

    More likely though, Udoh will be a prime candidate to be stolen late in free agency.

Avery Bradley, G, Boston Celtics

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    Potential Suitors: Brooklyn Nets, Houston Rockets, New York Knicks

    Salary Range: $3.2 million (taxpayer mid-level exception) to $5.3 million (standard mid-level exception)

    Avery Bradley could end up being one of the best steals of restricted free agency. It's possible that Boston might be ready to move on from Bradley and preserve cap space for its rebuilding process, which should have a few teams in need of a perimeter stopper licking their lips.

    What's Bradley's elite defense worth in free agency? Somewhere around $5 million a year sounds right. With Boston struggling for cap space this offseason, perhaps that would be too big of a price to pay for a limited player who makes much more sense on a team that's already contending

    Guards who can't really shoot will have a tough time getting big money, and maybe the Celtics will avoid the situation altogether and not give Bradley a qualifying offer to maximize their available cap space.

    Either way, it seems likely that some team will get a good deal on Bradley this offseason.

Greivis Vasquez, G, Sacramento Kings

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    Potential Suitors: Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, Orlando Magic

    Salary Range: $3.2 million (taxpayer mid-level exception) to $5.3 million (standard mid-level exception)

    Along with Eric Bledsoe (restricted) and Kyle Lowry (unrestricted), Vasquez will be one of the best point guards available in the offseason. Problem is, there are a limited number of teams who might need his services as a starter.

    Although Isaiah Thomas might be the better option at point for the Sacramento Kings, it's hard to imagine the team letting Vasquez walk for any reasonable amount.

    It might take a big offer in the $6 million range to get the Kings to pass, and the chances that offer comes are pretty unlikely.

    With more point guards coming into the league via the draft and plenty of cheap and capable backups already out there, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to pay a sizable amount like the mid-level exception for a player who won't be a clear-cut starter.

    With that in mind, the Kings were probably wise not to extend Vasquez after a career year last season. Instead, they'll wait to see how things shake out in free agency, which will probably work in the favor of the franchise.