Free agency is only about 24 hours away, meaning all questions that have been discussed over the last few weeks and months will probably get answered real soon.
The wrinkle this year, though, is restricted free agency, which has the chance to jumble the picture more so than in years past. Over the last five offseasons, just 122 of the 755 free agents have been signed as RFAs—with only 12 changing teams in that time. According to Spotrac, there are currently 79 players eligible to be RFAs this summer (although that number will certainly decrease once the dust settles on qualifying offers).
So how does restricted free agency work and who could be impacted this summer? Here’s a quick overview before the money starts flying around:
Understanding the process
To be an RFA, a player must either be a former first-rounder coming off the fourth year of his rookie deal, a veteran free agent who’s been in the Association for three seasons or less, or a two-way player that was on an NBA roster for at least 15 days during the prior season.
The first step in entering restricted free agency is for the player’s team to submit a qualifying offer: a one-year, guaranteed contract. The player can then choose to accept the deal or go into free agency in search of a potential multi-year offer.
If another team wants to sign an RFA, the two sides must agree to an offer sheet, which is then given to the player’s original team. That team then has 48 hours to match the offer as part of its “right of first refusal.”
Last summer, Zach LaVine got a hefty four-year, $80 million offer sheet from the Kings, only for the Bulls to match and keep the former UCLA star in Chicago. Making such a large offer sheet is often hard for any team, as it “freezes” that amount of cap space during a hectic free-agency window in which moves are going down seemingly every minute.
If an RFA does change teams, it often isn’t for much money. Only two of the 12 deals were for more than $40 million. But with big names available as RFAs this summer and different cap situations for several teams, a handful of restricted free agents could end up finding new homes this summer.
If the Nets are going to sign Kyrie Irving, this all becomes a moot point as they would either renounce Russell’s qualifying offer or simply be unable to match another team’s offer. If Irving opted to go elsewhere (L.A., anyone?), then Brooklyn would very likely need to shell out to match someone like the Suns.
The salary cap situation in Milwaukee might be the most intriguing of any in the league this summer, because while the Bucks have pieces in-house, their limited budget as a smaller-market team could hold them back from going into the luxury tax. There are plenty of teams that would benefit greatly from Brogdon’s services, and all it takes is one to “overpay” and put Milwaukee in a bind.
After a career-best year, Portis will have several suitors, according to a report from NBC Sports Washington. Some might view him as a high-level rotation piece, others as a developing player with a ton of upside. The Wizards will have the chance to match, but they’re already cash-strapped thanks to John Wall and Bradley Beal, so Washington could simply choose to let Portis walk.
Terry Rozier and Kelly Oubre Jr.
These two seem to be in similar boats thanks to the superstar point guard carousel of Summer 2019. With Irving, Russell, and Kemba Walker all up in the air, both Rozier and Oubre are lower-tier options that might just have to wait things out. Could there be a surprise team or two that would choose to throw a wrench into things for either Boston or Phoenix, two teams that appear to be setting the stage for a potential big move? Sure. But neither is a game-changing superstar that will command immediate attention come 6 p.m. June 30.