The NBA off-season always brings the crazy out of people. Everyday one can read about where player X is signing or where player Y is getting traded. It's a fun and exciting show to observe and follow and it seems like more and more fans enjoy it more than the actual games that get played during the regular season. With all the chatter about cap-space, mid-level exceptions, veteran minimums and trades, not many discussions are made regarding one of the trickier aspects of the NBA off-season: Restricted Free Agency.
June 30th is the deadline for which teams can extend a qualifying offer to certain players on their rosters, thus making them restricted free agents. Essentially this means that if any other team makes them an offer, their own team has first right of refusal to match that offer. The tricky part is that the incumbent team has up to 7 days to wait to match that offer, thus "holding up" that other team's money that they could offer to any other free agent, restricted or unrestricted.
Danny Ainge has proved himself to be an innovative and proactive general manager, so one might think that he may be targeting one of the restricted free agents while the teams with the most cap space sit and wait on LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson, Amare Stoudemire, etc. Those free agents are not within the C's budget and aren't going to decide anytime soon so why not take a chance on a restricted free agent? (For official information on how RFA's work, go here)
If Ray Allen gets an absurd offer from a team like the Knicks that prices him out of Boston, one player that could fill his role nicely is Anthony Morrow from Golden State. Morrow at this point in his young career is a one trick pony but he does that trick quite well. He averaged 13 PPG while shooting 46.8 FG%, 45.6 3PT% and 88.6 FT%. His defense is suspect at best, but as we have seen with Ray himself, he can get better in a better defensive system. After all, defense was not even a word in the Warriors game plan vocabulary. You can thank Don Nelson mostly for that. Morrow could probably be had for a portion of the MLE, and he would be an apt and cheap replacement for Ray. The Warriors at best can only hope to contend for a playoff spot in the western conference and are in the middle of a potential ownership change. It's an organization that is in complete disarray which makes Morrow a prime choice to target as a "steal." For more detailed information on how Morrow's restricted free agency will work this off-season, go here.
Remember that early April game at the Garden when Luis Scola scored back-to-back baskets in the final seconds to defeat the Celtics? Scola had 27 points and 11 rebounds, continually dominating the paint and leading his team that was without newly acquired Kevin Martin and Trevor Ariza. He would be a great fit here in Boston, but would require the full MLE (if not more). Scola put up solid numbers for Houston (16.2 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 51.4 FG%, 77.9 FT%) but it's tough to imagine the Rockets not matching any offer that comes his way. But with rumors running around that the Rockets are making a bid for Chris Bosh, you have to wonder how much money they would be willing to spend on Scola if they were somehow to land Bosh. Again, Ainge could force Daryl Morey's hand a bit here early. Make an offer to Scola while the Houston party van is recruiting Bosh, meanwhile in those 7 days that Morey is waiting for an answer from Bosh, Ainge swoops in and nabs the big man. Crazier things have happened.
The "best" restricted free agent available is Rudy Gay, but forget about him because A) he will not sign for the MLE and B) Chris Wallace is likely to match any offer. Ok scratch that. If we're getting crazy, there's no better GM to turn to than the one that's walking in Memphis. After all, Wallace is the GM that notoriously donated Pau Gasol to the Lakers (please do not give me the Marc Gasol comeback argument). If you think about it, Wallace owes the Celtics a few favors. When he was GM here, he traded for Vin Baker and his drunken albatross of a contract, used three draft picks in 2001 on Joe Johnson (who was traded before the stitching in his Celtics jersey was completed), Kedrick Brown and Joe Forte (smart move blaming Red Auerbach on that one). So Chris you owe the green a huge favor, and it's about time you pay up. So if Danny offers Gay the full MLE just force him to sign it and then take a "week" off getting fitted for your second Lakers championship ring. Thank you.
Finally another interesting RFA to make an offer to would be JJ Redick. Redick has given the Celtics headaches in back-to-back playoff series in both 2009 and 2010. He would also be a nice replacement for Ray, but he's likely to stay with Orlando for a couple of reasons. First of all, he's a valuable asset to a contending Orlando team that will likely match any offer (especially if they matched Dallas' off to Marcin Gortat last summer). Secondly, he will probably make something close to the MLE even though he's not worth it, and would require a contract longer than a few years. Finally, it's especially unlikely that Orlando lets him walk to a rival contender.
One other potential unrestricted free agent to note is Tyson Chandler. Just like Pierce, Chandler has an "Early Termination Option" on his contract on which he must decide to exercise by tomorrow. Chad Ford of ESPN.com reported on June 11ththat Chandler plans to opt out. He would be opting out of a $12.5 million dollar season so it's highly unlikely he would accept a MLE offer from Boston. The selling point of course would convincing him that he would be a huge piece in the puzzle at a championship run (as it has been with most free agent pitches for the C's since the new big three). He is injury prone, but would be a great fit at starting center while Perk is rehabbing from his horrific knee injury. Even with Perk back, that would be a solid rotation of bigs the C's could have out there. Again, this all hinges on if he opts out and buys into Ainge's sales pitch. Unlikely, but worth a shot.
So there you have it. Restricted free agency is a high-risk, high-reward gamble and Ainge has a little bit of Kenny Rogers in him so we can't ignore the idea that he's mulling these options over. If he isn't he very well should be. Getting any of the aforementioned players would enhance his status as a creative, proactive and shrewd GM. Time to push the chips to the middle of the table.