After the end of the NBA Draft, we have somewhat of a clearer picture of what teams will look like heading into next season. With free agency set to begin, there’s still a lot of action left to witness.
The restricted free agent market is always difficult to predict. With the original team able to match any offer sheet, the competition usually refrains from offering big deals as it ties up their cap space for a period of time.
Still, this year’s restricted free agent class has a few players who could be on the move due to tricky team building situations. Even though it’s typically rare for restricted free agents to change teams, there’s a chance that we could see some of young players change jerseys. Here’s a look at some of the top restricted free agents available on the market.
1. John Collins
Is John Collins a max contract player? That’s the question that comes up most often with the uber-athletic forward from the Atlanta Hawks. According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, Collins turned down a reported offer in excess of $90 million from the Hawks. With Collins looking for a max contract, it’s hard to see a team offering that level of a deal. But as we’ve learned, all it takes is one offer.
Many of the teams that can max cap space in free agency (the New York Knicks, Toronto Raptors and Dallas Mavericks) will be more pressed to find help on the perimeter rather than at the power forward position. The San Antonio Spurs do seem like a possibility. With max space, the Spurs could lavish an offer on Collins near the max and put some pressure on the Hawks.
Collins’ fit is awkward with Atlanta. He would be best used as a pick-and-roll finisher, but the presence of center Clint Capela has ultimately forced the power forward to operate from the corners or in the midpost in Atlanta’s offense.
Even though he had flashes of good play in Atlanta’s playoff run, Collins ended up being more of a complementary player in Atlanta’s offense. Is it worth paying the power forward a max deal if he’s relegated to more of a supporting role? A potential Collins deal and Trae Young’s eventual max extension will lock the Hawks into this roster for quite some time. After a run that got the Hawks to the conference finals, it’s hard to envision Atlanta taking another step.
2. Lonzo Ball
Lonzo Ball seems like one of the bright young point guards in the NBA, but he also seems to be one of the most divisive players. Fans of Ball will point to his improved perimeter shot (37.6 percent from the three-point line the past two seasons), versatility, unselfishness and quality team defense. His detractors will say that he struggles as a lead ball handler in the pick and roll and is not a particularly effective point of attack defender.
Either way, some team will pay Ball this offseason. The incumbents, the New Orleans Pelicans, are better positioned to retain Ball after trading away Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams for Jonas Valanciunas in a deal to free up cap space (while also trading down).
Still, they have been linked to point guard Kyle Lowry, so Ball’s place in New Orleans’ future is murky at best. Teams such as the Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks will be interested in the 6-foot-6 point guard. For the Pelicans, Ball could be a good fit with the star tandem of Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram since both players can initiate and finish plays in the halfcourt. Even though New Orleans has been a major disappointment the past two seasons, there’s still hope that the youthful trio could form a solid playoff team if the Pelicans provide the right veteran complements.
3. Duncan Robinson
One of the preeminent threats from three-point land in the NBA, Duncan Robinson will have plenty of suitors on the free-agent market. The 27-year old sharp shooter has shot better than 40 percent from the three-point line while launching nearly 10 threes per 36 minutes the past two seasons. Robinson creates so much space on the floor for Heat primary options Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. He was crucial to Miami’s NBA Finals run in the bubble. It would be hard for the Heat to pass up on keeping the forward as they look to return to the upper crust of the Eastern Conference.
Even though his main skill can make Robinson a bit one-dimensional, his strength as a shooter is hard to find. A team desperate for shooting (the Knicks, Spurs and Pelicans) could throw an offer sheet at Robinson beyond $20 million. Miami has its eyes on a point guard, so it will be interesting to see where Robinson fits into its plans as well.
4. Devonte’ Graham
The Hornets have a solid starting backcourt in LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier. After drafting guard James Bouknight with the 11th pick of the draft, Charlotte has interesting decisions to make with Devonte’ Graham and fellow restricted free agent Malik Monk. Graham is an undersized combo guard with the ability to light it up from behind the three-point line. Even though he shot it well (37.5 percent on 477 attempts), 71.3 percent of his shots came from behind the three-point line last season. Graham rarely attacks the paint on offense and is a limited defender due to his size.
Coming off of a season during which they challenged for a playoff spot, the Hornets have a team filled with several young players on rookie deals. Miles Bridges is extension eligible this summer and P.J. Washington will be extension eligible next summer. As the Hornets approach the luxury tax in the coming years, they will have to make some tough choices.
Graham is the first step in that discussion. If the Hornets can retain him for a reasonable price (say three years and $50 million), they might hold on, but teams such as the Knicks and Bulls can drive up the price if they lose out on some of the other top point guard options.
5. Jarrett Allen
The lone center on this list, Jarrett Allen is one of the top big men available in free agency. Acquired by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the James Harden blockbuster deal, Allen has shown modest growth and has become a quality rim protector, rebounder and vertical threat so far in his career. After the Cavaliers selected Evan Mobley with the third pick in the 2021 draft, the Cavs now have a promising 4-5 combination of length and athleticism in the starting lineup. With Cleveland wanting to keep its young core together, keeping Allen will be the top goal for the Cavaliers.
At just 23 years old, Allen has a ton of room to grow and could be an intriguing big man for teams to look at on the free agent market. A comp for Allen would be Clint Capela, who received a five-year, $90 million deal with incentives from the Houston Rockets. Allen is a less fluid finisher and rebounder, so he probably will receive offers somewhere just below what Capela's deal.