Ball Don't Lie - NBA


Restricted free agents, I'm sorry, but they're a pain.

Every summer, players that aren't huge knockout stars tend to get shafted as restricted free agents. Coming out of their rookie contracts, these semi-stars usually have to fruitlessly flirt with other teams, signing offer sheets that may or may not be matched, only to usually come back to their original team after an odd, potentially chemistry-killing, summer.

Sure, the owners make it up to the players by wildly overpaying them at age 30 a few years later, but what about right now? And what will it take for the incumbent teams to let these guys go free, assuming they sign an offer sheet with another team? Here's our guesses, along with the top eight restricted free agents.

1. David Lee(notes)

He's a system guy! His stats were trumped up because the Knicks ran so much! He's useless away from Mike D'Antoni, I say, I say!

No, he's a double-double guy. He's been great since his rookie year, he just didn't get minutes until he was given a real coach (are you honestly going to call Larry Brown's 2005-06 tank job "real" coaching?), and this is why we use per-minute, pace-adjusted stats. John Hollinger's PER, which is a catch-all stat that takes into consideration the pace of a team compared to the pace of the league, had Lee at 19 last season. Up from 18, the season before, and down from 20 the year before that.

In other words, right where he's been all along.

What will it take for New York to decline a match? That's tough, as the Knicks still fancy themselves 2010 contenders, the cap is dropping, and the team is not going to be able to find a way to dump Eddy Curry(notes). It's not the size of the contract, it's the length. I could very well see New York passing on even a great talent like Lee if his new deal ran after 2009-10.

2. Marvin Williams(notes)

No, he's not Chris Paul(notes). He's not Deron Williams(notes), and he's probably not the all-world scorer/slasher Hawks fans had in mind when Atlanta drafted Marvin ahead of Paul and Deron back in 2005.

But he is a sound defender and efficient scorer who, at age 23, will only get better. Seriously, this guy can defend damn well, and he's a perfect fit on a team with lots of hungry mouths to feed and not enough basketballs to go around. He gets to the line, too. Gives Mike Bibby(notes) a chance to adjust his calf sleeve.

What will it take for Atlanta to decline a match? Quite a bit. Williams' qualifying offer is up over $7.3 million, he's probably worth a little more, and I bet the Hawks (a team far away from the luxury tax, looking to win now) would even venture into eight figures in Williams' first year. Not that they'll have to. Though Marvin would be a fabulous fit in Portland.

3. Nate Robinson(notes)

Now, Nate's pace-adjusted stats did bump up a notch in D'Antoni's system, but I think this is a perfectly explainable small jump (from a 15 PER to 18) considering his age and abilities. That's a long way of saying, "yes, I think Nate can keep it up on a Trail Blazers team that walks it up the floor."

Not that Nate should join the Blazers.

What will it take for New York to decline a match? Not much. Robinson kept the Knicks in a ton of games last year with his all-around play, but don't you get the feeling that his rather effervescent personality wore on Mike D'Antoni a smidge? You could probably get this guy for an MLE starting salary. I do think he's worth it, Robinson's rep as a team-killing player really isn't deserved.

4. Ramon Sessions(notes)

I'm glad people are coming around on Ramon Sessions, it was obvious the guy was a starting-quality guard down the stretch of the 2007-08 season, and all the talk of full MLE money (to the Clippers, most recently) is deserved.

But he's also a guy who struggles to shoot three-pointers, and isn't going to put a great team over the top. The only sort of team he would put over the top would already have a no good point man in place, and Sessions would make things better by way of his sheer competency.

What will it take to get Milwaukee to decline to match? Bucks GM John Hammond hasn't tipped his hand, but you get the feeling (with Brandon Jennings(notes) on board, and Luke Ridnour(notes) around to just sort of hold serve quite below-averagely) he's thinking "Ramon is nice and all, but [Scott] Skiles doesn't like him, and do I really want him making seven million a year in 2013, with Jennings on board?"

5. Glen Davis(notes)

Davis runs the risk of being overrated because of his time spent on national TV this season, but he also runs the risk of being underrated if you purely look at his 2008-09 stats. Davis was nowhere near the same player in the second half of the season and the playoffs as he was in the first half, and in a good way.

Still, heaps of minutes pumped up his numbers in the playoffs, and his rebounding remains awful.

What will it take to get Boston to decline to match? I think Boston matches past the MLE. Seriously, Davis was rumored to go to a number of teams even earlier this month, but interest in his services fell by a ton when Boston started poking around and throwing out hints that they'd match. It's an arms race between Boston, Orlando, and Cleveland; and Danny Ainge doesn't want to lose Glen's chubby, kid-pushing wings.

6. Linas Kleiza(notes)

The Missouri product has shopped around. Cleveland showed interest, among others, and he's a fair player who would do quite well as a ninth man on a great team, or a first forward off the bench on a so-so outfit.

He's just two years removed from dropping 41 in a game, and if you could put this guy on a team where the coach would implore to drive more, you could have something. Linas Kleiza, driving more, more specifically.

What will it take to get Denver to decline to match? The Nuggets are right at the luxury tax line, so any contract to bring Kleiza back would nearly cost twice as much. He's good mates with the owner's son, but that's a tough call to make for a franchise that has paid quite a bit for first round flameouts before 2009.

7. Hakim Warrick(notes)

The prototypical fourth forward, Warrick could really use a change of scenery. Stuck on a team full of me-first types, playing for one of league's more debt-ridden owners, you think he wants to guard Zach Randolph(notes) (reeking of last night's vodka/cranberry) in practice every morning from October until April?

What will it take to get Memphis to decline to match? Probably MLE money. They have the cap space to absorb things, but the Griz are still looking to do things on the cheap. That's my hope, for Hakim, at least.

8. Josh McRoberts(notes)

McRoberts was last on the Pacers in scoring per game last year, at 2.4 a contest. And he picked up a pretty bad rep in his rookie year as a Trail Blazer/NBDL denizen. As though he were slumming in the minor leagues, and didn't need the seasoning.

In Indiana, though, things are different. Boy howdy, are they different. McRoberts grew a beard, starting having fun again, and would come off the Pacer bench to showcase an athletic, rebound-heavy game that could really work if he doubled or event tripled his minutes. And at age 22, he'll only get better.

What will it take to get Indiana to decline to match? Well, McRoberts looks like he's in My Morning Jacket, Larry Bird seems to be pretty into that, so in upwards of three or four million.

More BDL: Ranking the NBA's nine best unrestricted free agents

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