Hot List: Top 10 Restricted Free Agents

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Unlike their unrestricted free agent peers, this summer won’t be the fresh start some of this summer’s most notable restricted free agents are hoping for.

Their current teams have the right to match any offers they receive, meaning that the lucrative, long-term deal some of these guys are looking for might come with strings attached. Brandon Jennings of the Milwaukee Bucks plays a marquee position in a market that doesn’t seem to fit his persona or personality.

He turned down a $40 million extension in the fall, making clear his intention to push for a bigger deal or an eventual departure — he could play the 2013-14 season on a qualifying offer and become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2014 — from Fear The Deer territory.

As always, Jennings isn’t the only restricted free agent of note this summer. The full list of them can be found on our handy-dandy Free Agent Tracker.

Jennings is the headliner on the Top 10 Restricted Free Agents list, but hardly the only notable name …

Brandon Jennings, G, Milwaukee Bucks

Status on July 1: Restricted free agent
What he’s selling: A first-team All-Rookie pick in 2010, Jennings solidified his credentials as a starting point guard in four seasons with the Bucks. He started 289 of the 291 games he played in and helped guide the Bucks to the playoff twice in his first four seasons. A big time scorer, Jennings has the charisma and personality to help you win games and sell tickets.
What he’s not saying: He’s still barely 170 pounds soaking wet. There are still some front office types who think he’s more of a poor man’s Allen Iverson instead of the young Mike Conley they hoped he might be at this stage of his career.
What he’s worth: Jennings believes he’s worth every penny of a max deal somewhere. Remember, he famously boasted that he was better than Ricky Rubio and has gone about the business of trying to prove as much night in and night out. But a max deal is out of the question in Milwaukee and probably anywhere else. The Bucks aren’t going to bid against themselves for a player who has made it clear that he is interested in playing in a bigger market. He’s already turned down a four-year offer with $40 million, making it clear that he intends to become an unrestricted free agent next summer and let the market set his value.
Likely landing spot(s): The Bucks have the right to match any offers. Any interested teams know that all they have to do is wait this situation out and pursue Jennings in the free-agent summer of 2014.

Jeff Teague, G, Atlanta Hawks

Status on July 1: Restricted free agent
What he’s selling: Teague is coming off of his best season as a pro, having averaged career highs in points (14.6) and assists (7.2) while asserting himself as a true lead guard for a playoff team. He’s only scratched the surface of his potential and, at 24, is still young enough to project major upside in the coming years.
What he’s not saying: Teague is not a great defender at what is easily the deepest position in the league. And his assist numbers (3.0) in 29 career playoff games suggest that he might not be on track to become the elite facilitator a team needs in a point guard.
What he’s worth: The Hawks didn’t do him any favors by not even offering him an extension on his rookie contract before the Halloween deadline. Making that pill even tougher to swallow for Teague is the fact that the two point guards drafted directly ahead of him in 2009, Philadelphia’s Jrue Holiday ($10 million a year) and Ty Lawson ($12 million a year), both agreed to terms on four-year deals at the deadline. If they’ve set the bar — Holiday blossomed into an All-Star this season while Lawson had an equally strong case but missed out in a deep crop of Western Conference point guards — Teague is in a tough negotiating spot with the Hawks.
Likely landing spot(s): Teague needs a team desperate for a young point guard to present an offer sheet that exceeds what the Hawks might be willing to pay (anything near $10 million a year would be a bit of a shock). Utah is still searching for a long-term answer at point guard and could poke around and see if the Hawks will let Teague walk. But the Hawks are likely to keep him on a qualifying offer and he’ll become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

Tyreke Evans, G, Sacramento Kings

Status on July 1: Restricted free agent
What he’s selling: A Rookie of the Year and at one time considered the future face of the franchise in Sacramento, Evans averaged 20 points, five rebounds and five assists in his first season. A super-sized point guard, he used his size and skill to his advantage in that role with the Kings. He’s most definitely selling the Tyreke Evans we all saw his rookie season.
What he’s not saying: While he didn’t experience the steep statistical drop off in his next three seasons, Evans is fighting the perception that he bottomed out during those three seasons. The Kings certainly seem to have moved on from Evans being a franchise cornerstone during these past three seasons, hence the absence of an extension offer. Isaiah Thomas supplanted him at point guard and Evans has played out of position ever since.
What he’s worth: This is where things get tricky for Evans, because some team with cap space to work with is going to eyeball Evans and remember that he’s a 6-foot-6, 220-pound combo guard with an ability to run a team and calculate the risk of snatching him away from an uncertain situation with the Kings. If Darko Milicic got $20 million from the Minnesota Timberwolves, someone has to be willing to offer Evans a similar deal.
Likely landing spot(s): Dallas and Atlanta are both in full-blown roster-rebuild mode and could use a talent like Evans at a reasonable price to help get things rolling. He could be the steal of the summer if someone makes a play for him and waits to see if the Kings will match the offer or let him walk.

Nikola Pekovic, C, Minnesota Timberwolves

Status on July 1: Restricted free agent
What he’s selling: With the eternal premium on productive big men, Pekovic showed flashes of being an absolute nightmare in the low post for opposing teams. A 7-foot, 300-pound block of granite, Pekovic averaged 16.3 ppg and 8.8 rpg last season and held it down in the Timberwolves’ frontcourt without Kevin Love available for the majority of the season. He’s got a size/skill-set combination that makes him a rarity in a league that treasures big men who can play high impact basketball on both ends of the floor.
What he’s not saying: The only problem with Pekovic is the 174-game sample size teams have to work with in evaluating the upside of a big man who is 26 and perhaps already deeper into his physical prime than you want a third-year player to be.
What he’s worth: The Houston Rockets used a three-year, $25 million offer sheet to pry Omer Asik away from the Chicago Bulls last summer. An offer like that could work similar wonders for someone trying to slip into the Twin Cities and sneak out with a starting center.
Likely landing spot(s): Minnesota can’t afford to let him walk, not with the regime change and whatever other roster changes Flip Saunders and his new crew have in store. Plus, Pekovic has become a cult favorite in Minneapolis.

Tiago Splitter, F/C, San Antonio Spurs

Status on July 1: Restricted free agent.
What he’s selling: A three-year apprenticeship under the great Tim Duncan can’t be a bad place for a big man to start when resume building. Splitter’s third NBA season turned out to be the charm, as he finally showed some signs of being the low-post factor he was billed as when the Spurs made him their top Draft pick in 2007. The Brazilian big man finally earned a regular spot in Gregg Popovich‘s rotation, another sign and seal of approval, averaging career highs in points (10.3), rebounds (6.4) and minutes (24.7). He made 58 starts this season, 52 more than he did in the two previous season combined.
What he’s not saying: Those previous two seasons mentioned were less than stellar. Splitter has ideal size for a NBA big man but didn’t leave a large footprint early on, the transition from Spanish League MVP to NBA regular being much tougher than anyone anticipated for him.
What he’s worth: Like almost every skilled big man, Splitter is going to be worth more than a man half his size with better credentials. That’s just the way things work in this league. He’s due for a significant raise from the $3.9 million he’s earning this season. In fact, he should have no trouble doubling that in a free agent market (for unrestricted and restricted free agents) that is relatively light on centers.
Likely landing spots: The Spurs have the right of first refusal and will exercise that right if the offers come in at the right number. But Dallas and Atlanta have to have him on their short lists, with several other teams focusing in on him early on in the process.

THE NEXT FIVE: Gerald Henderson, Charlotte; Darren Collison, Dallas; Timofey Mozgov, Denver; Tyler Hansbrough, Indiana; Chase Budinger, Minnesota.


  1. As a Knicks fan I think the Knicks need to pick up one of these free agents. Not one in particular, just one of them. Obviously they dont’t need a ton of help, they just need another big name to help Melo out and get him the ring he deserves..

  2. Ryan G. from the Philippines says:

    I wish Dwight Howard and Tyreke Evans would go to Dallas to pair up with Dirk Nowitzki supported by Shawn Marion and Vince Carter. It would be a great nightmare for the Miami Heat. Go Mavs Go!!

  3. Kal says:

    …Lakers need to trade Nash back to the Mavs somehow… would solve two problems?

  4. Laker Fan says:

    Get D12 back and find s suitable 6th man for the team. Kobe and D12 need support from the bench

  5. nejko says:

    I think that tyreke would be a great fit with a veteran team (spurs, celtics etc.), or with a team that has better coach and staff so that they would get more talent out of him which he has a lot.

  6. dw1979 says:

    Dwight Howard to Houston please.

  7. ShawnKemp says:

    Any team would be crazy not to go after tyreke.

  8. Brady says:

    Tyreke would be a good fit in BOSTON

  9. ABal says:

    So, Lebrons already talked to all these guys about taking their talents to south beach?

  10. bradley says:

    The Lakers will get rid of Dwight Howard and possibly sign Josh Smith it could happen. As far as Brandon Jennings he should actually stay with the Bucks they have a rising team with Monte Ellis there but you never know in the NBA. And with the whole Celtics deal Rondo might be coming back from injury next season but they should actually think bout signing some people no matter how good Green gets every team doesn’t need just one player to win games for them.

  11. Kevo says:

    @funny nba: Go away troll, nothing useful to post as usual.

    I would like to see the Hawks make a big run next year, just a few more moves for a real contender-type team. Teague likely to say, imo.

  12. bigmeezy says:

    lakers must feed of this list,,jennings or evans will be a great deal for the lakers, they need youth or god sakes

  13. funny nba says:

    Doesn’t matter.. The Heat will still dominate next season

    • aaaaaa says:

      Not with a healthy Celtics team coming at them. With Rondo and Sullinger back, the Heat don’t stand a chance, they barely won when we didn’t have them.

  14. willie 1celticsfan says:

    I absolutely think the celtics,as a fan should look to start a whole new big 3 maybe even 4:)
    Maybe like.
    Brandon tyreke dwight
    Jeff henderson nikola

    • PM says:

      You do realize you still have Rondo and an emerging Jeff Green, right? If you can add two solid players and get players back from injury and develop them (Sullinger, Fab Melo) you will be right back in the top four of the east.
      Either way it doesn’t matter who you get because Hawks will win it all

  15. PM says:

    The only player on this list who is going to leave his team is Tyreke Evans and possibly Brandon Jennings. Hopefully they both leave for their own good as they can get better in places with veteran leadership and stability. But it doesn’t matter because CP3 and D12 will go to ATL and Hawks will also hire Phil Jackson and they will resign Josh Smith and let Teague be the sixth man and learn from Paul and Hawks will become the next dynasty.
    You heard it here first

  16. Rick says:

    I think Utah would be an ideal place for tyreke evans, would be a win win for both organization and player, evans gets a place that needs a pg and utah gets a player that can be a go-to guy in team system that almost like that of denver

  17. Shawn Kemp No. 1 says:

    If you are a serious NBA team you should never, ever, ever, ever EVER sign Brandon Jennings. He should fit perfectly in some team in China, though.

  18. Nick says:

    pekovic’s stats for this season are more like 16 and 9, Sekou. You posted stats from last season.

  19. Andrejs says:

    I think the top restricted free agent in the 2013 offseason is Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings. A restricted free agent is someone who can sign with another team in the offseason but, the players current team can match the offer and keep them. Once the different puts up an offer the original team can’t match the player can then leave. My favorite team is the Dallas Mavericks and they could really jump on Jennings to kick them back into the postseason. Darren Collison is just not good enough to be a starter in the NBA. Even though the Dallas roster has more talent, the Bucks made it this year to their charisma and chemistry. Brandon has the personality and attitude to win games and get a team on the right track. He has also helped guide the Bucks to the playoffs 2 of his 4 years in the NBA.

    • bigwes95 says:

      Dallas had a better record. it’s only because Milwaukee is in the east they made it

    • steve says:

      dude dallas is not gonna be any better with brandon jennings. Darren collison doesnt get shot happy like brandon jennings does and he takes stupid shots and makes you lose games just like monte ellis they both r great players but they just dont know how to use the rest of the team