With over $25 million in projected available cap space this summer, the Sixers will have plenty of options once free agency begins. Don’t be surprised if their cap-savvy GM makes a play for a big name — even if he doesn’t fully intend to sign that player.
Armed with more than enough cap space for a max-contract star, Sam Hinkie is well-positioned to drive up the price of restricted free agents and make life hell for opposing GMs.
Case in point: In 2012, the Indiana Pacers and the then-New Orleans Hornets were reportedly ready to match any offer for Roy Hibbert and Eric Gordon, respectively. That didn’t stop Portland from offering Hibbert a four-year max deal, and Phoenix doing the same with Gordon. Perhaps the Blazers and then-Hornets would have preferred landing those players (at the time), but two years later, those contracts are now restricting Indiana’s and New Orleans’ flexibility in the free-agent market. Not a bad consolation prize.
This isn’t to say Hinkie should hand out a max contract to a guy like Avery Bradley, but if word gets out that the Celtics desperately want to retain their 2-guard, make them pay a premium. Cap space is leverage, and if used correctly, it could causing an opposing team to spend slightly more than desired on a free agent. That could pay dividends down the road, hurting that team’s free-agent flexibility in upcoming offseasons.1
With that in mind, there are four big-name restricted free agents that could be worth a bid: Phoenix combo guard Eric Bledsoe, Utah forward Gordon Hayward, Houston swingman Chandler Parsons (assuming the Rockets decline his team option) and Detroit big man Greg Monroe2.
Bledsoe reportedly wants a max deal, per Sporting News’ Sean Deveney, and the Suns have sworn they’ll match any offer for him, but the fates of Hayward, Monroe and Parsons are decidedly less certain. The Jazz and Hayward didn’t agree to an extension this past fall, as the swingman was reportedly seeking a deal in the four-year, $50 million-plus range, according to Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski. If the Rockets go all-out to acquire Carmelo Anthony in free agency, they may be forced to relinquish their rights to Parsons (or ship him out in a sign-and-trade). NBA.com’s David Aldridge reported in February that Detroit would match a max contract for Monroe, but that was before Stan Van Gundy took over. The Pistons new president sang the praises of Monroe in a recent interview with Pistons.com’s Keith Langlois, but stopped short of guaranteeing his return.
Parsons would appear to be the most logical target in restricted free agency, given Hinkie’s familiarity with him stemming from his Houston days. Could the protégé (Hinkie) put the master (Morey) to the test?
Having that possibility on the table could make for some Taken 2-esque drama in Philadelphia this July.
1. This seems like a good time to recall when the Sixers bid against themselves for Andre Iguodala. Nearly every team was capped out in 2008 (unlike this offseason) and the Sixers could have low-balled Iguodala (then a restricted free agent), but instead they gave him a six-year, $80 million contract.
2. None of the four major RFAs featured here — Bledsoe, Hayward, Monroe and Parsons — are eligible for a “poison-pill deal” similar to what Houston did with Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin in the summer of 2012. Those contracts are limited only to players with one or two years of service in the league, per Larry Coon’s Cap FAQ.