2012 NBA Draft Lottery Countdown: Restricted Free Agent Market Will Reward Aggression

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 22: Eric Gordon #10 of the New Orleans Hornets is fouled by Blake Griffin #32 of the Los Angeles Clippers during the first half at Staples Center on April 22, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

A surprising number of teams look to be active in free agency next year and, as is oft lamented, there are a lot of restricted free agents. How does this relate to the draft lottery? Put simply, if the Wizards luck into the number one pick, fans may see an aggressive strategy from Ernie Grunfeld in DC.

Objection: Wasn't John Wall supposed to make DC a free agent destination? We've got Ernie Grunfeld telling us Nene Hilario trade was a free agent move and Anthony Davis is supposed to heal that paradigm?

A few things:

  • John Wall is here, and for real, as opposed to a draft question mark.
  • Nene is, too.
  • The Gungate roster is all but excorciated.
  • Those responsible for player development are getting results with their charges.
  • Nene arrived and the young pieces this team was supposed to be built on gelled as a unit.

The Wiz have gone from fertilizer to glitter amidst the chicken feed to (maybe) gold in the pan and that should be enough to put the team in the discussion for any free agent not named Deron Williams or Dwight Howard without a rolling of eyes around the room, especially if the next 'game-changing talent' is on tap. So, if we take it on faith that the Wizards are in the mix from Eric Gordon on down, it's worth discussing how Ernie might approach the coming free agency.

There will be approximately (depending on player and early termination options) 110 UFAs (unrestricted free agents) versus about 30 RFAs in the coming offseason. UFAs are typically players with their rookie deals well behind them (translation: older/established) and the Wizards have to be extremely careful what kind of voices they add in the locker room as the team fosters the new organizational outlook (tough, relentless work ethic, high character, etc.). Acquiring Nene was a coup in this respect.

Restricted free agents will of course bear similar scrutiny, but these players will be eyed as long-term, rather than complementary, acquisitions; players to grow alongside the rest of the Wizards' young squad. The drawback of course is that the Wiz must outbid a team that will almost certainly match any reasonable offer for a player that team knows best. If the draft is by best player available, free agency is for need and teams have a way of growing around the players they drafted. Thus, going for any worthwhile player in restricted free agency is tough to pull off in a cap-healthy fashion.

But something else the teams that own those RFA's rights have to contend with is the other needs they plan to address via free agency. For instance, teams with their cap tied up in rookies, an RFA or two and a couple long term deals are looking to spend. It is to their advantage to address their needs before re-signing their RFA to a contract greater than their respective cap hold. That's where aggression comes in.

If the Wizards choose to clear cap space to play on the free agent market, we can expect several things:

From there, we'll need a target. The Bucks need to plug their hole at Center with Ersan Ilyasova and Carlos Delfino entering the market. If their front office is satisfied with Kwame Brown's services, possessing his Bird rights as they do, leveraging Milwaukee's cap flexibility against them is probably a dead end.

If the Grizzlies don't do anything with Rudy Gay's contract, Darrell Arthur and O.J. Mayo can be targeted with little difficulty. O.J.'s comments about unfinished business may indicate his willingness to accept a below market deal, but Memphis' cap situation means Ernie Grunfeld could see results with an aggressive approach here, as well. The Rockets and Trail Blazers can be attacked with offer sheets for Courtney Lee and Nicolas Batum, respectively. Both players should receive deals in excess of their cap hold.

Better than 60% of Bullets Forever community members polled believed the Wizards will be going after a high- to medium-impact free agent, regardless of the results of the draft lottery. Personally, I lean towards Jheiser3's point of view; the team isn't likely to blow all their powder in one go. This team has plenty of growing left to do, and while the front office will continue to explore possibilities to improve the team, the sexy go-for-broke gambit simply hasn't been in play. As Ted said, the team plans to be GOOD...and spelling 'GOOD' without 'RFA' is no challenge at all.

The 2012 NBA Draft Lottery takes place on May 30th. T minus 13 Days, and counting.

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