In order to make a free agent restricted, his NBA team must first extend him a qualifying offer. The qualifying offer is a one-year contract offer for a salary determined by formula (which includes prior contract, games started and minutes played). In theory, qualifying offers serve as a compromise: If a team can match any offer a player receives, the team must be offering the player at least something.
However, teams can unilaterally pull qualifying offers through July 13 in a normal year (until Aug. 13 this year).
Like the Heat did with Kendrick Nunn.
Miami decided to hard-cap itself by acquiring Kyle Lowry in a sign-and-trade. The Heat then used the bulk of their spend power on Duncan Robinson and P.J. Tucker. Viewing Nunn’s $4,736,102 qualifying offer as a liability, Miami pulled it Aug. 3.
Though he became an unrestricted free agent with his qualifying offer rescinded, Nunn face a limited market. Many teams had already used their cap space. Nunn signed with the Lakers for a $5 million salary with a player option in the second year of his contract. Not exactly the big payday the talented 26-year-old sought.
New National Basketball Players Association president/Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum on “The Woj Pod“:
I’ve seen the Kendrick Nunn situation. He was going to be a free agent. They basically waited until the money dried up, right? You correct me if I’m wrong. Have you seen this happening in the league and not being discussed at all, where they talk about players forcing their way out, player movement, but then what about the manipulation that goes into some of these situations where teams are waiting for the market to dry up before they release a player’s rights?
It always struck me as unfair that a team can unilaterally pull qualifying offers before they expire Oct. 1 (by which point players have had ample time to explore the market). If putting the burden of restricted free agency on a player at any point, the team should be forced to leave the qualifying offer extended as a fallback option for the player.
McCollum is right: The market could significantly change while a player is bound by restricted free agency. Becoming an unrestricted free agent once all the money is spent around the league isn’t necessarily some great opportunity.
However, this is the system players agreed to.
Unless they reneged on a verbal promise, the Heat didn’t do anything untoward. They exercised their rights under the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Perhaps, McCollum will fight to change this rule now that he’s in charge of the union. Though owners will want a concession in exchange, NBPA membership might support that trade tradeoff. Two-way contracts have radically increased the number of players subject to restricted free agency. A majority of players might prioritize adjusting qualifying-offer rules, even it means accepting worse terms elsewhere in the NBA’s sprawling system.