NBA Free Agency: Top 10 Restricted Free Agentsby Garrett Brooks July 18, 2021 0 comments
With 2021 NBA free agency right around the corner, we’re taking a look at the top ten restricted free agents of the 2021 NBA offseason. With restricted free agents it is always important to factor in the upside of each player in addition to their current ability to contribute.
On this list, you’ll see a mix of players that are ready to dominate a specific role and players that are expected to take big steps in the coming seasons. That’s why the tenth player could be ahead of the third player when we look back a few years down the road, for example.
Top Ten Restricted Free Agents: No. 10 – Talen Horton-Tucker, Los Angeles Lakers
The hype around Horton-Tucker may have diminished a bit from where it was at the end of last season but he remains a high upside prospect for good reason. Still just 20 years old, THT has spent the last two seasons learning from players like LeBron James and Anthony Davis. That is in addition to the number of veterans the Lakers have employed in that time.
Horton-Tucker played in 65 games this past season, including four starts. He averaged 9 points, 2.8 assists and 2.6 rebounds per game. Certain areas of his game need improvement, such as his outside shooting. That doesn’t take away from the versatile skillset he has displayed in limited time in the NBA.
Length, feel and an aggressive approach make him one of the most promising upside players in this year’s restricted free agent class. He has a chance to be a huge steal if the right team snags him away from the Lakers.
Top Ten Restricted Free Agents: No. 9 – Terence Davis, Sacramento Kings
Davis has also played two NBA seasons so far. Between time in Toronto and then with the Sacramento Kings this past season he has displayed a valuable skillset despite going undrafted in the 2019 NBA Draft. The combo guard is a great player to bring off the bench and have lead that unit.
After being acquired by the Kings during the 2020-21 NBA season he averaged 11.1 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game. That production came across 27 games, all of which came off the bench. He doesn’t have the same long-term potential as some players on this list but he is ready to play a very important role on an NBA team from day one.
Top Ten Restricted Free Agents: No. 8 – Devonte’ Graham, Charlotte Hornets
Graham’s time with the Hornets seems to be at an inevitable conclusion this offseason. His three seasons with the Michael Jordan owned franchise have produced a plethora of results including his out of nowhere 2019-20 breakout campaign. It was that season when he was among the most improved players in the entire league behind averages of 18.2 points and 7.5 assists.
The eventual selection of LaMelo Ball and handover of the franchise to the young stud guard began the end of the Graham era in Charlotte. While his 2019-20 numbers are inflated by being on a bad team he is still a very good backup point guard if a team brings him in to play that role.
The 26-year-old point guard is ready to make an impact now and can easily be one of this class’s best bargains for the right NBA franchise. Graham has connected on 36.4 percent of his three-point attempts in the NBA so far.
Top Ten Restricted Free Agents: No. 7 – Josh Hart, New Orleans Pelicans
Hart was the 30th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. That came after spending four years at Villanova in which he racked up the accolades and won a National Championship (2015-16).
Since joining the NBA he has earned an increase in playing time in each of his first four seasons. That includes this past season with the Pelicans where he played 28.7 minutes per game. As a result of the earned increase in playing time, Hart put up career-high rebounds and assists (2.3) this past season.
He rebounds the ball especially well for a player his size and can be an asset to any team looking for help on the glass. He also is willing and capable of guarding up and should be targeted by plenty of teams in free agency.
Top Ten Restricted Free Agents: No. 6 – Duncan Robinson, Miami Heat
Robinson was riding a lot more hype coming off the 2020 NBA bubble than he is right now but NBA front offices haven’t forgotten about him. Just like Hart, Robinson offers a specific skill set that will be coveted. Robinson’s is perimeter shooting though, not rebounding.
In today’s NBA there is no such thing as too much outside shooting. Robinson is one of the game’s elite three-point specialists and will be targeted by many teams in free agency. The Heat would love to bring him back but another team could offer him bog money.
Only a few players in the entire league can hit three-point shots of all sorts like Robinson and even fewer can heat up as quickly as he can. Over the course of the last two seasons, Robinson has averaged 8.4 three-point attempts per game. He has connected on 42.7 percent of those perimeter attempts.
Top Ten Restricted Free Agents: No. 5 – Lauri Markkanen, Chicago Bulls
Following a disappointing 2020-21 NBA season, Markkanen got the slight edge over the last two players because of what he could become still. Despite being a big disappointment in his fourth NBA season for the Bulls, a change of scenery could do wonders for a player like Markkanen.
He has rare athleticism for a player his size and continued to flash that athleticism randomly this past season. He will need to utilize it to become better on the glass, where he was brutal this past season, in order to reach his potential. Markkanen, at the very least, is a knockdown floor-stretching big man that has a smooth stroke that isn’t going anywhere.
Top Ten Restricted Free Agents: No. 4 – Gary Trent Jr., Toronto Raptors
Trent Jr. was in the midst of a breakout season before being traded mid-season from the Portland Trail Blazers to the Toronto Raptors. The move didn’t slow him down in any way and now he is set to get a major pay raise in restricted free agency.
For his career, the 22-year-old sharpshooter is a 39.3 percent three-point shooter. He showed he has more to his game than being a specialist this past year with two different teams, though. Trent Jr. averaged 15.3 points per contest on the year for the Trail Blazers and Raptors.
The former Duke Blue Devil is going to cash in this offseason and could be on his way to a much bigger role. Anyone looking for scoring in free agency will have Trent Jr. near the top of their list of targets.
Top Ten Restricted Free Agents: No. 3 – Jarrett Allen, Cleveland Cavaliers
Allen has been flashing his upside and potential impact for four seasons so far and seems to have finally found his long-term home in Cleveland. After being shipped out from the Brooklyn Nets as part of the deal that saw them add James Harden, Allen made his way to the Cavaliers and appears to be their franchise center moving forward
After getting to the Cavs Allen quickly became a focal point of their team. It led to the eventual departure of Andre Drummond and Allen seems like the biggest lock on this list to return to his 2021 team in the offseason.
Top Ten Restricted Free Agents: No. 2 – John Collins, Atlanta Hawks
The Atlanta Hawks made quite the playoff run this season. There reward? Tough decisions once free agency rolls around like what to do with Collins. They failed to extend him earlier in the year and because of that failed extension, Collins name was involved in trade rumors up until the trade deadline passed.
Collins has certainly earned a raise, regardless of where it comes from. In his four-year career with the Hawks, he has averages of 16.6 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. His production took a hit in the playoffs, which may lead to his eventual departure from the Hawks.
Still, Collins is a proven talent in the frontcourt that a lot of teams would love to have. He does many things, but most impressive might be his 38 percent shooting from deep so far in his career. During the 2019-20 NBA season Collins averaged a career-high 21.6 points and 10.1 rebounds per game.
Top Ten Restricted Free Agents: No. 1 – Lonzo Ball, New Orleans Pelicans
Finally, number one on the list of 2021 restricted free agents is Lonzo Ball. The Pelicans point guard is set for a big contract this offseason. He is a known stud on defense and took nice steps this year offensively.
Ball averaged a career-high 14.6 points per game in his second season with the Pelicans and fourth season in the NBA. He also shot the best percentage of his career yet, connecting on 41.4 percent of his field goals.
The Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks have long been rumored to have interest in Ball. Both make sense for him. The question will be whether the Pelicans let him walk and take nothing in return. He’s a two-way stud that showed he can play alongside ball-dominant players this year.
Ball is far and away the top RFA this offseason. He will have a massive impact on the rest of the market behind him.
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