I don’t know if the Blazers will want to re-sign Mills. He had an impressive game yesterday, but that was only one game, and it was just summer league. But if they want to re-sign him it may not be a slam dunk because of salary cap rules.
But first, there are conflicting reports about whether Patty Mills is a Restricted Free Agent or an Unrestricted Free Agent. The Oregonian says Mills is a Restricted Free Agent. From July 6 article here.
The Blazers tendered a qualifying contract offer to Mills last month, but it's not guaranteed. The team can withdraw the offer by July 23 -- from that point to Oct. 1 the sides have to mutually agree to terminate the deal -- meaning Mills' status with the Blazers could hinge on his summer league play.
So unless the Blazers withdrew the offer (why would they so quickly?) Mills would be a restricted free agent. ESPN also lists Mills as a restricted free agent.
I tend to believe those reports, but Mike Barrett said yesterday during the summer league game that Mills is an Unrestricted Free Agent. He repeated that again today in on his blog page.
So who is correct, Barrett or the Oregonian? I think Mills is a Restricted Free Agent but then why is Barrett confused?
Salary Cap Issues
Even if Mills is a Restricted Free Agent we may still not be able to match an offer sheet from another team. We can’t go over the salary cap to match an offer sheet without using a Salary Cap Exception. We have these Exceptions that we could use:
1) The Non-Bird Exception: We don’t have the Bird Exception, or the Early Bird Exception because those apply to players with at least 3 years, or 2 years of NBA playing experience, respectively. The Non-Bird exception allows us to re-sign Mills for the Qualifying Offer ($937,195), but no more.
2) The Mid-Level Exception (MLE): The MLE would allow us to re-sign Mills for up to $5.765M, but we have already committed the MLE to the Wesley Matthews offer sheet. If Utah matches our offer sheet we get the MLE back. But I doubt we would spend any substantial part of it on Mills and would instead save it all for another free agent.
3) The Bi-Annual Exception (BAE): We didn’t use it last year so we could use it this year. It’s $2.08M and we could use all or part of it. However, the BAE is limited to contracts of 2 years or less.
Conclusion: If another team were to sign Mills to an offer sheet for more than $2.08M (above the BAE), or for $1M or more (above the Non-Bird Exception) and more than 2 years (longer than the BAE), we would be forced to use the MLE. But we may not have the MLE any longer, and if we did I doubt we would want to use it on Mills. In other words, it would be fairly easy for another team to poach Mills if they wanted him.
That follows from my reading of Larry Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ. If I’m wrong, then hopefully Storyteller or someone else will correct me. I believe the important section of the Salary Cap FAQ that pertains to this issue is this:
There are several situations where a team still might be unable to match an offer sheet:
If the player is a Non-Bird free agent and the team already used their Mid-Level exception to sign another player.
If a team has two Non-Bird free agents with one or two years in the league. They can use the Mid-Level exception to keep one of them, but would lose the other.
Note: There is also a restriction on the salary in an offer sheet for players with only 1 or 2 years experience to make sure the MLE is sufficient to match offers.