Portland Trail Blazers Going After Roy Hibbert, Jeremy Lin, and Other Restricted Free Agents?

Want him? Be prepared to wait... (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Outside of Nicolas Batum questions and point guard dreams, the next most popular line of questioning lately deals with the Blazers acquiring other teams' restricted free agents. The two obvious targets are Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert and New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin. Let's deal with some of those questions.

Would Lin or Hibbert be good pick-ups for the Blazers?

Hibbert would be about as good of a big man as the Blazers could hope to find on the market. He had a shaky start in the league but has developed defensively, is an adequate defensive rebounder, a very good shot blocker, and has great size at 7'2" and 280 lbs. He's not a great offensive player but he's developed here too. His biggest problem is foul trouble, staying on the court. The Blazers should be ecstatic if they could pull of this kind of acquisition.

Lin is more of a roll of the dice. You saw all the hype. You also saw the injuries and the decline in quality of play when Lin had to share the ball with Carmelo Anthony. If the Blazers want to pick up a point guard who craves the ball in his hands and freedom to create at any cost that point guard should probably be named Nash or Williams. Lin has no track record either. Some of the stats scream, "YES!" but the gut says, "Be careful."

Would their current teams let them go?

No.

How would Indiana replace Hibbert? Centers don't grow on trees. They have no other big men ready to take the starting role in the middle. They're a playoff team looking to get stronger, not start over. They should, and will, match any offer Hibbert gets.

New York may be on shakier ground with Lin but the dude generated so much attention that they can't afford to let him go. Look at that roster: Lin, Anthony, Amare Stoudemire, J.R. Smith. That team's not constructed to win championships. It exists for one purpose only: sell tickets and draw eyeballs. They're capped out and unable to acquire a prime point guard. Outside of one of the bigger names at the position, who will create more buzz than Lin? They're not going to let him go.

Could the Blazers make an offer anyway, maybe make it unattractive to those teams?

You can't make an offer unattractive to the Knicks. They're already over the cap...as ugly as it can get. The Pacers will have cap space. You could freak them out a little by offering the moon to Hibbert.

Here's the problem, though. Remember how we talked yesterday about the Blazers wanting to move fast with their free agent signings this summer? To maximize cap space they need to get business done before Nicolas Batum signs an offer sheet with another team. Once Batum inks that deal, they have 72 hours to complete deals or they lose part of their cap flexibility.

When you offer a contract to another team's restricted free agent that other team also has 72 hours to consider whether they want to match the offer or not. Though the proposed salary doesn't go on their cap until it's accepted, it goes on your cap, as the offering team, the minute you make the offer. This prevents a team from making offers to 20 restricted free agents at once when they're only able to follow through with one. If the other team matches the offer and retains their restricted free agent the salary then goes off your cap again, of course. But until they announce they're matching, you can't use the cap money you offered the guy.

So let's say it's a Monday in free agent land. The Blazers decide to take a flyer on Hibbert. They really want to mess with the Pacers, taking their best shot, so they offer $13 million per year...most of their available cap space. The Pacers now have 72 hours to decide whether to match the offer. In that time the Blazers cannot commit that $13 million anywhere else outside of the Hibbert deal. Technically they can ask to withdraw the offer, but Hibbert himself would have to consent to that. Since it's a high-dollar deal, that's unlikely. For all intents and purposes that cap space is committed for the next 72 hours.

So anyway, the $13 million offer is made on Monday and now it's Tuesday morning in free agent land. The Blazers wake up to the news that Nicolas Batum just signed an offer sheet with another team, starting Portland's own 72-hour deadline clock. In order to maximize their cap space they have three days to sign the folks they want before matching Batum's offer. But wait! The bulk of the cap room that the Blazers need in order to do their business is still tied up in the Hibbert offer. Until Indiana decides what they're going to do, that money is unavailable.

Keep in mind, too, that Indiana has no incentive to hurry their decision. First, they're trying to do the same thing Portland is: making all their deals before having to commit that $13 million in cap space to Hibbert. Second, why would they want to help out the Blazers? So they're going to take every tick of their three day clock to match that offer.

So here's Portland, pacing nervously for the next two days while Indiana dawdles. The Pacers will almost certainly match the offer. The Blazers are probably leaving this exchange empty handed. They've wasted two days of their three-day window, leaving them but 24 hours to sign free agents before the Batum offer goes on their books.

Because of the timing, I don't see the Blazers making offers to restricted free agents unless they lust after the guy and they suspect the opposing team won't match. I could imagine them taking a flyer on a guy, but the bar is higher for making an offer to restricted free agents than it would be making offers to unrestricted guys or making trades.

In short, trying to get Hibbert or Lin is almost certainly a waste of time in an off-season where time itself could prove critical to the Blazers' plans.

--Dave (blazersub@gmail.com)

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