Free agency begins this evening and with that there are some accounting and loose ends to be tied. One which is the extending of qualifying offers to your own restricted free agents in order to keep them restricted and maintain matching rights. The Lakers had several such players on their roster and made decisions on them today:
Lakers have given qualifying offers to Jordan Clarkson, Tarik Black & Marcelo Huertas making all 3 restricted, not Ryan Kelly @BBallInsiders
— Eric Pincus (@EricPincus) June 30, 2016
Giving a qualifying offer to Clarkson was always expected and just a formality. The Lakers see him as part of their future and want to maintain the ability to match any offer-sheet he signs or just ink him outright to a new a deal.
As for Huertas and Black, the Lakers’ interest in them is likely lower than Clarkson, but giving them their QO is still the smart move. Neither will likely garner huge interest in free agency, but both could be useful players on the right team and in the right role — which could still be on the Lakers. Making them RFA’s gives the Lakers the right of first refusal on both and depending on how things play out in the first week or so of July, both could end up staying in LA.
As for Kelly, he never really broke through in any meaningful way for the Lakers. He showed some potential as a floor spacing big in his rookie season, offering a diverse enough skill set where it looked like he could potentially be a 3rd or 4th big on a decent team. Over the last couple of seasons, though, roster issues pushed him into playing some SF or left him behind 1st round picks who have higher upside and a larger financial investment. I still think Kelly can find a role in this league, but time is running thin and the Lakers clearly feel he will need to find that role on a different team.
One last note on cap mechanics — It is good to remember that qualifying offers can be rescinded at any time. The cap holds for Black ($1.1 million) and Huertas ($1.07 million) are both higher than the cap holds for an empty roster spot ($500K). Should the Lakers need to free up a bit of extra money in free agency, they could always take back their qualifying offer and turn both players into unrestricted free agents.
On the flip side, this math also tells the story of why the Lakers would offer the QO in the first place as their total cap holds now are only a little over $1 million more than an empty roster spot. For that cost, it’s better to maintain matching rights and see how things play out.