The Los Angeles Lakers officially made Jordan Clarkson a restricted free agent by making him a qualifying offer Thursday on the eve of NBA free agency but that won't stop at least one team from taking a look at signing the young guard. The Philadelphia 76ers are one of the teams that could make a play at signing Clarkson away from the Lakers, according to Sam Amick of USA TODAY Sports.
Clarkson's fate is ultimately in the hands of the Lakers, who can match any offer sheet he signs. The Lakers are also protected, to an extent, by the Gilbert Arenas Provision in the NBA's collective bargaining agreement. The provision aims to give teams protection in retaining their successful second-round draft picks. Here's an excerpt on how it works, via Larry Coon's always-helpful CBA FAQ:
This loophole was addressed starting with the 2005 CBA (although not closed completely -- see below). Teams are now limited in the salary they can offer in an offer sheet to a restricted free agent with one or two years in the league. The first-year salary in the offer sheet cannot be greater than the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level exception (see question number 25). Limiting the first-year salary in this way enables the player's original team to match the offer sheet by using the Early Bird exception (if applicable -- see question number 25), or Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level exception (provided they have it and haven't used it already)1.
The second-year salary in such an offer sheet is limited to the standard 4.5% raise. The third-year salary can jump considerably -- it is allowed to be as high as it would have been had the first-year salary not been limited by this rule to the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level exception2. The salary in the fourth season may increase (or decrease) by up to 4.1% of the salary in the third season. The offer sheet can only contain the large jump in the third season if it provides the highest salary allowed in the first two seasons, it is fully guaranteed, and it contains no bonuses of any kind.
The Lakers might be better off working out their own contract structure with Clarkson, but he could force the issue if a team like the 76ers comes along with a backloaded contract. Jordan could be in line for a huge contract even if it doesn't kick in until Years 3 and 4, and signing a binding, lucrative offer sheet versus negotiating with the Lakers could and probably should be something he considers. There's little reason to believe this won't all work itself out, but it's not as simple as sign here and move on.
The 76ers are still without a point guard since moving on from Michael Carter-Williams and Clarkson could be a worthwhile grab for them, and if nothing else they at least force the Lakers into a contract laid out on enemy terms. Free agency begins at 9 p.m. PT Thursday night, so we'll officially be on Clarkson offer sheet watch.