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Five restricted free agents for Celtics to consider

On Wednesday, Minnesota forward Kevin Love [1] signed a four-year extension [2] that could be worth up to $60 million. Love didn’t get the five-year max offer that he was seeking from Minnesota, but he may have gained something more valuable: control over his future. Love can opt out after three years, which would make him an unrestricted free agent after the 2015 season at the same time Ricky Rubio [3] and Derrick Williams [4] will be finishing their rookie deals, as well as coach Rick Adelman, who is also signed through the 2015 season.

Why the Timberwolves [5] didn’t lock up the 23-year-old double-double machine when he wanted to sign on for the long-term is the kind of curious decision that has defined GM David Kahn‘s very curious tenure. But it does take Love off the restricted free agent market this summer and removes another potential target for the Celtics [6], who are positioned to have ample room under the cap after the season.

The problem with having all that cap space is there are very few worthy players to spend it on outside of Dwight Howard [7]. Team president Danny Ainge noted last week in an appearance on The Big Show [8] that, “My philosophy is it’s really challenging to build a team when you overpay role players before you have your stars.”

That puts Ainge in a difficult spot, but patience is the right call and for an obvious example of what not to do when cap money burns a hole in your pocket, see the Pistons, who blew up their roster when they traded Chauncey Billups [9] and then quickly signed Charlie Villanueva [10] and Ben Gordon [11] to their ever-lasting regret.

Make no mistake, the 23-year-old Love is a star and quite possibly a franchise player in the making. He’s exactly the kind of player for whom you save cap space when he does hit unrestricted free agency and thanks to the Wolves, that will now happen far sooner than it would have otherwise. But the Celtics, and everyone else, will still have to wait.

Wednesday was the deadline for players from the 2008 draft to sign extensions and in addition to Love, Denver signed Danilo Gallinari to a four-year deal [12]. They join Derrick Rose [13] and Russell Westbrook [14] as the other players from the draft class to sign long-term deals.

But there were several intriguing players who didn’t sign deals and will be restricted free agents this summer. While none of them are franchise players worth max money, here are five intriguing possibilities for Ainge to consider.

Eric Gordon [15]: After the NBA wouldn’t allow the Hornets to trade Chris Paul [16] for a package that would have included Kevin Martin [17], Luis Scola and Lamar Odom, some observers felt the league made the right call when New Orleans acquired Gordon and others from the Clippers. But that assumed the league-owned franchise would be able to re-sign Gordon and that didn’t happen on Wednesday [18].

Gordon average 22 points a game for the Clippers last season, but the problem is that he has played less than 200 games in his three-plus seasons and only two this season because of a knee injury. He’s a classic buyer-beware gamble in free agency, but considering the lack of an owner in New Orleans and a clear directive from the league, he’ll draw significant interest.

Ryan Anderson [19]: The 6-foot-10 sharpshooter had a miserable game against the Celtics on Monday, missing all eight shots, but he’s very quietly having a breakthrough season as a starter, averaging almost 17 points and seven rebounds per game. He’s shooting 42 percent from 3-point range and is a better rebounder than people realize. For the right price he’d be a terrific pick-and-pop partner for Rajon Rondo [20]. It’s also worth noting that the Magic’s roster is a mess with long-term commitments to role players like Glen Davis [21] and Jason Richardson [22].

Brook Lopez [23]: He had foot surgery and is expected to be out for a significant chunk of the season, but 7-footers who can score like Lopez are rare. (His declining rebounding numbers are a source of concern, however.) The Nets [24] are all-in on Howard, which is why they didn’t make Lopez an offer and he could become very available depending on how that situation plays out.

Roy Hibbert [25]: Another monster center who has continued to improve during his career. It’s doubtful the Pacers would let him walk, but if they went after Gordon, an Indianapolis native …

Nic Batum: There’s an interesting scenario taking place in Portland where the Blazers have Batum and Gerald Wallace [26] both likely to hit free agency (Wallace has a player option). They could have locked up Batum at a reasonable price, but paralysis seems to be the order of the day in Portland. Batum is young, athletic and owns a nice 3-point stroke and would be the kind of fast break flyer who would look very good running next to Rondo.