It would be great folly to assume that one knows much of anything about restricted free agency in the NBA. Sure, you may know the rules. But don’t try to claim to find rhyme or reason in the way unrestricted free agency plays out.

It was two years ago, after all, that the Rockets made a splash with innovative offers to Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik, both restricted free agents. Just weeks ago, though, Houston gave away both Asik and Lin for little return, presumably to help keep another restricted free agent, Chandler Parsons. Instead, the Rockets let Parsons walk and turned the Asik departure into a deal for Trevor Ariza.

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If one accepts the position of utter RFA confusion, then there will be considerably less surprise that two of the top young players at their positions — Pistons big man Greg Monroe and Suns guard Eric Bledsoe — remain unsigned as we enter late July.

When it comes to those two players, there are essentially two teams holding the cards — the Hawks and Suns, the teams who could potentially pursue either player with significant and realistic offers. That could change if the long-rumored deal of Detroit’s Josh Smith to Sacramento comes to fruition. Until then, though, the Hawks and Suns have the power here.

The problem, though, is that the max-contract offers that the agents for both Bledsoe and Monroe were looking for will not be there — not this summer, or at least not without third-team help. Atlanta has the ability to make either player an offer starting in the range of $10.5 million, though the Hawks have not shown much inclination to do so.

The Suns could make a max offer to Monroe, but Phoenix has been careful with its cap space and does not seem inclined to throw money at a player unless he is a fit — even if the Suns decide to pursue Monroe, they don’t need to make him a max offer to beat the rest of the teams on the market.

Phoenix has the rights to Bledsoe and can match any offer he receives on the market — and a source indicated that nothing has changed in Phoenix’s position with Bledsoe, that any offer would be matched. The Hawks, the

n, could extend an offer to Bledsoe of three years and $33 million, but the Suns would step in and keep him.

Atlanta could do the same with Monroe. The Pistons have explored sign-and-trade deals involving Monroe, who does not necessarily fit into Detroit coach/president Stan Van Gundy’s long-term plans, and something involving the Hawks’ Paul Millsap makes eminent sense. But if the Hawks offered Monroe a cap-friendly deal, the Pistons could be better off matching the contract and exploring trade possibilities for Monroe in the coming year.

The tricky part of restricted free agency comes when the alternate option for players is considered — it’s not good. If a player does not think he can come to an agreement with his team, he can sign the one-year qualifying offer and become an unrestricted free agent the following summer.

That’s a gamble, though, because a player could regress, be sent to the bench or get hurt, torpedoing his value. For Bledsoe, the qualifying offer is $3.7 million, while for Monroe, it is $5.5 million. Signing that one-year offer sheet will result in a potentially lucrative unrestricted free agency, but that move is obviously fraught with risk.

There have been remarkably few restricted free agents who signed the qualifying offer — fewer than a dozen in the last 15 years. While there have been quite a few success stories (Ben Gordon, Rasho Nesterovic, Vladimir Radmanovic, Raymond Felton), there have also been some disasters (Michael Olowokandi, Melvin Ely, Robert Swift).

It’s hard to imagine players of the caliber of Bledsoe or Monroe having disastrous results after signing a qualifying offer, but then, players like them almost never make it that far down the restricted-free agency rabbit hole. That’s because, if the player is good enough to be part of the team’s immediate future, it behooves the team to come to an amicable resolution, too.

“One thing you worry about in those situations is the bitterness,” one general manager told Sporting News. “Players are people, too, and they can be fragile. I think that if you force a player like Bledsoe or Monroe to take a qualifying offer, they’re both sensitive enough that you could have a problem on your hands going forward. They’ve both been told they’re max players. What are you going to get if they don’t get paid what they’re worth?”

There is plenty of precedent for this process requiring this much time to work itself out — again, restricted free agency is tricky. Last year, Gerald Henderson’s restricted free agency in Charlotte was not settled until he got a three-year deal on July 27. The sign-and-trade that divorced Brandon Jennings from the Bucks did not come about until July 30. Nikola Pekovic did not agree to terms with the Timberwolves until August 14.

That’s cold comfort for Bledsoe and Monroe. They don’t have many choices on hand, and their current employers gain leverage with patience, allowing salary-cap space to dry up and chipping away at market value. All they can do is wait.