NBA free agency officially opens at 6:00 P.M. this evening, starting off what could be another offseason full of shocking decisions by some of the league's best. The 2022 free-agent class is as star-studded as ever, featuring players like Bradley Beal, Deandre Ayton, Zach LaVine, and multiple other young stars in today's game. With some of the NBA's best set to hit the open market, let's dive into the best players available, and some free agency predictions.
RFA- Restricted Free Agent
UFA- Unrestricted Free Agent
Deandre Ayton, C (23 yrs, RFA)
Phoenix is reportedly ready to move on from the 2018 number one overall pick, as they’ve been unable to agree to a contract extension since the 2021 offseason. Recent reports have also suggested that a fallout during the game seven loss to the Mavericks between Ayton and Head Coach Monty Williams, has also contributed to the Suns’ decision to let go of Ayton. However, Ayton is a restricted free agent, meaning Phoenix can match any contract offer Ayton receives from another team. It seems likely that Ayton will agree to a max contract elsewhere, and Phoenix will match the offer to make a sign-and-trade deal with his new team, allowing them to receive players and potentially draft picks in return for letting Ayton walk. The Arizona product averaged seventeen points and ten rebounds per game last season.
Bradley Beal, G (28 yrs, UFA)
The three-time all-star declined his thirty-six million dollar player option Wednesday afternoon, meaning Beal will enter free agency. However, there seems to be a real chance that Beal decides to stay in Washington on a five-year max contract. Beal only played in forty games a season ago, but in those forty games, Beal averaged twenty-three points, just under five rebounds, and six assists per game. Beal is only twenty-eight years old and is still playing at an All-star level, so there will be plenty of teams attempting to sway him away from Washington.
Miles Bridges, G, (24 yrs, RFA)
The Miles Bridges sweepstakes have been and will continue to be one of the more entertaining storylines during free agency. Bridges is coming off the best year of his career so far and was a key piece for the Hornets a season ago. At just twenty-four years old, Bridges will likely receive large contract offers from multiple different teams; the only question so far has been if the Hornets will choose to match the offers given to their young forward. Bridges can also be seen as one of the riskier free agency signings, as teams are betting on his ability to consistently put together seasons similar to his 2021-2022 campaign.
Jalen Brunson, G, (25 yrs, UFA)
Brunson put multiple teams on notice after his impressive playoff run this season with the Mavericks, averaging twenty-one points, four rebounds, and three assists per game in their Western Conference Finals run. It has been reported for a large part of the offseason, that the New York Knicks were heavily interested in Brunson, and would be pursuing him aggressively in free agency. Those reports seem to be playing out now, as the Knicks have made multiple trades within the last week as they attempt to free up cap space to sign Brunson. The current expectation around the league is that Brunson will sign a four or five-year contract for close to one-hundred and ten million. Multiple people around the league view this as a gamble for the Knicks, as they’re essentially going all-in on Brunson to be the point guard of the future in New York. However, it is currently being reported that Brunson will meet with the Knicks, Heat, and Mavericks once free agency begins.
James Harden, G (32 yrs, UFA)
Harden declined his forty-seven million dollar player option Wednesday, with the expectation that he’ll sign a smaller contract offer with Philadelphia once free agency is underway. Harden and the 76ers are expected to agree to a deal that is “cap friendly” for Philadelphia, allowing them to continue to improve the roster and gear up for a title run. Harden is coming off a controversy-filled season as he was traded to the 76ers after just eighty games with the Brooklyn Nets, Harden averaged twenty-two points, ten assists, and nearly eight rebounds per game this past season. Harden’s role with Philadelphia is different from how he’s played in the past, as the 76ers are wanting Harden to be more of a playmaker with the current roster Philadelphia has. The former MVP will be thirty-three years old entering the 2022-2023 season, further explaining Harden’s reasoning for taking a more minor contract, as he chases his first championship.
Zach LaVine, G (27 yrs, UFA)
LaVine is set to enter the open market as an unrestricted free agent, coming off his second straight All-star appearance. LaVine is arguably the biggest name in this year’s free-agent class, as the twenty-seven-year-old is coming off his fourth straight season of twenty-three points or more per game. Although LaVine is entering free agency, it’s widely expected that he’ll remain in Chicago, potentially on a max contract. The Bulls will look to continue to build their roster, but signing LaVine to a max deal solidifies him as the building point and centerpiece for Chicago’s future.
Anfernee Simons, G, (23 yrs, RFA)
Simons could have arguably the most suitors in free agency as Simon is only twenty-three years old, and is coming off a career year. Simons averaged seventeen points per game during the 2021-2022 season and shot an impressive forty-four percent from the outside. Simons has proved that he can play alongside Damian Lillard, and be the potential future of the franchise. Simons is a restricted free agent, which allows Portland to match any contract offer that Simons receives. Teams around the NBA are reportedly expecting Simons to receive a contract close to four years for eighty million dollars total, and also expect Portland to match the offer. However, if Simons is to receive a four or five-year contract for upwards of one hundred million, it will be interesting to see what Portland decides to do.
Collin Sexton, G, (23 yrs, RFA)
Sexton is coming off a season in which he played in just eleven games after suffering a torn meniscus; however, Sexton had just finished the best year of his career in the 2020-2021 season, showing his potential. Sexton is one of the best young two-way guards in the league and has been impressive alongside Darius Garland. Sexton is a restricted free agent, allowing Cleveland to match other contract offers that Sexton receives, meaning he will probably remain in Cleveland. It’s been reported that the young guard wants a contract of around twenty million dollars per year, leaving it up to the Cavaliers to decide to match the offer or not.
Jusuf Nurkic, C, (27 yrs, UFA)
Nurkic is just twenty-seven years old, yet he’s coming off of three consecutive injury-filled seasons. In fifty-six games this past season, Nurkic averaged fifteen points and eleven rebounds per game, showing his production level when he’s able to remain healthy. Although the former first-round pick is hitting the open market, it is expected that Nurkic will re-sign with the Blazers on a deal centered around four years and seventeen million dollars. If Nurkic can remain healthy, that value would be a steal for the Trail Blazers.
Malik Monk, G, (24 yrs, UFA)
Monk is a former lottery pick of the Charlotte Hornets, who signed a minimum contract with the Lakers just in the last offseason, Monk looked as if he hit his stride with the purple and gold, as he appeared in seventy-six games and had career highs in nearly every category. Monk is twenty-four years old, which is younger than multiple of the NBA’s current young stars, making Monk even more desirable. Monk will be an unrestricted free agent and will look around to see how much money he could receive, but the door isn’t shut on a potential return to the Lakers for Monk. The Lakers could sign Monk to the midlevel exception, enabling Monk to receive a one-year deal worth just over three million dollars. However, it has also been reported that the Sacramento Kings are interested in acquiring Monk, as they could give him a contract closer to the eight to twelve million range that the Kentucky product is reportedly desiring.
Free Agency Predictions
-James Harden re-signs with Philadelphia
-Zach LaVine Re-sings with Chicago
-Jalen Brunson signs with the New York Knicks
-The Hornets match another team’s offer to Miles Bridges, bringing him back to Charlotte
-Bradley Beal re-signs with Washington on a max contract
-Deandre Ayton joins the Indiana Pacers in a sign-and-trade deal with the Phoenix Suns
-Portland matches an offer sheet given to Anfernee Simons by another team
-The Cavaliers match an offer sheet given to Collin Sexton by another team
-Bobby Portis re-signs with the Bucks
-Victor Oladipo signs with the Denver Nuggets
-Mitchell Robinson re-signs with the Knicks
-Kevon Looney re-signs with the Golden State Warriors
-Jusuf Nurkic re-signs with Portland
-Malik Monk re-signs with the Lakers
-Patty Mills re-signs with the Brooklyn Nets
-PJ Tucker signs with the Philadelphia 76ers
-Nic Claxton re-signs with the Brooklyn Nets
-Mo Bamba signs with the Chicago Bulls
-Donte DiVincenzo signs with the Boston Celtics
-Montrezl Harrell signs with the Los Angeles Clippers
-Kyle Anderson signs with the Indiana Pacers
*All stats were received from NBA.com and ESPN's Stats & Info. department