Here are the best NBA players who could be free agents this summer originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
The 2022 NBA Playoffs are still in the midst of the second round, meaning we’re not even halfway through the postseason yet.
But the offseason is looming. And what an offseason it could be.
Not only does the 2022 NBA Draft boast several contenders to be the No. 1 overall pick, but this summer’s free-agent class is lined up to be stacked as well.
From superstars with player options to high-profile restricted free agents and more, here’s a look at the best players who could be available come July 1:
1. Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Nets, player option
More Kyrie Irving drama. After one of the more bizarre seasons we’ll ever see from an NBA player, Irving has to make a decision on a $36.5 million player option. Irving said he doesn’t plan to leave Brooklyn, and he can opt out for a new deal with the Nets at a maximum of five years, $246 million. But, from injuries to sabbaticals and a vaccine refusal, the 30-year-old point guard hasn’t exactly proven to be the most reliable player during his Nets tenure. So the big question here is, how much of a commitment is Brooklyn comfortable making if Irving opts out?
2. Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls, unrestricted
Zach LaVine is set for a huge pay raise. The two-time All-Star just finished up a four-year, $78 million deal. Now, he’s eligible for a five-year, $212 million deal from Chicago, which would more than double his average annual salary. And he deserves every penny. LaVine, 27, was one of just four players to score over 24 points per game while shooting at least 47% from the field and 38% from 3 in 2021-22. The Bulls should put in the offer the minute free agency opens.
3. Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards, player option
What year are we on in the Bradley Beal will-he-won’t-he-leave-D.C. saga? The in-season speculation was much quieter in 2021-22 as the Wizards got off to a strong start and Beal eventually had season-ending wrist surgery. But here we are again. Should the 29-year-old Beal decline his $36.4 million player option, he would be eligible for a five-year, $248 million deal from Washington or a four-year, $179 million deal elsewhere. Beal, who indicated he was leaning toward re-signing back in March, has 69 million reasons to stay in the nation’s capital. He could always force his way out down the line if needed.
4. James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers, player option
At his introductory press conference as a Sixer, James Harden said he would pick up a $47.4 million option. Boy, do the Sixers have to be hoping he stays true to his word. Harden, 32, has not been able to regain the MVP-like form he showed as recently as last season. He’s still a fantastic facilitator, but he isn’t the lethal scoring threat he once was. After recording at least 25 points in his first four games with Philly, Harden has reached that mark just three times since. Is the hamstring holding him back or is this simply who Harden is now? If it’s the latter, the Beard is not even close to being worth the five-year, $270 million max. You’d think Daryl Morey and Co. would want another year of evidence before having to negotiate a new deal.
5. Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns, restricted
The Suns not locking up Deandre Ayton to a long-term extension before October’s deadline was a stunner. Phoenix’s reported refusal to offer Ayton the five-year, $172.5 million max led to the 23-year-old center becoming the first No. 1 overall pick since Anthony Bennett to not sign a rookie extension (h/t The Athletic). Ayton has continued to prove he’s worthy of the max with his play this season as Phoenix appears on its way to another Finals trip. Yes, the Suns’ roster is getting expensive, but is owner Robert Sarver really going to cheap out on a title contender?
6. Miles Bridges, Charlotte Hornets, restricted
The Hornets reportedly offered Miles Bridges a four-year, $60 million extension, and the former No. 12 overall pick said he may have accepted the deal if it wasn’t for his agent, Rich Paul, talking him out of it. Well, Paul was right for believing in Bridges. The athletic forward made a substantial leap in 2021-22, upping his points per game average from 12.7 to 20.2 with shooting splits of 49.1/33.1/80.2. Whether it’s in Charlotte or somewhere else, the 24-year-old Bridges will be making more than $15 million per year on his next deal. In fact, some NBA executives believe he could land a deal worth $25 million or more per year, according to HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto.
7. Anfernee Simons, Portland Trail Blazers, restricted
Anfernee Simons might have enjoyed the best contract year out of anyone in the entire league. With Damian Lillard being limited to 29 games, it was Simons’ show for most of the season – and he didn’t disappoint. Simons, 22, increased his points per game average from last season by nearly 10 points, going from 7.8 to 17.3. He did it in an efficient manner too, shooting 44.3% from the field, 40.5% from 3 and 88.8% from the line. It’d be surprising if Simons wasn’t back in Portland starting alongside Lillard in the backcourt next season.
8. Jalen Brunson, Dallas Mavericks, unrestricted
Jalen Brunson has earned about $6 million in his four-year NBA career. He could be making more than triple that during next season alone. The former second-round pick is enjoying a career year with the Mavericks. He put up 16.3 points and 4.8 assists in 31.9 minutes per game (all career highs) with impressive shooting splits of 50.2/37.3/84.0 in the regular season. And Brunson has upped his game even more in the postseason, averaging over 23 points per game. Dallas reportedly didn’t even offer Brunson the four-year, $55 million extension he was eligible for prior to this season. Now, it’s going to take much more than that to keep the 25-year-old in a Mavs uniform.
9. Collin Sexton, Cleveland Cavaliers, restricted
Collin Sexton was Cleveland’s best player last season, putting up 24.3 points per game on 47.5/37.1/81.5 shooting splits. But just 11 games into his 2021-22 campaign, the blazing-quick guard went down with a season-ending torn meniscus. While Sexton was sidelined, Darius Garland solidified himself as the face of the franchise while Cleveland enjoyed its first winning season since 2017-18. So where does that leave the 23-year-old Sexton? Does Cleveland view him as a good enough fit next to Garland in the backcourt long term to give him a big-money deal? Even coming off the injury, Sexton’s talent is worth taking a gamble on. It just remains to be seen whether the Cavs will be the team to make that gamble.
10. T.J. Warren, Indiana Pacers, unrestricted
Remember T.J. Warren’s bubble breakout? Warren exploded for 53 points in his first game in the 2020 Orlando bubble and averaged over 26 points in 10 total games. Unfortunately, it’s been a rough go of it for the swingman since. He appeared in just four games last season before undergoing season-ending foot surgery to repair a stress fracture and was sidelined for the entire 2021-22 season as well. Warren is still on the right side of 30 and he had a strong showing in 2019-20, when he put up 19.8 points per game on 53.6/40.3/81.9 shooting splits. If healthy, he should have plenty of suitors.
Other notable players who could hit free agency:
Delon Wright, Atlanta Hawks, unrestricted
Bruce Brown, Brooklyn Nets, unrestricted
Nic Claxton, Brooklyn Nets, restricted
Andre Drummond, Brooklyn Nets, unrestricted
Patty Mills, Brooklyn Nets, $6.2 million player option
Montrezl Harrell, Charlotte Hornets, unrestricted
Ricky Rubio, Cleveland Cavaliers, unrestricted
DeMarcus Cousins, Denver Nuggets, unrestricted
Marvin Bagley III, Detroit Pistons, restricted
Kevon Looney, Golden State Warriors, unrestricted
Gary Payton II, Golden State Warriors, unrestricted
Dennis Schröder, Houston Rockets, unrestricted
John Wall, Houston Rockets, $47.4 million player option
Jalen Smith, Indiana Pacers, unrestricted
Nic Batum, Los Angeles Clippers, $3.3 million player option
Isaiah Hartenstein, Los Angeles Clippers, unrestricted
Carmelo Anthony, Los Angeles Lakers, unrestricted
Malik Monk, Los Angeles Lakers, unrestricted
Russell Westbrook, Los Angeles Lakers, $47.1 million player option
Victor Oladipo, Miami Heat, unrestricted
P.J. Tucker, Miami Heat, $7.4 million player option
Kyle Anderson, Memphis Grizzlies, unrestricted
Tyus Jones, Memphis Grizzlies, unrestricted
Pat Connaughton, Milwaukee Bucks, $5.7 million player option
Bobby Portis, Milwaukee Bucks, $4.6 million player option
Taurean Prince, Minnesota Timberwolves, unrestricted
Mitchell Robinson, New York Knicks, unrestricted
Mo Bamba, Orlando Magic, restricted
Gary Harris, Orlando Magic, unrestricted
Jusuf Nurkic, Portland Trail Blazers, unrestricted
Lonnie Walker IV, San Antonio Spurs, restricted
Chris Boucher, Toronto Raptors, unrestricted
Joe Ingles, Utah Jazz, unrestricted