Here are the best NBA players who can be free agents this summer, originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
The 2022 NBA playoffs are still in the middle of the second round, which means we’re not even halfway through the postseason yet.
But the off season is on. And what could it be off-season.
The 2022 NBA Draft not only boasts several contenders to be the No. 1 overall pick, but is also set to pile up this summer’s free-agent class.
From superstars with a choice of players to high-profile banned free agents and more, here’s a look at the best players who could be available on July 1:
1. Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Nets, Player Choice
More Kyrie Irving drama. A more bizarre season than we’ll ever see from an NBA player, Irving will have to decide on a $36.5 million player option. Irving said he has no plans to leave Brooklyn, and could opt for a new deal with the Nets for a maximum of five years, $246 million. But, from injuries to rest and refusal to vaccine, the 30-year-old point guard has not proved to be the most reliable player during his Nets stint. So the big question here is, how much commitment does Brooklyn make if Irving moves out?
2. Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls, Unrestricted
Zach LaVine a. ready for Huge Salary increment. The two-time All-Star signed a four-year, $78 million deal. Now, he is eligible for a five-year deal from Chicago for $212 million, which will more than double his average annual salary. And he deserves every penny. LaVine, 27, was one of four players to score more than 24 points per game, shooting at least 47% off the field and 3 to 38% in 2021-22. Bulls should put in the offer as soon as free agency opens.
3. Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards, Player Choice
What year are we in the Bradley Beal will-he-won-he-leave-DC saga? In-season speculation in 2021-22 was muted as the Wizards made a strong start and Biel eventually underwent wrist surgery at the end of the season. But here we are again. Should 29-year-old Biel decline his $36.4 million player option, he would be eligible for a five-year, $248 million or four-year, $179 million deal from Washington. Biel, who indicated he was leaning towards re-signing in March, has 69 million reasons to stay in the nation’s capital. He could always force himself out of line when needed.
4. James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers, Player Choice
In his introductory press conference as Sixer, James Harden said he would opt for $47.4 million. Boy, will the Sixers have to hope he sticks to his word. Harden, 32, has not been able to achieve the MVP-like form he recently showed last season. He’s still a brilliant facilitator, but not the deadly scoring threat he once was. Harden has only reached that mark three times, after recording at least 25 points in his first four games with Philly. Are the hamstrings holding him back or is it just what Harden is now? If it’s the latter, Beard isn’t even close to being worth five years, maxing out at $270 million. You’d think Daryl Morey & Co. wants another year of proof before negotiating a new deal.
5. Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns, Banned
It was a wonder the Sons didn’t close Deandre Ayton for a longer-term extension before the October deadline. Phoenix declined a five-year offer to Ayton, $172.5 million max becoming the first No. 1 overall pick since 23-year-old center Anthony Bennett who did not sign the rookie extension (h/t The Athletic). Ayton continues to prove he deserves the maximum with his game this season as Phoenix is on his way to another finals tour. Yes, the Sons’ roster is getting expensive, but is owner Robert Sarwar really going cheap on a title contender?
6. Miles Bridge, Charlotte Hornet, Banned
The Hornets reportedly offered Miles Bridge a four-year, $60 million extension, and the former No. 12 overall pick said he would have accepted the deal if it hadn’t been for his agent Rich Paul to talk to him. . Well, Paul was right for believing in bridges. The athletic forward took a big leap forward in 2021–22, shooting an average of 49.1/33.1/80.2 with splits per game reaching an average of 12.7 to 20.2. Whether it’s in Charlotte or elsewhere, Bridges, 24, will make over $15 million a year on her next deal. In fact, some NBA executives believe he could make a deal worth $25 million or more per year, according to Michael Scotto of HoopHype.
7. Unferny Simmons, Portland Trail Blazers, Banned
Anfernee Simmons may have enjoyed the best contract year of anyone in the entire league. With Damien Lillard limited to 29 games, it was Simmons’ show for most of the season—and he didn’t disappoint. Simmons, 22, increased his points-per-game average by almost 10 points from last season, rising from 7.8 to 17.3. He also did it in an efficient manner, shooting 44.3% from the field, 40.5% from 3 and 88.8% from the line. It would be surprising if Simmons didn’t return to Portland next season with Lillard on the backcourt.
8. Jalen Brunson, Dallas Mavericks, Unrestricted
Jalen Brunson has earned around $6 million in his four-year NBA career. That alone could make more than triple during the next season. The former second-round pick is enjoying a career year with the Mavericks. He averaged 16.3 points and 4.8 assists per game in 31.9 minutes (all career high) with an impressive shooting split of 50.2/37.3/84.0 in the regular season. And Brunson has upped his game even more in the postseason, averaging 23 points per game. Dallas also reportedly did not offer Brunson the four-year, $55 million extension he had qualified for earlier this season. Now, it’s going to be very More than that to put a 25-year-old in Mavs’ uniform.
9. Colin Sexton, Cleveland Cavaliers, Banned
Colin Sexton was Cleveland’s best player last season, scoring 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 at the end of the season with a torn meniscus. While Sexton was sidelined, Darius Garland reinvented himself as the face of the franchise, while Cleveland enjoyed its first winning season since 2017-18. So where does that leave 23-year-old Sexton? Does Cleveland see him as fit enough next to Garland in the backcourt long term to offer him a big money deal? Even after recovering from injury, Sexton’s talent is worth the gamble. It remains to be seen whether the Cavs will be the team to make that gamble.
10. TJ Warren, Indiana Pacers, unrestricted
Remember TJ Warren’s Bubble Breakout? Warren exploded for 53 points in his first game in the 2020 Orlando Bubble, scoring more than 26 points in 10 games in total. Unfortunately, it has been a difficult period for the swingman. 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 of 30 and had a strong showing in 2019-20, when he scored 19.8 points per game on 53.6/40.3/81.9 shooting splits. If healthy, he must have many mentors.
Other notable players who can hit free agency:
delon wrightAtlanta Hawks, Unrestricted
Bruce BrownBrooklyn Nets, Unrestricted
Nick ClaxtonBrooklyn Nets, Banned
Andre DrummondBrooklyn Nets, Unrestricted
patty millsBrooklyn Nets, $6.2 million player option
montrezal harelCharlotte Hornet, Unrestricted
Ricky RubioCleveland Cavaliers, Unrestricted
DeMarcus CousinsDenver Nuggets, Unrestricted
Marvin Bagley IIIDetroit Pistons, Banned
kevon looneyGolden State Warriors, Unrestricted
Gary Peyton IIGolden State Warriors, Unrestricted
Dennis SchroderyHouston Rockets, Unrestricted
john wallHouston Rockets, $47.4 million player option
Jalen SmithIndiana Pacers, Unrestricted
Nick BatumLos Angeles Clippers, $3.3 million player option
Isaiah HertensteinLos Angeles Clippers, Unrestricted
Carmelo AnthonyLos Angeles Lakers, Unrestricted
Malik MonkiLos Angeles Lakers, Unrestricted
Russell WestbrookLos Angeles Lakers, $47.1 million player option
Victor OladipoMiami Heat, Unrestricted
PJ TuckerMiami Heat, $7.4 million player option
Kyle AndersonMemphis Grizzlies, Unrestricted
tys jonesMemphis Grizzlies, Unrestricted
Pat ConnaughtonMilwaukee Bucks, $5.7 million player option
Bobby PortisoMilwaukee Bucks, $4.6 million player option
Taurean PrinceMinnesota Timberwolves, unrestricted
Michelle RobinsonNew York Knicks, Unrestricted
mo bambaOrlando Magic, Banned
Gary HarrisOrlando Magic, Unrestricted
jusuf narkikPortland Trail Blazers, Unrestricted
deonte divincenzoSacramento Kings, Banned
Lonnie Walker IVSan Antonio Spurs, Banned
Chris BoucherToronto Raptors, Unrestricted
Joe IngallsUtah Jazz, Unrestricted