NBA free agency 2022 preview and predictions: Top 25 players
Kyrie Irving is staying in Brooklyn and Jalen Brunson might be on his way to the Knicks, but there’s still plenty to watch as NBA free agency gets set to open at 6 pm on Thursday.
The Post looks at 25 free agents who will make news in the coming days:
James Harden, SF (76ers)
Harden opted out of his $47.4 million player option for 2022-23, and will renegotiate with Philadelphia in order to give the team more flexibility this summer.
Bradley Beal, SG (Wizards)
If Beal returns to the Wizards on his full max deal, it will be for five years at $251 million — the biggest deal in league history, and significantly more than anyone else can offer him. That would make staying in Washington the logical move, if the Wizards can stomach that kind of money and if Beal is content staying with a club that was 12th in the Eastern Conference last season and doesn’t have a clear path to an upward trajectory right now.
Zach LaVine, SG (Bulls)
LaVine has said he plans to look at his options, but they are limited if he wants to maximize his salary. The Bulls can offer him five years and $215 million, which adds up to a $55 million advantage over any other team. The duo of Lavine and Lonzo Ball, which got Chicago to a 27-13 record prior to Ball’s injury, seems like one the Bulls could build around.
Jalen Brunson, PG (Mavericks)
The Knicks have pushed all their chips in on getting Brunson, and clearly see the Villanova product as a franchise point guard. When free agency begins, they’ll need to do something they so often have failed to do in the last 20 years: follow through on luring a marquee free agent to Madison Square Garden.
Deandre Ayton, C (Suns)
After the Pistons declined to trade for Ayton at the draft, the question now becomes what will happen to the former No. 1 pick in restricted free agency. The Suns could offer him up to $179 million on a max deal, but they failed to sign him to a max last October. If Ayton is on the move, he will be an enticing asset for any team in need of a big man.
Miles Bridges, SF (Hornets)
Bridges, a restricted free agent, was in line to get a nice payday from Charlotte after establishing himself as a 20-point per-game scorer and starter on a team that made it to the play-in tournament last season. But the 24-year-old was reportedly arrested Wednesday night in Los Angeles for felony domestic violence, which could change how he’s viewed by the Hornets, who also need to think about an extension for PJ Washington.
Anfernee Simons, SG (Trail Blazers)
A restricted free agent, Simons is likely to re-sign with Portland, whose GM, Joe Cronin, has said he views Simons as a big part of the team’s future. After the Blazers traded away CJ McCollum, keeping Simons, who shot better than 40 percent from 3-point range last season, is of utmost importance.
Jusuf Nurkic, C (Trail Blazers)
It seems likely that Nurkic will re-sign with the Blazers, and Marc Stein reported he’s expected to do so. That’s no surprise after a successful season in which Nurkic averaged 15 points and 11.1 rebounds.
Kevon Looney, C (Warriors)
After a season in which he played all 82 games and proved himself in the playoffs, Looney is going to get a hefty payday as he hits unrestricted free agency. It figures that the Warriors would like to retain him, though their willingness to pay into deeper into the luxury tax will play into that calculation.
Collin Sexton, SG (Cavaliers)
The eighth-overall pick in 2019, Sexton played just 11 games last season to a torn left meniscus, but still received a qualifying offer to make him a restricted free agent. Whether that means the Cavaliers still see him as part of their future or merely wanted to keep their options open remains to be seen, but Sexton proved he has value in 2020-21 when he averaged 24.3 points.
Victor Oladipo, SF (Heat)
Oladipo bet on himself in turning down a max extension from the Rockets in 2021. He didn’t quite work out, as he ended up tearing his quad and playing just eight games last season. Now he may need to do so again, with a short-term deal to prove he can still produce at an All-Star level.
Tyus Jones, PG (Grizzlies)
Jones, who hits unrestricted free agency, had the best assist-to-turnover ratio (7.0) since 1977-78, when turnovers were first tracked at an individual level, per ESPN Stats and Info. The Grizzlies have his Bird rights and would presumably like to keep him around as a steady backup to Ja Morant.
Donte DiVincenzo, SG (Kings)
The Kings, despite trading for DiVincenzo midseason, did not extend a qualifying offer, making the sharpshooter an unrestricted free agent, ESPN reported. He averaged 10.3 points off the bench for the Kings last season.
Gary Harris, SG (Magic)
Harris, a 3-and-D wing whose game will always bring value in today’s NBA, toiled away in a role that saw him play 31 games off the bench for an abysmal Orlando team last season. As the Magic gear younger, Harris seems likely to jump ship to a team that needs shooting.
Mohamed Bamba, C (Magic)
The hinge question for Orlando’s offseason is whether drafting Paolo Banchero will allow the Magic to let Bamba go in restricted free agency. The Texas product averaged 10.6 points and 8.1 rebounds last season, but letting him walk would open up cap space for GM John Hammond to operate.
Gary Payton II, PG (Warriors)
The 29-year-old played a key role off the bench for the Warriors, ranking second in the league in steals and proving himself as a key defensive cog. After spending his career floating between teams, Payton should get a multi-year deal and, notably, the Warriors hold his early Bird rights.
Mitchell Robinson, C, (Knicks)
It would be a surprise to see Robinson leave the Knicks. Bleacher Report reported it’s likely that he’ll sign a four-year, $60 million pact to remain with the team. Such a deal would lock in the former second-round pick as the Knicks’ long-term center, and hopefully in a pick-and-roll tandem with Brunson.
Montrezl Harrell, C (Hornets)
At this point, there’s a little mystery in what Harrell brings. The 28-year-old can fill a spot off the bench at either big position, provide 10-15 points per game, compete on the boards and contribute playoff minutes.
Bobby Portis, C (Bucks)
With the Bucks holding his early Bird rights, Portis figures to see his salary jump to around $10 million annually. Bleacher Report reported Wednesday that Portis could return to the Bucks for four years and over $40 million.
Nick Claxton, C (Nets)
Claxton established himself this season as a capable center for the Nets, averaging 8.7 points and 5.6 rebounds. The Nets will likely need to go into the luxury tax anyway, but the cost of retaining Claxton could be a determinant as to how steep the cost will be for owner Joe Tsai.
Marvin Bagley III, PF (Pistons)
Bagley came over to Detroit in a four-team deal in February, but it’s an open question whether the Pistons will try to keep him in restricted free agency. Detroit already added a big man, Jalen Duren, via the draft, and could use their cap space — which looks to be the most in the league — to go after another.
Kyle Anderson, PF (Grizzlies)
Anderson’s production took a slight dip last season, but he’s still a good defensive player who came off the bench to the tune of 21.5 minutes a game for the Western Conference finalists last season. If the Grizzlies, who hold Anderson’s Bird rights, try to bring him back, he will presumably be in the same role.
Patty Mills, PG (Nets)
Mills had a player option for $6.1 million next season he opted out of, The Post’s Brian Lewis reported, making him attractive on a short-term deal for any team in need of a backup point guard — and leaving the Nets looking for help at that position.
Lonnie Walker IV, SG (Spurs)
As Walker enters restricted free agency, the Spurs have a decision on their hands. The 23-year-old’s production rose in the second half, but letting Walker go without a qualifying offer would open up considerable cap space.
Otto Porter Jr., PF (Warriors)
Porter’s contributions off the bench for a title-winner — 8.2 points and 5.7 rebounds per game on a 56.0 eFG percentage — should get him a decent payoff in free agency.
Ricky Rubio, Delon Wright
Joe Ingles, TJ Warren, Jeremy Lamb, PJ Tucker, Josh Jackson, Rodney Hood, Nic Batum, Kent Bazemore, Malik Monk, Wesley Matthews, Josh Okogie, Carmelo Anthony, Bruce Brown, Andre Iguodala, Derrick Jones Jr.
Serge Ibaka, Tristan Thompson, Derrick Favors, Hassan Whiteside, Markieff Morris, Thaddeus Young