NBA Free Agency Lookahead: Looking at the Best Players Available in 2022 Free Agency

NBA Free Agency Lookahead: Looking at the Best Players Available in 2022 Free Agency

Tyler Vaysman
2 years ago
3 min read
Bulls guard Zach LaVine shoots against Nets guard Kyrie Irving

When the NBA Finals wrap up, all 30 teams will immediately turn their attention to free agency. And if this summer is anything like recent years, we could see many big-name players changing uniforms.

The 2022 free agent class is solid but has the potential to be spectacular. Several high-caliber players are already set to hit the open market, while many stars have player options that will allow them to join the free agent frenzy as well.

Here are some of the top players who are either guaranteed free agents or have the potential to hit free agency once the offseason officially begins.

Zach LaVine

Of the list of unrestricted free agents, no player boasts a resume like Zach LaVine.

LaVine has become one of the NBA’s top scorers since joining the Chicago Bulls in 2017. The 27-year-old has averaged at least 23.7 points in his last four seasons, including a career-high 27.4 in 2020-21. With DeMar DeRozan alongside him, LaVine also helped guide the Bulls back to the postseason this year.

Assuming he gets a max contract, LaVine could re-sign with Chicago on a five-year deal worth $212.3 million. However, if the Bulls are weary of paying him through his age-32 season, the guard can go elsewhere for a max of $157.4 million over four years. 

The smart money is on LaVine staying in the Windy City. But if he decides to leave town, look for the Dallas Mavericks and Portland Trail Blazers to be aggressive.

Miles Bridges

Following a career year in 2021-22, Miles Bridges is one of the top restricted free agents who could jump ship this summer.

Bridges finally broke out in his fourth season, averaging 20.2 points and 7.0 rebounds in 80 games. The 24-year-old formed a dynamic 1-2 punch with LaMelo Ball, leading the Charlotte Hornets to the play-in round for the second consecutive season.

Bridges is in line for a huge pay raise after making just $4.0 million this season. But Charlotte has to decide how much the high-flying forward is worth, especially with Ball due to a huge extension in a couple of years. A max contract for Bridges would amount to $176.9 million over five years.

The Hornets will try to negotiate with Bridges to come to terms on a reasonable contract for both parties. But don’t be surprised if a few teams try to poach him away if the negotiations are going poorly.

Deandre Ayton

Last summer, Deandre Ayton and the Phoenix Suns weren’t able to come to terms on a long-term extension. Now, the 2018 first-overall pick could be heading to a new team.

Although he hasn’t been the superstar many expected, Ayton has been an above-average center for all four of his NBA seasons. The 23-year-old boasts career averages of 16.3 points and 10.5 rebounds while serving as the frontcourt anchor for a Suns team that went to the Finals in 2021 and secured the league’s best record in ‘22.

Ayton is a restricted free agent in large part because of demands for a max contract Phoenix was unwilling to meet. If the Suns change course, it would mean paying the center $176.9 million despite him being a clear number three behind All-Stars Devin Booker and Chris Paul.

Soon, the Suns will have to decide if Ayton’s defense and pick-and-roll game is worth a max contract. If not, the center could either sign an offer sheet elsewhere or be part of a sign-and-trade.

Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Bradley Beal

There’s a decent chance longtime All-Stars Kyrie Irving, James Harden, and Bradley Beal all become unrestircted free agents. But barring any shocking changes, it’s simply a formality.

The high-scoring trio all have player options they are expected to decline. However, the reason for doing so is to re-sign a long-term deal with their current teams. This means five years at $247.6 million for Irving with the Brooklyn Nets and Beal with the Washington Wizards and five years, $269.9 million for Harden and the Philadelphia 76ers.

Harden is the safest bet to return after Philadelphia’s blockbuster trade for him at the trade deadline. However, with Irving and Beal both publicly committing to their clubs, it would be surprising to see either sign elsewhere.

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