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NBA Free Agency News and Rumors

Jalen Brunson

Jalen Brunson

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

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Though it hasn’t even been two weeks since the Golden State Warriors became 2021-2022 NBA champions, the offseason is already picking up quite rapidly. On June 23, we had the 2022 NBA draft, and now that the top 58 prospects have their homes, it’s time to start looking into free agency. The official free agency period begins on Thursday, July 30 at 6pm EST, but keep in mind nothing becomes official until July 6. That being said, we should know a lot more about the makeup of the league as soon as Thursday evening, and it’s shaping up to be a busy free agency period. Below, I’ll quickly break down the top free agents who may or may not be on the move, some player options and any other relevant news.

But first, a trade!

Knicks send Nerlens Noel and Alec Burks to Detroit

On Thursday evening, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the news that the Knicks will trade Nerlens Noel, Alec Burks, a 2023 second-round pick, a 2024 second-round pick (via Miami) and $6 million in cash to the Pistons. The Knicks got nothing in return, but this move cleared up $19 million in cap space, so New York should now be quite comfortable obtaining Jalen Brunson in free agency. Brunson has been rumored to be New York’s guy for some time now, and they can now offer him something in the neighborhood of a max contract with more cap flexibility. Woj also said that the Pistons are eager to utilize both Noel and Burks, though it seems like they’ll both come off the bench with younger guys already ahead of them in the depth chart, but it’s hard to know for sure at this point in the year. Noel had an injury-riddled 2021-2022 season in which he only appeared in 25 games and has shown some insane block upside on a per-minute basis, but he really just hasn’t been able to stay healthy. Meanwhile, Pistons GM Troy Weaver said that Burks is an ideal veteran to mentor the talented group of guards on the Pistons, which doesn’t bode too well for fantasy purposes. The Knicks are really going all in on Brunson, and if they somehow miss on him, they’re not going to hear the end of it.

Okay, now onto the free agency stuff.

Quick note: The acronym “RFA” below stands for “restricted free agent,” meaning the player can sign with any team but the player’s original team is able to match the offer. “UFA” stands for “unrestricted free agent,” which means a player is able to sign with any team.

Top free agents

Zach LaVine (UFA) - The news on LaVine in particular has been rather quiet lately, but the most recent report stated that it’s unlikely he leaves Chicago, which was the thought basically all along. He underwent successful left knee surgery about a month ago and is expected to be ready for training camp, and if the Bulls do retain him, they can offer him a five-year deal worth around $212 million. Expect LaVine to be wearing a Bulls uniform next season as the franchise looks to build off of last season’s playoff berth, Chicago’s first one since the 2016-2017 season.

Miles Bridges (RFA) - Bridges’ situation is a bit interesting, as the Hornets did not end up offering him a max contract but still fully plan to bring him back. Charlotte may just be playing games and waiting on another team to float out an offer only to ultimately retain him, but there’s no denying he’ll gauge ample interest from around the league. If Bridges is actually on the move this summer, teams like the Pacers and Pistons are a couple potential destinations. If he lands in either of those cities, there’s a slim chance he falls past the second round of fantasy drafts in the majority of leagues.

Deandre Ayton (RFA) - One of the more dramatic free agency stories, Ayton is officially a restricted free agent after the Suns offered him a $16.4 million qualifying offer, as expected. The big man wants a max deal but the Suns are almost surely not going to give it to him given 1) they didn’t last summer and 2) the aftermath of Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Mavs in which he played just 17 minutes before being benched for good. The Pistons were linked to Ayton but they mentioned that he’s no longer a top priority, whereas the Hawks mentioned they’d sign him for less than the max. It truly does appear that Ayton won’t be a Sun when all is said and done (I was a poet and I didn’t know it), but only time will tell.

Jalen Brunson (UFA) - After a career year, Brunson is going to get the big bucks regardless of where he lands, and it’s looking more and more likely that landing spot will be on the Knicks. He helped the Mavericks reach the Western Conference Finals this past season, so they’d love to keep him, but other teams will likely be able to pay him more. Before Tuesday’s trade even occurred, Marc Stein previously said that the Knicks were gaining major momentum in pursuit of the guard, and Jake Fischer even more recently said that the Knicks were the favorites to land him, so it’s all lining up. New York additionally traded Kemba Walker for cap space purposes, along with Noel and Burks, and Brunson could be looking at a contact worth around $25 million annually should he wind up on the Knicks. If that does happen, he could very well be looking at yet another career season with no Luka Dončić operating by his side.

Anfernee Simons (RFA) - Also coming off a career year in 57 games played before being ruled out for the season with a left knee injury, Simons is set to enter restricted free agency. That being said, he sounds confident he’ll be back with the Blazers, and he should be receiving a qualifying offer from the team shortly. The team loved what they saw from Simons in his fourth season (and final year of his rookie deal), and especially with CJ McCollum now in New Orleans, I envision him being Damian Lillard’s new backcourt buddy in Portland.

Jusuf Nurkić (UFA) - There’s no question Jusuf Nurkić is a starting-caliber big man, but health has been a huge factor. He’s played in just 101 games over the last three seasons (42.8% of games played), which includes an eight-game 2019-2020 campaign. It’s worth noting that he was another Blazer, like Simons, who was shut down last season in what was one to forget, but it bodes well for Nurk that Portland has been plenty active and are looking to be in “win-now” mode as soon as October gets here.

Collin Sexton (RFA) - Sexton’s case is interesting, as he appeared in just 11 games (left knee surgery) last season, which happened to be the Cavs’ most successful campaign since the LeBron era. The team officially extended a qualifying offer to Sexton, as expected, and he may just re-sign with Cleveland on another contract. Sexton has made it apparent that he wants to stay with the Cavs as well, so we may get our first full taste of the backcourt consisting of Sexton and first-time All-Star Darius Garland if all goes to Cleveland’s plan.

Mitchell Robinson (RFA) - New York could have taken one of big men Jalen Duren or Mark Williams with the No. 11 overall pick in last week’s draft, put they opted to trade it, so Mitch Rob is still their starting center as of this moment. Nerlens Noel now being a Piston only helps Robinson’s fantasy value, but he needs to stay out of foul trouble and stay healthy to truly reach his sky-high ceiling. In the rare scenario that Robinson is shipped away, the Knicks will be left with Jericho Sims and old man Taj Gibson at the five, which probably won’t get it done. To Sims’ credit, he has plenty of potential, but may not be ready to show it yet.

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Mo Bamba (RFA) - Bamba is one of the more likely guys in this list to be moved this offseason, and that only became more clear with Orlando drafting power forward Paolo Banchero No. 1 overall in the 2022 draft. He’s another guy with a high ceiling but he wasn’t able to see consistent playing time, and those minutes are going to be even harder to come by with Wendell Carter Jr. and Franz Wagner earning a good chunk of minutes after impressive prior seasons. I haven’t even mentioned mystery man Jonathan Isaac yet, who is known for his defense and the occasional outside shot, and who knows how he’ll figure into the rotation. At least from a fantasy standpoint, a fresh start for Bamba in a new city wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

P.J. Tucker (UFA) - Tucker declined his player option worth $7.4 million, and while multiple teams including the 76ers were said to have interest, Miami plans on signing Tucker to a three-year deal worth around $27 million, per Ira Winderman of the Miami Sun Sentinel. Tucker could have made slightly more on another team, but a three-year for a guy that’ll be 40 at the end of it won’t leave Tucker complaining. He’s never averaged double digit points per game at any point in his 11-year career, and I don’t expect that to change in his 12th.

Kevon Looney (UFA) - most recent Finals MVP snub Kevon Looney was massive in the Warriors’ championship run, and he’s expected to re-sign with them for less money in the hopes of running it back with the Dubs. His fantasy game has never been all too great, and it’ll only get worse with James Wiseman now in the equation.

Other notable free agents:

RFA: Marvin Bagley III, Donte DiVincenzo, Lonnie Walker IV

UFA: Chris Boucher, Tyus Jones, Andre Drummond, Hassan Whiteside, Victor Oladipo, Malik Monk, Montrezl Harrell, Otto Porter, Gary Payton II, DeMarcus Cousins, Gary Harris, Nicolas Batum (declined PO), Carmelo Anthony, Thomas Bryant

Notable player options

Kyrie Irving (picked up PO worth $37 million) - The endless Kyrie drama appeared to come to an end after picking up his option to return to the Nets on Monday, but don’t be so sure yet. Brian Windhorst of ESPN said Irving heading to the Lakers is still a possibility even after picking up the option, but it won’t necessarily be easy for either side. Kyrie should be a Net, but you can never truly know what this man has planned or what’s going on in his head. Just be aware of the fact that if Kyrie jumps ship, Kevin Durant likely will too.

James Harden (has yet to pick up PO worth $47 million) - The Beard is taking his sweet time with this decision, but Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN said he’s leaning towards opting in and extending, which makes the most sense. The extension may not be a max, Woj said, but it definitely won’t be chump change for one of the best scorers of recent memory, though he is admittedly coming off a rather down year for his standards. The team will continue to prioritize building a team around Joel Embiid and Harden (assuming he does indeed pick up his PO), so Philly’s roster could look quite different in a few months.

Bradley Beal (will reportedly decline PO worth $36.4 million) - Beal isn’t planning on picking up his option, but that doesn’t mean he’s on the move. Wojnarowski reported on Sunday that Beal is “very likely” to re-sign with the Wizards, and he could be looking at a deal worth as much as $246 million over five years. If Beal does stay, the next step will be to find a new point guard to pair him with, as the current crew of Ish Smith and Raul Neto isn’t going to cut it. Malcolm Brogdon and Tyus Jones are a couple names that have been brought up to assume point guard duties in Washington, and either guy would easily leapfrog the other two in the rotation.

John Wall (will be bought out and become a UFA, then sign with LAC) - Wall’s NBA journey has been nothing short of bizarre, but it’s looking up at the moment. He’s finally out of Houston’s hair and once he clears waivers, he’s expected to sign with the Clippers in an attempt to get a fresh start. Wall may not start with Reggie Jackson in town, but he shouldn’t lack for minutes in what’s shaping up to be a star-studded Clippers squad inclusive of Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and plenty of other reliable role players. Just keep in mind Wall has played in just 72 games over the past four seasons and could display some rust off the bat, and his 43.1% field goal percentage for his career just is what it is at this point.

Russell Westbrook (picked up PO worth $47.1 million) - After one of the most disappointing season from a player of his caliber that we’ve seen in recent years, Westbrook has officially picked up his hefty player option for the 2022-2023 season. Westbrook made the objectively correct choice as there’s no way he’d be getting that kind of money elsewhere, but it’s still not guaranteed that he’s a Laker on opening night. L.A. is shopping him around for obvious reasons, but there’s not a very good chance that another team is willing to pay him that kind of money. The Kyrie/Russ trade seems to be his best bet, but even those talks have stalled since Kyrie is officially more likely to remain on the Nets after picking up a player option himself.

Bobby Portis (has yet to pick up PO worth $4.6 million) - Portis had a phenomenal season after Brook Lopez went down on opening night, and despite his lack of decision thus far, he’s expected to re-sign with the Bucks. Milwaukee is still very much a contender and things may have been different for them if they didn’t lose Khris Middleton in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, and Portis has no reason to want to leave that. Lopez is healthy now, meaning Portis will be back in his reserve role, but he could be worth a look in drafts for some solid per-minute numbers highlighted by strengths in the rebounding and triples categories.

Other player options picked up: Derrick Favors ($10.2 million), Pat Connaughton ($5.3 million), Kendrick Nunn ($5.3 million), Cory Joseph ($5.2 million), Jeff Green ($4.5 million), Tony Bradley ($2 million)

Other news

- Hawks targeting Dejounte Murray - Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report said that the starting asking price for Murray would be three first-rounders, desiring something in the ballpark of the Jrue Holiday deal that sent him to the Bucks in 2020. John Collins, who is possibly Atlanta’s most tradable guy, has not recently been brought up in talks with Murray after the two names had been associated prior, so we’ll see if anything actually happens. Murray is on a very affordable deal at the moment and moving the MIP candidate right now seems unwise, so I wouldn’t expect it to happen. Plus, the Murray/Trae Young backcourt pairing could be fun but is an odd fit, given Murray has played 100% of his minutes at point guard over the last three seasons, while Trae has played 100% of his minutes at the point throughout his four-year career (per Cleaning the Glass)

- Ivica Zubac signs 3-year, $33 million with Clippers - the Clips declined his option to sign him to a better deal, and deservingly so after averaging career highs in most relevant categories. He’ll look to build on that year after raking in some extra cash, and as always, he’ll be an often-boring but reliable big man to snag in the later rounds

- Will Hardy to become new head coach of Jazz - Hardy is only 34 years of age and will be one of the youngest head coaches ever, but he’s already worked with guys like Gregg Popovich, Steve Kerr and most recently Ime Udoka (who he assisted in Boston last season). The Jazz need all the help they can get as they try to escape a string of disappointing seasons that saw them reach no farther than the conference semis. In other Jazz news, David Fizdale also became associate GM for the Jazz, per Woj, and the front office probably won’t be the only pieces in Utah that will be altered this summer

- Taurean Prince signs two-year, $16 million extension to stay with Timberwolves - Prince had a decent role with the Wolves last season and had useful numbers in some games, but he’s not someone to target aggressively in re-draft leagues. He does most of his damage when guys like Jarred Vanderbilt or Jaden McDaniels are sidelined.