The NBA free agency frenzy kicks off today at 5:00 pm CT. While this is not one of the deepest classes of available players ever, the drama will still be fun to watch. Here are some last-minute predictions:
——Re-signs with Wizards
Bradley Beal has made it pretty clear he wants to be the Dirk Nowitzki of the nation’s capitol. It’s also just as clear he wants to be paid as best he can. There was never too much doubt over what Beal would ultimately do, making this one of the easiest projections to make.
——Re-signs with Bulls
Similarly to Beal, Zach LaVine has a great situation going with the Bulls and doesn’t have a reason to go anywhere. He’s in the prime of his career and will be paid like the star that he is. Neither side should be considering any sort of divorce right now.
——Re-signs with 76ers
The 76ers gave up way too much for James Harden. But now that he’s there, and opting out of the last year of his deal, the team needs to bring him back, albeit to a short-term deal. There still aren’t too many players of his caliber even as his play has slipped. If it’s a short-term deal, this still feels like a good fit.
——Re-signs with Hornets
The Charlotte Hornets have a pretty interesting young team brewing here, leaving them with no option but to keep their star forward. Miles Bridges is awfully good, and while it’s possible a max offer sheet could come from elsewhere, Charlotte shouldn’t think twice about matching it. They have LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier in their primes or approaching it also in the picture, leaving this team in great position moving forward.
——Re-signs with Mavericks
Virtually all signs point to Jalen Brunson leaving Dallas for the New York Knicks. However, Brunson has granted the Mavericks and Heat a meeting. While it’s very possible this is merely an attempt to prevent tampering charges, the fact the Heat are in the picture suggests there is still some deliberation going on. Mark Cuban hasn’t paid a penny in luxury tax in ages. The Mavericks have the same flexibility whether or not Brunson comes back, and if they simply raise their offer considerably, they can get back ahead of this and re-sign him.
——Re-signs with Trail Blazers
The Trail Blazers are positioned for a big year in 2022-2023. They’re healthier and have found a replacement for C.J. McCollum remarkably quickly in Simons. Jerami Grant is now in town, and it’s believed Jusuf Nurkic will return as well. Simons is restricted, leaving no chance anyone else even thinks about throwing their hat in this ring.
——Signs with Pistons
The Detroit Pistons have themselves a pretty hefty amount of cap space even after absorbing the contracts of Nerlens Noel and Alec Burks from the Knicks. It seems as though the Pistons may miss out on their top target, leaving them with enough room to still sign a substantial player in free agency. The Cavaliers have several gargantuan extensions coming up to plan for. Sexton is probably going to be the odd man out.
——Signs with Pacers
The Phoenix Suns have to be much more focused on getting the Pacers on the phone in some sort of sign-and-trade for Deandre Ayton. Myles Turner and/or Malcolm Brogdon are great fits for the Suns, who probably feel like a max deal for the former first overall pick is a grotesque overpay. Indiana had legitimate interest in Ayton at the trade deadline, and it’s hard to see that suddenly vanishing. Ayton gives the Pacers a firm new direction to go in alongside Tyrese Haliburton.
——Re-signs with Knicks
The Knicks have enough cap space to sign Jalen Brunson and another smaller contract. Their ability to keep Mitchell Robinson will be because of his tiny cap hold that isn’t eating into their cap space hardly at all. The Knicks will overpay for him as they are known to overpay nearly everyone, but Robinson is still one of the better up-and-coming centers in the game, and with Nerlens Noel gone he is entrenched as the top big man.
——Re-signs with Bucks
There are few players in the league more beloved by his fan base than Bobby Portis. The Bucks are still only working with early Bird rights, so the deal he signs will be limited to three years without a player option. But they can offer a competitive salary, a major role with the team, and unconditional love from the entire state of Wisconsin.
——Signs with Suns
The Suns are looking to downsize at center, just not literally. They can get at least comparable production out of the former University of Texas star to Deandre Ayton. They are limited with resources, but the opportunity to play with that backcourt and a contending team has got to be appealing for a player who’s been stuck in Orlando since 2018.
——Signs with Heat
The Heat are desperate for size and scoring. Jusuf Nurkic can provide both of those things. What he lacks in brute strength can be provided by Bam Adebayo next to him in the paint. The Heat struggled to put the ball in the hoop throughout the playoffs, and while a point guard feels like a bigger need, Nurkic fits the price range they have available to them and will ease Adebayo’s load ever so slightly.
——Re-signs with Warriors
If Golden State has proven anything, it’s that they are willing to SPEND. Their total allotment to players between payroll and tax money even before this deal is astronomical. At least one of Gary Payton II, Otto Porter Jr., and Looney will be gone. Looney, though, has proven year after year to be an underrated part of their culture and success. They won’t let him get away.
——Signs with 76ers
P.J. Tucker and Joel Embiid just feels right. The team needs his rugged, gritty mentality in the worst way. James Harden’s competitiveness blows with the wind, and they need a defensive star that can hit an outside shot in the way Matisse Thybulle can’t. It remains to be seen if and when Tucker completely falls off a cliff physically, but Philadelphia is a perfect fit.
——Signs with Nets
The Brooklyn Nets need Kyrie Irving-insurance in the worst way. They need help off the bench to begin with, and Jones gives them both of those qualities. Jones has been underrated his entire career, and this simply feels like a good opportunity for him to boost his long-term profile with more nationally televised games.
Bruce Brown Jr.—Nets
Lonnie Walker Jr.—Pistons
Otto Porter Jr.—Bulls
Gary Payton II—Warriors
Nicolas Claxton—Trail Blazers
Marvin Bagley III —Pistons
Danuel House Jr.—Mavericks