The 2022 NBA free agency period is less than a week away, but most top players are already out of the picture.
Bradley Beal and Zach LaVine returned to the Wizards and Bulls, respectively, with maximum five-year contracts worth over $200 million, while Anfernee Simons remained in Portland on a $100 million contract. dollars over four years. Jalen Brunson was the biggest name to switch teams via free agency, leaving the Mavericks for a four-year, $104 million deal with the Knicks.
Even the majority of the best actors have been recovered. The 76ers lured PJ Tucker away from Miami. The Trail Blazers (Gary Payton II) and Raptors (Otto Porter Jr.) each poached a key piece from the defending champion Warriors. Malik Monk went from Los Angeles in Sacramento, Kyle Anderson left Memphis for Minnesota and Bruce Brown left Brooklyn for Denver. Meanwhile, Bobby Portis (Bucks), Kevon Looney (Warriors), Nic Batum (Mowers), Mitchell Robinson (Knicks) and Gary Harris (Magic) all stayed put.
But even though the free agent pool has been drastically reduced, there is still value to be had. Here’s a look at the best remaining NBA free agents:
James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers, unrestricted
Harden may not last long on this list. It would be an absolute stunner if he and the Sixers failed to reach a contractual agreement in the near future. Harden, 32, declined his $47.4 million player option to give Daryl Morey the flexibility to improve Philly’s depth in free agency, and that’s exactly what Morey did in landing the exes. -Rockets PJ Tucker and Danuel House Jr. There have been rumors that Harden will sign a two- or three-year contract with a starting salary of around $35 million, potentially with a player option after year 1.
Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns, restricted
So… where is Deandre Ayton going? The Suns were unwilling to give Ayton a max contract and apparently no other team has come up with a suitable offer yet. Ayton appeared to be heading for Detroit until the Pistons drafted Jalen Duren 13th overall. It then seemed like a prime piece to move to the Nets in a potential Kevin Durant trade, but Brooklyn would apparently have no interest in the center of 23 years. The Pacers and Spurs still make sense as Ayton’s destinations, but do they want to pay for him? Ayton has the ability to accept the Suns’ one-year qualifying offer ($16.4 million), which would allow him to hit unrestricted free agency next summer.
Collin Sexton, Cleveland Cavaliers, restricted
The Cavaliers locked up Darius Garland long term. Now, what are they going to do with their other promising young guard? Cleveland surprisingly pulled off 44 wins in 2021-22 despite Sexton being sidelined for most of the season with a torn meniscus. The 23-year-old Sexton can get buckets and efficiently, having put up more than 24 points per game on 47.5/37.1/81.5 separate shooting two seasons ago. But, like Ayton, there may not be a big-money offer sheet to force Cleveland’s hand. Sexton’s qualifying offer from the Cavs is worth $7.2 million.
Montrezl Harrell, Charlotte Hornets, unrestricted
Harrell is facing a drug felony charge stemming from a traffic stop in Kentucky on May 12 where authorities said they discovered a backpack containing three pounds of marijuana in vacuum-sealed bags. Harrell, who authorities say “admitted to possession of marijuana and produced a small amount from his sweatpants,” is due in court for a preliminary hearing on July 13.
Harrell’s Lawyers told TMZ he “has never participated in any form of marijuana trafficking or any other illegal activity”. They also claimed that Harrell “was not driving the vehicle, and after the stop, he only received a ticket to appear in court at a later date on a marijuana-related charge, like all occupants of the vehicle”.
It wouldn’t be surprising if interested teams were waiting for more clarity on Harrell’s legal position. The 28-year-old big man appeared in 71 competitions combined for the Wizards and Hornets last season, averaging 13.1 points and 6.1 rebounds in 23.1 minutes per game while shooting 64.5 percent from the field.
Carmelo Anthony, Los Angeles Lakers, unrestricted
The NBA’s ninth all-time leading scorer is still available. Anthony, who turned 38 in May, averaged 13.3 points and 4.2 rebounds in 26 minutes per game while shooting 44.1 percent overall in his first season as a Laker. After proving he can still knock down 3s on a high volume of attempts (37.5% on 5.8 per game), Anthony should attract interest from suitors. Melo is 308 points from passing Shaquille O’Neal for eighth on the all-time goalscoring list.
Caleb Martin, Miami Heat, restricted
A Martin twin has already been signed, as the Hornets could have retained Cody on a four-year, $32 million deal. But Caleb is still available after a good season with Miami. In what was effectively his first NBA season without playing alongside his brother, Caleb, 26, averaged 9.2 points in 22.9 minutes per game while shooting 50.7% from the field and at 41.3% from 3 (from 2.6 attempts per game). The 6-5 wing was also part of Miami’s playoff rotation, logging 12.3 minutes per game.
Dennis Schröder, Houston Rockets, unrestricted
Schröder was considered one of the biggest free agent steals of the past offseason when he signed a one-year, $5.9 million contract with the Celtics. The signing, however, did not turn out to be a massive coup. Schröder was sent to Houston at the trade deadline after 49 games (and 25 starts) with Boston, as the C’s tapped Derrick White to be their new lead guard off the bench. While Schröder’s days as a starter on a playoff team may be over, he certainly still offers value as a backup. In 64 total games last season, he averaged 13.5 points and 4.6 assists on 43.1/34.4/85.3 shooting.
DeMarcus Cousins, Denver Nuggets, unrestricted
Boogie Cousins is coming off a solid stint as a backup center for the Nuggets. After signing Denver to a 10-day contract in January, Cousins averaged 8.9 points and 5.5 rebounds in 13.9 minutes over 31 games, shooting 45.6 percent from the field and 32 .4% on 3. He recorded 11.4 minutes per game against Golden State in Round 1 of the playoffs, averaging 10.6 points and 3.4 rebounds on 65.5% total shooting. Denver oddly reached a deal with veteran center DeAndre Jordan within the first minute of free agency, so it doesn’t look like Cousins, who turns 32 in August, will be back with the Nuggets.