Unlike last year’s NBA free agency, there aren’t many franchise-changing free agents to be named. The 2022 free agency class is currently set to be headlined by Chicago Bulls’ Zach LaVine, but there are still pieces set to hit the market that can shape a franchise’s chances at getting further in the playoffs, assuming they land in the proper destination.
Here, we attempt to predict destinations for these players at a time that is way too early. We will eventually reflect to see how dynamics surrounding the league changes in just five months. Players with a player or club option will not be included, unless I believe there is a chance that they will decline and explore free agency.
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10. F Carmelo Anthony, Los Angeles Lakers
Carmelo Anthony has been playing well enough to justify me embracing my fandom for my favorite New York Knick of all-time. While Anthony isn’t the player he once was, he has proven to still carry value for any team he decides to suit up for.
With the experience and fearlessness that Anthony possesses, he might be able to command some interest in the open market. After accepting the veteran minimum for his third straight year, Anthony has proven that a commanding salary isn’t a top priority. .
If Anthony seeks a multi-year contract, it’s entirely plausible to see him request a two-year deal valued around $8 million per year. If the Los Angeles Lakers are able to secure a championship this season, that might be something Anthony considers in a potential reunion with the Knicks. If Los Angeles falls short, I assume Anthony will show loyalty to the Lakers and LeBron James and commit to another season.
Prediction: Anthony signs one-year, $4 million deal with a player option with Los Angeles Lakers.
9. G Ricky Rubio, Cleveland Cavaliers
At the time that I began writing this article, I was ready to make a case for Rubio to receive a relatively lucrative multi-year deal for teams not looking to break the bank on a decent point guard. Rubio was averaging 13 points with 6.6 assists a game and proved to be a nice veterans presence for a Cavaliers team that has exceeded expectations without Collin Sexton.
Unfortunately, Rubio has suffered a torn ACL, which put an abrupt end to a solid season for the 31-year-old. The location prediction doesn’t really change. Rubio is now a relatively low-risk, high reward option for a team that is looking to make some serious noise in the playoffs. The only question is whether or not Rubio is willing to bet on himself by taking a relatively low one-year deal or if he’d settle for a multi-year deal. One would guess there will be a few teams checking in on Rubio as long as his recovery goes smoothly.
Prediction: Rubio signs two-year, $20 million deal with a club and player option with Philadelphia 76ers.
8. G Dennis Schroder, Boston Celtics
Schroder has always been a solid point guard throughout his career. While he isn’t an All-Star talent, he adds value any time he is on the floor. Unfortunately, Schroder will probably always be remembered for turning down a four-year, $80 million deal from the Los Angeles Lakers in hopes of seeking a better deal. Last offseason, he settled for a one-year, $5 million deal with the Boston Celtics.
That said, Schroder has averaged over 15 points and four assists per game in each of the last four seasons. The point guard market will be dry and he still within his prime in his age 28 season. Looking at the deal players like Evan Fournier received, it might be a solid argument for Schroder during the negotiation period.
Prediction: Schroder signs four-year, $75 million deal with a club option with Cleveland Cavaliers.
7. G Patrick Beverley, Minnesota Timberwolves
Beverley wouldn’t be considered one of the premier free agents in any other year, but he is still a solid asset to have off the bench. This season, he is averaging eight points, five rebounds, and five assists per game with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Beverley understands his role and is always sure to deliver pesky defense when he is on the court. The 33-year old is likely to find another home in the upcoming offseason.
Prediction: Beverley signs one year, $8 million deal with the Houston Rockets.
6. F TJ Warren, Indiana Pacers
TJ Warren may not be the star in the making that some believe after his excellent performance in the NBA Bubble in 2020, but he is still averaging 15.5 points across 29 minutes per game this season.
Considering his age and potential to improve, Warren might be able to muster up a decent contract in free agency. ESPN has his projected value at $20 million per year, which appears to be a fair ask. A small market team that can’t quite convince a premier free agent to sign will be likely emerge as a suitor.
Prediction: Warren signs three-year, $60 million deal with Washington Wizards.
5. F Chris Boucher, Toronto Raptors
Boucher fits the mold for a stretch big that any team could use. While he is averaging just eight points and five rebounds per game this season, there is no question there may be some potential unraveling for the undrafted forward.
He is coming off the heels of a 28-point, 19-rebound performance against the Philadelphia 76ers on December 28. This gives a glimpse at the value Boucher could bring a team in the future. It will be interesting to see whether the 28-year old opts for a multi-year deal, or settles for a lesser deal in hopes of cashing in down the line.
Prediction: Boucher signs two-year, $25 million deal with Boston Celtics.
4. G Joe Ingles, Utah Jazz
Ingles will be entering his age 34 season next year, but has great value as a supplemental piece. He is able to provide quality minutes off the bench for any team. The Utah Jazz have had a difficult time attracting big free agents and Ingles is unlikely to find a large contract elsewhere. I would expect a small raise, even with Ingles’ numbers slightly regressing.
Prediction: Ingles signs one-year, $14 million deal with Utah Jazz.
3. C Jusuf Nurkic, Portland Trail Blazers
A few seasons ago, Nurkic was one of the better centers in the league. He has still been able to live up to the standard when he is on the court, but that has been a challenge over the past few seasons. Across his nine seasons played in the NBA, five of those seasons have seen Nurkic unable to surpass 50 games played. This season, he is averaging a double-double in regards to points (13.5) and rebounds (10.1). We may need to look at the type of deal players such as Victor Oladipo signed.
Prediction: Nurkic signs two-year, $35 million deal with a club option with Portland Trail Blazers.
2. G Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls
LaVine has always been a talented player dating back to his debut in 2017 with the Minnesota Timberwolves, but he has ascended into a clear-cut star since then. At this point, LaVine has the ability to change the landscape of any team he plays for.
LaVine is currently averaging 26.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game while shooting 42 percent from three-point range. He is doing this on a loaded starting lineup that includes DeMar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball and Nikola Vucevic. After recently signing with Klutch Sports in the previous offseason, it’s clear LaVine intends to maximize his free agent value.
The rumors have been dry as it pertains to his future, but LaVine has reportedly expressed desire to stay with the Bulls. He has emerged as the centerpiece for Chicago to build around, and the team has made their intentions clear on wanting to be an NBA Finals contender.
Prediction: LaVine signs five-year, $200 million deal with a player option with Chicago Bulls.
1. G Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
Beal has consistently found himself in trade rumors, as fans of opposing teams have been hoping for a chance to bring the 28-year old in. He is set to have the option to accept or decline a $36 million player option this upcoming offseason. As tempting as it may be to cash in, Beal should be expected to decline his player option and explore free agency in hopes of capitalizing on his value. There is a chance that Beal will be moved prior to the Trade Deadline, but I’d expect the same result.
There is a team that could be a perfect marriage for Beal in the Boston Celtics. The team has fallen short of their NBA Finals journey on multiple occasions in recent years, but they are likely one piece from truly being an NBA Finals threat.
Prediction: Beal signs five-year, $200 million deal with Boston Celtics.