Perhaps the most challenging prediction article every year. In 2020, we predicted quite accurately what the outcome would be for the 2021 free agency. The following year, our prediction article was far more off-base, but in all fairness, the reality and shape of the league can change in an instant. That said, here we are again. Once again it will be a year that can reshape the reality of the NBA. This time, it will be the ‘Deep Takes From Three’ crew doing their best to predict the outcome a year in advance.
10. Dillon Brooks, Current Team: Memphis Grizzlies
Dillon Brooks has moved away from the “underrated” label. He has proven to be one of the best role players in the league. He has shown complete commitment playing behind Ja Morant, while averaging over 15 points per game across a majority of his career. Brooks makes it a point to take responsibility on the defensive side of the ball and is capable of filling in a gap left by a missing player on any given night.
Isaiah’s Prediction: Dillon Brooks signs a four-year, $75 million deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves. There is a strong chance Brooks remains in Memphis. He is an invaluable piece, but the Timberwolves might be an intriguing option for Brooks. The fit behind Karl Anthony-Towns and Rudy Gobert, while helping alleviate the lack of shooting from Anthony Edwards could be a great fit for all parties involved. It remains to be seen whether or not Minnesota will retain D’Angelo Russell past this season, but if they don’t, I think it strengthens their interest in Brooks.
Devon’s Prediction: Dillon Brooks signs a four-year, $75 million deal with the Detroit Pistons. While I agree with Isaiah on the contract figure, I think Brooks would be a great fit with the Detroit Pistons. Bojan Bogdanovic is in the final year of his contract, leaving space on the depth chart for a veteran presence. Brooks is eligible for a $66 million extension with the Grizzlies, but if the goal is to bet on himself, then Detroit has an opening.
Gary’s Prediction: Dillion Brooks signs a three-year, $70 million deal with the Atlanta Hawks. With John Collins in various trade rumors, the Atlanta Hawks might have some extra cap space going into next season. With the team attempting to surround Trae Young with defensive talent, Brooks is a perfect fit alongside Hunter, Capela, and the duo of Young and Murray. This only works if Collins leaves in the next few months, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see him moved at the Trade Deadline.
9. Caris LeVert, Cleveland Cavaliers
In terms of knowing his role, you could copy and paste most of what was said about Brooks and apply it to Caris LeVert. His NBA journey has been nothing short of amazing. LeVert has been forced to miss time due to injuries, but in 2021, he was sidelined indefinitely after a small mass was found on his left kidney. This was discovered after he was traded from the Indiana Pacers to the Cleveland Cavaliers during a physical and it may have saved his life. When healthy, LeVert is a talented role player with the ability to provide heavy lifting offensively when called upon.
Isaiah’s Prediction: Caris LeVert signs a three-year, $60 million deal with the Memphis Grizzlies. This would be a reactionary signing to losing Dillon Brooks to the Minnesota Timberwolves. LeVert could fit in nicely next to Ja Morant the same way he is currently slotted next to Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell. He doesn’t demand to be the focus on an offense and could be a complimentary nice piece for Memphis.
Devon’s Prediction: Caris LeVert signs a three-year, $55 million deal with the Dallas Mavericks. Back in February, prior to the Indiana Pacers dealing LeVert to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Dalas Mavericks reportedly made a late push to trade for the 28-year old. With Luka Doncic being surrounded by a forgettable supporting cast, the addition of LeVert next summer would be a step in the right direction.
Gary’s Prediction: Caris LeVert signs a three-year, $65 million deal with the Detroit Pistons. LeVert is looking to cash out this offseason. With a hopeful showing in Cleveland this year, it wouldn’t shock me to see someone like Detroit throwing everything to secure the scoring guard. The Pistons need a scoring wing to compliment the passing and creative decision making of Cade Cunningham. LeVert would fit perfectly alongside in a secondary ball-handler role and would give the Pistons someone else to lean on offensively besides Ivey and Cunningham.
8. Harrison Barnes, Sacramento Kings
It’s safe to say that Harrison Barnes won’t touch another contract in total value like his last two major signings. He signed a four-year deal worth $94 million in 2016 and another four-year deal worth $85 million in 2019. However, Barnes still carries value to any team he is part of. At the time of this writing, Barnes has over 15 points per game across his NBA career, including over 11 points per game in the 2022-23 season.
Isaiah’s Prediction: Barnes signs a two-year, $35 million extension with the Sacramento Kings. Barnes is where he needs to be. The Sacramento Kings have shown desire to contend, although they have come up short. Based on their current roster construction with Domantas Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox, a piece like Barnes is crucial to whatever limited chance they have at being a playoff team. Barnes is also unlikely to command a ton of interest in the open market and the Kings are never are a small market franchise.
Devon’s Prediction: Harrison Barnes signs a two-year, $38 million extension with the Sacramento Kings. In the summer of 2019, Barnes tested the free agency market and ultimately returned to the Kings, where he has spent the last five years. With a market value of less than $20 million annually, Barnes would be wise to remain with Sacramento.
Gary’s Prediction: Harrison Barnes signs a one-year, $10 million deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers. While this might seem surprising, also note that Barnes is entering his age 31 season next year. He has been around losing teams for awhile since his tenure with the Golden State Warriors. If I was Barnes, I’d do everything in my power to win while I still could. The Cavaliers with their projected cap space next season could cash in on the veteran forward and continue pushing their depth to get them in title contention. For Barnes, you get into title consideration while still giving yourself a opportunity to be available to cash in the following offseason.
7. D’Angelo Russell, Minnesota Timberwolves
This could be the most challenging prediction of the 2023 free agency class. D’Angelo Russell has shown flashes of being able to lead a team, but equally has the ability to deflate a team. The former second overall pick hasn’t quite lived up to the hype, but time is still on his side. Russell, 26, still has the talent to turn things around. The question is whether he’ll be able to prove that potential in time to land a sizable contract in 2023.
Isaiah’s Prediction: D’Angelo Russell signs a two-year, $35 million deal with the Brooklyn Nets. I don’t think it’s a bold prediction to say Kyrie Irving’s time with the Nets is as good as over by next season, if not significantly earlier. I don’t think the Nets have a star point guard waiting in the wings, but Russell could put himself in a position to put any doubts to rest by playing next to Kevin Durant. The Nets would receive an ambitious point guard that is hungry to prove his talent again. His last stint with the Nets is where Russell showed the most flashes of potential. This makes for a low-risk, high-reward for both parties.
Devon’s Prediction: D’Angelo Russell signs a three-year, $80 million deal with the Brooklyn Nets. Russell previously spent two seasons with the Nets from 2018-19 and could very well return to the team next summer. Kyrie Irving is clearly not focused on mending his relationships with the front office in Brooklyn and may depart for Los Angeles next summer. That leaves the Nets in a win-now position, with Russell being their “big” free agency grab.
Gary’s Prediction: D’Angelo Russell signs a one-year, $15 million deal with the Los Angeles Clippers. It is no secret that the Los Angeles Clippers are in dire need of bench depth and ball-handling guard play. With his performance this season in Minnesota, it wouldn’t surprise me if Russell leaves to a warmer climate next season on a prove it-type deal to get his name back in the conversation for a bigger payout the following summer.
6. Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers
Kevin Love’s contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers is finally set to come to a close. In 2019, he signed a surprising four-year, $120 million extension with the team. The deal was likely to help hold the franchise above ground as it worked through the draft and it’s safe to say the organization made the correct decision. While Love is no longer a franchise cornerstone piece, he has played quality minutes with Darius Garland and company. Love will never touch that type of salary again, but he shouldn’t have a hard time finding a home on a contender somewhere.
Isaiah’s Prediction: Kevin Love signs a one-year, $18 million deal with the Los Angeles Lakers. If the Los Angeles Lakers intend on sticking with the LeBron James and Anthony Davis project, this would be a key move for them. The Lakers are projected to have around $35 million to spend at the time of this writing. James has a history of reuniting with old teammates and this type of deal gives them a key piece who can also shoot a bit. This would leave Los Angels some additional salary to try and acquire better depth than what they are working with this season, while providing Love a home that could potentially be a playoff team if managed the right way.
Devon’s Prediction: Kevin Love signs a two-year, $30 million extension with the Cleveland Cavaliers. After his rich history with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the fact that the team is finally in a position to compete in the Eastern Conference once again, I have a hard time believing that Kevin Love will sign with another team entering his age 35 season. A two-year extension with the Cavaliers makes sense, as his presence is admired both on and off the court.
Gary’s Prediction: Kevin Love signs a two-year, $25 million extension with the Cleveland Cavaliers. I stand in a similar thinking space as Devon above. I don’t see Kevin Love uprooting his life and family to head elsewhere, especially since the team stands in such a perfect position to compete for years to come. He is still a valuable bench piece, so I expect him to command a decent price.
Sometimes a minor challenge of these types of articles is determining the top available free agents. There are names such as Mason Plumlee and Will Barton who may be more likely to be rostered based on age. That said, we are living in the aftermath of Al Horford’s elite performance in the NBA Finals. Ideally, the Boston Celtics would like to preserve Horford for the playoffs as much as they could, but early injuries to Robert Williams and Danilo Gallinari have forced Horford to keep his foot on the gas. Horford has proven again that while he isn’t a franchise-changing talent, he is a valuable piece to have that will provide veteran leadership and quality minutes.
5. Christian Wood, Dallas Mavericks
Christian Wood is a curious case. He has always put up decent numbers and is certainly one of the more talented big men in the game. However, he’s had a history of being unable to stay on the court. Wood plays very well, but he hasn’t quite been able to take a step forward in terms of growing his game, but even as is, he will garner some interest around the league. His best season came in the 2020-21 season when he averaged 21 points per game on a depleted Houston Rockets squad.
Isaiah’s Prediction: Christian Wood signs a one-year, $16 million extension with Dallas Mavericks. The Dallas Mavericks have yet to reap all of the benefits of what Wood has to offer thus far. I am factoring in the possibility that Wood will show his worth at some point this season, but maybe not early enough to warrant a long-term deal. The Mavericks only project to have $3 million worth of cap space. They can’t afford to lose even more aid for Luka Doncic. This is their championship window and they can only afford to add, not subtract from their current equation.
Devon’s Prediction: Christian Wood signs a four-year, $84 million deal with the Portland Trail Blazers. Even off the bench, Christian Wood only trails Luka Doncic in points per game this season with the Dallas Mavericks at the time of this writing. He will desire a starting opportunity in his next contract, and with Portland’s Jerami Grant also among those available in free agency, Wood would be a perfect fit on a long-term deal.
Gary’s Prediction: Christian Wood signs a three-year, $60 million deal with the Charlotte Hornets. If the Charlotte Hornets fail to win the Wembanyama sweepstakes, it wouldn’t shock me to see them in prime contention to acquire a big name in free agency. With Wood’s explosive offensive attack and the need of a reliable creator down low in Charlotte, Wood seems like the perfect compliment to LaMelo Ball. If the Hornets get the first overall pick, they will probably look elsewhere next summer, but with only a 14% chance at best, I expect to see Wood with Charlotte uniform next year.
4. Russell Westbrook, Los Angeles Lakers
Oh what a difference a few years can make. There was virtually no pushback when lifelong member of the Oklahoma City Thunder Russell Westbrook signed a five-year, $206 million contract. He has since been a part of three different organizations and has been slandered to the point the Los Angeles Lakers can’t seem to give him away. Granted, his 2022-23 salary is a monstrous $47 million, which is a lot for someone who has never been able to shoot. Westbrook has graciously accepted a bench role with the Lakers at the time of this writing and has found a way to be productive on this team. It remains to be seen if Westbrook still has the ability to be a part of a winning situation, but that answer is a resounding no for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Isaiah’s Prediction: Russell Westbrook signs a one-year, $10 million deal with the Portland Trail Blazers. Both Russell Westbrook and the Portland Trail Blazers are in a weird space right now. The Blazers opted not to trade away Damian Lillard and instead surrounded him with talent that may be enough to make some noise in the playoffs, but is likely a far cry away from winning a championship. Westbrook on the other hand has been massively overcriticized in my opinion. That doesn’t change the fact that there are teams that will need to see to believe his ability to be productive in a reduced role from here on out. His future depends on his willingness to play with a massive pay cut and in a reduced role. The Blazers don’t have much cap space to spend, so maybe they take a chance on Westbrook to help them out on the bench. Two rivals linking up for one common goal.
Devon’s Prediction: Russell Westbrook signs a one-year, $12 million deal with the Utah Jazz. In the previous offseason, the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Lakers were linked in trade talks, with rumors surfacing that the Lakers could end up with Rudy Gay, Mike Conley, and Bojan Bogdanovic in return for the former MVP. When the two sides couldn’t come to agreement, Los Angeles opted to stick with Westbrook coming into this season. The Jazz will likely be among the teams looking at Westbrook this upcoming summer, considering their cap space flexibility and need for a veteran presence.
Gary’s Prediction: Russell Westbrook signs a one-year, $7 million deal with the Portland Trail Blazers. Much like Isaiah, I expect the Lillard team to push for the former MVP this offseason. This is because I can’t really figure out why anyone else would. The Trail Blazers would expect him to come off the bench, obviously, and seems to be the place where older stars turn to close their career. Carmelo Anthony once found a spot in their rotation, so why can’t Westbrook? Chauncey Billups would be the perfect coach to help him through the transition from star to a solid role player.
3. Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers
Myles Turner enters the upcoming free agency period as one of the more coveted big men. He is best known for being thrown around in trade rumors as of late, but not enough attention is on his ability to elevate any team he is on. Turner is going to be on the NBA’s leaderboard in blocks each year, while also providing assistance in scoring and rebounding.
Isaiah’s Prediction: Myles Turner signs a two-year, $50 million deal with the Indiana Pacers. This might be one of the boldest predictions of all. As mentioned, the Indiana Pacers are always in the rumors to trade Turner. That said, the star may have aligned perfectly for the Pacers to keep their big man. After acquiring Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Heild, Indiana has found some potential. We will see how Isaiah Jackson develops, but the Pacers might have pulled off the fastest rebuild of all time when they traded Domantas Sabonis and company. I don’t expect the team to hang onto Haliburton in the following year’s free agency class without Turner still being on the team.
Devon’s Prediction: Myles Turner signs a three-year, $75 million deal with the Chicago Bulls. With Nikola Vucevic hitting free agency, the Chicago Bulls will likely feel pressure to upgrade in free agency in order to compete with the elite teams in the Eastern Conference. Myles Turner is rumored to desire over $20 million annually in free agency next summer, so this price will likely only increase as time passes.
Gary’s Prediction: Myles Turner signs a two-year, $60 million deal with the San Antonio Spurs. The shooting center has been in trade rumors for pretty much his entire career, and I can’t see him staying with the team that expects to trade him every season. The Spurs, however, are already looking to deal their current big man in Jakob Pertel and have a void to fill at that spot. I don’t expect San Antonio to be huge spenders this offseason, so Turner feels like the perfect veteran they can bring in to assist the younger players and help the team transition into a possibly Popovich-less future.
2. Nikola Vucevic, Chicago Bulls
To some, Nikola Vucevic should be viewed as the top prize in the 2022-23 free agency class when you consider the circumstances and baggage that comes with Kyrie Irving. Vucevic has been putting up great numbers for about a decade now, regardless of the jersey worn. Whether or not Vucevic will average his usual double-double for the duration of his next contract remains to be seen, but he has earned a healthy payday.
Isaiah’s Prediction: Nikola Vucevic signs a four-year, $110 million contract with the San Antonio Spurs. Professionalism? Selflessness? Sounds like the San Antonio Spurs organization to me. The Spurs are also projected to have the most money to spend in this next free agency period, resulting in the perfect marriage with Vucevic. After another year of development for Keldon Johnson and the development of young draftees in Tre Jones and Jeremy Soachan, the Spurs are missing a strong veteran presence capable of establishing a winning culture. It’s unclear how much longer Gregg Popovich has left in the NBA, but getting Vucevic provides him a chance to work some magic one final time.
Devon’s Prediction: Nikola Vucevic signs a four-year, $118 million deal with the Indiana Pacers. If I have Myles Turner moving on in free agency this summer, is only makes sense that the Pacers will look to spend their cap space on a big man. Vucevic has been a reliable double-double machine during his NBA career, and the Bulls are unlikely to extend a max contract his way. Indiana will have more than enough cap space to work with coming into next summer and should focus on locking in Vucevic as their blockbuster move.
Gary’s Prediction: Nikola Vucevic signs a three-year, $95 million deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder. For the Oklahoma City Thunder, Chet Holmgren is their obvious future big man star. Combined with Giddy and Gilgeoius-Alexander, the team has a bright future. So what is this team lacking? Smart veterans. This might seem like an unpopular choice due to taking away minutes from Holmgren next year, but to me this seems perfect. You can start Vucevic while Holmgren eases back into shape, give your team a competent center, and have a smart mentor for your young team until they are ready to truly compete.
1. Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Nets
Perhaps the most uncertain future of all is in the peripheral vision of Kyrie Irving. Without diving into the specifics of his off-the-court controversies, his presence on the court has been limited. In the past four seasons, Irving has only participated in a total of 111 games for various reasons. The fact that Irving still may be considered the most intriguing prize of the 2022-23 free agent class says a lot about his talent. Albeit limited, Irving is averaging over 26 points per game in the games that he has played the past four seasons and is perhaps the most skilled player in the NBA.
Isaiah’s Prediction: Kyrie Irving signs a one-year, $30 million deal with the Houston Rockets. I know how crazy it sounds. Irving might not be able to command $30 million when considering the uncertainty he comes with. His deal may come with a team option for a second year even, but if Irving wants to play, he’ll find a home. He isn’t in as much control like he once was. Unless he accepts a massive pay cut, the Los Angeles Lakers won’t have enough cap space to sign him and balance putting together depth on the team. The Houston Rockets are carrying the second-most amount of cap space and could benefit from the scoring ability that Irving brings to the table. He was considered a locker room liability in Boston and Brooklyn. That said, in the end, the situation may have brought Boston closer together, as they are fresh off an NBA Finals appearance.
Devon’s Prediction: Kyrie Irving signs a two-year, $84 million deal with the Los Angeles Lakers. There is no chance that Kyrie Irving remains with the Brooklyn Nets past the 2022-23 season, I just want that to be clear. The Los Angeles Lakers have LeBron James and Anthony Davis under contract going into next season, but what the team decides to do with the roster past that is up in the air. Irving will not request the Lakers to find funds to give him a max contract, seeing that he was once willing to play under the mid-level exception to reunite with James this past summer. Irving will instead join the Lakers on two-year deal, with the 2023-24 season being a player option, much like how James’ upcoming contract extension is structured.
Gary’s Prediction: Katie Irving signs a three-year, $80 million deal with the Los Angeles Lakers. It comes as no surprise to most that Irving might look to part ways with Brooklyn, and what better place to go than back with old friends? Irving would team up with former running mate and Hall of Famer LeBron James and command a immense amount of media attention for the move. Not only is this his best career move, but also an incredible thing for basketball writers and media personal alike to dream about. In addition, the Los Angeles Lakers are in desperate need of guard depth and scoring; a combo that Irving brings in spades.