Everything you need to know about this offseason’s free agency

Published June 28, 2022, 10:00 AMMiguel Flores
Miguel Flores

Who are the biggest free agents whose offseason moves can make a dent across the league?

Now begins everyone's favorite part of the NBA season – the offseason. Post-NBA Draft, the true Wild West of the NBA begins as reports swirl about trades and possible free agent destinations. The offseason, unlike the real season when basketball games are played, offers all fans the bliss of hope for their franchise or the comedy of some of the moves that happen.

Here, we go over all the free agency stuff you need to know to keep up with the hoopla. There's going to be plenty of terms, dates, and names, but here are a few that actually matter.

The Kyrie Irving situation

We’re not going to go over all the speculation about the Brooklyn Nets and their always-disgruntled star Kyrie Irving. The Kyrie situation, however, does explain the things we need to know heading into the free agency hype.

First of all, it’s important to remember that Kyrie has a player option on his contract. He can avoid free agency by opting-in to the final year of his deal worth around $37 million. The deadline for opting-in for players and teams that have options on deals is June 30, Philippine time. Free agency officially begins on July 1, 6:00 a.m., Philippine time.

Even if Kyrie opts in to his deal, it doesn’t mean the saga is over – it changes the options he and the Nets have for resolving their issues. If he opts in, the Nets could trade him, but they will have a very limited number of suitors to work out deals with, given Kyrie’s large salary number.

If he opts out, the Nets and Kyrie could have more flexibility. The Nets and Kyrie could then work out a sign-and-trade with an interested party. Kyrie could also just go rogue and sign with any team that wants him, provided that he takes a massive pay cut.

As of today, it’s anyone’s guess how this situation will play out. James Harden and Russell Westbrook both also have player options they could exercise for next season.

Restricted free agent market

There are several big restricted free agents on the market this offseason. To recap, a restricted free agent can sign an offer sheet with any team he desires. But his original team has the option to match any offer he eventually signs to retain his services. This is what PBA watchers have probably heard of as a team’s “right of first refusal”.

This is the situation the Phoenix Suns find themselves in with Deandre Ayton. The two sides had a public falling out last season as the Suns couldn’t (or wouldn’t) sign the former 1st overall pick to a long term-deal.

There have already been plenty of rumors for teams interested in Ayton, but the Suns are still the team that can offer him the most money. This could end up with the Suns essentially doing a sign-and-trade with another team for Ayton to have more money and retain his Bird rights (a salary cap exception for players that have played for a single team, without getting waived or changing teams via free agency for three years).

This could also end up with another team offering Ayton the max they could offer. That would put the Suns in a spot of either paying their big man or losing him for nothing.

Another interesting restricted free agent situation is the Charlotte Hornets’ Miles Bridges, who had a tremendous start to the year before tailing off in the second half of the season. Cleveland’s Collin Sexton, Orlando's Mo Bamba, and Portland’s Anfernee Simons are other interesting restricted free agents. All of them are in situations where it wouldn’t exactly be a no-brainer for their team to re-sign them to a massive contract.

The real free agents

The real big names of this free agent market are Bradley Beal and Zach LaVine. Interestingly, both have a similar player profile as top-shelf shot creators with LaVine being a bit younger than Beal. What those two decide to do could dictate the rest of the free agent market filled with veterans that could help contending teams.

The third most talked about free agent on the market now is Dallas point guard Jalen Brunson. The former second-round pick played himself into a potential massive deal this offseason, culminating with a stellar first-round performance in the playoffs against the Utah Jazz. He averaged 27.8 points on 48.4 percent shooting in the six-game series, carrying Dallas while Luka Doncic was recovering from a calf injury.

There are multiple teams looking for a point guard, mainly the New York Knicks. It also works to Brunson’s favor that the only other true point guard in the free agent pool is Memphis’ backup Tyus Jones. Look for Brunson to get a Duncan Robinson-like bag this offseason.

One top veteran on the market is center Jusuf Nurkic. The Bosnian big man should command a good number from any team looking for a solid center to start games for them. Nurkic was putting up near All-Star numbers from 2018 to 2019. Nurkic’s injury history is what will likely keep some teams from offering the 27-year-old a long-term deal. He’s only played 101 games total in the last three seasons.

The defending champions Golden State will also be in an interesting position this offseason as most players on their roster are entering free agency. Starting center Kevon Looney, defensive specialist Gary Payton II, versatile forward Otto Porter Jr., veteran Andre Iguoadala, and 3-point specialist Nemanja Bjelica are all unrestricted free agents, while beloved backup Juan Toscano-Anderson is a restricted free agent. What will it cost Golden State to retain their core? Do they try to sign other pieces?