Remember when it looked like most NBA clubs were attempting to free up cap space because they were fixated on the prospect of signing a star—or stars—in free agency? That has lost favor in recent years. Elite athletes still switch teams, although more frequently through trades than by going unrestricted.
Every summer, though, there will still be a few signings (or sign-and-trades) that can be considered game-changers. The ceremony will get underway this year on June 30 at 6 p.m. ET, and some big players will thereafter be permitted to engage in negotiations with potential teams at that time.
Top Players Available at Free Agency
Chicago Bulls • #8 • SG
The 27-year-old LaVine recently made his first playoff appearance eight years into his career. To get there, the Bulls made a number of win-now moves, including the additions of DeMar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball, and Alex Caruso a short time after the 2021 trade deadline and the trade for Nikola Vucevic at that time. Halfway through the regular season, they had the best record in the Eastern Conference, and their subsequent decline can be ascribed to injuries. He could receive a $212 million five-deal maximum contract if he stays in Chicago. Will he actually go right away? It appeared for a split second that the solution was a resounding maybe! — In his post-season press conference, he was coy, and NBC Sports Chicago named the Hawks, Lakers, Blazers, and Mavericks as potential landing spots. Since then, though, there has been less talk about it, and Bulls general manager Marc Eversley declared after the draught that the team is “willing to do whatever it takes to get Zach back in the fold.” A departure would surprise everyone.
PHI • PG • 1
Harden has a player option worth $47.4 million. He will be qualified to sign an extension worth up to $223 million over four years if he chooses to participate. Theoretically, he could re-sign with the 76ers for up to $270 million over five years if he becomes a free agent. That kind of offer, though, is improbable given that he will be 33 before the start of the upcoming season and is coming off a perplexing, inconsistent campaign. Harden and the Sixers should be able to come to an agreement on a short-term, non-max deal that gives him some security and allows both parties some flexibility because neither party has much incentive to end their working relationship. He will want to take advantage if he returns to his pre-injury form, and the team will want to be protected if he doesn’t. He might even decide not to exercise his option, as Marc Stein pointed out, in order to accept a wage reduction in 2022–2023 and provide the front office with more immediate financial freedom.
CHA • PF • 0
Bridges has stated that he enjoys living in Charlotte, and general manager Mitch Kupchak has stated that the organization wants to retain him around for a while. A considerably more lucrative contract than the four-year, $60 million extensions that was on the table going into the 2021–22 season is likely to be offered to him now that he has just completed a career year. But are the Hornets prepared to pay him $30.5 million as his starting salary? That would be a bit excessive, and according to The Athletic, they would be reluctant to match a max offer sheet. It would be devastating for Charlotte to lose a homegrown, versatile 23-year-old forward, and Bleacher Report claims that the Pistons and the Pacers will likely try to steal him.