With the NBA playoffs starting next week, the end of the 2021-22 NBA season has come. Teams like the Phoenix Suns and Memphis Grizzlies have stunned many with their dominance this season, while teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets have failed to meet their expectations. With the offseason starting at the end of this week for several teams, looking ahead to the 2022-23 season is important. With free agency not too long after the end of the NBA finals, the playoffs can play into a free agent’s future decision. Players like James Harden and DeAndre Ayton are expected to stay put in Philadelphia and Phoenix, respectively, but when it comes down to it, there will be five key free agents when free agency starts.
Kyrie Irving (And the Majority of the Brooklyn Nets)
One of the biggest free-agent guards this summer with be Kyrie Irving. The Nets have a player option for the 2022-23 season, but there is no true telling what decision Kyrie could make. Irving missed over half of the season due to not wanting to get the covid vaccine and missed many home games due to New York’s vaccine mandate. Irving’s choice left the Brooklyn Nets without one of their stars for over half of the season and played a role in James Harden’s frustration and eventual departure from the Nets. Reports came out early in the season that Brooklyn was not going to offer Irving an extension (prior to his return) due to his actions. There is no telling how the playoffs will go for the Nets if they do make it out of the play-in. While reports have come out saying that Irving will not leave Brooklyn and wants to continue playing with Kevin Durant, many have noted Irving saying he wanted to stay in both Cleveland and Boston before leaving. Kyrie Irving is not the only free agent for the Brooklyn Nets. Other Nets free agents include Blake Griffin, Patty Mills, Bruce Brown, LaMarcus Aldridge, Andre Drummond, Nick Claxton, James Johnson, and Goron Dragic. It is likely that a few of those players may resign with Brooklyn, but it is unlikely that all will return. Of those remaining free agents, Patty Mills should be one of Brooklyn’s highest priorities behind Irving.
For the first time in his NBA career, Zach Lavine will finish a season with a winning record and will be a part of the playoffs. Lavine will be an unrestricted free agent this summer after putting up 24.7 PPG, 4.6 RPG, and 4.5 APG. With the additions of DeMar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball, and Alex Caruso over the summer, the Bulls have been competitors this season, spending several weeks as the first seed of the East. Unfortunately, injuries to key players (including Lavine) have knocked the Bulls to sixth in the East but avoid the play-in tournament. Lavine will be one of the most touted free agents this offseason, as the league knows he would be a key piece of a championship team. Lavine wants a max contract this offseason and it is very likely that he will get that. It is unknown if the success of the Bulls this season and the potential of what lies ahead could be enough to entice Zach to stay, but the Bulls hope they will have Zach Lavine for years to come.
John Wall has not played a single NBA game with the Houston Rockets this season. After being traded to the Rockets prior to last season, he only played 40 games due to Houston wanting to play the younger and tanking. After missing the 2019-20 season, Wall averaged 20.6 PPG, 3.2 RPG, and 6.9 APG. He still has plenty to give, even after the injuries. His name was linked to several teams this season, including the Lakers, Clippers, and even his former team, the Washington Wizards. Being and having a history of injuries, the question is if Wall is willing to accept a smaller role with a team, or if he wants to be a starter. Another issue for Wall is his current contract. He has a player option for the 2022-23 season, worth $42 Million. Wall could opt-in solely based on the salary, but he could also opt outlook for a new home on a much smaller contract. There is no doubt there will be many suitors for Wall. It all comes down to whether Wall is willing to accept a new role or not and less money or not.
A long-time teammate of John Wall, Bradley Beal is in a similar position. After years of being seen as the #2 behind Wall, Bradley Beal has really only had one season as the true #1 option on the Wizards. In the 40 games he played this season, Beal averaged 23.2 PPG, 4.7 RPG, and 6.6 APG. Many different rumors have come out over the years of Beal being unhappy and wanting to leave and while others have said he wants to stay with the team. The Wizards are finishing their fourth season in a row with a losing record. Beal has a player option for the 2022-23 season worth $35 Million. With the Wizards’ season over and Beal not returning, there will be plenty of rumors about his future. His name has already been linked to numerous teams including the Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks. If Beal wants any chance at winning a championship, it’s time he leaves the Wizards.
The 2021-22 NBA season has been a huge season for Miles Bridges. In his fourth season in the league, Bridges saw his stats jump across the board. Averaging splits of 20.4 PPG, 7.1 RPG, and 3.8 APG, Bridges was a huge part of the Hornets’ early-season success. This season, Bridges made around $4 Million with the Hornets and is expected to get a huge payday when he becomes a free agent. With teammate and fellow forward Gordon Hayward being signed with the team for another two years for almost $30 Million each season, the question is whether the team is willing to try to move on from Hayward to give Bridges the money he has earned this season or not. With Bridges being a restricted free agent and the salary cap for the 2022-23 season increasing slightly, it is likely that other teams may use this to their advantage to sway Bridges away from resigning with Charlotte. Bridges’ name has been linked to the San Antonio Spurs and other surprising teams that could try to pursue the young forward this offseason.