With the NBA offseason beginning and the draft taking place, the most exciting part of the offseason is growing near: NBA free agency. On June 30th, countless players will hit free agency in hopes of re-signing with their current teams or finding new homes. The 2022 free agency class includes stars such as Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Zach Lavine, Bradley Beal, DeAndre Ayton and more. Some free agents have already been rumored re-signing with their teams like Zach Lavine, while others have been rumored to be moving on from their current team, such as DeAndre Ayton. There is no true telling where free agents will land until the decision is made, but with the state of the league and teams, here are five predictions for the free agency of 2022.
Kyrie Irving Leaves Brooklyn
One of the biggest stories of the 2021-22 NBA season was Kyrie Irving. Irving only played the second half of the season after his decision to not get vaccinated. Brooklyn would not let Irving play part-time until the team started to underperform. Irving would play full-time once New York City lifted their restrictions. He would only play a handful of games at home and would underperform in the playoffs. It is believed his decision played a role in James Harden’s exit from the Nets, something that was highly speculated following his trade. Irving’s decision would anger many fans, media, and members of the Brooklyn Nets organization. The team decided to not offer Irving a new contract during the season due to his decision. With Irving set to become a free agent and Brooklyn and Irving not being on the best terms, it is possible that he leaves the Nets. Irving’s name has been linked to the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Clippers. The Knicks would give Irving a bigger spotlight, but the joining Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in LA would make the Clippers a true championship contender if healthy. It would not be a surprise if Kyrie leaves the Nets, but the destination he chooses could be surprising.
Bradley Beal Finally Leaves Washington
Bradley has been a member of the Washington Wizards since being drafted in 2012. In the 10 seasons he has been with the Wizards they have had very little success. Beal and John Wall did not see much success while the Cleveland Cavaliers dominated the East. Beal did not see much success being paired alongside Russell Westbrook for one season. In the one season where he was alone as a star, the Beal played 40 games and the Wizards finished 12th. With Beal still in his prime and the Wizards not looking like they’ll be a contender during his prime, it is time that Bradley Beal moves on from the Wizards. Beal was linked to the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat over the course of the NBA season. With both teams having their own concerns at the shooting guard position and both having something to offer Washington, a sign-and-trade could be likely. Recent reports have come out that Beal has already made his free agency decision and is keeping it quiet. June 30th could see Beal finally move on from the Wizards in hopes of winning an NBA championship.
DeAndre Ayton Heads East
One of the more surprising stories to come out in the last month is the growing frustration with Phoenix Suns big man Deandre Ayton. The #1 overall draft pick of the 2018 draft was not extended prior to the 2021-22 season. Ayton was a significant part of the Suns 64-18 regular season record. He struggled at times during the playoffs and was benched late during the end of the Suns-Mavericks second round series. While not much has come out, some rumors have suggested the team’s frustration with Ayton and whether he is committed to growing as a player. Ayton is expected to get a big payday in free agency, most likely a max contract or close. The odds of Ayton getting that from the Suns are low. If he was going to, the Suns would’ve extended him prior to the season. Two teams that have been tied to Ayton in rumors are the Atlanta Hawks and Indiana Pacers. Both teams could get Ayton via sign-and-trades. The Pacers would most likely move big man Myles Turner in this scenario and Atlanta would move John Collins. A pairing between Young and Ayton would be an exciting duo to see in the East while joining the Pacers would find them an important piece to help build around Tyrese Haliburton. The choice is Ayton’s to decide, but its more than likely his time in the valley is over.
John Wall Joins the Clippers
With the recent news that Houston Rockets guard John Wall has opted-in to his $40 million+ contract, the team is likely to find a resolution with him. After missing the entire 2019-20 season with a leg injury, Wall only played 40 games in the 2020-21 season with the Rockets. The Rockets then decided to send Wall home as they looked to focus on younger players. Wall sat out the entire 2021-22 season due to the Rockets not being able to work things out with him or trade him. There were several rumors of Wall possibly being traded to the Lakers, but no trade came. Wall chose to opt into the last the year of his contract worth $47 million. With the two parties working on a resolution, it is possible that the situation could end up in a buyout, leaving Wall as a free agent. Being on the wrong side of 30 due to his history of injuries, Wall may be on borrowed time in the league, and like all NBA players, he wants to win a championship. Averaging 20 PPG and six APG in 40 games he played last season, Wall can still be a pivotal part of a championship contender. He would be a great piece for the Los Angeles Clippers, who are one of the West’s best teams when fully healthy. Wall would easily be on the best team he’s played for, joining Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to form a big three for the Clippers. While Kyrie Irving has been linked to the Clippers as well, he is not the best fit for the team. Wall would not only provide a third scoring option for the team, but a great distributor as well. Joining the Clippers would be the best decision for John Wall to make as a free agent.
Boston Finds a Missing Piece
The Boston Celtics were two wins away from winning their first championship since 2008. Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown were able to deliver throughout most of the series, but they did not have the most help at times. NBA Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart was able to provide some scoring at times but struggled at others. In addition, Derrick White was almost invisible during the Finals. In three of the five games, White finished with less than eight points. For the Celtics to remain a title contender and return to the finals next year, they need to add another piece. One guard that would be a good fit for Boston is Minnesota Timberwolves guard D’Angelo Russell. Russell has been a solid scorer in the league, but he is not a number one option for a team. Pairing him with Tatum and Brown would not only give Boston another scoring option that is much needed, but a solid three-point shooter and distributor. Adding Russell would come at a cost in the form of Smart and White. Already having a top-10 defense, adding Smart would give Minnesota another defensive presence, while giving the Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards the ball more with Russell being gone. Boston can remain in contention, but it’ll cost the heart and soul of their team.