It has now been over a week since the beginning of the 2022 NBA free agency period. In that time, countless players have re-signed with their teams, signed with new teams, and a few have even been traded. The trade requests of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving have thrown a curveball into several teams’ plans, but most teams are finding they’re filling their rosters for the time being. With a couple of notable names not signed with a team yet, there may be a few more surprises in free agency.
Winner: Nikola Jokic
On the first night of free agency, it was reported that Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic had signed a five-year, $264 million super-max deal, the richest contract in NBA history. It cannot be argued that Jokic does not deserve that contract. From famously being drafted in the second round during a commercial break to being a back-to-back MVP and the only center to win the award since Shaquille O’Neal in 2000, Jokic has proved he is one of the best in the game. As long as Jokic is a member of the Nuggets, they will be a winning team with plenty of potential. Having Jokic for another five years and Jamal Murray expected to return next season, the Nuggets could be a sleeper team in both the regular season and postseason.
Loser: Dallas Mavericks
While the Dallas Mavericks should get credit for their signing of veteran big man JaVale McGee, they are losers for one reason and one reason only: losing Jalen Brunson. This is not completely on Dallas, but they did lose an important piece of their roster. Brunson had a solid season and was a key in the Mavs NBA playoff run to the Western Conference Finals. Prior to the playoffs, there were already rumblings of Brunson going to New York since his father is an assistant coach and Knicks President Leon Rose was his former agent. Reports came out hours before free agency started saying the deal was already completed and the Mavericks did not even get a chance to meet with Brunson about a new contract. His exit will be a hit for the Mavs, but they are expected to get Tim Hardaway Jr. back next season, someone who can make up for the Brunson’s loss if he’s 100%.
Winner: Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavaliers surprised many during the 2021-22 season, looking like a contender early on with such a young team. They took some hits during the season losing Colin Sexton to a meniscus tear a month in and losing Ricky Rubio to an ACL tear in December. Cleveland may not be done in free agency, but they’ve made several important moves so far. The most important move they made was signing guard Darius Garland to a rookie max, five-year extension. Garland has already shown he can be one of the best young guards in the league, being selected as a first-time All-Star in 2022. Re-signing him and building around him and Evan Mobley will ensure the Cavs remain a playoff contender for years to come. Second, they re-signed Rubio, who was one of their best players and playmakers at times. Lastly, in an underrated move, the team signed veteran center Robin Lopez, who will provide good backup minutes off the bench. There are talks the team is trying to work on a deal with Colin Sexton to re-sign, but nothing has happened yet. As of right now though, the team has made several good moves, looking to rise in the NBA standings.
Loser: Golden State Warriors
Even though they just won a championship a few weeks ago, the Golden State Warriors have been losers in free agency so far. In a matter of days, they lost several key players on the bench. Otto Porter left for the Toronto Raptors, Gary Payton II signed with the Portland Trailblazers, Juan-Toscano Anderson signed with the Los Angeles Lakers, and Nemanja Bjelica left the Warriors to play overseas. However, the team did re-sign Kevon Looney who was an important part of the Warriors’ championship run, in addition to signing Donte DiVencenzo. The Warriors still have their championship core but losing several important bench players could be seen as a small weakness unless they can find suitable replacements.
Winner: John Wall
After sitting out the second half of the 2020-21 season and sitting out the entire 2021-22 season, John Wall will finally be returning to the court next season as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers. The Houston Rockets sat Wall out as they wanted to focus on their younger players and tanking to get good picks, even though Wall still had a lot left in the tank. After the buyout with Houston, Wall signed a two-year deal with the Clippers. He will be joining Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, forming a big three that could shock everyone and win it all if healthy. When Wall last played 40 games during the 2020-21 season, he averaged 20.6 PPG and 6.9 APG. If he can play even close to how he did during those 40 games, the Western Conference should be very concerned.
Loser: Charlotte Hornets
Another team that is truly not at fault, the Charlotte Hornets are a loser in free agency so far. The only move they have made is re-signing forward Cody Martin to a four-year deal. The main reason for the Hornets being losers is the Miles Bridges situation. The team offered Bridges a qualifying offer prior to his arrest for domestic violence. He was expected to land a max contract or close to one after his performance during the season, but his horrendous activities off the court may have ended his career, or at least put it on hold. The Hornets may be at a loss if they pull his qualifying offer, but they would be making the right choice. At this point, it is not clear if Bridges will play in the NBA again after his recent actions. As for the Hornets, the lack of moves they have made will not help them progress in an already stacked Eastern Conference.
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