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NBA Rumors: Predicting Where the Top 25 Free Agents Will Land

With NBA free agent season just around the corner, there are a number of desirable players who will be hitting the open market. Ryan Kirksey predicts where the top 25 free agents will land.
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NBA Rumors: Predicting Where the Top 25 Free Agents Will Land

With the NBA playoffs winding down, the NBA draft and free-agent season will be here before we know it. Where will the top 2022 free agents land? In this piece I am looking at the top-22 unrestricted free agents plus three key restricted free agents that I predict will hit the market.

Some of the biggest "free agent" names are actually players with player options for 2022-2023: Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Bradley Beal, John Wall, Russell Westbrook, and Derrick Favors. The likelihood is high that each of these (all making between $9 million and $42 million next season) opt into their deals, which makes trading them unlikely. There could be sign-and-trade possibilities, but for today we will focus on those we know will be available for any team that's shopping.

You also have some good players with silly-cheap club options like Shake Milton ($1.6 million), Isaiah Roby ($1.6 million), Jalen McDaniels ($1.5 million), and Lu Dort ($1.3 million). These are all likely to be picked up so they also won't be on this list.

Here are the top-25 free agents for summer 2022 in alphabetical order.

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Kyle Anderson: Toronto Raptors

The Raptors could lose both Thaddeus Young and Chris Boucher this summer which would leave a gaping hole in their backup frontcourt. Kyle Anderson fits the mold of a player on the Raptors and Nick Nurse likes a versatile guy who can play elite defense off the bench.

Chris Boucher: New York Knicks

Boucher to the Knicks assumes that Mitchell Robinson leaves the Big Apple for more playing time elsewhere. The Knicks and Tom Thibodeau will be looking for another young, athletic big man who can protect the rim and do what Robinson never could: hit an outside shot. Boucher has shot at least 30% from three-pointers four straight seasons.

Miles Bridges: Charlotte Hornets

Bridges is a restricted free agent this summer, and I bet the Hornets are kicking themselves for not extending Bridges before this year. After a career campaign with 20 points, seven rebounds, and almost four assists per game, Bridges proved to be a key piece of the Hornets' future. Wanting to keep Bridges with LaMelo Ball, Gordon Hayward, and Terry Rozier together, I anticipate the Hornets find a way to match any offer that comes his way.

Bruce Brown, Jr.: Brooklyn Nets

The Nets have a whopping eight free agents on their roster this summer, but that's what happens when you sign a bunch of veteran one-year deals to surround three mega contracts. If I'm reading the tea leaves right, the Brooklyn brass wants as much of the core lineup to remain as possible, so they should prioritize finding a spot for Brown and his defense. Brooklyn owns his Bird rights, so if it does get into a bidding war, Brooklyn should be able to win.

Jalen Brunson: New York Knicks

You remember the revolving door at point guard for the Knicks last year, right? Coach Thibodeau's attempt to turn Derrick Rose, Kemba Walker, and Alec Burks into two-way players didn't exactly work. Enter Brunson who has enough offense and defense to be the perfect complement to RJ Barrett, Julius Randle (if he stays), and whatever big man they get to replace Robinson.

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Goran Dragic: Cleveland Cavaliers

Dragic seems to accept that he is a backup point guard/shooting guard at this point in his career. It's the role he played in Miami and Brooklyn and is his likely roster destination if he wants to sign with a contender. However, Cleveland could be losing Collin Sexton after a year lost to injury which could make Dragic the primary backup for both Darius Garland and Caris LeVert. Dragic is 36 years old and never won a title. If he wants his chance, an up-and-coming team like Cleveland might be a logical destination.

Andre Drummond: Philadelphia 76ers

Philadelphia is losing Paul Millsap, DeAndre Jordan, and Mike Scott to free agency this year so there are some openings for bench big men in the City of Brotherly Love. Drummond's numbers in his half-season with Philadelphia were incredible last year. His per-36 minute rates were 12 points, 17 rebounds, four assists, two steals, and two blocks per game. A backup to brittle Joel Embiid is not the worst place in the world to be in the NBA.

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Montrezl Harrell: Brooklyn Nets

You are going to see the Nets on this list a few times, simply because there is a possibility half of their roster turns over before 2022-2023. Their frontcourt will take a huge hit as Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Andre Drummond are all free agents and Nic Claxton is on a restricted deal. I bet they get something done with Claxton, who they love, but he will need some complementary pieces like Harrell. He can easily give the Nets 14 points and seven rebounds off the bench in any given game.

Gary Harris: Dallas Mavericks

After a couple of breakout years, there is a chance the Mavericks give Jalen Brunson close to a max deal, but I'll believe it when I see it. They can insert Spencer Dinwiddie into the starting lineup and bring in a player like Harris who has three-pointers and defense to spare. He will cost a fraction of Brunson and will allow them to go shopping for other pieces on the roster.

Isaiah Hartenstein: Portland Trail Blazers

Hartenstein has quietly become one of the most efficient players in the NBA and just needs a team willing to give him big minutes to truly break out. Per 36 minutes, I-Hart puts up 16.7 points, 10 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 2.3 blocks per game. If the Blazers go full rebuild and let Jusuf Nurkic walk, they might take a shot on a team-friendly deal for a player with youth, size, and shooting.

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Andre Igoudala: Golden State Warriors

Essentially the whole Warriors' bench is free agents this year. Igoudala, Otto Porter, Gary Payton, Juan Toscano-Anderson, Damion Lee, and Nemanja Bjelica are all free agents. More on this in the Gary Payton section, but I think they make one more run with the whole band together next year and that includes keeping Igoudala's bench energy in the fold.

Tyus Jones: New Orleans Pelicans

We saw in the first round of the playoffs that New Orleans is really building something special lately. With a CJ McCollum, Brandon Ingram, and Zion Williamson core, pieces like Tyus Jones could push them over the top. Jose Alvarado is fantastic, but he is not a 34-minute per game player. We know New Orleans doesn't trust Devonte Graham with big minutes. So why not the guy who averaged 12.6 points, 6.6 assists, and shot 40% from three as a starter this year?

Zach LaVine: Chicago Bulls

Among the true unrestricted free agents this year, LaVine is certainly the biggest name. Considering what the Bulls were building last year before injuries derailed their season, I think they find a way for LaVine and DeMar DeRozan to gel together again and keep their Big Three rolling along.

Malik Monk: New York Knicks

Malik Monk's common shot-making heroics make him a natural fit for Madison Square Garden and he would be instant offense off the bench for this Knicks team that lacks a second unit spark. I also wouldn't be surprised to see LeBron James lobby to keep him in Los Angeles.

Jusuf Nurkic: Brooklyn Nets

Nurkic to the Nets might be a pipe dream, and they would likely have to be OK with Bruce Brown and Nic Claxton leaving to make it happen, but imagine the core of the Nets finally anchored with a legitimate post scorer and rebounder. The chances of this happening are slim, admittedly, but don't put it past the Nets to make a splash after a first-round playoff exit.

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Victor Oladipo: Milwaukee Bucks

Oladipo played a regular season and playoff hero a couple of times since returning from a prolonged injury suffered more than a year ago. His evidence that he still has plenty of offensive and defensive games left would appeal to Milwaukee who is likely looking to replace free agent Wesley Matthews. Oladipo, despite the name brand, likely comes at a discount this summer.

Gary Payton II: Memphis Grizzlies

Payton had a legitimate breakout the last two seasons, particularly as a defender, before a broken elbow knocked him out of the playoffs this year. In the last two seasons combined, his per-36 numbers include 14.7 points, 7.2 rebounds, and almost three steals per game. But the Warriors are very top-heavy with contracts and must focus on resigning Jordan Poole before he hits free agency in summer 2023. Payton might be the odd man out as much as the Warriors do not want him to leave. The Grizzlies could soften the blow of Tyus Jones and Kyle Anderson leaving by bringing in a defensive wizard like Payton.

Otto Porter, Jr.: Golden State Warriors

See Igoudala, Andre. Porter is a key cog off the bench and the price will be right to bring him back for the last Golden State run.

Mitchell Robinson: Detroit Pistons

I think both Robinson and the Knicks are ready for a change of scenery and Robinson wants a place where he can play 30 minutes and just block all the shots and grab all the rebounds. The Pistons have plenty of cheap backcourts and wing talent in Killian Hayes, Cade Cunningham, and Saddiq Bey. No matter what happens with Jerami Grant next year, Robinson would fit in nicely if Marvin Bagley leaves town.

Dennis Schroder: Atlanta Hawks

With Delon Wright likely out as a free agent, why not bring back the old Atlanta favorite in Schroder to secure the backcourt bench. Schroder can accept that he is a backup player these days but he could also fill the Wright hole or the Lou Williams offense-off-the-bench role.

Collin Sexton: Utah Jazz

I am on record as saying Donovan Mitchell is the most likely big star to get traded this offseason. Should that happen, the Jazz might turn more of the reins over to Jordan Clarkson and look to fill a backup role with a player like Sexton. Sexton is coming off a lost year due to injury but is capable of facilitating an offense and taking over a game on offense.

Tristan Thompson: Los Angeles Clippers

Just copy and paste Thompson into the Hartenstein role if you keep Ivica Zubac for 2022-2023 and beyond. He can bring toughness and rebounding off the bench that will play a complementary role to Paul George, Reggie Jackson, and Kawhi Leonard.

TJ Warren: Sacramento Kings

Jeremy Lamb and Donte DiVencenzo are free agents this year. Harrison Barnes plus Justin Holiday are in the last years of their respective deals. Warren will not have played a game in two years when the season kicks off, but that just sounds like a player who will not have a high price tag at the contract table.

Hassan Whiteside: Phoenix Suns

Suns are looking at free agency for Frank Kaminsky, JaVale McGee, and Bismack Biyombo, which would decimate their frontcourt bench rotation. We don't know a thing about Dario Saric yet, and I assure you Phoenix does not want DeAndre Ayton going at it alone for too long.

Thaddeus Young: Los Angeles Lakers

Thaddeus Young was a surprise hero for the Toronto Raptors in their series against the 76ers. He played quality minutes at just the right time, showing contending teams what he can do after he escaped the San Antonio Spurs' logjam. LeBron and Anthony Davis would welcome some tough, bad-ass defenders on this Lakers' team that had very few of each last season. The Lakers have eight players in free agency this year, so they should be looking for players to build a roster.

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Proudest husband and dad you will ever find. When I'm not with my wife and two kids I split my time working in higher ed, grinding DFS and season-long, collecting silver age comics, studying behavioral economics, and drinking coffee. I once played Pat Connaughton in an actual NBA DFS lineup for money. Astros, Rockets, and Texans for life.


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