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1. Bradley Beal, guard, Washington Wizards (player option)
There’s a decent chance that Beal will re-sign with the Wizards next summer. Despite the Wizards collapsing after a strong start to the season, Beal remains open to staying with the Wizards. A driving force behind that could be his desire to land a five-year supermax extension, with the Wizards able to offer $70-plus million more than Beal would receive in NBA free agency.
With that said, Washington’s lack of succes with Beal in the mix could lead to him testing the open waters. Since he entered the league back in 2012-13, Washington has not made it as far as the conference finals. Will Kristaps Porzingis and the promise of further upgrades be enough to lure him back to D.C.?
2. Kyrie Irving, guard, Brooklyn Nets (player option)
The Brooklyn Nets finally caved, allowing Kyrie Irving to be a part of the team after he pushed back against getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Once he returned, Irving played extremely well for an otherwise disappointing Nets squad.
With a $36.5 million play option for the 2022-23 season, it stands to reason that Irving will opt out and sign a max contract. Whether that’s with the Nets remains to be seen. He seems to be leaning in that direction.
“In terms of my extension, I don’t really plan on going anywhere,” Irving told reporters after Brooklyn’s first-round exit. “Like I said, this is added motivation for our franchise to be at the top of the league for the next few years. Just looking forward to the summer and just building with our guys here.”
3. Zach LaVine, guard, Chicago Bulls
Chicago is obviously in win-now mode after adding the likes of DeMar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball, Nikola Vučević and Alex Caruso to pair with this high-scoring wing. It’s paid off big time with LaVine now looking to cash in this summer. This past regular season saw LaVine average 24.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists on 48% shooting en route to leading Chicago to the playoffs.
He’s morphed into a tremendous all-around player and is a huge reason why the Bulls were playoff team. Interestingly enough, recent reports indicae that LaVine is not a lock to re-sign with the Bulls and could head to this Western Conference team.
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4. Deandre Ayton, center, Phoenix Suns (restricted)
Many figured Ayton would be in line for a max-level rookie extension ahead of the Oct. 18 deadline. That did not come to fruition. Instead, the 23-year-old star center will hit the restricted free-agent market this summer. This will make Ayton the most sought-after restricted free agent on the market. Ayton continued to play at a high level this past regular season, averaging 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds on 63% shooting.
He’s an integral part of the Suns’ success, but other NBA teams are already going to make a run at him this summer. It all comes down to whether or not Phoenix matches any offer received.
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5. James Harden, guard, Philadelphia 76ers (player option)
There was an expectation that Harden promised Philadelphia he’d pick up his player option of $47.37 million for next season when it acquired him from the Brooklyn Nets for Ben Simmons. That’s no longer the case.
It’ll be interesting to see what comes of this given Harden’s regression this past season and the amount of money the 76ers would have to pay to an aging guard down the road on a new super-max contract during the summer. It’s something to watch.
6. Miles Bridges, forward, Charlotte Hornets (restricted)
Bridges, 24, might not have a ton of name recognition. But the former Michigan State star has proven himself to be a solid two-way forward. He’s took that to a whole new level this past regular season, breaking out in a big way. Bridges averaged 20.2 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists on 49% shooting.
Considering his age, it should come as no surprise he’ll be one of the most coveted NBA free agents and should land a max contract offer. Whether that’s with the Hornets depends heavily on their ability to trade high-priced wing Gordon Hayward.
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7. Jalen Brunson, guard, Dallas Mavericks
It’s time for Jalen Brunson to get paid. The 25-year-old guard will be hitting NBA free agency at the perfect moment. He set career-highs in scoring (16.3 points) and dimes (4.8 assists), further solidying himself as an integral part of the Mavericks’ success. He’s also a reliable defender with the effort to match it on both ends of the floor. Keep an eye on him to get a hefty contract this summer. It will likely come from the Mavericks with the team having no desire to let him walk in free agency.
8. Collin Sexton, guard, Cleveland Cavaliers (restricted)
Having missed all but 11 games this past season to a torn meniscus in his knee, Sexton’s value on the NBA free agent market this summer will be impacted big time. With that said, the 23-year-old guard is coming off a 2020-21 campaign that saw him average an eye-opening 24.3 points on 48% shooting.
Considering there are teams that wanted to acquire Sexton during February’s NBA trade deadline just to obtain his Bird Rights, it’s a safe bet that he’ll land a lucrative contract this summer.
9. Jonas Valanciunas, New Orleans Pelicans
Acquired in a trade with the Grizzlies ahead of the 2021-22 season , Valanciunas has been nothing but a steady force throughout his NBA career. Dating back to the center’s days with the Toronto Raptors, he’s averaging 16.4 points and 11.1 rebounds since the start of the 2018-19 campaign. He played even better this past season, averaging 17.8 points and 11.4 rebounds while shooting an otherworldly 54% from the field. Dude is vastly underrated.
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10. Anfernee Simons, guard, Portland Trail Blazers (restricted)
Injuries opened the door for Anfernee Simons this past season before he went down to injury himself. After averaging under 18 minutes per game a year prior, Simons took on a featured role in Portland’s rotation.
Turning 23 in June, the former 24th overall pick blossomed into one of the NBA’s breakout players this year. While a left knee issue ended things prematurely, Simons finished averaging 17.3 points per contest. Assuming his medicals check out, teams will make it tough on Portland to re-sign him.
11. Jusuf Nurkic, center, Portland Trail Blazers
Nurkic’s value as an NBA free agent this summer will be dicated by his injury history. The big man has played in a grand total of 101 games since the start of the 2019-20 season. When on the court, he’s proven to be a starter-caliber center. The dude is averaging 12.2 points and 8.5 rebounds on 50% shooting during his seven-year career.
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12. Marvin Bagley III, forward, Detroit Pistons
Enigmatic. Unhappy. Whatever term we want to use to describe Bagley’s three-year tenure in California’s capital city, it came to an end during the NBA trade deadline. He turned things around in Detroit after the deadline, averaging 14.6 points and 6.8 rebounds on 56% shooting. Look for Detroit to attempt to re-sign him.
13. Russell Westbrook, guard, Los Angeles Lakers (player option)
There’s now a good chance that Westbrook picks up his $47.06 million option for the 2022-23 season given just how poorly he played with the Lakers in his first season in Southern California. In fact, the former NBA MVP put up his worst statistical season since his rookie campaign back in 2008-09. The focus now turns to whether the Lakers will be able to trade Westbrook or have to waive the struggling veteran.
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14. Gary Harris, guard, Orlando Magic
It remains to be seen how long Harris will be a member of the rebuilding Magic after being part of the blockbuster Aaron Gordon trade back in March of 2021. What we do know is that the 27-year-old shooting guard can be a nice complementary piece. He’s shooting 36% from distance throughout his career and averaged a career-high 17.5 points back in 2017-18.