The NBA never really sleeps. The 2022 NBA Playoffs will give way to the 2022 NBA Draft, followed by free agency and Las Vegas Summer League. The start of the NBA’s offseason typically garners at least as much interest as the games themselves.
We’ve been doing mock drafts and player profiles on top prospects all year to prepare you for draft season. Now it’s time to look at the 2022 NBA free agency class.
There are some big names available this summer, led by a foursome of All-Star guards: James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Bradley Beal, and Zach LaVine. The first three players on that list have the ability to opt out of their current deal with a player option, while LaVine is already set to be an unrestricted free agent.
Here’s a look at the top-75 NBA free agents for 2022, with a list the teams with cap space and scenarios for players with contract options after the table.
NBA free agents, ranked for 2022
|1||Zach LaVine||G||Chicago Bulls||Unrestricted|
|2||Bradley Beal||G||Washington Wizards||Player option|
|3||James Harden||G||Philadelphia 76ers||Player option|
|4||Deandre Ayton||C||Phoenix Suns||Restricted|
|5||Kyrie Irving||G||Brooklyn Nets||Player option|
|6||Miles Bridges||F||Charlotte Hornets||Restricted|
|7||Jalen Brunson||G||Dallas Mavericks||Unrestricted|
|8||Anfernee Simons||G||Portland Trail Blazers||Restricted|
|9||Collin Sexton||G||Cleveland Cavaliers||Restricted|
|10||Bobby Portis||F/C||Milwaukee Bucks||Player option|
|11||Mitchell Robinson||C||New York Knicks||Unrestricted|
|12||Mo Bamba||C||Orlando Magic||Restricted|
|13||Kyle Anderson||F||Memphis Grizzlies||Unrestricted|
|14||Jusuf Nurkic||C||Portland Trail Blazers||Unrestricted|
|15||Luguentz Dort||G||Oklahoma City Thunder||Team option|
|16||Chris Boucher||F/C||Toronto Raptors||Unrestricted|
|17||Gary Payton II||G||Golden State Warriors||Unrestricted|
|18||Nicolas Batum||F||Los Angeles Clippers||Player option|
|19||Thad Young||F||Toronto Raptors||Unrestricted|
|20||Gary Harris||G||Orlando Magic||Unrestricted|
|21||Nic Claxton||C||Brooklyn Nets||Restricted|
|22||T.J. Warren||F||Indiana Pacers||Unrestricted|
|23||Jae'Sean Tate||F||Houston Rockets||Team option|
|24||Ivica Zubac||C||Los Angeles Clippers||Team option|
|25||Tyus Jones||G||Memphis Grizzlies||Unrestricted|
|26||Russell Westbrook||G||Los Angles Lakers||Player option|
|27||Bruce Brown||G||Brooklyn Nets||Unrestricted|
|28||PJ Tucker||F||Miami Heat||Player option|
|29||Isaiah Hartenstein||C||Los Angeles Clippers||Unrestricted|
|30||Kevon Looney||C||Golden State Warriors||Unrestricted|
|31||Ricky Rubio||G||Indiana Pacers||Unrestricted|
|32||Malik Monk||G||Los Angeles Lakers||Unrestricted|
|33||Victor Oladipo||G||Miami Heat||Unrestricted|
|34||Marvin Bagley III||F||Detroit Pistons||Restricted|
|35||Mike Muscala||C||Oklahoma City Thunder||Team option|
|36||Otto Porter Jr.||F||Golden State Warriors||Unrestricted|
|37||Caleb Martin||G||Miami Heat||Restricted|
|38||Cody Martin||G||Charlotte Hornets||Restricted|
|39||Shake Milton||G||Philadelphia 76ers||Team option|
|40||Pat Connaughton||G||Milwaukee Bucks||Unrestricted|
|41||Lonnie Walker IV||G||San Antonio Spurs||Restricted|
|42||Montrezl Harrell||C||Washington Wizards||Unrestricted|
|43||Donte DiVincenzo||G||Scramento Kings||Restricted|
|44||Wesley Matthews||G||Milwaukee Bucks||Unrestricted|
|45||Taurean Prince||F||Minnesota Timberwolves||Unrestricted|
|46||JaVale McGee||C||Phoenix Suns||Unrestricted|
|47||Delon Wright||G||Atlanta Hawks||Unrestricted|
|48||Andre Drummond||C||Brooklyn Nets||Unrestricted|
|49||Patty Mills||G||Brooklyn Nets||Player option|
|50||Hamidou Diallo||G||Detroit Pistons||Unrestricted|
|51||John Wall||G||Houston Rockets||Player option|
|52||Hassan Whiteside||C||Utah Jazz||Unrestricted|
|53||Jeff Green||C||Denver Nuggets||Unrestricted|
|54||Thomas Bryant||C||Washington Wizards||Unrestricted|
|55||Jalen Smith||F||Indiana Pacers||Unrestricted|
|56||DeMarcus Cousins||C||Denver Nuggets||Unrestricted|
|57||Carmelo Anthony||F||Los Angeles Lakers||Unrestricted|
|58||JaMychal Green||F||Denver Nuggets||Player option|
|59||Amir Coffey||F||Los Angeles Clippers||Restricted|
|60||Derrick Jones Jr.||F||Chicago Bulls||Unrestricted|
|61||Nemanja Bjelica||F||Golden State Warriors||Unrestricted|
|62||Juan Toscano-Anderson||F||Golden State Warriors||Unrestricted|
|63||Jeremy Lamb||G||Sacramento Kings||Unrestricted|
|64||Josh Okogie||G||Minnesota Timberwolves||Restricted|
|65||Danuel House||F||Utah Jazz||Unrestricted|
|66||Bryn Forbes||G||Denver Nuggets||Unrestricted|
|67||Yuta Watanabe||F||Toronto Raptors||Restricted|
|68||Stanley Johnson||F||Los Angeles Lakers||Team option|
|69||Joe Ingles||G||Utah Jazz||Unrestricted|
|70||Dennis Schroder||G||Houston Rockets||Unrestricted|
|71||Ben McLemore||G||Portland Trail Blazers||Unrestricted|
|72||D.J. Augustin||G||Los Angeles Lakers||Unrestricted|
|73||Tomas Satoransky||G||Washington Wizards||Unrestricted|
|75||Goran Dragic||G||Brooklyn Nets||Unrestricted|
The rankings are highly subjective and open to debate. We mostly wanted to use it as an overview of the top available players this summer. Feel free to leave your input in the comments section below.
What teams are expected to have cap space this summer?
A lot can still change in terms of the cap space that’s available for teams in free agency. As it currently stands, only five teams are expected to be under the cap in July of 2022. You can find projected cap space numbers for every team at Spotrac. Here are the teams actually under the cap this summer, with their projected cap space next to their name:
- Portland Trail Blazers: $62.5M
- Orlando Magic: $28.2M
- Detroit Pistons: $25.7M
- Indiana Pacers: $25.1M
- San Antonio Spurs: $22.9M
What’s the NBA salary cap and luxury tax lines this year?
The 2022-2023 salary cap will be $122 million and the luxury tax is scheduled to be $149 million, according to The Athletic.
What players on this list probably won’t be available?
Not every player on this list is going to hit the open market. For example:
- Russell Westbrook and John Wall won’t opt out of their deals. Westbrook has a $47 million player option for next season. Wall’s option is for $47.3 million. Neither is going to give up that type of money regardless of how bad their current situations are. If Westbrook and/or Wall change teams ahead of next season, it will be via a trade.
- Teams options for top players should be picked up. The Rockets aren’t going to let go of Jae’Sean Tate with a team option of just $1.7 million for next season. Same with the Thunder and Lu Dort at just over $1.9 million. Teams that want either player will have to be patient: both are slated to be unrestricted free agents in the summer of 2023.
Why Zach LaVine is this year’s No. 1 NBA free agent
The top-6 players on this list each have a legitimate claim to be the No. 1 free agent on the market. There are some massive headline names in the mix with James Harden, Bradley Beal, and Kyrie Irving, but it still feels like Zach LaVine is this year’s top prize. Why? It comes down to LaVine’s age, scoring versatility, and ability to play with any ball dominant star.
Harden will turn 33 this offseason, Beal will turn 29, and Irving is already 30. Zach LaVine had his 27th birthday in March. His next contract — either five years from the Bulls or four years on the open market from another team — will cover him throughout the duration of his prime. While LaVine is looking at a hefty cap number on a max deal, he should live up to the contract as long as he can stay healthy.
LaVine’s numbers speak for themselves. Over the last two seasons, LaVine is averaging 25.8 points per game on ridiculous 62 percent true shooting by making 55 percent of his two-pointers, 40 percent of his threes on 7.6 attempts per game, and 85 percent of his free throws. He willingly became the No. 2 option on the Bulls in a contract year to allow DeMar DeRozan to run the offense in crunch-time, and finally made the playoffs for the first time since he was drafted in 2014. While his defense still isn’t great, LaVine’s scoring package combines movement shooting with the ability to pressure the rim as a driver. That’s what almost every team wants around their superstar.
LaVine fell off a bit in the second half of the season after playing through knee pain. He had arthroscopic surgery after Chicago was eliminated from the postseason on the same knee that he tore the ACL in back in 2017. Both LaVine and the Bulls are repeated that there’s no structural damage to his knee, which is a great sign for his long-term health. The Bulls are the favorites to lock down LaVine with a five-year max, but there are plenty of teams who would love to pry him away.
James Harden and Kyrie Irving are the most fascinating free agents
Harden and Irving both have player options for next season. Harden will earn $47.3 million next season if he opts-in, while Irving would earn $36.5 million next season if he picks it up. While those are giant one-year paydays, both players are probably looking to secure one more lucrative long-term deal this summer because each is already on the wrong side of 30.
If Harden and Irving do opt out of their deals, their next contracts will be the most scrutinized of the offseason. Both players were incredible at their peaks, but neither feels reliable right now.
The Sixers already cashed in their biggest trade chips for Harden, sending out Ben Simmons plus first round picks in 2023 and 2027 to acquire him from Brooklyn. Harden was great at times in Philly, but he was also inconsistent. He hasn’t been the player since suffering a hamstring strain against the Bucks in the 2021 playoffs. Even Joel Embiid admitted this isn’t the same Harden we once saw in Houston. Harden remains an excellent passer and pull-up three-point shooter, but his burst as a driver and finisher has diminished significantly. Harden will want a long-term max deal, but that seems like a foolish proposition for the Sixers.
Irving might be the most unreliable star in the league at this point. He was limited to 29 games last season because he refused to take the Covid vaccine. The year before, he stepped away from the team for personal reasons following the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Kyrie is still an incredibly skilled shot-maker and ball handler when he’s at his best, but giving a max deal to a player with his history is a huge gamble. If it happens, consider it a tax for keeping Kevin Durant happy in Brooklyn.
Deandre Ayton and Miles Bridges are the restricted free agents to watch
First round draft picks become restricted free agents at the end of their rookie contracts if they don’t agree to an extension. That means their incumbent teams have the ability to match any contract offer they receive on the open market. Restricted free agents typically don’t change teams, but we saw it happen last season with Lonzo Ball going to the Bulls in a sign-and-trade. There are two major RFAs on the market this year who feel like they could be had for the right price.
The Suns selected Deandre Ayton with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, but speculation about his future began when Phoenix refused to give him a max extension before the season. There was some real tension between Ayton and the organization when Phoenix was upset in the playoffs, and it now it seems like he could have a new home next season. Ayton was always a secondary option with the Suns, but has still averaged better than 16 points and 10 rebounds on 60 percent shooting for his career on a team that played in the NBA Finals last season. He’s an impressive roll man who can also score in the post and might have some untapped upside as a shooter. It would be a major boon for any team to add a high-upside center who will be only 24 years old next season, but it’s on Ayton to prove he’s worthy of the max deal he’s going to get.
The Hornets should have major regret over not re-signing Miles Bridges ahead of this past season. Bridges had a career year in Charlotte, averaging 20 points and seven rebounds per game playing next to LaMelo Ball. He’s a great fit next to Ball long-term, but there have been rumors that teams like the Blazers could offer him a max deal. Bridges is the type of combo forward who feels like he’d fit anywhere. It would be a huge blow for Charlotte to lose him, but they will of course have the ability to match any offer.
When does 2022 NBA free agency start?
NBA free agency typically starts around July 1. Teams will likely be allowed to start negotiating contracts with players on June 30 at 6 p.m. ET. Contracts become official when the moratorium ends about a week later.
Who are your favorite sleep free agents?
Let us know in the comments below.