Players to watch in the 2022 NBA free agency

The 2022 NBA free agency lacks the top-tier names of the past seasons. However, there still are some interesting free agent stories this summer. From All-Stars like Zach LaVine to valuable role players like PJ Tucker, Kevon Looney and Malik Monk.

Miles Bridges

Miles Bridges is definitely one of the restricted free agents candidates who could walk away with a lot of money from this offseason. The Hornets could not make the playoffs but Bridges shined as a max player during the season.

The question is if the Hornets are willing to maxed him out. The Athletic reported that they would hesitate to match a max offer sheet, while the Pistons and the Pacers seem willing to offer him what he’ll command in the offseason, per Bleacher Report.

Bridges is exactly what a winning team needs, as Charlotte finished with its best record in six years. A versatile and super athletic wing, Bridges is coming off a breakout year averaging 20.2 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists per contest.

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Tuys Jones

Every NBA team will have to have a player like Tuys Jones in their roster. Being one of the best back-ups in the point guard position, Jones will likely command to get paid this offseason after ab incredible year with the Memphis Grizzlies.

It was not a coincidence that Memphis went 19-5 without Ja Morant in the lineup in the regular season. In 23 games as a starter, Jones averaged 12.7 points and 6.6 assists in 30.3 minutes. Memphis will probably have to give more than the MLE to sign him back.

Jones has been steadily referred as a candidate for several teams searching for stability in the point guard position. The Washington Wizards have Jones on their offseason radar, while it’s known the Knicks are in desperate need of point guard play.

Bradley Beal

Bradley Beal’s name remains a steady contributor to the NBA newsfeeds this offseason as the star guard is expected to become a free agent on June 29. More importantly, he seems committed to win in Washington, and the Wizards will hope to keep things that way.

All signs continue to point to him opting out of the $36.4 million he’s owed next season and re-signing with the Wizards for five years and $248 million. Beal missed most of the last season due to surgery but he will be ready to compete entering the 2022-23 campaign.

Playing in 40 games last season, Beal averaged 23.2 points, 6.6 assists and 4.7 rebounds per contest. If the three-time All-Star remains with the team, expect the Wizards to pursue aggressive moves to bring another superstar to Washington.

Zach LaVine

Zach LaVine admitted he wanted to enjoy the free agency entering the 2022 offseason as an unrestricted free agent, coming off a successful season with the Chicago Bulls and his first career playoff appearance.

The Bulls made several win-now moves including the trade for Nikola Vucevic at the 2021 deadline, and then the acquisitions of DeMar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso a few months later. Now, they want to make another step with re-signing LaVine.

If LaVine stays in Chicago, he could sign a five-deal max contract worth $212 million. There were several rumors addressing LaVine as willing to see his worth in the open market, but the Bulls’ FO said they will do everything it needs to be done to keep him in Chicago.

Deandre Ayton

Deandre Ayton will be the top free agent at center position this summer. Entering the 2021-22 season, Ayton was eligible for a contract extension, and it’s not secret that he wanted a max deal from the Phoenix Suns.

If the Suns max him out now, it’ll cost them $177 million over five years. If they don’t, and he will not accept any less, then he’ll have to play the offer-sheet game or try to figure out a sign-and-trade.

Only a few teams (Spurs, Pistons) can offer him max money, but even If they do, the Suns are not expected to let him walk without getting something back. In his case, the sign-and-trade path seems to be the most legitimate one.

Jalen Brunson

Jalen Brunson is another breakout star coming off a great year with the Dallas Mavericks. Playing alongside Luka Doncic, Brunson thrived as a scorer and secondary ball-handler in the Mavs offense.

In 61 regular-season games as a starter, Brunson averaged 17.5 points  4.1 rebounds and 5.0 assists in 33.3 minutes. He showed his ability to be effective in increased minutes and usage as Dallas reached the Western Conference Finals.

The Mavs can pay him more than anybody else and are the only team that can offer him a five-year deal, but the New York Knicks are expected to offer him a contract north of $100M in the free agency. Is Dallas willing to offer more?

Kevon Looney

Kevon Looney has been with the Warriors since he was 19 and quickly became a franchise corner-stone alongside Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. Being a great rebounder and screener, Looney is vital for Golden State’s plan.

A low-usage, no-maintenance center who sets good screens, grabs a great amount of offensive rebounds and knows Steve Kerr’s system. Looney did not miss a single game this season and remained health after having struggles with injuries the previous years.

He was instrumental in the Warriors 2022 championship run, especially in the series vs the Dallas Mavericks and of course in the Finals vs Boston. The Dubs will have a couple of free agents this summer, but Looney seems to be the one player they must keep.

Malik Monk

The Los Angeles Lakers finished a disappointing 2021-22 season as they missed the playoffs after three consecutive appearances and one championship. However, Malik Monk was one of the few bright spots in “Purple and Gold” last season.

He signed a minimum contract last summer, which means the most the Lakers can offer without using their taxpayer midlevel exception is a starting salary of $2.5 million. In an important note, Monk might even have outplayed the MLE ($6.3M).

After averaging 13.8 points on 57.8 percent true percentage shooting, Monk should be looking for an annual salary between $10-16 million this summer. In that case, the Lakers will not be able to retain him in the roster.

Bruce Brown

After the Kyrie Irving saga came to an anti-climactic end, the Brooklyn Nets will look on ways to remove dead wood from their roster and keep the players fitting around their superstar duo for next season.

Brown might not fit the description for a player that can match with Ben Simmons in the same starting five. However, the Nets have at least four elite shot creators in Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Seth Curry and Patty Mils.

In that case, Brown could be limited to what he’s doing well, setting screens, being an aggressive on the roll and playing great defense. The Nets are not in place to lose players with the skill set of the Boston native.

PJ Tucker

Once he opted out of his current deal with the Miami Heat, PJ Tucker was expected to search for a long-term deal. According to the latest reports, Tucker will join the Philadelphia 76ers on a $30M deal for three seasons.

Tucker has proven that he’s still capable of defending superstars and he’s coming off his best all-around offensive season in years with the Heat reaching the Eastern Conference Finals and going on a deep playoff run for second consecutive season.

Tucker averaged 7.7 points per along with 5.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists through 71 games during the 2021-22 campaign. Miami finished with the best record in the East and the veteran wing played a huge role in that.

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