The summer features warmer temperatures and relaxation for a lot of the world. For others, it’s a countdown until July rolls around when NBA free agency hits. The first day of July features the first chance for many of the league’s stars to choose their new home. With teams having to find ways to maneuver around the salary cap, it also means that we could see a flurry of blockbuster trades that will also change the landscape of the NBA.
Two names that have already come off of the market are Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. Irving’s drama is over after he accepted his player’s option. Irving and Durant will most likely lead the Brooklyn Nets this season. We already wrote about John Wall and his destination before his contract buyout, so we are going to stick to that story. Those are just a few dominos that have fallen, so now it is time to see the rest of the ripple effect surge through the NBA.
Other teams will try to figure out what is going on with their superstars. From egos to contract disputes, the 2022 offseason figures are just as entertaining as the last few years. While the free agency market is top-heavy, there are plenty of other deals that could go down with teams spending big or trading high. All eyes will be on the league’s biggest stars and their new or old homes.
These are the best destinations for 10 NBA stars this summer.
Deandre Ayton - Atlanta Hawks
Before the draft, all signs pointed to the Detroit Pistons as the best suitor for the 2018 No. 1 overall pick. The team was lacking at the center position, but the team made a draft-day trade to land Memphis center Jalen Duren. Now, the team appears to be set on molding their young core for the future and appears to be fine with not spending the max deal for Ayton. That leaves a new spot for Ayton with the Atlanta Hawks.
While Ayton could come back to the Suns, the two sides have remained on separate sides of their contract talks. Trae Young’s new contract will begin next season that will pay him $36 million in salary. The Hawks could package Clint Capella’s $18.7 million, who is owed $45 million for two years after, as the headliner for the Suns. The team would likely need to find a partner for Danilo Gallinari and his $20 million salary. Still, the future of Young, Collins, and Ayton could be a trio that fans behind Atlanta could support.
John Collins - San Antonio Spurs
There is speculation that the Hawks are interested in Dejounte Murray to make a Murray-Young backcourt. That would require the team to part ways with Collins, which could be a very easy trade that involves the $23.5 million salary of Collins for the $16.5 million salaries of Murray and the $12 million salary of Josh Richardson. If the Spurs wanted to sweeten the pot, they could ask for Capela and throw in Jakob Poeltl, a future first-round pick and a second-round pick.
Let’s say that the Spurs decided to keep Murray and offered Keldon Johnson, Poeltl, and Zach Collins, who has two years left on his contract, with one year being a team option. This would provide Atlanta a chance to hit the reset button with cap space in the offseason in 2023 while the Spurs get their young core of the future with Murray and Collins.
Miles Bridges - Detroit Pistons
There are some rumblings that Bridges could have interest in joining the Dallas Mavericks after commenting on Doncic’s Instagram. Joining the Mavericks would require a sign-and-trade with the Hornets, and it is unlikely that the team would want to take on the large salaries of Tim Hardaway Jr. or Spencer Dinwiddie, given their need for a center. With the Pistons, there is a lot of chatter around the team ready to make a splash for Bridges, and he would make the most sense for the team.
The team’s backcourt of Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey is set for years to come. Saddiq Bey is coming off a season where he averaged 16.1 points and 5.4 rebounds. At power forward, the Pistons can give Marvin Bagley III a $7.7 million qualifying offer, but they could let him walk and be a restricted free agent. With the Pistons acquiring Jalen Duren and plugging in Isaiah Stewart at center, it makes the most sense that the Pistons are going to give Bridges, who is coming off a season where he averaged 20.2 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 3.8 assists, a max contract.
Bradley Beal - Washington Wizards
The Washington Wizards cannot afford to lose Bradley Beal, so they will spend whatever they have to spend to keep him. When the team signed John Wall, they did not get the return they hoped for on their investment. The team appears to be all in on Beal after the team traded for Kristaps Porzingis' last trade deadline. The Wizards can offer a five-year, $248 million contract. If Beal leaves, the most he can get is a four-year, $184 million deal.
Beal has been mum on his future, but there are not a lot of championship-contending teams that can offer Beal this contract. We have not seen what a full season of Beal and Porzingis looks like. The team would not have traded for Porzingis if they didn’t want to lure Beal back to Washington. For the money and the moves, it makes the most sense that Beal is going to be a Wizards next season.
Zach LaVine - Chicago Bulls
LaVine is in a similar situation as Beal. The Bulls will have some important decisions to make as the team has a short window to compete right now. With two years left of DeMar DeRozan and one year left of Nikola Vucevic, the core for next season appears to be up in the air. In regards to three to four years from now, the future should have LaVine in the mix because the Bulls can offer the most money.
The Bulls can offer LaVine a five-year contract extension worth about $212 million. If LaVine left the Bulls, the max contract he can sign is four years and $157 million. The Bulls cannot afford to lose LaVine to free agency, while LaVine has to see that he can get the most money in Chicago. Who LaVine will be playing with next season is another story, but the writing appears to be on the wall for LaVine returning to the Bulls.
Rudy Gobert - Charlotte Hornets
The marriage between the Jazz and Rudy Gobert appears to be over now that Quin Synder has left his post as head coach. The narrative is that the franchise had a different outlook on the direction of the franchise. Ultimately, that has to be the decision on the partnership of Gobert and Donovan Mitchell. Gobert has quite a bit of money left on his contract, which includes salaries of $38 million, $41 million, and $43 million in the next three years.
If the Hornets let Miles Bridges walk in free agency, the team will have cap space to absorb the contract of Gobert without having to send significant players in return. If the team brings back Bridges, the Hornets would need to shuffle some players. One trade option would be Terry Rozier, P.J. Washington, Mason Plumlee, and the 2023 first-round pick the team got in the Jalen Duren trade. Trading Rozier gives the Jazz another small guard option, while his $21 million salary would need to be moved to match. Meanwhile, Washington would have one year left with a player’s option, while Plumlee will be playing the last year of his $9 million deal. A combination of Ball, Hayward, Bridges, and Gobert could be competitive in the Eastern Conference.
John Wall - Los Angeles Clippers
Before the news broke about Wall’s contract buyout, the team that made the most sense for Wall was the Clippers. Last season, the Clippers made sense for Wall, but the team was not going to take on the $40 million salary he had. The Rockets paid Wall last season for him not to play so that Kevin Porter Jr. and Jalen Green could play.
With Paul George and Kawhi Leonard expected to be healthy, the Clippers will rise back to being championship contenders. The spot where the Clippers have the least amount of depth is at point guard. Reggie Jackson is pegged as the team’s starting guard, but behind him is Terance Mann, who is best suited as a small forward. Signing Wall would allow Marcus Morris Sr. to slide back down to power forward, Mann to small forward, and complete the championship depth chart.
Donovan Mitchell - Utah Jazz
There is growing speculation that Mitchell could be moved this offseason because of the direction of the franchise. It seems more likely that Gobert is going to be moved than Mitchell, so for those reasons, Mitchell is likely going to stay with the Jazz for at least one more season before requesting a trade. Once Gobert is gone, Mitchell is going to try and lead the Jazz himself to show that he is not the reason the Jazz have been coming up short.
When the Jazz was competing at a high level, it was Gobert that was receiving a lot of attention from the media. Mitchell has been snubbed from All-NBA Teams in the past, as well as in the All-Star conversation. With Mitchell taking over as the prime face of the Jazz, he will take it personally to try and lead this team to a newer height. Whatever that finish will be, it will feature Mitchell as the team’s best player.
Russell Westbrook - Indiana Pacers
At this stage of Westbrook’s career, what is he? With the Lakers, he proved that he was not a fit when it came to sharing the ball. The team wins didn’t translate the way they had hoped. With at least one year left of LeBron James, the team will need to act to try and salvage the future they mortgaged in past trades involving draft picks. The Lakers have a hope of winning right now. If the team wants to build around James and Anthony Davis next season, the team could orchestrate a trade with a team that is looking to hit the full reset button.
The Pacers could take on Westbrook’s contract for one season and then move to a realm where they have full salary cap relief. The Pacers could package Malcolm Brogdon, T.J. McConnell, and a 2026 first-round pick for Westbrook. The Lakers would get two solid role players that would fill an immediate gap. The Pacers would be off the hook for the salaries of Brogdon and McConnell that go through the 2024-25 season. This would allow the Pacers to start fresh, while the Lakers would fill their holes at point guard.
James Harden - Philadelphia 76ers
Harden owns a player’s option worth about $47 million. If he picks it up, that could hamper the 76ers this off-season in terms of adding talent. It feels like Harden is going to decline this option so that he can sign a three-year contract with the team. The terms of how much money that will pay remain up in the air, but given that Harden is going to be 33 years old next season, this feels like this could be the last time he can get a big-money multi-year contract.
If Harden declines his option, it would not make sense for him to go elsewhere. The 76ers would overspend if they had to, especially with what they had to give up to acquire Harden. That included Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, and two first-round draft picks. Running it back with Harden, Joel Embiid, and Tobias Harris seems like the only logical option for the team moving forward.