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NBA Free Agency: Key Players Up for Grabs

Free Agency in the National Basketball Association begins Thursday evening, June 30 at 6pm ET. With Kyrie Irving and Russell Westbrook already making their decisions on player options and John Wall working toward a buyout with the Houston Rockets, the focus is now on a number of names likely to make moves.

While only five teams enter this offseason with significant cap space to work with, all 30 teams have things they need to address this summer.

All of the players/teams below have a deadline of tomorrow, Wednesday, June 29, for their options. That can't be extended by either party. Tomorrow is also the deadline to issue qualifying offers for any players eligible for restricted free agency. Basically: busy day tomorrow! — Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) June 28, 2022

Below is a list of some of the key players who would be able to officially discuss and negotiate with prospective teams, provided that the player/team options are not exercised:

Zach Lavine Indications point towards LaVine and the Chicago Bulls reaching an agreement on a max contract extension that would pay him roughly $212 million over the next five seasons. However, the shooting guard is still an unrestricted free agent and has said multiple times that he wants the “full experience” of being a free agent. Making the All-Star Game for the second consecutive season, he continued to prove his worth to the Bulls this past season, averaging 24.4 points and shooting 47.6% from the floor, 38.9% from three-point range.

The Chicago Bulls are expected to offer Zach LaVine a max 5-yr/$212M contract when free agency opens on Thursday. LaVine is expected to accept the offer. (via @KCJHoop) — ProCity Hoops (@ProCityHoops) June 27, 2022

Alongside DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Vucevic and Lonzo Ball, the Bulls truly believe that Zach can help propel the 6-time league champions in the regular season and in the postseason, possibly making them one of the best teams. The expectation is that Chicago and LaVine agree to a max-level deal.

James Harden Much like Zach LaVine’s situation in Chicago, it is hard to see James Harden go elsewhere in free agency, even if he opts out of his player option with the Philadelphia 76ers. While Harden opts out and becomes an unrestricted free agent, no other teams in the league appear to be showing any interest whatsoever in trying to pry Harden away from the Sixers.

BREAKING: James Harden has declined his $47M player option and will now enter unrestricted free agency. 👀🔥 — ًHoop CentraI (@TheHooopCentral) June 22, 2022

Alongside Joel Embiid, James Harden – post-injury, has yet to look like his former MVP-self after the trade deadline with Philadelphia, but with a full offseason to recover and build chemistry with his new team, the 76ers could very well end up being the best team in the league during the 2022-23 season.

Bradley Beal Beal is an unrestricted free agent after not activating his player option. He is one of the best player available in free agency this summer. However, while many teams would like to execute a sign-and-trade deal with him and the Washington Wizards, it does not seem like a possibility right now.

Bradley Beal is 'very likely' to opt out of his $36.4M player option and re-sign with the Wizards on a five-year max contract, per @wojespn — Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 26, 2022

Feelers suggest Beal re-ups with the Wizards on a supermax contract worth in the range of $245 million over the next five seasons. One of the best scorers in the league, he has remained loyal to Washington through the years and once again appears committed to seeing their “re-tooling” process through.

Jalen Brunson One of the top free agents in the league this summer is Jalen Brunson. In his fourth season with the Dallas Mavericks, Brunson really took over as the second-best scoring option on the team next to Luka Doncic and proved that he can be a primary scorer and facilitator with the ball in his hands.

Jalen Brunson is expected to join the Knicks. 👀 — theScore (@theScore) June 28, 2022

The Mavericks can offer him the most money with a five-year, $175 million max deal, as other teams can only offer him a max of a four-year deal worth upwards of $130 million. Another scenario is the possibility of a sign-and-trade with another team like the New York Knicks, who are said to be very interested in pursuing him, especially after signing his father to be an assistant coach on Tom Thibodeau’s staff.

DeAndre Ayton The 23-year-old No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft, is a restricted free agent for the Phoenix Suns. He did not receive the maximum contract extension he wanted, but a number of his Class of 2018 peers received — prior to last season, which caused some friction between him and his incumbent team.

The Suns are making a move to keep Deandre Ayton 👀 — Suns Nation (@SunsNationCP) June 28, 2022

He now has one of four options: 1) re-sign with the Suns; 2) sign an offer sheet elsewhere, which Phoenix can, and should match; 3) seek a sign-and-trade deal to another team; or 4) play the final season of his rookie contract on a $16.4 million qualifying offer and become an unrestricted free agent next season.

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