Here are the NBA’s top remaining free agents, who originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
The 2022 NBA Free Agency period is only 72 hours old, but most of the best players are already off the board.
Bradley Beal and Zach LaVine returned to the Wizards and Bulls on maximum five-year, $200 million-plus contracts, respectively, while Anfernee Simons stayed in Portland on a four-year, $100 million contract. Jalen Brunson was the biggest name to change teams through free agency, leaving the Mavericks for a four-year, $104 million deal with the Knicks.
Even a majority of the top role players have been picked up. The 76ers lured PJ Tucker away from Miami. The Trail Blazers (Gary Payton II) and Raptors (Otto Porter Jr.) each stole a key piece from the reigning Champion Warriors. Malik Monk left Los Angeles for Sacramento, Kyle Anderson left Memphis for Minnesota, and Bruce Brown left Brooklyn for Denver. Meanwhile, Bobby Portis (Bucks), Kevon Looney (Warriors), Nic Batum (Clippers), Mitchell Robinson (Knicks) and Gary Harris (Magic) all stayed in place.
But even though the free agent pool has been significantly thinned out, there’s still value to be had. Here’s a look at the NBA’s top remaining free agents:
James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers, unrestricted
Harden may not be on this list for long. It would be an absolute blast if he and the Sixers didn’t agree on a contract in a timely manner. Harden, 32, turned down his $47.4 million player option in order to give Daryl Morey the flexibility to improve Philly’s depth in free agency, and Morey did just that, selling ex-Rockets PJ Tucker and Daniel House Jr. pulled ashore. There have been rumors that Harden will sign a two- or three-year, $100 million deal, possibly with a player option after year 1.
Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns, restricted
So… where is Deandre Ayton going? The Suns were unwilling to give Ayton a maximum contract and apparently no other team have made a suitable offer yet. Ayton was looking to Detroit until the Pistons drew Jalen Duren in 13th overall. He then seemed like a prime play to move to the Nets in a potential Kevin Durant trade, but Brooklyn supposedly not interested in the center of the 23-year-old. The Pacers and Spurs still make sense as targets for Ayton, but do they want to pay for him? Ayton has an opportunity to accept the Suns’ year-long qualifying offer ($16.4 million), which would allow him to reach full free agency next summer.
Collin Sexton, Cleveland Cavaliers, restricted
The Cavaliers have put Darius Garland in long-term jail. Now what will they do with their other promising young guard? Cleveland hit a surprising 44 wins in 2021-22, even though Sexton was sidelined for most of the season with a torn meniscus. The 23-year-old Sexton can grab buckets efficiently as he was averaging 24 points per game with 47.5/37.1/81.5 shooting splits two seasons ago. But like Ayton, there may not be a big cash offer to force Cleveland’s hand. Sexton’s qualifying bid from the Cavs is valued at $7.2 million.
TJ Warren, Indiana Pacers, unrestricted
Warren is arguably the most intriguing free agent in the class of 2022. Since his bursting in the NBA bubble, Warren has appeared in just four games. He underwent season-ending surgery in January 2021 to repair a stress fracture in his foot and missed all of last season as he continued his rehab. Warren, who is still on the right side of 30 and had a strong showing in 2019-20, could become a steal for a team if he stays healthy.
Montrezl Harrell, Charlotte Hornets, unrestricted
Harrell is facing drug-related charges stemming from a May 12 traffic stop in Kentucky where authorities said they discovered a backpack containing three pounds of marijuana in vacuum-sealed bags. Harrell, who authorities have accused of “admitting possession of marijuana and making a small amount out of his sweatpants,” is scheduled to appear in court on July 13.
Harrell’s attorneys told TMZ that he “has never been involved in any form of marijuana trafficking or any other illegal activity.” They also alleged that Harrell “did not drive the vehicle, and after the stop he was only issued a ticket to appear in court at a later date on a marijuana-related charge, as did all occupants of the vehicle.”
It wouldn’t be surprising if interested teams waited for more clarity on Harrell’s legal situation. The 28-year-old big man appeared in 71 combined contests for the Wizards and Hornets last season, averaging 13.1 points and 6.1 rebounds in 23.1 minutes per game while shooting 64.5% from the field .
Carmelo Anthony, Los Angeles Lakers, unrestricted
The 9th all-time leading scorer in the NBA is still available. Anthony, who turned 38 in May, averaged 13.3 points and 4.2 rebounds in 26 minutes per game in his debut season as a Laker while averaging 44.1% overall. After proving he can still knock down 3s on a high number of tries (37.5% at 5.8 per game), Anthony should pique the interest of his rivals. Melo is 308 points away from overtaking Shaquille O’Neal for eighth on the all-time scorers list.
Caleb Martin, Miami Heat, restricted
A Martin twin has already been signed as the Hornets reportedly landed Cody on a four-year, $32 million deal. But Caleb is still available after a strong season with Miami. In what was actually his first NBA season not playing alongside his brother, 26-year-old Caleb averaged 9.2 points in 22.9 minutes per game while shooting 50.7% from the field and 41.3 % of 3 shots (at 2.6 attempts per game). The 6-5 wing was also part of Miami’s playoff rotation and recorded 12.3 minutes per game.
Dennis Schroeder, Houston Rockets, unrestricted
Schroeder was considered one of the biggest free-agent steals of the last offseason when he signed a one-year, $5.9 million contract with the Celtics. However, the signing didn’t prove to be a huge coup. Schroeder was shipped to Houston at close after 49 games (and 25 starts) with Boston when the C’s brought Derrick White off the bench as their new lead guard. While Schroeder’s days as a starter on a playoff team may be over, he certainly still offers value as a backup. In a total of 64 games last season, he averaged 13.5 points and 4.6 assists with 43.1/34.4/85.3 shooting splits.