After the Warriors won the championship on June 16th, NBA fans did not have to wait long for the craziness of the offseason to ensue. After the draft on the 23rd, teams barely had a week to regroup and prepare for the start of free agency. However, due to a relatively weak free agency class, some teams opted to improve via trades.
Very soon into the free agency period, some teams locked their stars into max contracts before their current contracts were done. Devin Booker, Ja Morant, and Karl-Anthony Towns, all coming off of their first All-NBA selections, were all given similar supermax contracts for 4 years and $225 million. They were all the best players on a playoff team, so their teams want to ensure that they stay for the long haul. Bradley Beal declined his $36 million player option and instead opted to sign a 5-year, $251 million contract. It is clear that he only cares about the money since the Washington Wizards are nowhere near contention. If they made the playoffs, that would be a victory for them in 2022-23. Nikola Jokic, the reigning back-to-back MVP, signed the biggest contract in NBA history. His 5-year, $264 million dollar deal is easily the largest contract ever signed. While Jokic has definitely earned this money, it puts the Denver Nuggets in a bit of a bind to fill the roster since Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. have large deals of their own. Zach Lavine, despite dealing with knee issues for most of the past season, inked a 5-year, $215 million deal. When healthy he more than deserves that money. However, due to knee issues, he seems to miss 30+ games nearly every season. The only rookies that signed big contracts are Zion Williamson and Darius Garland. They each signed for 5 years and $193 million. Garland is coming off of a breakout season that saw him make his first All-Star game and nearly lead the Cavaliers to the playoffs. Williamson did not play a single game in 2021-22 after dealing with a preseason foot injury. While he has been as good as advertised since he came out of Duke, his problem has been being healthy enough to play.
Due to a weak free agency class, there were very few players available that could have a significant impact on a new team this upcoming season. However, there are several that certainly have the potential to. Jalen Brunson, the prized jewel of the New York Knicks, signed a 4-year, $104 million contract. He had a solid season in 2021-22 playing second fiddle to Luka Doncic, but he certainly has a lot to prove as the new leader of the Knicks. He is also the first player to ever sign a deal that is $100 million or more without ever making an All-Star team. The Warriors lost several key players in Gary Payton II (Trail Blazers), Otto Porter Jr. (Raptors), Juan Toscano-Anderson (Lakers), and Nemanja Bjelica (returning to Europe), who all left to sign bigger contracts elsewhere. The Philadelphia 76ers, coming off of a disappointing end to their season after trading for James Harden at the trade deadline, have made several moves in an attempt to capitalize on Joel Embiid’s rise to stardom. They traded for De’Anthony Melton on draft night, and they signed PJ Tucker from the Miami Heat. They were able to make these moves thanks to James Harden opting out of his massive contract for the upcoming season. While he has not resigned from the 76ers, he is expected to soon.
Two Huge Trades
After rumors that Dejounte Murray was on the trading block with the San Antonio Spurs, the Atlanta Hawks pounced on their opportunity. In an effort to gain back relevancy after missing the playoffs a year removed from the Eastern Conference Finals, they sent three first-round picks, in addition to Danilo Gallinari for the young star from the Spurs. Coming off of his first All-Star appearance, and nearly dragging the Spurs to the playoffs, Murray is going to get a max extension in the coming years. In order to avoid paying that, and going into a full-on rebuild, the Spurs capitalized on his all-time high value. The Hawks now have one of the best backcourt duos in Murray and Trae Young. While they likely do not have enough talent surrounding those two to contend in a strong Eastern Conference, they have set themselves up well for the future as long as their two young guards can learn to play well together.
Despite having the third most wins in the past six seasons, the Utah Jazz have been steeped in trade rumors for the entire offseason. After yet another first-round exit, they mutually agreed to part ways with their coach, Quin Snyder, and have been considering trading both Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell. They finally decided to trade Gobert to the Timberwolves. In a blockbuster move, they sent him to Minnesota for four first-round picks, a pick swap, and five players: Walker Kessler, who the Timberwolves just drafted with the 22nd pick, Jarred Vanderbilt, Malik Beasley, Leandro Bolmaro, and everyone’s favorite, Patrick Beverley. In a league that is getting increasingly smaller, the Timberwolves now have two of the best big men in the game. While they do not have a ton of cap room to sign other players going forward, they certainly have a talented core and will be interesting to watch in the coming years.
Trouble in the Big Apple
Just three years after teaming up with each other, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving have evoked a lot of questions about their future. After three seasons and only 44 games together, it is becoming very apparent that the star duo is unhappy in Brooklyn. Coming into the offseason, Irving had a player option for the upcoming season. He made it clear that he wanted a contract extension, but the Nets were unwilling to give him what he wanted. This is due to his lack of commitment to the team, and basketball in general. In the past three seasons, he has made it clear that basketball is not his biggest priority. He has dealt with some injuries, but he missed nearly half of the games last season because he refused to get vaccinated and could not play in any home games due to a vaccine mandate. He has also left the team for extended periods to deal with personal issues. Because of his unreliability, the team did not want to commit to him. He wanted the Nets to trade him if he was going to opt into his contract, but other teams were not interested in him. Eventually, he did opt into his contract, but only the Lakers have openly expressed interest, and they do not have much to trade for him. Unless the Nets want Russell Westbrook, Kyrie will likely be in Brooklyn this season.
Kevin Durant made an official trade request to the Nets, listing only two teams he wants to be traded to: The Phoenix Suns and the Miami Heat. While those would be very interesting moves for the league, fans have been quick to point out that they were both the best regular season teams in each conference last season. Durant has been criticized a lot in the past for joining the Warriors, who just broke the record for regular season wins and lost the NBA Finals just months before Durant signed there. Unfortunately for Durant, he is in the first year of a four-year contract extension with the Nets, leaving him without much leverage. Adrian Wojnarowski, one of the most well-connected NBA reporters, has said that the Nets are in no hurry to get anything done right now in regards to Kevin Durant. While he is much more likely to be traded than Kyrie Irving, it looks like fans might have to wait a while for anything real to happen.