0 out of 5
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NBA Free Agency still has some notable players on the market, with some potential bargains to be found as well.
Deandre Ayton has yet to find a home and could be tied to a specific Superstar’s trade request. Collin Sexton is the best guard still available (assuming James Harden is a suspension for the Philadelphia 76ers return), while some notable veterans and players recovering from injuries are scrambling to secure their next few contracts as well.
Heading into Day 4 of the 2022 Free Agency season, here could be some of the most notable names left.
1 out of 5
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After exploiting their entire mid-level taxpayer exemption for Lonnie Walker IV, the Lakers are now limited to minimum contracts.
A possible target? 24-year-old Bryant, who began his career in Los Angeles in 2017-18.
Like the LA Times Brad Turner reported, “The Lakers have a strong interest in reuniting with free-agent center Thomas Bryant, but since LA has only the bare minimum of veterans to offer, he’s in no rush to make a decision. Also, the Lakers have competition for Bryant’s services, as Toronto is also interested.”
Bryant showed strong potential as a rim guard and three-point taker before tearing his ACL as a member of the Washington Wizards in January 2021, but was able to return to the court last January.
The Lakers may not have the contract he desires, but they could promise him something no other team could promise: a starting job.
If Anthony Davis doesn’t start in the middle, Los Angeles currently has newly signed Damian Jones as an option. Veteran Dwight Howard is still a free agent.
Bryant could try to redeem his value as a starting center in LA on a minimum contract and look to cash in next offseason. Before tearing his ACL, he averaged 14.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, 0.8 blocks and shot 42.9 percent from three in his first 10 games of 2020-21.
Adding a down-to-earth big man in the forecourt alongside Davis would give everyone more room to maneuver, especially with Russell Westbrook returning.
Look for Bryant, who eventually signs a one-year deal from the Lakers, and try to increase his value for next year.
2 out of 5
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With Jalen Brunson, Ricky Rubio, Tyus Jones, Delon Wright, and other point guards off the board, the ground general market is drying up fast.
Even at the age of 36, Dragic still has some gas in the tank as veteran support for a contender.
One team that could use an additional point guard is Dallas, who just saw Brunson leave for the New York Knicks. Markus Stein reports that the Mavs have shown interest in Dragic and have one remaining roster slot available.
Of course there is the connection to Luka Doncic. The two are both from Slovenia and are currently playing together this summer in qualifiers for the 2023 FIBA World Cup. If Doncic wanted to recruit off-season, he didn’t have to go far.
With Doncic and Spencer Dinwiddie now the only true playmakers in the Mavs roster, it would be an ideal situation for all involved to bring Dragic on as a 10-15 minute a night substitute and continue to mentor the young superstar.
While Dallas has only minimum veteran contracts left, that should be enough for Dragic, who could be entering the final season of his career.
3 out of 5
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It was surprising to see Schroder stay with the Rockets after the trade deadline as he seemed like an ideal buyout candidate to join a competitor. While ending his contract in Houston, The Athletic’s Kelly Iko reports that he will now be signing elsewhere:
“In terms of their own free agents, Dennis Schroder is popular in Houston but he is expected to have a new home for the 2022-23 season, sources told The Athletic. Schroeder arrived at the February close, bringing professionalism, experience and speed to a team in need, but with Daishen Nix on call, as well as Porter, Christopher and Green, clearing minutes for the squad’s developing young talent is really necessary. Schroeder is 28, in the prime of his career, and expects to play big minutes and compete deep in the playoffs.”
Of the teams with at least the mid-level taxpayer exception, Miami makes the most sense for Schroder.
Kyle Lowry had a difficult first season with the Heat as the 36-year-old missed 19 games and averaged his lowest point since the 2012-13 season (13.4 points per game). While third-year guard Gabe Vincent did an admirable job, Miami could use another experienced ballhandler as insurance for Lowry and help him stay fresh for the playoffs.
Schroder averaged 13.5 points, 3.3 rebounds and 4.6 assists between the Boston Celtics and the Rockets and is just two years away from sixth man of the year with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
He would be a replacement for Lowry here but could still get good minutes for a team that just made it to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Look for Schroder to sign a one-year, mid-taxpayer $6.5 million deal in Miami to keep Lowry fresh.
4 out of 5
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The number of teams remaining who can pay Sexton beyond a mid-level exception has dropped to two, providing further evidence the 23-year-old guard will be back in Cleveland.
Only the San Antonio Spurs ($38.5 million) and Indiana Pacers ($27.9 million) have more than the $10.5 million mid-level exception, according to Spotrac KeithSmith. The Cavs have only part of their mid-level left after signing Ricky Rubio, but have Sexton’s bird rights and can exceed the salary cap to keep him.
The Spurs could technically use a guard after selling Dejounte Murray to the Atlanta Hawks, but this franchise looks set to be in full tank mode heading into the 2022-23 season. Signing Sexton would help them win, which may not be the goal at the moment.
Indiana already has its backcourt of the future in Tyrese Haliburton and rookie Bennedict Mathurin, meaning Sexton will likely become the team’s sixth man along with Buddy Hield.
Cleveland is in a much better position to win than either team, having come just a game short of making the playoffs last season, and could promise Sexton his shooting guard job.
Sexton, while also represented by Klutch Sports Group, will not get a maximum deal like fellow backcourt Darius Garland just received. He and the Cavs could even negotiate a shorter contract that would allow him to become a full free agent sooner, similar to the three-year, $52.5 million deal Caris LeVert signed with the Brooklyn Nets in 2019.
With Cap court drying up, look for Sexton to stay with the Cavaliers.
5 out of 5
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The buzz around Ayton has been suspiciously quiet lately, which means there could be more at play here.
After Kevin Durant officially requested a trade, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reports that the Phoenix Suns are at the top of his list.
Well, that doesn’t mean Ayton would go to Brooklyn, as a sign-and-trade would severely cap a Nets team that’s already $173.8 million in salary. Almost every Durant-to-Phoenix trade would have to involve a third team.
This is where the pacers come in.
Indiana could be a home for Ayton as Myles Turner has just one year left on his contract. Given Turner’s ability to shoot three points, the two could also play side-by-side.
There’s a basis of a three-team trade here, with Durant going to the Suns, Ayton signed and traded to the Pacers, and the Nets getting a package based on Mikal Bridges, Turner, and a whole bunch of first-round picks based additional players.
As offers continue to pour in for Durant, don’t be surprised if Ayton’s free agency drags on for a while while the Suns keep their options open. Finally, look for Ayton, who ends up with the Pacers to join a young core made up of Tyrese Haliburton, Bennedict Mathurin, and Chris Duarte.