NBA

2022 NBA free agency explained: Start date, top players, teams with most cap space

As we inch closer to the NBA offseason, it’s time to start preparing for free agency. The speculation and rumors that surround NBA free agency are what make this time of the year truly entertaining, as fans try to envision players on their favorite teams, and the top players around the league get courted by any team with cap space. This summer may not have some of the biggest names available as we’ve seen in the past, but that doesn’t mean things won’t get truly chaotic. 

In preparation for free agency, here are some key questions and answers about what to expect, who’s available and when all the chaos starts. 

When is free agency?

The league hasn’t announced an official date for free agency, but it’s presumed that it will start on June 30 at 6 p.m. ET. At least, that’s when teams can start negotiating contracts with players. Contracts won’t actually be official until the moratorium period is lifted, which comes about a week after the free agency period begins.

Who are some top free agents this summer?

If you want a list of some of the top players who could be available, check out James Herbert’s breakdown of the 45 top players who teams could be vying for. Some of those names include Zach LaVine, who will be an unrestricted free agent, and whose return to the Chicago Bulls isn’t a sure thing. Some top guys who have player options that they could opt out of which would make them unrestricted free agents are Kyrie Irving, Bradley Beal and James Harden. On top of that, there are restricted free agents who could be looking at big paydays like Deandre Ayton and Miles Bridges, while unrestricted free agent Jalen Brunson is expected to be courted by several teams, including the Knicks and Pistons in addition to his current team, the Dallas Mavericks

What’s the salary cap for the 2022-23 season?

The NBA has reportedly told teams that the salary cap for next season is projected to be set at $122 million and the luxury-tax line will be $149 million. That’s slightly higher than what the league previously told teams, which was a $121 million salary cap and a $147 million luxury-tax line. That slight increase isn’t groundbreaking by any means, but it does give the franchises who are already projected to have significant cap space a bit more to play with, and for the teams who are pushing close to the tax line, it gives them slightly more breathing room. 

Which teams will have significant cap space?

Don’t expect a wide number of gaudy deals to be made this summer, because as it stands right now, only five teams are projected to have significant cap space to work with. The Detroit PistonsIndiana PacersOrlando MagicPortland Trail Blazers and San Antonio Spurs are all projected to have more than roughly $20 million in cap space available, with the Magic and Pistons set to have the most at over $27 million apiece. Several of those teams are in a rebuilding phase with young pieces, so it will be intriguing to see how teams like Orlando, San Antonio and Detroit use their cap space this summer, while the Blazers will have a real opportunity to try and retool around franchise star Damian Lillard. Indiana, who shipped off its All-Star forward in Domantas Sabonis at the trade deadline, could make more moves this summer with Myles Turner and Malcolm Brogdon as potential trade targets depending on what direction that team wants to go in. 

Who will be in line for maximum rookie-scale extensions?

Last summer we saw both Luka Doncic and Trae Young get significant pay raises as they signed their rookie extensions worth over $207 million apiece. That’s a lot of bread for two of the league’s brightest young stars — deservedly so! –, and we will surely see the same happen again this offseason with some more talented, young players up for rookie extensions. 

The two biggest names, Ja Morant and Zion Williamson are at the top of the list, with Morant in line for a five-year, $186 million rookie scale extension. If he earns All-NBA for the 2022-23 season as well, that number could jump up to $222 million for a supermax deal. Williamson’s contract might be a bit trickier, given New Orleans may want to put some provisions in place due to the No. 1 overall pick’s injury history. Williamson will be able to sign a similar deal to Morant’s, but we’ll have to see if the Pelicans show some hesitation in offering him that large of a contract considering he’s played just 85 games in three seasons. Other names who will be up for rookie extensions are Knicks forward RJ Barrett, newly-minted Sixth Man of the Year Tyler Herro and All-Star guard Darius Garland. All three players show significant improvement this season and should be in line for a hefty payday this summer. 



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