Spotrac’s Free Agent by Position Series
2022 NBA free agency is right around the corner. This isn’t considered to be a blockbuster free agent class, but there are several impact players available. In these rankings, we took a similar approach to the one many teams use when it comes to ranking available players. Each position was broken down into tiers. The tiers are:
- All-Star: These aren’t all necessarily All-Stars, but they have the ability to be an All-Star
- Starters: These players are either starters or they produce at a starter-level of impact
- Rotation: These are solid players that should be in a team’s regular season rotation
- Fringe: These are players at the end of the bench or Two-Way players largely in the G League
Players were then ranked within their tiers. All potential free agents have been ranked, including those with pending options.
- Deandre Ayton – Phoenix Suns (restricted): Ayton is the best free agent big man available. He’s one of the better young bigs to hit free agency in several years. Despite that, he seems likely to move on from the Suns this summer. Ayton is right on the verge of making his first All-Star appearance, so there should be a strong market for his serves.
- Jusuf Nurkic – Portland Trail Blazers (unrestricted): Nurkic is coming off several injury-plagued seasons in a row. But when healthy, the soon-to-be 28-year-old center is a double-double lock. He’s also a good screener and passer. Look for Portland to keep Nurkic, as they retool the roster around Damian Lillard.
- Kevon Looney – Golden State Warriors (unrestricted): Looney was one of the few players to appear in all 82 games this season. That durability, along with his defense and rebounding, make him likely to return to the champs. Bringing back Looney will allow the Warriors to continue to take it slow with James Wiseman’s development and return from injury.
- Ivica Zubac – LA Clippers (unrestricted – team option): Zubac has developed into one of the better centers in the NBA. He goes under the radar due to the Clippers star power, but he’s a key player for LA. Look for the Clips to pick up his option.
- Nicolas Claxton – Brooklyn Nets (restricted): This is an upside bet to a large degree. Claxton has all the tools to be a good starting center, but he hasn’t put it all together yet. Given all the drama around the Nets offseason, some smart team might be able to sneak in and steal Claxton.
- Isaiah Hartenstein – LA Clippers (unrestricted): Hartenstein paired with Ivica Zubac to give LA 48 minutes of solid center play. It’ll cost the Clippers even more on their tax bill to keep him, but Hartenstein is worth it. He’s a good backline defender, solid finisher and there are glimmers of him expanding his shooting range too.
- Mitchell Robinson – New York Knicks (unrestricted): If Robinson could stay healthy, he’d be pushing Ayton at the top of this list. He’s an elite finisher and shot-blocker. The challenge is that last year was by far his healthiest season and he still missed 10 games and parts of several others. Still, Robinson can really play, and he’s only 24 years old. He’ll get a nice deal this summer.
- Andre Drummond – Brooklyn Nets (unrestricted): Given enough minutes, Drummond is still a double-double machine. The challenge is that he’s not a threat outside of the basket area and his defense leaves a lot to be desired. He might be best as a high-end backup on a good team, like the role he played before the 76ers traded him at the trade deadline.
- Mo Bamba – Orlando Magic (restricted): Bamba is coming off easily his best season in the NBA. The challenge is that it came in a contract year. He’s probably moving out of Orlando’s crowded frontcourt and someone will take a chance on paying a talented center who can shoot and protect the rim.
- Dewayne Dedmon – Miami Heat (unrestricted): Dedmon got a bit exposed in the playoffs, but in the regular season he’s a good backup center. He’ll probably stick in Miami on a minimum deal to keep backing up Bam Adebayo, unless the Heat want to give that spot to Omer Yurtseven.
- JaVale McGee – Phoenix Suns (unrestricted): McGee was one of the best backup centers in the NBA last season. If the Suns lose Deandre Ayton, they might re-sign McGee and hand him their starting spot. If paired with a solid backup, McGee will be productive enough for that to work.
- Robin Lopez – Orlando Magic (unrestricted): Lopez is in a bit of a weird spot. He could be one of the best backup centers in the NBA, but he doesn’t seem to have a need to play on a contender. Lopez enjoyed playing for, and living in, Orlando this year. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him re-sign with the Magic to keep mentoring the team’s young big men.
- Naz Reid – Minnesota Timberwolves (restricted – team option): Reid has been solid behind Karl-Anthony Towns with the Wolves. Minnesota isn’t ready to increase their salaries to pushing the tax yet, so they’ll probably pick up their option for Reid for next season.
- Jalen Smith – Indiana Pacers (unrestricted): Smith is in an interesting spot. Because Phoenix declined his rookie scale option for 2022-23, the Pacers are capped at paying him the equivalent of that option amount at $4.7 million. Smith played easily his best ball with the Pacers, so Indiana would like to keep him. But if someone else offers him even the Taxpayer MLE, the Pacers might be out of luck.
- Damian Jones – Sacramento Kings (unrestricted): Jones is coming off his best NBA year. He’s shown signs of being a quality backup center now. Look for the Kings to try and retain him, but their frontcourt is getting a little crowded.
- Thomas Bryant – Washington Wizards (unrestricted): Bryant is coming off what was seen as one of the best value deals in the NBA. Had he shown more in his return from tearing his ACL in 2020, Bryant might be in line for another good contract. Now, he’s probably playing somewhere on a prove-it deal next season.
- DeMarcus Cousins – Denver Nuggets (unrestricted): After wandering around the NBA for a few years, Cousins seems to have found a home in Denver with Michael Malone. He’s a good backup for Nikola Jokic, because the Nuggets don’t have to change what they do on either end. Look for Cousins to return to Denver.
- LaMarcus Aldridge – Brooklyn Nets (unrestricted): Aldridge got to return to playing and will be able to finish his career on his terms after a scary heart issue. That’s the good news. The bad new is that it looks like the end of that career is looming. Maybe a contender snaps him up for deep bench depth, but Aldridge doesn’t have much left beyond the ability to stick midrange jumpers.
- Bismack Biyombo – Phoenix Suns (unrestricted): Biyombo surprisingly got back to the NBA and was very productive for the Suns in a backup role. He meshed particularly well with Chris Paul. If Biyombo is back in the NBA next year, look for it to be with the Suns again.
- Moses Brown – Cleveland Cavaliers (restricted): Brown is still a bit of an enigma. He’s still very young and he’s enormous. Someone will take a flier on Brown and his upside, because you can’t teach size.
- Hassan Whiteside – Utah Jazz (unrestricted): Whiteside was the ideal backup for Rudy Gobert in many ways, because he’s plug-and-play in the Jazz system. Now, Utah will have a new coach. It’s unknown how Whiteside will fit in a new system. He could be headed for a fifth team in as many years.
- Dwight Howard – Los Angeles Lakers (unrestricted): Howard is solid enough for 10-15 minutes as a backup center. When he has to play more than that, he gets exposed.
- Tristan Thompson – Chicago Bulls (unrestricted): See above. Thompson just doesn’t have the same game he had even as recently as a few years ago.
- Serge Ibaka – Milwaukee Bucks (unrestricted): Three in a row for the veterans who aren’t the athletes they once were. Ibaka at least has the benefit of having some shooting range to offer in a deep bench role.
- Mike Muscala – Oklahoma City Thunder (unrestricted – team option): The Thunder value Muscala, and rightly so. He’s not a game-changer, but he’s a solid backup. It’s likely OKC will pick up his option and bring him back for at least one more year.
Fringe Tier (unranked and presented in alphabetical order)
- Bol Bol – Orlando Magic (restricted)
- Tony Bradley – Chicago Bulls (unrestricted – player option)
- Ed Davis – Cleveland Cavaliers (unrestricted)
- Gorgui Dieng – Atlanta Hawks (unrestricted)
- Bruno Fernando – Houston Rockets (restricted)
- Luka Garza – Detroit Pistons (restricted – team option)
- DeAndre Jordan – Philadelphia 76ers (unrestricted)
- Nathan Knight – Minnesota Timberwolves (restricted – Two-Way)
- Greg Monroe – Minnesota Timberwolves (unrestricted)
- Neemias Queta – Sacramento Kings (restricted – Two-Way)