Which 2022 NBA Offseason Moves Will Look Best In 3 Years?
It's time to dust off the orange and black crystal ball.
From the draft to trades to free agency and contract extensions, there's already been a whirlwind of NBA offseason activity.
While a lot of these new moves will excite fans in the short term, which transactions will still look good a few years down the line? Which may not look great right away but could age like fine wine by the 2025 offseason?
From major shakeups to more under-the-radar activity, these are the 2022 summer moves that will end up looking the best.
Spurs Extending Keldon Johnson
The Details: Spurs sign Johnson to a four-year, $74 million extension
After nearly doubling his scoring average from years one to three, Johnson was rewarded with an extension by the Spurs that could top out at $80 million.
While kudos to Johnson, the 29th overall pick in 2019, for locking in this kind of generational money, he likely could have made far more by waiting.
He averaged 21.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists and shot 47.7 percent over his final 18 games of the regular season, stepping into a larger offensive role following the trade of Derrick White to the Boston Celtics.
Now with Dejounte Murray (who led the Spurs in points, assists and steals and was second in rebounding) traded to the Atlanta Hawks, Johnson should up his production yet again.
Last season, the 22-year-old saw his assist rate jump from 7.6 percent to 12.8 percent when Murray was out of the game, and his overall usage (19.9 percent to 22.8 percent) got a boost as well.
Johnson will undoubtedly be the Spurs' leading scorer this season, as he's now locked into an extension that only contains $74 million in guaranteed money with $6 million in unlikely bonuses. The deal is also frontloaded, meaning his contract will begin at $20 million in 2023-24 and go down each year, ending at $17.5 million in each of the final two seasons. According to ProFitX.com, his fair-market value for the upcoming season is projected at $29.2 million.
This was an unbelievably good deal for the Spurs, one that will only look better as Johnson produces more in a larger role.
Celtics Trading for Malcolm Brogdon
The Details: Celtics acquire Malcolm Brogdon from the Indiana Pacers for Daniel Theis, Aaron Nesmith, Malik Fitts, Juwan Morgan, Nik Stauskas and a 2023 first-round pick (top-12 protected)
For a Boston team fresh off a Finals appearance, choosing to stay put and let this mostly young core grow together would have been just fine.
Trading for Brogdon while not sacrificing any core rotation pieces and only giving up one draft pick, however, was a major win.
A 6'5", 29-year-old point guard, Brogdon should be in the prime of his career as he now leads a bench unit for the Celtics that could be one of the best in basketball with Derrick White, Grant Williams, Payton Pritchard and newly signed Danilo Gallinari.
While injuries have been a concern as of late, Brogdon should benefit in a lighter role now on a deeper team. He averaged 34.1 minutes per game the past two seasons and should settle into something similar to the 27.4 minutes White played following his trade to Boston.
His efficiency had slipped in a bigger role with the Pacers following the start of his career with the Milwaukee Bucks, although we should see a return to his Bucks numbers now on a similarly talented Celtics squad. Brogdon posted an effective field-goal percentage of 57.5 percent during his final season in Milwaukee (on 50.5/42.6/92.8 splits), the fourth-highest mark of any guard.
His raw stats won't blow anyone away now as a sixth man, but Brogdon is in an ideal situation as a backup point guard on a team that can compete for championships for several years. He'll shake up what can become a stagnant offense at times, defend multiple positions at a high level and bring even more veteran leadership.
With a contract that averages roughly $20.5 million over the next three years, Brogdon is at a good number for a Celtics team that already has Jayton Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Robert Williams III on extensions.
This trade looks good now. If Brogdon plays an essential role on a team that wins a championship (or more) in the next three years, it will look even better.
Jalen Brunson Signing with Knicks
The Details: Knicks sign Jalen Brunson to four-year, $104 million contract
Seeing $100 million next to Brunson's name may have been a shock to some at first, especially since the 25-year-old began the 2021-22 season coming off the bench for the Dallas Mavericks.
Dallas refusing to offer Brunson even a four-year, $55.5 million extension last summer will end up haunting the franchise.
Brunson proved he can perform on the biggest of stages after putting up 21.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.7 assists and only 1.1 turnovers on 46.6 percent shooting in 18 playoff games this past spring. He has terrific body control that allows him to get into the teeth of the defense before attacking the rim or kicking out to an open shooter. His offensive estimated plus-minus rating of plus-2.1 ranked in the 91st percentile last season, tied with players such as Khris Middleton, Brandon Ingram and Tyrese Haliburton.
Of course, playing next to Luka Doncic seemed to overshadow his skill set at times, given Brunson doesn't present the same physical stature or jaw-dropping shot-making ability as his former co-star.
Brunson isn't a No. 1 option on a title team, and he doesn't need to be in New York (especially if the team trades for Donovan Mitchell). Instead, his ceiling projects as a high-level No. 3, something his new contract should reflect.
Brunson's $104 million is actually $78.5 million over three years with a $24.9 million player option in 2025-26. The deal is frontloaded, meaning he'll start at $27.7 million this season and only take up less cap space as the contract progresses, which helps out New York's future finances.
Letting Brunson run the offense should help take the pressure off RJ Barrett and give him more spot-up shooting opportunities (he made 36.8 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes last season compared to just 25.3 percent of his pull-ups), unlock a more efficient Julius Randle like we saw in 2020-21 and give Mitchell Robinson plenty of lobs to feast off.
Don't let the $100 million figure scare you. This is going to be a tremendous signing for the Knicks.
Magic Taking Paolo Banchero No. 1 Overall
The Details: Magic select Duke forward Paolo Banchero first overall
The Magic fooled everyone by keeping their draft preference at No. 1 a mystery up until the big night itself.
While almost every mock draft had Jabari Smith Jr. chiseled in stone to Orlando, the Magic ended up selecting Banchero first overall, ahead of Smith and Chet Holmgren.
Now, is Banchero going to be the best player from this class over the next 20 years? That's probably too early to say. Is the decision to take him No. 1 overall going to yield the best result over the next three years? Absolutely.
While Smith and Holgrem can tease us with their defensive chops now, both are still raw in terms of offensive prowess compared to Banchero.
The 19-year-old looked like a man among boys at summer league with his 6'10", 250-pound frame. In two games, he totaled a cool 40 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists, five steals and two blocks before Orlando shut him down.
Despite his size, Banchero moves extremely well, has excellent footwork and is versatile enough to play either side of the pick-and-roll. He'll almost certainly lead the Magic in scoring and rebounding as a rookie, with a chance to claim the assist title as well. His passing can become elite for his position, either from the top of the arc, from the elbows or after getting into the paint.
If Banchero doesn't win Rookie of the Year, it's only because the Magic didn't give him the minutes and touches he deserved. This is now the focal point of Orlando's rebuild, one all other players should gravitate around.
Again, will Holmgren or Smith's defensive skills end up leading them to more productive careers? Possibly, but no current rookie will be better over the next three years than Banchero.
Nuggets Extending Nikola Jokic
The Details: Nuggets sign Nikola Jokic to a five-year, $270 million extension
Can giving someone the biggest contract in the history of the sport really count as a "best" offseason move?
If the player is the reigning two-time MVP who's still only 27 years old, then yes, yes it can.
We saw a lot of maxes handed out this summer, either in the form of extensions or new contracts. Players such as Bradley Beal, Zach LaVine, Ja Morant, Darius Garland, Zion Williamson, Devin Booker and Karl-Anthony Towns were all given their maximum amount allowed in either one form or another.
Of course, none of those players has an MVP trophy to their name. Some carry significant injury concerns, while others have yet to even take their team to the playoffs as a No. 1 option. Most of those max deals have the potential to look quite bad in a few years if we're being honest, with the exception of one.
The only thing wrong with Jokic's extension is that the Nuggets aren't allowed to make it longer.
In addition to winning MVP, again, Jokic finished first in win shares (15.2), value over replacement player (9.8) and estimated plus-minus (plus-9.3), most of which weren't even really close. The Nuggets were a whopping 19.5 points per 100 possessions better when he was on the floor, a swing rating that ranked in the (checks notes) 100th percentile.
In seven years, Jokic has never played fewer than 73 games in a full season. He is a terrific scorer from all areas, he rebounds with the best in the game and he is possibly the best passing center the NBA has ever seen. Mix in his improvement on the defensive end, and Jokic is arguably the best player in the league, possibly just entering his prime.
Yes, it was an easy decision by Denver to give him a max extension, but not all players who got one are necessarily going to be worth it.
With a trophy case that's already begun to fill up, Jokic could add some more significant hardware over the next three years and is worth every penny he's due to receive.