NBA Free Agents 2022: Predictions for Players Who Will Command Most Interest

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistMarch 29, 2022

NBA Free Agents 2022: Predictions for Players Who Will Command Most Interest

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    Need offense? The 2022 NBA free agent class has you covered.

    The list of potential hoopers-for-hire includes a three-time scoring champion, the second-highest scorer of the last two seasons and a 27-year-old clearing 23 points per night for the fourth consecutive campaign.

    These are some of the best net-shredders in the business, but will any of those three seek out greener pastures this summer? We're breaking out the trusty crystal ball to find out.

Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards (Player Option)

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    When given a chance to discuss their potential future, both Beal and the Wizards have typically aligned themselves with the other. However, Beal has had chances to close the door to other scenarios and has refused to do it.

    "I've never been in this position," Beal told Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes in December. "I'm kinda embracing that, being able to dictate how I want my future to be and where I want it to be. ... Ultimately, you have to be selfish at some point and for probably the first time in my career, Year 10, I am."

    Beal wants to win. He'd prefer to do it in Washington, but he should have enough data to know that just isn't happening. The Wizards are about to miss the playoffs for the third time in four seasons and haven't won a playoff series since 2017. They seem in need of the organizational reset that can only come from a Beal blockbuster.

    Beal can and should explore his other options. If championships are his ultimate aim, then they should lead him away from Washington.

    Prediction: Beal is sign-and-traded to the Miami Heat.

James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers (Player Option)

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    It's been a strange season for Harden, to say the least.

    His stats have typically lagged behind his past production, his split from the Brooklyn Nets was awkward at best and his transition to the 76ers is ongoing. He is still a very good player, but it's perhaps fair to question whether he remains a great one—and, if so, for how much longer?

    His 22.5 points per game are his fewest in a decade. His 41.4 field-goal percentage is his lowest since his rookie year. Same goes for the 0.153 win shares per 48 minutes he has generated, per

    With his 32nd birthday behind him, the cost of his next contract could get uncomfortable, at least on the back end. But it seems like that's a worry for a different day. He holds a $47.4 million player option for next season, per Spotrac, and says he plans to pick it up. There's no reason to doubt him.

    Prediction: Harden picks up player option to stay with Sixers.

Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls (Unrestricted)

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    The Bulls are stumbling to the finish line, but no matter what happens from here, it shouldn't erase all the goodwill this group earned when it was full.

    Back on Jan. 14, the last time Lonzo Ball played before a knee injury knocked him out, Chicago set atop the Eastern Conference with a .675 winning percentage. It's been tough sledding ever since, but that doesn't change the fact this team showed it can win at a high level when it has everyone available.

    That's what this front office needed to see: whether it could construct a contender around LaVine or not. Unless the Bulls saw huge warning signs from this second-half slump, they should feel good about this core going forward.

    LaVine is the central piece of that equation, or at least on a 1A-1B standing with DeMar DeRozan. The Bulls should do everything in their power to keep LaVine, and if they do, he shouldn't see any reason to leave.

    Prediction: LaVine signs a max contract to stay in Chicago.