2022 NBA Free Agents: Rumors, Predictions Based on Late-Season Buzz

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistApril 3, 2022

2022 NBA Free Agents: Rumors, Predictions Based on Late-Season Buzz

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    Brandon Dill/Associated Press

    With the 2021-22 NBA regular season nearing its conclusion, several teams are looking ahead to the offseason.

    Free agency will be a big part of the offseason equation, especially with players like James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Bradley Beal potentially available. While not an overly strong free-agent class, a few stars and several quality role players will be available.

    Below, you'll find a look at the latest free-agency buzz and some predictions based on the latest rumors and intel.

Bradley Beal

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    Brandon Dill/Associated Press

    Beal has a player option for the 2022-23 season and could look to hit the open market this offseason. If he does, he's likely to draw plenty of interest. Shams Charania of The Athletic reported last month that the Miami Heat are viewed as legitimate contenders for Beal's services.

    However, Beal appears poised to stay in Washington and has stated such.

    "That's fair," Beal told reporters when asked if it's fair to assume he'll be back.

    Beal may also be open to reuniting with former teammate John Wall in Washington.

    "I'm told Beal, though not overtly advocating a Wall return, wouldn't dismiss a potential reunion out of hand," David Aldridge of The Athletic wrote in early March.

    We'll have to wait to see how things unfold with Wall—who hasn't suited up for the Houston Rockets this season. Based on his recent comments, though, Beal appears poised to run it back rather than an opt-out.

    Prediction: Beal opts in for the 2022-23 season.

James Harden

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    Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    James Harden was traded from the Brooklyn Nets to the Philadelphia 76ers midseason, though at one point, he appeared set to stay in Brooklyn long-term.

    According to Logan Murdock of The Ringer, Harden and Kevin Durant "went on a trip to Greece this past summer, and the guard twice reassured Durant that he'd sign an extension to stay in Brooklyn long term."

    In January, Dan Feldman of ProBasketballTalk reported that Harden was "frustrated" by Kyrie Irving's decision to remain unvaccinated, meaning he was away from the team until January and wasn't able to play home games until recently.

    Harden may be among the players reportedly frustrated with Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers too. According to The Ringer's Wosny Lambre (h/t Adam Hermann of NBC Sports Philadelphia), several players are "not feeling" Rivers.

    While a return to Brooklyn feels incredibly unlikely, Harden could reevaluate things with Irving's situation largely resolved. Irving has stated his intent to remain with the Nets.

    "When I look at my teammates and I look at what we have as an organization. I'm looking for the long run," Irving told reporters.

    While a Nets reunion may not happen, expect Harden to opt out of his player option and test the market this offseason. Harden agreed to opt in upon being traded, according to The Athletic's Rich Hofmann, but that has yet to become official. Anything short of a deep playoff run could cause him to reverse course.

    Prediction: Harden tests free agency

Russell Westbrook

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    Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

    There's at least a chance that Russell Westbrook enters the free-agent pool this offseason. However, it seems unlikely at this point.

    According to Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer, the Lakers don't plan to use the stretch provision to waive Westbrook.

    "I was told 'that's very unlikely to happen.' I mean, anything could change here, but I don't think the Lakers intend to carry dead money on future salary because of Russell Westbrook," Fischer told NBA insider Marc Stein on Stein's podcast.

    The Lakers will be more inclined to try trading Westbrook, though finding a suitor will be difficult. He hasn't been a good fit with the Lakers, and teams will be hesitant to pick up his contract. He's scheduled to earn $47 million next season.

    Los Angeles will likely have to sweeten any deal involving Westbrook with another player or a future draft pick, but L.A. might prefer that to eating cap and using the stretch provision. However, anything could happen in Los Angeles this offseason—including a trade of star Anthony Davis.

    "I think it will be something that's discussed," ESPN's Brian Windhorst said on Get Up (h/t Eric Eulau of FanNation).

    For now, though, Westbrook hitting the open market feels unlikely.

    Prediction: Lakers do not release Westbrook