2022 NBA Free Agents: Latest Ricky Rubio Rumors, Kyrie Irving Predictions, More
The 2021-22 NBA regular season is nearing its conclusion. With the play-in tournament slated to kick off on April 12, most of the basketball world is focused on the looming postseason. However, the NBA offseason isn't that far off.
While the 2022 edition of free agency isn't likely to be chock-full of All-Stars—which could, in turn, spark a robust trade market—a few intriguing players are scheduled to be available. Several quality role players should also be sitting on the open market.
Indiana Pacers point guard Ricky Rubio is one of those second-tier role players teams could covet. He's 31 and coming off a torn ACL, but he had a strong campaign with the Cleveland Cavaliers before the injury and subsequent trade to Indiana.
Let's take a look at the latest buzz surrounding Rubio and some predictions for a couple of those aforementioned stars.
Rubio probably won't be available until midseason because of the injury. However, teams could value him as a key late-season asset off the bench.
In 34 games with the Cavaliers this season, Rubio averaged 13.1 points, 6.6 assists and 4.1 rebounds in 28.5 minutes per game. That's solid production from the seasoned veteran, and as Chris Fedor of cleveland.com noted, it had "significantly raised his leaguewide value."
That was before the injury, though, and Rubio is no longer likely to command prime free-agent dollars. For the Cavs, that could be a good thing.
"He was likely headed for a contract north of the mid-level exception, possibly out of Cleveland’s price range," Fedor explained.
Rubio was dealt as part of the Caris LeVert trade, but Cleveland could bring him back if the price point is low. As Fedor explained, the Cavaliers were quite happy with his fit with the team this season.
"Rubio enjoyed his time in Cleveland, and his good buddy—Jose Calderon—is in the front office. The Cavs like Rubio just as much, if not more," Fedor wrote. "They never doubted his importance."
Bringing back Rubio would make a ton of sense, especially if the Cavaliers—who currently hold the top play-in spot in the East—view themselves as 2022-23 contenders.
Prediction: Rubio signs a one-year deal with Cleveland.
While Rubio will get some interest on the open market, another former Cavalier could demand lots of it—if he becomes available.
Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving has a player option for the 2022-23 season. He could choose to exercise it, opt out and hit free agency or sign an extension with Brooklyn. His choice may now be clearer than it was a couple of months ago.
Irving had been in and out of the lineup because of New York City's COVID-19 vaccine mandate. He is now eligible in home games following an amendment to that mandate. This means that Irving should be a full-time player if he chooses to re-up with the Nets.
This sounds like the direction in which Irving is headed. He has a bond with friend and teammate Kevin Durant, and he's interested in running it back.
"Once that summertime hits, I know we'll have some conversations," Irving said, per The Ringer's Logan Murdock, "but there's no way I could leave my man 7 anywhere."
Irving could opt out and sign a new five-year deal with Brooklyn. However, he could also see how things unfold next season and make $36.9 million in the process. Waiting to make a long-term decision would be a perfectly reasonable move for Irving, who only turned 30 last month.
Prediction: Irving opts in for the 2022-23 season.
Like Irving, Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal has a player option for the coming season. Beal sounds a little more torn on what he wants to do. He's admitted that returning to Washington is the likely choice.
"That's fair," Beal told reporters when asked if it's fair to assume he'll be back.
However, Beal is also open to the idea of becoming a free agent for the first time in his career.
"I'm kind of embracing everything," Beal said on the Draymond Green Show (h/t James Herbert of CBS Sports), "so I'm not upset about the rumors, I'm not upset about, you know, teams wanting me. I feel like that's a good thing, right?"
Beal noted that several factors, including his earning potential and the opportunity to win, will factor into his decision. He told Green, though, that his preference would be to win in Washington.
"I think people don't understand that I want to do that here," Beal told Green. "And my mindset is like, OK, why can't I do it here? There's a lot of other teams that are out here doing it."
The big question will be whether Washington makes the necessary moves to give Beal that opportunity. The Wizards have already been eliminated from the postseason and haven't made it beyond the first round since the 2016-17 season. An extension is entirely possible, but it feels more likely that he'll give Washington one more year to turn things around.
Prediction: Beal opts in for the 2022-23 season.