2022 NBA Free Agents: Latest Rumors and Predictions for John Wall and More

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistApril 10, 2022

2022 NBA Free Agents: Latest Rumors and Predictions for John Wall and More

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    Carmen Mandato/Associated Press

    The 2021-22 NBA regular season is nearing its end. The postseason is almost set, with only a few matters of seeding to take care of.

    For the 10 teams that have already been eliminated, the focus has turned to the offseason. Other teams will soon follow suit, as the play-in tournament is set to begin Tuesday. While free agency is still months away, you can bet that teams are weighing their options now.

    The unrestricted free-agent market won't be overwhelming, though players like Zach LaVine and Jalen Brunson will garner significant interest. Therefore, a lot of eyes will be on players with option years—players like Kyrie Irving, John Wall, James Harden and Bradley Beal—and those who could receive buyouts.

    Here you will find the latest buzz on all free-agency fronts, along with some predictions for a few notable players who could hit the open market.

John Wall

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Associated Press

    Houston Rockets point guard John Wall is one of the players who isn't scheduled to hit free agency but could still wind up there this offseason.

    Wall, who hasn't played for Houston this season after agreeing to sit, has a player option for the 2022-23 campaign. The Rockets were unable to find a trade partner before the deadline, but moving Wall remains an option if he decides to opt in for next season.

    According to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, this is exactly what Wall plans to do:

    "As expected, John Wall is going to exercise his $47.4 million player option for next season, I'm told. After that, the Rockets will have time to look for a trade to move Wall. If Houston can't find a trade partner for Wall, his representation at Klutch Sports is expected to work with the Rockets on a buyout agreement before next season."

    This is the logical move for Wall, who can either be traded to a team he likes or glean part of his $47.4 million salary and still hit the open market.

    For the Rockets, a trade would be preferable. If they can get anything of value in return for Wall, they would likely pull the trigger instead of paying Wall to depart. Considering Wall's potential impact on a new team—he averaged 20.6 points and 6.9 assists last season—Houston should be able to find a taker on the trade market.

    Prediction: Wall opts in and gets a trade out of Houston.

Russell Westbrook

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    The Russell Westbrook experiment didn't go well for the Los Angeles Lakers this season, and according to Dan Woike and Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times, it was doomed from the start.

    "Russ never respected [coach] Frank [Vogel] from Day 1," one anonymous Lakers staff member told Woike and Turner. "The moment Frank said anybody who gets the rebound can bring it up the court, which is just how the NBA is played these days, Russ was like, 'Naw, I'm the point guard. Give the ball to me.'"

    Westbrook was never the right fit for the Lakers, and the team's chemistry suffered. However, he could still be a great addition to a different team. For Westbrook to reach free agency, though, he and Los Angeles would have to agree on a buyout.

    According to ESPN's Ramona Shelburne, that's not likely to happen.

    "Sources close to the 2017 MVP expressed pessimism he would do that," Shelburne wrote. "... He is wary of the stigma that comes with accepting a buyout, one source close to him explained. But he also still believes he can contribute to a team at a high level."

    The stigma is that a player being bought out is no longer worth his contract and knows it. Westbrook certainly doesn't want to do any more damage to his market value than has already been done over the past several months. If he's traded, he can give the impression that he was wanted while re-establishing himself on the court.

    Westbrook will likely take a firm stance here, telling L.A. to trade him or try to make things work if Vogel is out of the picture.

    Prediction: Westbrook does not become a free agent and hits the trade block instead.

Malik Monk and Jalen Brunson

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    While Westbrook isn't likely to hit the open market, teammate Malik Monk will. The 24-year-old is set to be an unrestricted free agent and appears to have played his way out of Los Angeles. After averaging 13.4 points and 2.9 assists this season, Monk should have multiple suitors this offseason.

    According to Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer, this will move him out of the Lakers' price range.

    "Expectations among league personnel polled by B/R for Monk's next salary are quite varied but have ranged from an average annual value between $5 million and $10 million, far above the minimum number that the Lakers were able to sign him for this season," Fischer wrote.

    While L.A. could finagle the financials enough to re-sign Monk, they are unlikely to even try matching a deal worth upwards of $10 million annually.

    Dallas Mavericks standout Jalen Brunson is an even bigger name slated to hit the market. The 25-year-old point guard has averaged 16.2 and has played a key role in Dallas' push to the postseason.

    According to The Athletic's James L. Edwards III, the Detroit Pistons have a "real interest" in signing Brunson this offseason. Detroit won't be the only interested team, either.

    Marc Berman of the New York Post reported recently that Brunson would be the "top target" for the New York Knicks.

    Dallas, however, should stand a good chance of re-signing Brunson. It has a playoff-ready roster and a legitimate star centerpiece in Luka Doncic. Walking away from Dallas could be hard for Brunson provided the Mavs are able to make a fair offer.

    Predictions: Monk finds a new team in free agency, while Brunson returns to Dallas.

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