The NBA's 2022 free-agent class could be 'the best ever'

The NBA's 2022 free-agent class could be 'the best ever'

Once LeBron James, Paul George, Bradley Beal and Co. signed extensions, it became clear that the 2021 free-agency class would lack star power.

Assuming Kawhi Leonard opts in, this offseason’s top unrestricted players will be Mike Conley, Victor Oladipo, Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell and Dennis Schroder. The restricted free agents will be Jarrett Allen, John Collins, Lauri Markkanen, Lonzo Ball, Gary Trent Jr. and Kendrick Nunn, among others.

Some solid players will be available this summer, but the class feels somewhat underwhelming, especially when compared to the ridiculous group that could hit the market 12 months later.

The 2022 free-agent class could be loaded with star players, including Kevin Durant, James Harden, Stephen Curry, Kawhi Leonard, Bradley Beal, Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler, Zach LaVine, Julius Randle, Russell Westbrook, Jrue Holiday, Chris Paul and John Wall, among others.

Durant, Harden, Leonard, Beal, Irving, Westbrook and Wall have player options, so it’s possible that they’ll opt-in and put off free agency. But Curry, Butler, LaVine, Randle, Holiday and Paul are unrestricted free agents and poised to be available (barring an extension). 

“If all of the stars hit the market, it’ll probably be the best free-agent class ever,” one anonymous NBA agent told “If that happens, the balance of power would likely shift immensely once again.”

As if the list of unrestricted free agents wasn’t crazy enough, the class could also feature restricted free agents such as Luka Doncic, Trae Young, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Michael Porter Jr., Deandre Ayton, Jaren Jackson Jr., Collin Sexton, Mikal Bridges, Marvin Bagley III and others from the 2018 NBA Draft currently on rookie-scale deals. However, some of those players will surely be extended around the start of the 2021-22 season.

While the superstars are the names that jump off the page first, the 2022 free-agent class is also deep. There are plenty of key contributors who project to hit the market as well: Jusuf Nurkic, Terry Rozier, Aaron Gordon, Kemba Walker*, Marcus Smart, T.J. Warren, Chris Boucher, Spencer Dinwiddie, Robert Covington, Jonas Valanciunas, Bobby Portis, Goran Dragic, Thaddeus Young, Patrick Beverley, Serge Ibaka, Will Barton, Montrezl Harrell, Ricky Rubio and more. (Walker has a player option, as indicated by the asterisk).

Considering the 2021 class is relatively weak, it’s possible that teams may opt to save their cap space for the summer of 2022.

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