Products You May Like
The 2022 NBA draft is in the rearview mirror, summer league has come and gone and most free agents have inked new deals. LeBron James inked a two-year, $97.1 million extension with the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday ahead of his fifth season with the franchise, which will mark his longest tenure with a team since he spent the first seven years of his career with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Several other vets around the league signed extensions, including Philadelphia 76ers guard James Harden, Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard and Washington Wizards point guard Bradley Beal, as well as Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine. The 2022 NBA All-Stars Devin Booker, Karl-Anthony Towns and reigning MVP Nikola Jokic all signed supermax extensions to remain with the Phoenix Suns, Minnesota Timberwolves and Denver Nuggets, respectively. The 2019 draft class also saw big paydays, as Ja Morant, Zion Williamson and Darius Garland all signed rookie extensions.
Some notable names opted to change teams, including former Dallas Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson, who signed a four-year, $104 million deal with the New York Knicks. And the Utah Jazz sent shock waves throughout the league when they traded big man Rudy Gobert, the three-time Defensive Player of the Year, to Minnesota.
Will Gobert’s former teammate Donovan Mitchell join Brunson in New York? And what about the other team in New York? Will Kevin Durant start the season in a Brooklyn Nets jersey? Our NBA insiders break down where every team stands after a wild free agency spree, plus which questions remain ahead of the 2022-23 season.
Note: These rankings are based on where the members of our panel (ESPN’s Kendra Andrews, Tim Bontemps, Jamal Collier, Nick Friedell, Andrew Lopez and Kevin Pelton) think teams belong heading into next season, taking into account potential player movement. Title odds for 2023 by Caesars Sportsbook.
The Warriors lost Gary Payton II and Otto Porter Jr., but they brought in Donte DiVincenzo and JaMychal Green — two players that, on paper, fit the Warriors’ system. If they look as good with Golden State in reality as they do hypothetically — in addition to their youngsters taking the next step and their core remaining the same — the Warriors should be just as dangerous in 2022-23. — Andrews
After struggling offensively during the playoffs, Boston added two significant weapons — guard Malcolm Brogdon and forward Danilo Gallinari — without sacrificing a single player from the eight-man rotation that got the Celtics to last season’s NBA Finals. Barring any blockbuster moves, Boston will go into next season as one of the deepest teams in the NBA. — Bontemps
Would the Bucks have made it back to the NBA Finals if Khris Middleton had been healthy for their second-round matchup with the Celtics? We’ll never know the answer, but Milwaukee is bringing back virtually its entire roster — the Bucks re-signed Bobby Portis, Pat Connaughton, Wesley Matthews and Jevon Carter. The Bucks did add Joe Ingles, who will be 35 in October and is coming off an ACL tear, but if he can bounce back to his pre-injury form he could add some much-needed wing depth. — Collier
Memphis’ biggest move of the offseason was landing a full five-year max deal for superstar guard Ja Morant. Signing his backup, Tyus Jones, on a new deal was no small feat, either. The impact of losing Kyle Anderson, a key part of their frontcourt rotation, will be one to monitor next season. — Bontemps
What happens when Deandre Ayton returns to camp? The big man signed an offer sheet with the Indiana Pacers during free agency, but that deal was quickly matched by the Suns. Ayton averaged 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds last season and has averaged a double-double in each of his four seasons in the league. Now, he gets the chance to continue building with the Suns, who are coming off a league-best 64 wins. — Lopez
With Kawhi Leonard returning, the Clippers have put together one of the most expensive rosters in NBA history by re-signing Nicolas Batum and Amir Coffey, extending Ivica Zubac with a raise and adding John Wall. The Clippers do have one spot remaining for a training-camp battle, which could go to a replacement for departed Isaiah Hartenstein as a backup to Zubac in the middle. — Pelton
Losing P.J. Tucker hurts — he was popular in the locker room and an important piece of a team that came within a couple plays of making the Finals. The Heat did re-sign Victor Oladipo and Dewayne Dedmon, but they have not found that extra piece that would help push them over the top in the East. The rumor mill will continue to connect them to Kevin Durant and Donovan Mitchell, but it remains to be seen if they have the pieces to make either deal a reality. — Friedell
While the Mavericks traded for Christian Wood and signed JaVale McGee to dramatically change the look of their frontcourt, the move that will hang over Dallas heading into next season is Jalen Brunson leaving to sign with the Knicks. Now, Dallas will enter training camp with just two ball handlers on their roster — though they are two pretty good ones in superstar Luka Doncic and 2021-22 midseason trade acquisition Spencer Dinwiddie. — Bontemps
The Nuggets will finally be healthy next season with the return of Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., which should help Denver take a step forward. The loss of Monte Morris stings, but acquiring Ish Smith as a backup point guard helps. Signing Bruce Brown and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope puts more impact players around two-time MVP Nikola Jokic. — Andrews
The 76ers knew they needed to shore up some weaknesses this offseason, namely athleticism, rebounding and toughness. By adding De’Anthony Melton, Danuel House Jr. and P.J. Tucker, Philadelphia did just that. Those moves were made possible largely because James Harden took a pay cut, which signaled everyone in the franchise is pulling in the same direction. — Bontemps
The Timberwolves made the shocking move of the offseason when they unloaded several draft picks to bring in Rudy Gobert, arguably the NBA’s best defensive player, to pair with another All-NBA center in Karl-Anthony Towns. Between watching how well those two mesh and how budding star Anthony Edwards evolves, there will be few more intriguing teams to watch next season than Minnesota — a sentence that has rarely been said throughout the franchise’s 30-plus years. — Bontemps
The Raptors didn’t make any waves this offseason, retaining Chris Boucher and Thaddeus Young to continue to boast a roster with as many interchangeable 6-foot-8 players as any team in the NBA. And while the ongoing drama surrounding Durant continues to linger around the franchise, it’s been made clear Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes won’t be part of any potential package. — Bontemps
The summer of discontent continues for the Nets. Where Kevin Durant ultimately lands remains the single biggest question in the league — and Kyrie Irving‘s future in Brooklyn might be the second biggest. The Nets added Royce O’Neale and T.J. Warren and were able to retain Patty Mills and Nic Claxton. Brooklyn could have a dangerous roster in place if Ben Simmons can return to form next season — but Durant’s future hovers over everything. — Friedell
Chicago made a few minor additions — veterans Andre Drummond and Goran Dragic — in free agency, but the health of Lonzo Ball will be perhaps their biggest storyline heading into training camp. The Bulls were a different team with Ball on the floor, but the club has remained vague about the status of his recovery from a season-ending left knee injury suffered in January. The Bulls are hopeful he will be ready for the start of camp. — Collier
The Hawks made one of the biggest splashes of the offseason in late June when they traded for All-Star guard Dejounte Murray for three first-round picks (two unprotected). Now the Hawks move forward with a backcourt of Murray and Trae Young. Atlanta also added Justin Holiday and Aaron Holiday in separate deals, reuniting two of the league’s three Holiday brothers while also picking up Frank Kaminsky. But all eyes will be on how Young and Murray mesh once training camp begins. — Lopez
It’s been a relatively quiet offseason in New Orleans, aside from Zion Williamson inking a five-year designated rookie max extension. But that’s what happens when you enter the offseason with 14 guaranteed contracts and a first-rounder. The Pelicans selected Dyson Daniels with the No. 8 overall pick they received from the Lakers in the Anthony Davis deal. Now, the focus will be on Williamson getting up to speed after missing the entire 2021-22 season. — Lopez
The Cavs addressed a few items on their offseason checklist: signing Darius Garland to a five-year max extension, bringing back Ricky Rubio after his ACL tear in December and adding backup big Robin Lopez. Yet, Collin Sexton still remains unsigned after Cleveland extended a qualifying offer before the start of free agency, making him a restricted free agent. — Collier
The Lakers hired highly regarded Darvin Ham as coach and wisely prioritized youth in free agency, filling out their bench by signing Troy Brown Jr., Thomas Bryant, Damian Jones, Juan Toscano-Anderson and Lonnie Walker IV. After signing LeBron James to a two-year extension, can they now find a way to trade Russell Westbrook for Kyrie Irving? If not, Ham’s biggest challenge will be figuring out how Westbrook fits. — Pelton
The Blazers are hoping last year’s lottery trip was a gap year due to Damian Lillard’s abdominal surgery. They extended Lillard, dealt for starting forward Jerami Grant and re-signed Jusuf Nurkic and Anfernee Simons before signing Gary Payton II to strengthen the bench. Long term, No. 7 pick Shaedon Sharpe — sidelined minutes into an NBA Summer League title run — offers potential, but Portland’s vets will be counted on to deliver an improved season. — Pelton
The Knicks — finally — have a point guard of both the present and future, landing Jalen Brunson as a free agent and giving the team a much-needed floor general. Will the Knicks, who have the most to offer in a Donovan Mitchell trade, find a way to add the Westchester native, too? — Bontemps
The Hornets re-signed Cody Martin to a four-year deal and drafted big man Mark Williams out of Duke — but the biggest news continues to revolve around Miles Bridges. The restricted free agent is facing three felony domestic violence charges and his future in the league is hazy at best. — Friedell
The Wizards re-signed Bradley Beal to a max deal and he remains the focal point of everything the organization does. Washington also snagged Wisconsin guard Johnny Davis with the 10th pick in the draft, which should help take some offensive pressure off Beal. They also signed big man Taj Gibson, who will fit nicely as a veteran presence in the locker room. — Friedell
“We’re getting 40 wins this year” is the rallying cry for Sacramento fans eager to crack the postseason for the first time since 2006. There’s reason to believe the play-in at minimum is possible after No. 4 pick Keegan Murray impressed as MVP of the NBA Summer League, and the Kings added Kevin Huerter (via trade) and Malik Monk (via free agency) to their backcourt. Optimism is justified for Mike Brown’s first season as coach. — Pelton
The Pistons came away from draft night feeling like one of the biggest winners in the league, landing guard Jaden Ivey at No. 5 and center Jalen Duren at No. 13. Together with Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart, they give Detroit a solid foundation. — Collier
After trading Rudy Gobert to Minnesota for a boatload of draft picks and mostly expiring contracts, it is a new era in Salt Lake City. The only question now is how much longer Donovan Mitchell will remain there — and how much the Jazz will get for him when he is inevitably moved. — Bontemps
The rebuild is a full-go in San Antonio. The Spurs dealt Dejounte Murray, let Lonnie Walker IV walk and waived Danilo Gallinari — the player they received in the Murray deal — outright. With three first-round picks, the Spurs added Baylor’s Jeremy Sochan, Ohio State’s Malaki Branham and Notre Dame’s Blake Wesley. All three players will be 19 when the season starts. The Spurs hope to have plenty of draft success in the future, especially after prying away three first-rounders from Atlanta in the Murray deal. — Lopez
The Pacers launched further into full rebuild mode, trading Malcolm Brogdon to the Celtics in the latest move to accumulate assets. Drafting Bennedict Mathurin and adding Jalen Smith gives the Pacers more intriguing young players next to promising young guard Tyrese Haliburton. — Collier
Orlando’s big decision came down during a dramatic draft night, when it selected Paolo Banchero with the No. 1 overall pick. The hope is that Banchero can develop into the face of the franchise star it hasn’t had since Dwight Howard. The Magic re-signed Mo Bamba and Gary Harris — now they have to hope Jonathan Isaac can still be a difference-maker as he returns from missing over two years because of a knee injury. — Friedell
As usual, the Thunder were busy on draft night, making three of the first 12 picks. No. 2 selection Chet Holmgren showed his potential during summer league and immediately joins guards Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey in Oklahoma City’s core, while Ousmane Dieng and Jalen Williams give the Thunder two more promising wings. — Pelton
The Rockets continued their youth movement by drafting a pair of forwards — Jabari Smith Jr. (third overall) and Tari Eason (17th) — in June’s draft. Smith now slots in alongside Jalen Green as the centerpieces of Houston’s rebuild in the post-James Harden era, as the Rockets will have a very young, yet intriguing roster to follow. — Bontemps