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NBA – Russell Westbrook, the Brooklyn Nets, the Golden State Warriors: The 10 big questions from the Free Agency

Who are the main Free Agents?

A small promotion in terms of superstars this year. Perhaps because they force their departure before the expiry of their contract… In any case, with Bradley Beal (which we will discuss later), we find another All-Star, Zach LaVine, who should on the other hand extend with its franchise (Chicago) as soon as the market opens on the night of Thursday to Friday. Among the main coveted players, there is therefore Jalen Brunson, to whom the Knicks would be ready to offer 110 million over four years, but also Miles Bridges, Deandre Ayton, Anfernee Simons or Collin Sexton. All these young talents have the particularity of being “restricted”, that is to say that their current team can match all offers to keep them.

Ayton, Bridges and Brunson still have a good chance of changing uniforms next season. They are looking for a max or close to max contract, with a higher salary than their franchise seems able to offer them. Many veterans will also be available on the market such as Ricky Rubio, Nicolas Batum, TJ Warren, Jusuf Nurkic or Tyus Jones.

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Nicolas Batum during MLK Day

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Is the circus finally over in Brooklyn…or is it just beginning?

Kyrie Irving has finally decided: he will stay at least one more year at the Brooklyn Nets. The All-Star point guard, who was hoping to find a new destination because New York officials refused to offer him the long and lucrative contract he was asking for, activated his option at $36 million for the 2022-2023 season. And whatever he says about it through his enigmatic tweets and Instagram posts, it still looks very much like a default choice.

In the stalemate with the Nets, he tried to put pressure on the management by hovering the threat of his departure and, more importantly, that of Kevin Durant. The franchise gave him permission to negotiate his transfer elsewhere. Except that among the drop points desired by Irving – namely the two Los Angeles teams but also Dallas, Philadelphia, New York and Miami – only the Lakers have shown interest in him. It says a lot about the player and his reputation, how the league looks at him and how desperate the Angelenos are after a disastrous season. The Californian formation has absolutely no advantage to offer and it seems out of the question for Brooklyn to recover Russell Westbrook and his solid concrete contract (47 million per season).

It therefore seems that despite all his talent, Kyrie Irving no longer makes organizations dream, cooled by his unstable character. For him, there were only two options left: give up $ 36 million and find himself on the market, even if it means accepting a much lower salary (6 million) to play for the Lakers or chomping at the bit for the Nets an additional year.

Can New Yorkers breathe and work calmly? Not necessarily. According to several sources, Kevin Durant would resent his leaders for not being able to better understand his teammate and friend. He reportedly hadn’t spoken to them in weeks, and the NBA was preparing for him to also ask to drop the project. It is also rumored that the franchise was ready to accept the idea of ​​losing its two superstars at the same time. Finally, the duo is still in place, even if a transfer from Irving remains a possibility this summer or during the season, with Ben Simmons who should finally play basketball again after a white season. On paper, it’s still very talented. Well surrounded, these three All-Stars can lead Brooklyn to the top. If everything doesn’t go downhill by then.

What will the Lakers do with Russell Westbrook?

Not crazy, Russell Westbrook preferred to activate his option for the coming season rather than test the market. He could have found himself free and therefore left a team in which he has just spent a very difficult season, both individually and collectively. But for that, we had to give up 47 million dollars. Unthinkable for the former MVP, whose value fell sharply following his setbacks at the Los Angeles Lakers. He is aging and his game is not evolving, which makes him both obsolete and incompatible with LeBron James.

Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook and LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers), during a success against the Boston Celtics – 07/12/2021

Credit: Getty Images

Westbrook is a player capable of contributing 20 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists every night. But no franchise wants to take the risk of bringing it in at full price. Suddenly, the Lakers find themselves blocked. They will have to assume their decision to have recruited him to the end. The new staff – Darvin Ham succeeding Frank Vogel on the bench – seem determined to make the star trio of James, Westbrook and Anthony Davis work. The mission promises to be complicated but it will in any case be difficult or even impossible to do worse than last season, when the Californians missed the playoffs and the play-in by finishing eleventh in the Western Conference.

For the title… you better not dream too big. Because in addition to being stuck with a questionable association, the Lakers have no financial flexibility and therefore no room for maneuver to strengthen the workforce. The leaders will have to bet on cheap bets or find the good elements that have passed under the radar to eventually have a chance to join the fight for the top of the table again.

What priorities and what targets for the Warriors?

Freshly crowned champions, the Golden State Warriors face problems of the rich. Their payroll is the heaviest in the entire championship and the leaders have not finished taking out the checkbook. Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole are eligible for a contract extension this summer. Kevon Looney, Gary Payton II, Otto Porter Jr but also Nemanja Bjelica and Andre Iguodala are free. All played a role in this quest for a new trophy. But keeping everyone can be complicated or at least very, very expensive.

Looney is perhaps management’s top priority. Steve Kerr considers him “a fundamental piece” of the Californians’ system due to its atypical defensive and combative interior profile. Wiggins and Poole are more talented but there is less urgency since they are still under contract until 2023. The Warriors will probably have to make a choice between Payton and Porter, two quality replacements. The first named should be kept since he risks asking for a lower salary. Then, the franchise will seek to complete its workforce by betting on fairly complete basketball players, as it has We’re used to doing it. Potential targets include Dewayne Dedmon, Bryn Forbes, Kent Bazemore, and more.

How can the Celtics get stronger?

The Boston Celtics failed in the NBA Finals by losing three straight to the Warriors as they led 2-1 going into Game 4 at home. They will have regrets, of course, but this heroic campaign remains full of great promise for the formation of Massachusetts. Three of the five incumbents are 25 or younger: Jayson Tatum (24), Jaylen Brown (25) and Robert Williams (24). They will continue their progression, knowing that two of them are already All-Stars. Tatum is even a little more than that.

This lost series against Golden State will have finally highlighted two needs for Boston: a quality creator, if possible a better organizer than Marcus Smart, and bench depth. These are precisely the two priorities of Brad Stevens, the GM, and his assistants for the offseason.

Will Bradley Beal stay loyal to the Wizards?

For the first time in his career, Bradley Beal is really able to listen carefully to the proposals of any NBA franchise likely to sign him. He is even the most talented free player of the vintage. Because with three All-Star selections and 22 career average points – and two seasons with more than 30 pawns – the native of Saint Louis is a benchmark for his position. And this without ever having passed the second round of the playoffs. He says he wants to win at this stage of his career. But the 29-year-old fullback continues to remain loyal to the Wizards, a franchise not exactly renowned for its ability to put together teams that can go far. And yet, Beal is well on his way to accepting the fabulous offer that the DC franchise is about to make to him of around $248 million for five more years. To do this, he declined his player option valued at $36.4 million for next season, in order to be eligible for an XXL extension. Loyalty is beautiful… and it pays off big.

Which team for Deandre Ayton?

A key member of the Suns rotation, finalists in 2021 and best NBA record in 2022, Deandre Ayton would no longer see himself in Phoenix. Tension has been building for several months between the player, his representatives and the leaders. Even with the staff. The Suns refuse to give him the maximum. He sees himself as a player of this caliber. So he could go elsewhere. But where ? Detroit withdrew from the race. Atlanta is thinking about it but without wanting to pay a high price. This file will be one of the hottest of the summer.

Spurs already fully on Victor Wembanyama?

The name of Dejounte Murray has been circulating insistently in the flood of rumors since the draft. It may surprise. The 25-year-old All-Star is coming off a fairly exceptional season that ended with 21 points, 8 rebounds and 9 assists on average. Despite this, the San Antonio Spurs would be ready to part with it if a franchise agrees to give up several draft picks. The Texas training undoubtedly knows that Murray will never be able to be the founding stone of a team able to reconnect with the glorious past of the franchise.

Suddenly, the Spurs may want to redo the blow of 1997, when they had sealed their season – after the injury of David Robinson, however – with the hope of drafting a certain Tim Duncan. And who is already tipped to be the first choice of the class of 2023? The French interior Victor Wembanyama, whom Tony Parker knows well since he was the nugget of French basketball playing at ASVEL last season. Easy to join. American scouts and leaders are already fantasizing about Wembanyama and San Antonio is in the perfect position to try and grab the lottery jackpot. Especially if Murray, the best player in a young and somewhat wobbly squad, is sent elsewhere.

What contract for James Harden?

The Philadelphia Sixers brought in James Harden with the hopes that he would establish himself as the second superstar missing from Joel Embiid’s side. Except that the former MVP is no longer quite the same player as two years ago. The leaders now find themselves forced to pay the 47 million owed to them for next season. In the meantime, the two parties, who know each other well and appreciate each other, could also find an agreement for a short-term extension, perhaps even under the maximum.

Joel Embiid and James Harden (Sixers), released by the Miami Heat – 05/12/2022

Credit: Getty Images

Which teams will really have money to spend this summer?

This is one of the important data of this Free Agency: the majority of the teams have an already armored payroll! As a result, they will be forced to cut costs and recruit intelligently. There will probably not be many very big contracts signed during the offseason. Detroit, Orlando, San Antonio or even Indiana have money to spend but without necessarily wanting to play leading roles. The Pistons will still try to recover Miles Bridges. Memphis and Portland can also afford to spend to try to climb the rankings in the West. For the rest, it will be necessary to watch the finances.

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