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The completion of the 2022 NBA Draft has helped paint a better picture of how we should expect free agency to play out now.
Detroit Pistons returning to lottery to acquire Jalen Duren, Washington Wizards opting to keep No. 10 overall pick instead of returning him for veteran help, New York Knicks’ decision to pull out of first round entirely or other draft nighttime drama, the ripple effects will surely continue into the next leg of the NBA offseason.
Based on what happened during the draft, don’t be surprised if those spicy free agent predictions come true now.
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After a horrible season with the Knicks where Walker was in and out of the rotation and finally shut down for the year in mid-February, the Knicks were able to pull the veteran guard’s contract Thursday night.
In a three-team trade, Walker was sent to the Detroit Pistons as part of a salary cap-saving move by New York. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Pistons and Walker are expected to discuss a contract buyout that will allow the 32-year-old to become a free agent.
While teams like the Washington Wizards, Brooklyn Nets (according to Kyrie Irving’s future), Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Clippers could all use another ball handler off the bench, Walker will undoubtedly receive plenty of support. recruitment of boys in purple and gold.
With Russell Westbrook’s future with the Los Angeles Lakers uncertain and Kendrick Nunn missing the entire 2021-22 season due to injury, Walker could come in and help stabilize the point guard position next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis. . If nothing else, he’s an indispensable spot-up shooter who hit 40.9 percent of his three catch-and-shoots with the Knicks last season.
The Lakers are extremely limited in what they can spend, so getting Walker on a minimum deal would be great value, even if he’s no closer to being the All-Star we’ve seen as recently as the season. 2019-20.
Look for Walker to get his buyout from the Pistons and sign with the Lakers for the veteran’s minimum while being paid by the Oklahoma City Thunder and now Detroit as well.
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After trading Jerami Grant to the Portland Trail Blazers in a move that opened up an estimated $20 million in additional cap space, lukewarm rumors of Ayton in Detroit have become hot.
As James L. Edwards III of The Athletic wrote, “Sources say Detroit is expected to pursue Phoenix Suns big man and 2018 No. 1 Deandre Ayton in the open market.”
That was before draft night, however, when the Pistons gave up the 2025 first-round pick (via Milwaukee Bucks) they received in the trade for Grant to reclaim an additional 2022 lottery pick. Detroit landed Memphis big man Jalen Duren at No. 13 overall, the first true center taken in the draft.
Given that the team still has Isaiah Stewart, the 16th overall pick in 2020, at center as well, would the Pistons still want to give Ayton the max? Their money can be better spent elsewhere.
Flint, Michigan native Miles Bridges, who played his college ball at Michigan State, could be a surprise target here instead of Ayton. With Grant’s departure, Bridges would become the team’s new starting tackle after averaging 20.2 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists while shooting 49.1 percent with the Charlotte Hornets. last year.
The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that “Charlotte is hesitant to match a max sheet” for Bridges, who, like Ayton, is a restricted free agent.
For a Pistons team that still has maximum ceiling space even after adding Duren and facing Kemba Walker in a trade, Detroit would have to make a huge offer to Bridges instead.
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The Detroit Pistons ending up with Jalen Duren should end Ayton’s chances of getting a maximum contract offer from Detroit.
There’s another destination that might make sense for the 2018 No. 1 overall pick, and perhaps one even more win-win than the Pistons.
Ayton at Spurs should be a real possibility.
San Antonio can give Ayton the max contract he’s looking for (with roughly $32.6 million in cap space, according to Spotrac’s Keith Smith) and has a potential need at center with Jakob Poeltl entering the final year of his contract.
It should be noted that Spurs had three first rounds in the 2022 draft and refused to take a cross with any of them, even with Poeltl’s contract situation. San Antonio selected forward Jeremy Sochan from Baylor with the No. 9 overall pick while Duren was still available.
However, the Suns won’t let Ayton walk for nothing.
Phoenix is expected to push for Poeltl to return to a sign-and-trade deal, including anything he can get from Spurs. A core of Dejounte Murray, Ayton, Keldon Johnson, Devin Vassell, Josh Primo, Sochan and Malaki Branham (selected 20th overall) are expected to be in the West playoff picture next season.
The Pistons now have two young centers on rookie contracts to build around. Spurs don’t have one.
Ayton would eventually become a Spur and become the next big man to wear black and silver.
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Either the Knicks will emerge from the 2022 NBA Draft looking like prophets, or there could be another complete front office overhaul. This year’s free agency will help decide which.
Although he was able to take an impact rookie with the No. 11 overall pick, New York dropped out of the first round entirely. The Knicks reward was three first-round picks protected in 2023 from the Oklahoma City Thunder, although the Knicks gave one away to clear Kemba Walker’s expiring contract on the Detroit Pistons while landing a first in 2025 via the Milwaukee Bucks.
When the dust finally settled, New York cleared $9.2 million in ceiling space and will now have between $16 million and $18 million go into free agency.
With no franchise point guard on the roster, the Knicks will now go all-in for Brunson, even if it means earning extra paychecks.
While it’s true that the 25-year-old could make more money and sign for a fifth year with the Dallas Mavericks, he’ll never be the primary ball handler with Luka Doncic. Although RJ Barrett and Julius Randle will do their share of play, it could be Brunson’s offense to run, especially with his father, Rick, who now works as an assistant coach to Tom Thibodeau.
The Knicks may have to give up another contract (Nerlens Noel or Alec Burks would be the easiest), but Brunson will eventually sign with New York and play the role he never would have had in Dallas.
Knicks get their point guard, now have four first-round picks in 2023 (most are protected) and have an additional one due in 2025.
Not bad to have given up on their choice now.
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Despite needing a true running general more than any other NBA team, the Wizards decided to stick with their 10th overall pick and select 2 guard Johnny Davis from Wisconsin instead.
It wasn’t a bad choice, but it could impact Bradley Beal’s future with the franchise.
Davis is not a point guard. He averaged more turnovers (2.3) than assists (2.1) last season and shot just 42.7% overall. While the 20-year-old is a good defender and talented rebounder, that’s not what the Wizards need next to Beal.
Trading the pick in a deal for a winning, proven point guard a la Malcolm Brogdon would have sent a much better message to Beal. Even picking up a player like De’Anthony Melton, who was traded from the Memphis Grizzlies to the Philadelphia 76ers for Danny Green and No. 23 overall, would have been a big improvement for the Wizards.
Now, Beal has 248 million reasons to return to Washington on a five-year contract, but the Wizards’ lack of urgency to win should have him seriously considering signing and trade opportunities. He’s already admitted he’s been drafted ‘a lot’, according to The Athletic’s Josh Robbins, and claims he’s already made a decision about his playing future, although that was before we saw what Washington did on the night. of the draft.
A signing and trade would cost Beal a lot of money (he could max out at four years and $184 million), although it would allow him to become an unrestricted free agent again around his 33rd birthday with another big deal likely. become.
Teams such as the Miami Heat and Memphis Grizzlies would offer a real shot at winning a championship next season and shouldn’t worry about being locked in a sign and trade.
For a player who has already earned $180 million in NBA checks and will receive at least $184 million more over the next four years, Beal could actually turn down a max deal with the Wizards and push to sign and trade. with a competitor instead. .