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Sometimes, the grass is, in reality, greener on the opposite side.
Like within the case of those 2022 NBA free agents.
Switching teams could make sense for any variety of reasons. Other suitors might pay more, offer a greater fit or have the bandwidth to vow a more distinguished or steadier role.
From time to time, it’s just flat-out time for a change. Things get stale. Or awkward. And even contentious.
This exercise will cover free agents from every nook and cranny of the It’s Time for a Change Club. In lots of cases, the impetus for a player leaving might be symbiotic. At the beginning, though, we’re approaching this from the view of the free agents themselves.
It doesn’t matter if their incumbent teams will wish to keep them. As of now, their futures seem higher off within the hands of one other organization.
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Including Deandre Ayton feels counterintuitive. The Phoenix Suns is not going to be higher off without him unless they use him in a sign-and-trade to significantly upgrade their roster. And he may not necessarily be higher off outside of Phoenix unless he refines his self-creation and learns to play with oomph more often than “more often than not but not on a regular basis for some reason.”
Still, despite the uncertainty of what comes next for either side, it just looks like Ayton and the Suns have to go their separate ways.
Sources told Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer that head coach Monty Williams is not keen on Ayton, and that the Suns don’t view him—or mainly another center—as value $30-plus million per 12 months. Mix this with Ayton never seeming fully content along with his role contained in the offense, and the awkwardness is not only palpable; it’s overwhelming.
Bruised egos aren’t enough to dissolve a mutually helpful marriage, and the Suns cannot afford to let Ayton walk for nothing. In addition they could also be hard-pressed to trade him. In the event that they max him out as a part of any deal, base-year compensation makes it in order that they cannot take back greater than $19.1ish million regardless that he’ll count as $30.5 million of inbound salary for his next team.
Making the cash work is an obstacle. It’s not inconceivable. And if Ayton desires to be greater than a 3rd option on offense or simply play for a team that does not hesitate to pay him like a star, he’s higher off working with Phoenix to seek out himself a more desirable situation.
Best Potential Suits: Detroit, Portland, San Antonio
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Mo Bamba is coming off a season that needs to be considered an enormous individual win. He not only appeared in a career-high 71 games and knocked down a personal-best 38.1 percent of his threes on higher volume, but he did so predominantly as a member of the Orlando Magic’s starting lineup, playing beside one other big in Wendell Carter Jr.
Somewhat paradoxically, Bamba’s front-line partnership with WCJ contributes to his needing a recent team.
The Magic are about to be brimming with bigs. They signed Carter to a four-year extension, Jonathan Isaac (ACL) will probably play basketball next season, and the team will inevitably use the No. 1 pick on Paolo Banchero, Chet Holmgren or Jabari Smith Jr.—all of whom are very tall humans.
Possibly Orlando is willing to begin next 12 months with the Bamba-Carter frontcourt and unafraid to make use of a healthy Isaac at the three. Invariably, though, it’ll pivot to whoever arrives with the No. 1 pick. Bamba is best off joining a team with more incentive to pay him—and on which he won’t top out because the third or fourth big.
Best Potential Suits: Charlotte, Oklahoma City, Toronto
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Smart teams with huge chunks of minutes available at center needs to be seeking to rescue Nic Claxton from a Brooklyn Nets squad that has didn’t make him the rotation constant he deserves to be.
To be fair: Spotty availability has dogged the 23-year-old through his first three seasons. The Nets couldn’t play him when he wasn’t healthy, and head coach Steve Nash turned him almost entirely loose by the tip of 2021-22.
That is still not ok. Claxton needs to be on a team that has the stomach for development. The Nets is not going to be that team as long as they’re attempting to contend. And while Claxton stays their most suitable choice at center, bar none, Brooklyn’s roster is not conducive to guaranteeing him minutes.
A healthy Ben Simmons ensures the Nets will all the time have one non-shooter on the ground. That number mushrooms to 2 in the event that they re-sign Bruce Brown (unrestricted) and his 40.4 percent clip from three this season proves to be an anomaly. Brooklyn will occasionally, if not steadily, find itself needing to favor frontcourt setups that feature a floor-spacer on the 5.
Stretching defenses outside of the paint will not be Claxton’s game. He has more offensive depth to explore—including a baby hook shot—but not a big-time jumper. Brooklyn will want him back anyway. His five-position switchability is legit. But sticking around with a company that may assure neither consistent nor optimal usage is not what’s best for him.
Best Potential Suits: Charlotte, Dallas, Oklahoma City
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Isaiah Hartenstein can stay on the L.A. Clippers without major issue. He flourished for his or her second unit after earning the team’s final roster spot, filling gaps along with his rim protection, passing and feathery ending.
Opponents shot 47.5 percent against him at the ring—the stingiest mark amongst 163 players to challenge at the least 150 attempts. And his 19.3 assist rate ranked sixth amongst centers who averaged 15 or more minutes per game. He is not a detonative lob threat, but he can finish tough catch-and-lay-ins above the rim and has some outside range. He nailed 14 of his 30 three-point attempts (46.7 percent) and located nylon on almost 59 percent of his floaters (55-of-93).
Insisting Hartenstein shop around doesn’t quite track along with his performance. But this is not about his fit. It’s about his role—and his pay grade.
The Clippers have Ivica Zubac to man the center, together with a roster and wing rotation that demand they indulge no-big lineups. Hartenstein’s responsibility might be eternally capped with L.A., even when it decides to prioritize him over Zubac (2023 free agent).
Other suitors needs to be offering Hartenstein extra money in addition. The 24-year-old is a non-Bird free agent, so the Clippers cannot give him greater than the mini mid-level exception ($6.4 million). And that is assuming they’re prepared handy him all of it. They might not wish to burn all of it on a giant after they have a transparent but overblown need for a floor general.
Best Potential Suits: Brooklyn, Dallas, Philadelphia
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Gary Harris is not a nasty fit for the Magic. They continue to be light on two-way players, and his offensive revival got here on a roster that needs to be significantly less talented than the one they’ll field next season.
But, like, the Harris from this past 12 months belongs on a contender.
He just averaged 11.1 points while splashing 38.4 percent of his threes and shooting 49.5 percent on drives. He also converted 71.4 percent of his attempts off cuts—a formidable feat given the tight confines by which the Magic’s offense existed.
Throw within the time he spent matching up with primary guards, and Harris has at minimum done enough to regain his three-and-D billing. And occurring 28 in September, there’s still a probability he’ll remain something more.
Staying in Orlando is high quality. It’d even pay more, for the reason that Magic have his Bird rights. But one of the best version of Harris is built for X-factor duty on playoff and championship hopefuls.
Best Potential Suits: Cleveland, Denver, Latest Orleans
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Mitchell Robinson is working with staff members from the Latest York Knicks ahead of his unrestricted free agency, in keeping with SNY’s Ian Begley. That is cool and all, but either side could stand to reevaluate their fit together.
Flickers of defensive brilliance are peppered throughout Robinson’s game. His fouling is not as big of a problem, though his interest and aggression level appear to vacillate by possession, and he can party-crash opponent plays from just about anywhere on the ground.
Robinson’s offensive bandwidth is finite but not unworkable. He can finish at an admirable clip across the basket; just don’t task him with putting the ball on the ground, or with spraying passes to teammates on rolls to the ring or with any type of decision-making in anyway. It’s a distinct segment skill set—one that does not quite mesh with the Knicks.
Latest York doesn’t devote nearly enough volume to its roll men to properly use Robinson. This concept that he needs a jumper is blasphemous, however the Knicks could use a floor-spacer on the 5 if they are going to run sets through Julius Randle. And Robinson, for his part, needs to be on a team built to perfect his role within the half court, give him more room to navigate off screens and has more interest getting out in transition.
Best Potential Suits: Charlotte, Dallas, Detroit
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Dennis Schroder is not going to be wildly misplaced if he returns to the Houston Rockets. They may use a veteran floor general in the event that they still prefer to pay John Wall to do absolutely nothing, and he might be afforded a more powerful offensive license on a rebuilding squad that truly plays him than a playoff hopeful or title contender.
It doesn’t take long before that logic starts to ring hole, if not feel outright forced.
Schroder turns 29 in September. He didn’t play nearly well enough this season to warrant a steep long-term investment on the open market and is running out of time to prove he’s value one. His stock will receive the most important boon if he plays an impactful and efficient role on team as part of a bigger ecosystem than if he stat-stuffs for a full 12 months in Houston.
This all presumes the Rockets let him stat-stuff. They might not. Jalen Green is the focus of the offense, and guards like Josh Christopher and Kevin Porter Jr. are way more vital to the larger picture. Eric Gordon will even eat into Schroder’s opportunity if Houston doesn’t trade him, and the team could feasibly draft a guard with the No. 17 pick from Brooklyn. (It’s guaranteed to take a giant at No. 3.)
Staying with the Rockets most probably won’t be the neatest financial play either. They do not have his Bird rights or cap space. Probably the most they’ll offer him is the non-taxpayer mid-level exception ($10.3 million), and unless they’re peddling that over 4 years, he stands to extend his long-term earning potential by taking the mini MLE or less from a greater team prowling for downhill juice and secondary ball-handling within the half court.
Best Potential Suits: L.A. Clippers, Milwaukee, Phoenix
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Though the Golden State Warriors are the springboard Juan Toscano-Anderson used to stay within the NBA, their partnership not carries the identical weight. He’s found himself on the outskirts of their rotation with none clear path back into it next season—unless Gary Payton II, Damion Lee, Otto Porter Jr. all leave in free agency and Jonathan Kuminga’s role is not expanded in Yr 2.
So, yeah, it is time for a change.
Don’t read an excessive amount of into JTA’s position inside Golden State’s hierarchy. He capably switches across every position and hustles to contest plays in transition and when pitching in across the basket. He just must land with a team that may withstand his offensive vanishing acts.
Golden State cannot handle JTA’s shooting hesitance in lots of its lineup mixtures, and his sub-60 percent clip from the charity is genuinely concerning. Suitors which have the flexibleness to tilt toward defense could stumble right into a bargain, and he is not as much of an offensive liability for those who tap into his off-ball movement, quick passing and capability to soup up lineups beside a non-center on the 5.
Best Potential Suits: Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Utah
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Lonnie Walker IV closed the regular season on a heater—a blistering stretch that just so happened to coincide with Derrick White’s departure and the San Antonio Spurs also giving him more agency inside bench units.
Over his last 19 games, Walker averaged 15.7 points while burying 46.4 percent of his pull-up treys and shooting over 77 percent contained in the restricted area. His assist numbers won’t all the time reflect it, but when he’s at his best, he’s whipping touch passes and kicking out to spotters going downhill. Only three other players matched his assist rate (12.1) and field-goal percentage (52.5) on as many drives (406) while posting a turnover rate below 6.5: Malcolm Brogdon, Kyle Lowry and Chris Paul.
But this stretch of success is not proof of Walker’s long-term slot in San Antonio. The Spurs have guard-swingman types to spare in Dejounte Murray, Devin Vassell, Tre Jones, Josh Primo, Josh Richardson and even Romeo Langford. Chances are high they’ll add one other (or more) with certainly one of their three first-round picks.
A crowded pecking order is not the tip of the world, but it surely’s not exactly helpful. Walker is a streaky player who leaves much to be desired on defense and needs to be on a team inclined to ride out his thorniest spells. With all of their perimeter alternatives, the Spurs aren’t that.
Best Potential Suits: Boston, Memphis, Toronto
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Yuta Watanabe apparently desires to re-sign with the Toronto Raptors. That makes some sense. Toronto is where he’s had probably the most endurance.
Circumstances change, though.
Toronto couldn’t find regular playing time for him within the rotation this season. His ebbing outside shooting didn’t help matters. Nor did head coach Nick Nurse’s penchant for riding his top players. Ditto for Scottie Barnes’ emergence. But a 6’9″ wing who can switch across 4 positions is correct up the Raptors’ alley. In the event that they didn’t meaningfully utilize him this season, when OG Anunoby missed 34 games, what is going on to vary next 12 months?
No, Watanabe is not a future star hiding in plain sight. But his game typifies complementary variety. He can get by overaggressive defenders on the perimeter; is big and robust enough to complete over or through contact; moves extremely well without the ball; delay against power wings attacking downhill; lock down the center of the ground away from the ball; and brings a sneaky level of help across the basket.
Teams with limited spending power needs to be eager about taking a flier. Watanabe can step in and fill minutes at either forward spot instantly.
Best Potential Suits: Miami, Sacramento, Utah