2022 NBA Free Agency Explained: Start Date, Top Players, Teams With Most Cap Seats

As we approach the NBA offseason, it’s time to prepare for the free hand. The speculation and rumor surrounding NBA Free Agency makes this time of year really entertaining as fans try to picture players on their favorite teams and the best players in the league are courted by every cap-ranked team. This summer might not have some of the biggest names available like we’ve seen in the past, but that doesn’t mean things aren’t getting really messy.

To prepare for free agency, here are some key questions and answers about what to expect, who’s available, and when all the chaos will begin.

When is freedom of choice?

The league hasn’t announced an official date for free agency, but it’s suspected it will begin on June 30 at 6:00 p.m. ET. At least teams can then start negotiating contracts with players. The contracts will not become official until the moratorium period is lifted, which happens about a week after the free agency period begins.

Who are the best free agents this summer?

If you want a list of some of the best players that could be available, check out James Herbert’s breakdown of the 45 top players for teams to compete for. Some of those names include Zach LaVine, who will be an unrestricted free agent and whose return to the Chicago Bulls is uncertain. Some top guys who have player options they could turn down which would make them unrestricted free agents are Kyrie Irving, Bradley Beal and James Harden. Additionally, there are restricted free agents who could be looking for big paydays like Deandre Ayton and Miles Bridges, while unrestricted free agent Jalen Brunson is expected to be wooed by multiple teams including the Knicks and Pistons in addition to his current team, the Dallas Mavericks.

What is the salary cap for the 2022/23 season?

The NBA has reportedly notified teams that the salary cap is in effect for next season expected to be set at $122 million and the luxury tax line will be $149 million. That’s slightly higher than what the league previously told teams, which was a $121 million salary cap and a $147 million luxury tax line. This slight increase isn’t game-changing by any means, but it gives those franchises that are expected to already have significant cap room a little more to play with, and for those teams that are pushing close to the tax limit, it gives them a little more breathing room.

Which teams will have significant cap space?

Don’t expect a large number of flashy deals to be made this summer because as it stands, only five teams are likely to have significant cap space to work with. The Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Orlando Magic, Portland Trail Blazers and San Antonio Spurs are all expected to have more than around $20 million in cap space, with the Magic and Pistons each having over $27 million at the most will have. Some of these teams are in a rebuild phase with young players, so it will be fascinating to see teams like Orlando, San Antonio and Detroit utilize their cap space this summer, while the Blazers will have a real opportunity to retool franchise star Damian Lillard . Indiana, which traded its all-star forward in Domantas Sabonis at the close, could make further moves this summer with Myles Turner and Malcolm Brogdon as potential trade targets, depending on the direction the team wants to go.

Who will be lining up for maximum rookie scale extensions?

Last summer, we saw both Luka Doncic and Trae Young receive substantial raises when they signed their rookie renewals, each worth over $207 million. That’s a lot of bread for two of the league’s brightest young stars – and rightly so! — and we’ll certainly see the same thing again this off-season, with some more talented young players poised for rookie extensions.

The two biggest names, Ja Morant and Zion Williamson, top the list, with Morant up for a five-year, $186 million Rookie Scale extension. If he also earns All-NBA for the 2022-23 season, that number could rise to $222 million for a supermax deal. Williamson’s contract might be a little trickier as New Orleans may want to take some precautions given the No. 1 overall’s injury history. Williamson will be able to sign a deal similar to Morant’s but we’ll have to see if the Pelicans hesitate to offer him such a big deal considering he’s only played 85 games in three seasons. Other names eligible for rookie extensions include Knicks forward RJ Barrett, newly crowned sixth man of the year Tyler Herro and all-star guard Darius Garland. All three players are showing significant improvement this season and should expect a strong payday this summer.

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