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ONE37pm’s Sports Vertical Previews The 2022 NBA Free Agency

*This article was written prior to the news of Kevin Durant requesting a trade from the Brooklyn Nets early Wednesday afternoon.

As much action is filled on the court every NBA season, the same is said for off of it. Through the growing nature of free agency and trade talks, it’s become common for NBA fans and media to speculate about the future of players and teams. And that development will play out again as the 2022 NBA Free Agency begins at 6 PM EST tonight.

While this year’s free agency isn’t defined by its star power, it includes impactful contributors (Jalen Brunson, Zach LaVine, and Deandre Ayton) who have enticed teams that are determined to improve. Before the start of free agency, ONE37pm’s Sports Vertical came together and shared their expectations for this time of year.

Will there be any surprises? Is there a certain signing each team should make? Continue reading to find out more!

What is your biggest expectation for free agency this summer?

Justin Cohen: I think there will be a lot of player movement. I don’t expect a lot of blockbuster trades, but I expect teams to buff out their rosters and add depth with impactful role players. The CBA is set to expire at the end of this season, so I’m intrigued about how that may affect teams signing players to longer-term contracts. 

Martino Puccio: My biggest expectation is a team like the Lakers to make some sort of move that doesn’t waste time on the partnership of LeBron and AD. Whether it’s getting rid of Westbrook or adding great role players. They have the most pressure to figure it out

Which teams do you expect to be the most and least active?

Jack Tien-Dana: Considering the Knicks have already made three trades and loosened up $30 million in cap room, it’s hard to imagine a team being more active than them. To a degree, this activity is necessary—the Knicks have 22 draft picks over the next seven years and can’t possibly add that many guys to a roster that already has a critical mass of developing young players.

Continuing their decades-long trend, the Knicks will be confusing at best and smooth-brained at worst. Whereas the Knicks chronically do too much, Oklahoma City is devoted to never doing anything. With mega-prospect Victory Wembanyama looming as the prize of next year’s lottery, the Thunder are in no rush to try to be an actual team for the foreseeable future.

Justin Cohen: A team like the Miami Heat will be extremely active this free agency. Miami Heat president Pat Riley is never satisfied, and a loss in the Eastern Conference Finals surely left a fire burning in his seat.

I expect them to try and target another superstar to pair with Butler and Adebayo. I don’t think the Warriors will be active in acquiring new players but instead will focus on resigning players. 

Jael Rucker: I expect Brooklyn to be very active {laughs}.

If there’s a signing that makes TOO much sense, what would it be?

Bo Templin: You know what signing makes a lot of sense? The MASSIVE 5-year deal for the St. Louis product, Bradley Beal. Go get that bag.

The other fit that seems nice is PJ Tucker going to the Sixers. He’s played with Harden and would be an outstanding voice for that team.

Jack Tien-Dana: Mo Bamba to the Lakers. Despite having two of the very best players alive, the Lakers are a sclerotic team without many avenues to improve. Accordingly, Mo Bamba (of “Mo Bamba”  fame) is the sole realistic option who could make a meaningful difference.

An expert shot-blocker and budding marksman, Bamba was one of only four players to average more than 1.5 threes and 1.5 blocks per game. And he’s somehow rumored to be available for just the $6.5 million mid-level exception. Still only 23, Bamba offers an enticing package of immediate production and future promise.

Justin Cohen: Blake Griffin to the Clippers. Yes, this wouldn’t be the most impactful or even the best fit, but to see Blake Griffin in a Clippers jersey one more time would be beautiful.

It would also be quite poetic to see Griffin win a championship with the franchise he brought back from the dead. 

Martino Puccio: A signing that would make too much sense to me is Brunson to NYK. For the Knicks to move all these mountains and for him to get insane money for just four years is something that should be a no-brainer, IMO.

Speaking of Jalen Brunson, do you believe he’s worth a max contract?

Bo Templin: While I think Jalen Brunson is a very solid player, I’m not sold on him being a max contract player on a championship-contending team. He would help the Knicks, sure. But what would really change? A first-round exit maybe?

Jael Rucker: Yes! Give Jalen Brunson what he deserves!

Justin Cohen: When dissecting who ‘deserves’ a max contract, the context of player availability is crucial. I don’t think there are many great point guards slated to be free agents this summer and Brunson has proved he can put up wins in the postseason.

I’ve personally gotten the opportunity to watch Jalen grow since his freshman year of high school and the progression he continues to show is worth a max in my mind. 

Given the likelihood of James Harden and Bradley Beal resigning with their teams, do player options carry as much weight as they use to?

Bo Templin: This is a really interesting question. I think the player options only hold weight if the dominoes fall in your favor. Every off-season, it feels like there is a 1-2 domino falling process that really kickstarts everything else.

People with options have the luxury of waiting. So I think they still hold weight with the timing of the offseason.

Jack Tien-Dana: Player options are the most basic, effective way that players can control when and what they’re paid. Since Bradley Beal is opting out of his deal, the Wizards have no choice but to lavish him with a quarter-billion dollars to stick around—by turning down his $36.4 million option for next year, he’s now positioned to make $50 million for the next five.

Conversely, John Wall, Russell Westbrook, and Kyrie Irving all exercised their options because it guarantees them a payday they wouldn’t receive otherwise. What teams are lining up to throw a max deal at two guys who are probably bad now and another guy who’s a terminally flighty weirdo? More than Brechtian trade demands or sub-tweet melodrama or podcasting, player options are how players are empowered.

Jael Rucker: Yes and no. I think it depends on the player, the team, and the situation. I will say that I think owners are kind of starting to take control back of situations.

Justin Cohen: They do because it’s just another way to give the players more freedom. I really like James Harden taking a page out of Tom Brady’s book and taking a pay cut to allow the 76ers flexibility with their cap space.

With the collective bargaining agreement set to expire at the end of next season, we could see a change in how player and team options work. 

Martino Puccio: I think these player options don’t hold as much weight depending on the situation, but the money for these superstars after the tv deals are so great that they have so much flexibility.

Seeing what an Evan Fournier can grab via FA these guys know the leverage they have so they probably don’t stress the options.

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Sports Strength

The 12 Most Underrated NBA Players

It is commonplace in sports culture today to label a player a ‘bust’ way too early in their career. Whether they live in the shadow of an older brother or were a top pick that didn’t have instant success, athletes are plagued with expectations before they even step on the court. With a fourth of the NBA season behind us there are a few players who haven’t gotten the credit they deserve. Here is our list of 12 of the most underrated players in the NBA today. 

1. Seth Curry
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Philadelphia 76ers

15.7 PPG, 2.9 AST, 39.4 3PT% 

When the name “Curry” is mentioned it’s hard not to immediately think of all-time three point record champion Stephen Curry. In the shadows of the two-time league MVP is his younger brother, Seth Curry. Seth can do just about everything Steph can do, just not quite at the same production level. Efficiency wise, Seth Curry has a TS% of 63%, which would place him top 15 in this category. If you turn on a 76’ers game it’s easy to spot Curry as he roams around the perimeter waiting for his catch-and-shoot threes. One of the strongest aspects of his game is the confidence he shoots with. The second the basketball touches Curry’s hands, you can see in his body language that he knows the shot’s going in. 

2. Luke Kennard
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Los Angeles Clippers

11.4 PPG, 2.0 AST, 45.1 3PT% 

Casual NBA fans were mystified when the Clippers awarded Luke Kennard a four-year, $64 million contract extension last December. This deal was actually a steal for the Clippers. Kennard has knocked down 45% of his three’s while attempting over 6 a game. An absolute menace roaming the floor, Kennard is primed to knock down a shot at any second. An underrated way that Kennard is used in the Clippers offense is through the pick-and-roll with Paul George. The Clippers like to run a set where Kennard sets an on-ball screen for Paul George and either rolls to the free-throw line or out to the perimeter for an open shot. Kennard will continue to be an integral part of this Clippers offense, and for good reason. 

3. Jalen Brunson
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Dallas Mavericks

14.8 PPG, 5.0 AST, 4.0 REB

After winning two national championships at Villanova as well as the John R. Wooden award, Jalen Brunson’s future in the NBA was blurry. Some scouts weren’t sure if he could transition to the playstyle of the NBA. Brunson has proved all those doubters wrong, solidifying himself as one of the best sixth men in the league. Brunson plays an extremely high-iq brand of basketball and relishes the role of floor general. Similarly to prime Le’veon Bell, he has a sense of patience on his drives that frankly can’t be taught. Brunson’s impact for the Mavericks cannot be understated, as he adds nearly eight points per hundred possessions when on the floor. 

4. Dejounte Murray
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San Antonio Spurs

17.7 PPG, 8.4 AST, 8.3 REB 

Everytime it feels like the Spurs are about to be written off, Greg Popovich finds a way to bring them back from the brink. After a disappointing few seasons, the Spurs looked to be in rebuild mode. Amidst a litter of great young guards, Dejounte Murray stands out as one of the best. The Spurs play fast basketball sitting top 10 in the league in pace. Murray catalyzes this fast pace, as he is one of the best transition guards in the league. His three point shooting can be spotty at times, but Murray has shown to be an elite two-level scorer. At 6’4” he has great size for a guard while also being quick on his first step. Murray does all the right things to help generate W’s for the Spurs, and he will undoubtedly get the clout he deserves soon. 

5. Jarrett Allen
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Cleveland Cavaliers

17.3 PPG, 11.1 REB, 1.3 BLK 

The Cleveland Cavaliers have been one of the most impressive young squads this NBA season. The man-in-the-middle, Jarrett Allen, can be attributed with much of this success. Acquired via a trade from Brooklyn, Allen has been an unstoppable force defensively for the Cavs. Allen has one of the highest motors in the league, actively surveying the floor for the best positioning. An underrated aspect of Allen’s game this season has been his on-ball defending. The Cav’s love to switch on defense, and Allen has shown he can defend even guards on the perimeter. With his fanatic defensive playstyle the Cavaliers success will surely continue. 

6. Garrison Matthews
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Houston Rockets

11.9 PPG, 3.3 REB, 62.0 TS% 

Garrison Matthews is most likely a name that isn’t familiar to most NBA fans. The third year guard for the Rockets should be on everyone’s radar. Matthews is a constant threat to knock down the deep ball. Like the NBA 2K badge ‘deep range deadeye’ Matthews is unfazed by closing out defenders. There are stretches when Matthews gets hot and the tape looks eerily similar to that of Klay Thompson on offense. Sitting top 20 in the league for TS%, Matthews has earned the title of knockdown shooter. 

7. Ricky Rubio
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Cleveland Cavaliers

12.6 PPG, 6.5 AST, 3.9 REB 

After bouncing around the league the last couple of years, Ricky Rubio finds himself calling  Cleveland home for the season. Expectations were high for Rubio on draft night, as he was taken two selections before Steph Curry. Though Rubio never lived up to that hype, he did find his role in the league as a bench general. When the Cavs need to go to the bench for inspiration, Rubio is the first man up. Rubio is amongst the best passers in the league, especially in transition which has helped put the Cavaliers in the top 10 for assists. 

8. Grayson Allen
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Milwaukee Bucks

12.7 PPG, 3.6 REB, 40.7 3PT% 

Grayson Allen was one of the most scrutinized NCAA basketball players in recent memory, and many are quick to dismiss him because of this. Allen however has been a great fit for the Bucks this season serving a next man up role amongst various injuries and positive covid cases. Serving a perimeter role on offense Allen can be found roaming the perimeter most possessions. He is a constant threat to knock down the three shooting 40.7% from distance on seven attempts a game. Allen may be hated for his time at Duke, but there is no denying that he can make an impact at the NBA level. 

9. Desmond Bane
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Memphis Grizzlies

16.2 PPG, 4.4 REB, 2.3 AST 

With Ja Morant sidelined due to injury, the Grizzlies needed someone to step up. They got all that and more in second year guard Desmond Bane. Nearly doubling his scoring average from last year, Bane has been a key scoring threat for the Grizzlies. Unlike many other players on this list, Bane is an excellent scorer and shooter off-the-dribble. With combination of hesitations and quick step-backs, his bag runs deep. The Grizzlies have an exciting young core and Bane will be a highlight of that for years to come.

10. Alec Burks
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New York Knicks

11.4 PPG, 3.7 REB, 1.2 STL 

The Knicks had a hot start this season but have cooled off as of late. A bright spot, however, has been Alec Burks. After a few years playing for multiple different franchises, Burks finds himself settled in New York. A great pull-up shooter combined with excellent finishing ability, Burks has the ability to score from anywhere on the floor. He also has a huge impact defensively, actively pursuing the passing lanes and causing deflections. Burks doesn’t truly get the credit he deserves for keeping the Knicks afloat.

11. JaVale McGee
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Phoenix Suns

10.3 PPG, 7.5 REB, 65.8 TS% 

After largely being a joke earlier in his career, JaVale McGee— a.k.a Tragic Bronson— is now a key contributor to the Phoenix Suns. When Dario Saric fell to injury in the finals last season, the Suns knew they had to fill the hole of back-up center. McGee was brought in for that role and has fit perfectly. It’s fair to say at this point in his career, McGee has championship DNA. His ability to play for quick stretches and allow  Deandre Ayton to rest will be pivotal to how far they go in the playoffs. One thing is for sure, the McGee signing was one of the best this off-season.

12. Isaiah Hartenstein
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Los Angeles Clippers

7.7 PPG, 4.7 REB, 1.9 AST

Look at the leaderboards for any of the best advanced stats and you’ll see a lot of the same names: Stephen Curry, Nikola Jokic, Jimmy Butler, Lebron James—and Isaiah Hartenstein. After spending most of his first three seasons floating around the NBA’s fringes, the 23 year-old German big man has emerged as an integral part of the Clippers’ rotation. While his counting stats are fairly modest, they belie his true impact. He’s a clever passer who conducts offense from the elbows, a deft finisher who ranks in the 91st percentile as a pick-and-roll finisher, and a heady rim protector who patrols the backline for the NBA’s fourth-best defense.