Fantasy Basketball: Seven free agents worth keeping an eye on this offseason

The 2021-22 NBA season is coming to a close, but the league’s new year is just around the corner. Players are already starting to accept player options for 2022-23, but plenty of big names are still considering their options. Restricted free agents can sign bid papers as early as July 1, and some of the influential Fantasy assets may switch teams. Here we’ll go over seven of the hottest names to watch ahead of next season.

Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards (player option)

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Bale missed the back half of 2021-22 with a wrist injury and would be one of the most coveted targets in the free agency market if he chooses the $37 million player option for 2022-23. The Washington Wizards goalkeeper remains one of the top scorers in the league and has grown into a playmaker over the years. Bale’s mentality will likely determine his fantasy value next season. If he simply wants a big payday, he can turn down his option and see what the fringe team is looking to give him the big bucks as he fills out the stats sheet. However, a subscription will make a successful trade more realistic and help him join a talented team like the Boston Celtics. Bill will probably be one of the top five guards in Fantasy Shooting as long as he’s healthy, but I think quitting will do more for his roof.

Zach Lavigne, Chicago Bulls (untethered)

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The Chicago Bulls threw everything they had to build a contender for the 2021-22 season, and LaVine thrived with the most talented squad he’s ever played with. The dynamic combo keeper was a top eight player in his position in the leagues despite the addition of DeMar DeRozan, who averaged 27.9 points per team and led the team in total assists. LaVine could certainly replicate last year’s stats in the same situation, but could climb to another level if he decides to sign with a team with fewer high-ranking Fantasy assets. All signs point to LaVine re-signing now, but he’s worth watching until he agrees to the extension.

Russell Wesbrook, Los Angeles Lakers (player’s choice)

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Westbrook was one of Fantasy’s top five players in last season’s relegation season and it’s not clear if he’ll stay in La La Land for the second round with the Lakers. The base is in decline but can still get close to three times a night from the crowds alone. He’s been an elite asset for four different teams during his previous four campaigns, and is unlikely to change in 2022-23 no matter where he plays. Westbrook should perhaps be considered an early to mid second-round talent in the 2022 NBA Fantasy Drafts.

Dender Eaton, Phoenix Suns (restricted)

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The Phoenix Suns have a big decision to make about Ayton’s future this summer. They did not offer the big man an extension before the 2021-22 season and are at a crossroads after failing to return to the NBA Finals. Eaton averaged a double for the fourth consecutive season, but it may not be seen as worthy of the big response he’s seeking. Many teams are looking to make big upgrades in the five. The Charlotte Hornets, New York Knicks and San Antonio Spurs are among the teams that could benefit the most from his strong play at the post. He’s in the top ten when he’s healthy and still has his best years ahead.

Colin Sexton, Cleveland Cavaliers (leashed)

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Darius Garland’s impressive sophomore season made Sexton an afterthought for most of 2021-22, but the Cleveland Cavaliers guard still managed to fill it. He has been more productive than Fred VanVleet, Ben Simmons, Jrue Holiday and Malcolm Brogdon in Fantasy’s view, scoring 24.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game in 2020-21. Sexton has been cleared of basketball at full speed since he tore his meniscus last season. Garland will likely become Cleveland’s long-term head guard after the All-Star season, but Sexton could be more than serviceable with the Cavs or elsewhere.

Miles Bridges, Charlotte Hornets (tethered)

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Bridges bet himself when he declined last season’s four-year, $60 million extension. He may have been right to do so en route to his best campaign yet with the Hornets. While reports suggest Charlotte may be reluctant to bid max, other teams will love bringing in a versatile winger who can bounce and score from all three levels. Charlotte is rumored to be interested in bringing in Westbrook to free up money for the Bridges extension. Moving other forwards like Gordon Hayward and PJ Washington through the process could help maintain his position despite adding such a dominant goalkeeper in the backcourt.

Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Nets (player option)

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Irving continues to have star-level talent, but his stints and vaccinations with the Brooklyn Nets caused his fantasy basketball production to take a step backwards last season. He influenced the Nets in 29 regular season games he played in 2021-22. His demands for a maximum contract have been met with skepticism, but he’s a top 10 player in Fantasia when he’s healthy. I expect Irving to return to the top as a full-time player in 2022-23. NBA cities have relaxed allowing unvaccinated players to fit in, so Irving will likely be an active member of whatever team he joins. However, I still take a lot of caution when crafting it.

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