NBA free agency 2022: Kings winners, Nets losers in opening week

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Kings among winners from first week of NBA free agency originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

A week of free agency has passed in the NBA, and we have a better idea of how teams are constructing their respective rosters for the 2022-23 season.

We’ve seen young stars like Devin Booker and Zion Williamson receive max extensions and trades that shuffled some rosters – but we’re still not done yet. 

Sagas involving Brooklyn Nets stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving and Phoenix Suns big man Deandre Ayton need to be resolved while we wait to see what happens with guys like James Harden and Collin Sexton. 

In the meantime, let’s dig into the winners and losers of the 2022 NBA free agency period so far:

Winner: Contract extensions

You get a contract extension, you get a contract extension, everyone gets a contract extension! It was a good time to be a budding or proven star this summer, with numerous players being inked to a lucrative multi-year extension. These are just some of the names: Bradley Beal, Zach LaVine, Nikola Jokic, Devin Booker, Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and Karl-Anthony Towns. We’ll see if more are coming in the near future. 

Loser: Deandre Ayton

On the flip side, not every young prospect has received a massive payday. As aforementioned, the 2018 No. 1 overall pick has not inked an extension and a trade seems to be the most likely option. He could still get an extension with a new team, but it remains to be seen who wants to give the former Arizona Wildcat a big deal. 

Sexton is another name here after a torn meniscus sidelined him last season. Charlotte Hornets forward Miles Bridges was also recently arrested – and later released – on a felony domestic violence charge. He was available for an extension worth around $30 million a season, but his status going forward is not yet clear.

Winner: Jalen Brunson while Knicks simultaneously a loser

When signing a player to a massive extension, you’re paying for future production in hopes that the player will meet that value. The New York Knicks penned Brunson to a four-year, $104 million deal as their marquee addition this summer – barring any surprise trades. Yes, Brunson is coming off a career year where he averaged 16.3 points, 4.8 assists and 3.9 rebounds on a 50-37-84 shooting split, but making him your highest-paid player is a huge risk. He’s already in his prime at 26, 6-foot-1 and doesn’t move the needle for the Knickerbockers in the East. He was deserving of a pay raise, but time will tell if New York overpaid. 

Loser: Brooklyn Nets

The Nets’ two stars want out. What could’ve been with Durant, Irving and James Harden is looking like a thing of the past. Maybe the Nets could bring in a haul for Durant to alleviate the situation, but this project is heading toward a colossal failure. Brooklyn also lost Bruce Brown Jr., Goran Dragic and Andre Drummond in free agency while Ben Simmons is yet to make his debut. Veteran forward T.J. Warren signed with the team, but he has played in just four games since 2020. 

Winner: Sacramento Kings

Could the Kings finally push for a playoff spot this year? It’s been 16 years, but maybe the 2022-23 season is the drought-ender. Sacramento made two big moves: acquiring Kevin Huerter and signing Malik Monk. After ranking 24th in the NBA in 3-point percentage (34%), the Kings landed flamethrowers in Huerter and Monk, who each shot 39% from downtown this past year. Putting them, No. 4 overall pick Keegan Murray, Davion Mitchell and Harrison Barnes alongside De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis makes them an intriguing dark horse this year.

Loser: Detroit Pistons paying Marvin Bagley III

The No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 draft has definitely not lived up to expectations. The former Kings big man was traded to the Pistons last year after he failed to improve on a promising rookie campaign. He’s dealt with multiple injuries throughout his career, but he’s still a struggling defender and a big man with a limited arsenal on offense. 

As a restricted free agent this summer, the chances of a bidding war for the Duke product’s services were unlikely, but the Pistons forked over $37 million for three years, and it’s all fully guaranteed. That seems way too pricey, but maybe the Pistons are convinced there’s something more to his lob connection with 2021 No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham. 

Winner: Los Angeles Lakers learning from mistakes

The best thing you can do after a mistake is learn from it. The Lakers appear to have done that. A year after forming the oldest roster in the league, Los Angeles went out and sought youngsters in Lonnie Walker IV, Troy Brown Jr., Thomas Bryant and Damian Jones. Juan Toscano-Anderson, 29, from the Golden State Warriors also joined. The Lakers haven’t yet re-signed any of last year’s veterans as they look to contend with a healthy LeBron James and Anthony Davis. It’ll be interesting to see if Los Angeles can move on from Russell Westbrook, who is clearly an awkward fit, but it takes two teams to make a trade. 

Losing Monk to a divisional foe stings, but Walker should bring the same microwave scoring ability to the table. The Lakers went younger, and after their young players last season led to much better form than the veterans who were past their prime, maybe that’s a sign for what lies ahead next year.