2022 NBA Free Agency Rankings:
- Point Guard Rankings
- Shooting Guard Rankings
- Small Forward Rankings
- Power Forward Rankings
- Center Rankings
With the NBA Finals coming to an end a couple of weeks ago and the NBA Draft coming and going, all of the league’s attention now turns to “Christmas in July,” which is also known as NBA Free Agency.
Every single summer, the NBA winds up stealing the show in the sports world because of the craziness that is free agency and because of how every team scrambles to make moves in order to get a leg up on one another.
While we have seen plenty of championship teams built through the draft over the last couple of decades, free agency still plays a pivotal role in many team’s chances to contend for a title, especially if they are able to pair All-Star talents with one another!
Frontcourt talents are not as utilized as they used to be in the NBA, but we are starting to see a resurgence of importance at the center position league-wide.
Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert are all All-Star centers in this league that are at the forefront of their team’s game plan every single season. While there are no All-Star centers available in free agency this summer, there are quite a few notable names who could drastically change a franchise for the better.
Here are some of the best centers that are set to begin negotiating new deals around the league in free agency.
Notable Names: Dwight Howard (Los Angeles Lakers), Hassan Whiteside (Utah Jazz), Robin Lopez (Orlando Magic), Thomas Bryant (Washington Wizards), Tristan Thompson (Chicago Bulls), DeMarcus Cousins (Denver Nuggets)
#10 Isaiah Hartenstein - Unrestricted Free Agent
2021-22 Salary: $1,729,217 | Last Team: Los Angeles Clippers | Expected: $4M to Mid-Level Exception
After bouncing around with a couple of teams the last few seasons, Isaiah Hartenstein really played well this past year with the Los Angeles Clippers. Playing the backup role to Ivica Zubac, Hartenstein put together some really solid performance and was oftentimes utilized over Zubac against smaller, more athletic teams.
In 68 games, Hartenstein averaged 8.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and shot 62.6% from the floor, cementing his spot as a key big man bench talent in this league. It would not be shocking to see him end up signing with a team for the full mid-level exception, especially since there will be a handful of teams showing interest in him once free agency begins.
#9 Nicolas Claxton - Restricted Free Agent
2021-22 Salary: $1,782,621 | Last Team: Brooklyn Nets | Expected: Mid-Level Exception to $8M per year
One of the biggest question marks in free agency this summer is Nicolas Claxton and this is because while he has potential, he has yet to put things together through three seasons in the league. He has grown and become a better center since entering the league, but Claxton has still yet to prove that he is a starting caliber big man in the NBA.
In 47 games with the Brooklyn Nets during the 2021-22 season, Claxton averaged 8.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and shot 67.4% from the floor. With the Nets already already having a hefty tax bill coming into the 2022-23 season, it is going to be interesting to see how much Brooklyn is willing to pay in order to keep the young big man.
#8 JaVale McGee - Unrestricted Free Agent
2021-22 Salary: $5,000,000 | Last Team: Phoenix Suns | Expected: $4M to Mid-Level Exception
He may appear on Shaqtin’ A Fool a lot, but JaVale McGee is truly one of the more consistent big men in the entire league and since joining the Golden State Warriors ahead of the 2016-17 season, McGee has helped every team he has been on. This past season with the Phoenix Suns, McGee came off-the-bench behind Deandre Ayton and played well once again, averaging 9.2 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks on 62.9% shooting from the floor.
An athletic big man who has proven to be an avid rim-protector, JaVale McGee is very deserving of earning a contract around the mid-level exception and it is quite possible that several playoff contending teams, including the Suns, will look to sign him in free agency.
#7 Montrezl Harrell - Unrestricted Free Agent
2021-22 Salary: $9,720,900 | Last Team: Charlotte Hornets | Expected: Mid-Level Exception to $12M per year
Montrezl Harrell is a mystery in free agency this summer not because of his talent on the court, but because of some problems that have occurred off the floor. Charged with trafficking less than five pounds of marajuana last month, Harrell and his attorneys continue to fight these allegations and claim that the former Charlotte Hornets big man never trafficked any drug and has never been a part of any illegal activity.
On the floor, Montrezl Harrell is a high-energy center that was named the league’s Sixth Man of the Year during the 2019-20 season. These allegations attached to him could push a lot of teams away in free agency with the rest waiting to see what will happen with the seven-year veteran.
#6 Andre Drummond - Unrestricted Free Agent
2022-23 Option: $2,401,537 | Last Team: Brooklyn Nets | Expected: Mid-Level Exception to $10M per year
Throughout his entire career, Andre Drummond has always been an elite-level rebounder and while he is not a modern-day big man in terms of stretching the floor, he is a double-double threat every night he gets to play 20-plus minutes. During the 2021-22 season with both the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets, Drummond ended up averaging 7.9 points and 9.3 rebounds while shooting 57.0% from the floor.
While he just finished up his 10th season in the NBA, Drummond is still only 28-years-old and is still worthy of being a starting center in this league. Given that most teams will not be looking for a new center in free agency, Andre Drummond’s market could wind up being very small, which could lead to him signing another smaller contract.
#5 Kevon Looney - Unrestricted Free Agent
2021-22 Salary: $5,178,572 | Last Team: Golden State Warriors | Expected: Mid-Level Exception to $10M per year
Every year he has been in the league, Kevon Looney has grown into a better rebounder, a better defender and one of the best “glue guys” in the entire NBA. He has been instrumental to the success of the Golden State Warriors and without him, the Warriors would not have won their fourth title in the last eight seasons.
All indications right now point towards Looney and the Warriors getting a deal done near the start of free agency, even though other teams are expected to pursue the seven-year veteran. Kevon Looney enjoys being a part of the Golden State Warriors and his teammates adore him, which is why the two sides will likely come to an agreement right away.
#4 Jusuf Nurkic - Unrestricted Free Agent
2021-22 Salary: $12,000,000 | Last Team: Portland Trail Blazers | Expected: $10M to $15M per year
While he is only 27-years-old, Jusuf Nurkic has seemed to reach the peak of his career in terms of being a finished product. Spending the last six seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers, Nurkic has turned himself into a double-double machine, finishing this past year with 30 double-doubles in 56 total games.
It appears as if Portland will look to bring the veteran big man back, as he and Damian Lillard have a very strong relationship with one another. Expected to see an annual value of $10 million to $15 million on his next deal, it is hard to see any other team in the league offering this to a big man that cannot stretch the floor on offense and can be a liability at times defensively.
#3 Mo Bamba - Unrestricted Free Agent
2021-22 Salary: $7,568,743 | Last Team: Orlando Magic | Expected: $8M to $14M per year
Note: Orlando did not tender a qualifying offer to Bamba, making him an unrestricted free agent
Drafting Paolo Banchero first overall this season and having Wendell Carter Jr. as well, Mo Bamba’s status with the Orlando Magic is definitely in question entering free agency. Not to mention, the team recently decided not to offer him his qualifying offer, which means that Bamba is now going to be entering free agency as an unrestricted free agent and able to negotiate a deal with any of the other 29 teams in the league without the Magic being able to match any offers to keep him.
During the 2021-22 season, Bamba really stood out in Orlando’s frontcourt, averaging 10.6 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.7 blocks and shooting 38.1% from three-point range. Being only 24-years-old, Mo Bamba is only going to get better in time and with him having the ability to knock down shots from the perimeter, he has suddenly become a top-tier free agent this summer.
#2 Mitchell Robinson - Unrestricted Free Agent
2021-22 Salary: $1,802,057 | Last Team: New York Knicks | Expected: $10M to $14M per year
Drafted in the second-round back in 2018, Mitchell Robinson has really turned himself into a key frontcourt weapon. He not only led the league in field goal percentage during the 2019-20 season, but Robinson has continued to grow into an avid shot-blocker and defensive presence in the paint for the New York Knicks.
As of right now, it seems like the Knicks will re-sign Robinson to a three- or four-year deal, but several other teams have expressed interest in the 24-year-old center over the last few months. One of those teams was the Detroit Pistons, but after drafting Jalen Duren, they will most likely turn their attention elsewhere in free agency.
The biggest concern with paying Mitchell Robinson long-term though from any team’s standpoint is his overall upside to impact the game at a high-level. He can rebound and finish around the rim, but Robinson is not the best pick-and-roll big man, nor is he a factor with the ball in his hands on the perimeter.
He is definitely worth more than the mid-level exception, but overall, Mitchell Robinson’s impact is nowhere close to that of who is ranked ahead of him on this list at the center position.
#1 Deandre Ayton - Restricted Free Agent
2021-22 Salary: $12,632,950 | Last Team: Phoenix Suns | Expected: $20M to Max Contract
Deandre Ayton is the best frontcourt option available in free agency this summer and it is not hard to say that he is a Top-5 free agent altogether. A borderline All-Star big man, the former top pick in 2018 has continued to grow into a versatile center that has already begun to stretch his game outside the paint offensively.
Helping lead the Phoenix Suns to the NBA Finals in 2021, Ayton continued to be a factor this season, averaging 17.2 points, 10.2 rebounds and shooting 63.4% from the floor, 36.8% from three-point range. Deandre Ayton has been in the league for four years now and every season with the Suns, he has averaged a double-double.
Ayton has high leaping abilities for a center, he has a high understanding for where to be on the floor and is able to impact the games in many different ways, which is why he is definitely a max-level contract type of player.
The question right now though is whether or not the Suns will present him with this kind of offer, as they were unwilling to do so last summer and now, it seems like their relationship with Ayton is being torn apart. This situation between the Phoenix Suns and Deandre Ayton is the biggest question mark heading into free agency this year.