Kevin Durant became one of the most recent NBA players to request a trade on June 30th, just a few days after Kyrie Irving picked up his player option for the 2022-23 season. The saga officially came to a close after the two sides engaged in an offseason-long game of chicken.
Despite demanding better teammates, a new coach, a new general manager, and more from the Nets this offseason, the Nets remained firm with their asking price and held out on several trade opportunities. On August 23rd, after nearly two months, the two sides came together.
The saga didn’t make Durant look very good, especially considering his history of leaving teams in the dust – he did it with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2016 and the Golden State Warriors in 2019. He’s one of the best players in the league, but I’m always left questioning his dedication.
Other NBA Players Who Stayed Put This Offseason
Kevin Durant is just one of the many NBA players to try and force their way out of their current situation – joining the likes of Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis, Ben Simmons, Paul George, and more. Players are shifting around the league more than ever.
Even taking trades out of the equation, the free agency period has been an exciting time in the NBA in recent years. Superstars want to join together in hopes of winning a championship, resulting in some very powerful rosters across the league – it makes for an exciting season.
With that said, it’s always nice to see NBA players stick around and make it work in their current situation – especially those that are dedicated to the process of building a culture. Let’s take a look at NBA players – some more surprising than others – than aren’t going anywhere this year.
20. Kyrie Irving
On June 28th, Kyrie Irving decided to exercise his player option for the 2022-23 season – returning to the Brooklyn Nets for a fourth season. In doing so, he gave up the opportunity to become an unrestricted free agent and sign with the team of his choice, if they were interested.
Irving is entering his 12th season in the league and fourth season with Brooklyn. He has only played 103 games with the team, but is expected to play a much larger role this season. When on the court, he’s one of the most explosive and talented offensive players in the league.
19. Mitchell Robinson
On July 1st, Michell Robinson agreed to a four-year, $60 million contract extension to return to the New York Knicks. Signing a multi-year second contract is something a Knicks’ draft pick hasn’t done in 23 years, but Robinson broke that curse and the city couldn’t be any happier.
Robinson is entering his fifth season in the league since being drafted by the Knicks in 2018. He has averaged at least 8.3 points and 8.1 rebounds in each of the past two seasons, and also averages 2.0 blocks per game over his career. He’s as good of a rim defender as they get.
18. Luguentz Dort
On June 30th, Luguentz Dort signed a five-year, $87.5 million contract extension to remain with the Oklahoma City Thunder in the midst of their rebuild. He’s one of the better wing defenders in the league and has come a long way since signing with OKC in 2019 as an undrafted rookie.
Dort is entering his fourth season in the league and is coming off a career year – he averaged 17.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.9 steals, and 0.4 blocks per game last season. He should see an even larger role in 2022, so expect him to flirt with 20 points and five rebounds.
17. Jusuf Nurkic
On July 6th, Jusuf Nurkic agreed to a four-year, $70 million contract extension to return to the Portland Trail Blazers. With the team trading CJ McCollum last season, they’re clearly trying to reshape their roster in hopes of winning a title and Nurkic appears to be a big part of that plan.
Nurkic is another player that has been riddled with injuries over the past few years – he played 79 games in 2017 and 72 games in 2018, but only 101 games since. Entering his ninth season in the league, he looks healthy and should get back to his double-double self consistently.
16. Deandre Ayton
On July 14th, Deandre Ayton agreed to a four-year, $133 million contract extension with the Phoenix Suns – matching the offer sheet by the Indiana Pacers. Since Ayton was a restricted free agent, the Suns had an opportunity to match the offer sheet, which they obviously did.
Ayton is entering his fifth season in the league since being drafted No. 1 overall by the Suns in 2018. In 236 games played, he is averaging 16.3 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.7 steals, and 0.7 blocks per game. He helped lead his team to the 2021 NBA Finals, though they lost.
15. Bobby Portis
On July 6th, Bobby Portis signed a four-year, $49 million contract extension to remain with the Milwaukee Bucks – the team he won a title with two years ago. This comes after declining a player option that would’ve paid him just over $4.5 million next season – a deserved pay raise.
Portis is entering his eighth season in the league and third with the Bucks. He has become a consistent starter alongside one of the game’s greats – Giannis Antetokounmpo – and provides the energy and effort that every team in the league wants. He’ll be in the NBA for a long time.
14. James Harden
On July 27th, James Harden officially signed his two-year, $68.6 million contract extension that will keep him with the Philadelphia 76ers. He took a $15 million pay cut to give the team cap space to work with this offseason – proving his loyalty after several seasons of uncertainty.
Harden is entering his 14th season in the league and second with the 76ers after being traded to the team halfway through last season. It’s his third team since 2020, but he seems content with trying to help Joel Embiid bring a championship to Philadelphia – will they do it, though?
13. Jaylen Brown
When Durant’s trade request became public, one of the most hyped potential suitors was the Boston Celtics. If a trade were to get done, it would likely include the likes of Jaylen Brown. Of course, that never happened and he continues to fulfill the four-year contract he signed in 2019.
Brown is entering his seventh season in the league since being drafted No. 3 overall by the team in 2016. He has averaged at least 20 points, six rebounds, two assists, and one steal per game in each of the past three seasons – proving to be both consistent and reliable for Boston.
12. Anfernee Simons
On June 30th, the Portland Trail Blazers and Anfernee Simons agreed to a four-year $100 million contract extension. With CJ McCollum out of the mix, Simons has emerged as a reliable option alongside Damian Lillard – who we’ll get to in a second. The duo is going to be electric.
Simons is entering his fifth season in the league since being drafted No. 24 overall by the Trail Blazers in 2018. He’s coming off a career year that saw him average 17.3 points, 2.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and 0.5 steals per game – all of which career-highs. He’ll only continue to improve.
11. Russell Westbrook
Russell Westbrook has been involved in a number of trade rumors this offseason – for example, when Kyrie Irving and Donovan Mitchell were on the market. Of course, none of it happened and Russ remains with the Los Angeles Lakers – who are confident in his abilities.
Westbrook is entering his 15th season in the league and second with the Lakers, marking the first time he has stuck with a team for more than one season since the 2018-19 season. His stats took a dip last season, but there’s a chance he returns to his triple-double self this year.
10. Damian Lillard
On July 8th, star point guard Damian Lillard signed a two-year, $122 million contract extension to remain with the Portland Trail Blazers through the 2026-27 season. The deal came just a week after Simons inked his new deal, which says a lot about what this team thinks about them.
Lillard is entering his 11th season in the league since being drafted No. 6 overall by the Trail Blazers in 2012. He only played 29 games last year due to injury, but will be healthy for the 2022-23 season. He’s a six-time All-Star, six-time All-NBA, and former Rookie of the Year.
9. Darius Garland
On July 2nd, Darius Garland agreed to a five-year, $193 million contract extension, keeping him with the Cleveland Cavaliers for a long time. He’s now the owner of the largest deal in Cavs’ franchise history – larger than the four-year, $120 million contract given to Kevin Love in 2018.
Garland is entering his fourth season in the league since being drafted No. 5 overall by the Cavs in 2019. He has progressed every year so far – scoring 12.3 points per game in 2019, 17.4 points per game in 2020, and 21.7 points per game in 2021. Expect more improvement in 2022.
8. Ja Morant
On July 6th, star point guard Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies signed a five-year, $193 million contract that could be worth as much as $231 million when all is said and done. Like Garland, Morant is now the owner of the largest contract ever given out by the Grizzlies.
Morant is entering his fourth season in the league since being drafted No. 2 overall by the Grizzlies in 2019. He has already won Rookie of the Year and Most Improved Player, and was selected to his first All-Star game last season. He’s one of the most exciting players in the NBA.
7. Zach LaVine
On July 7th, Zach LaVine continued to prove his loyalty to the Chicago Bulls’ franchise and fanbase by inking a five-year, $215 million contract extension. He will earn $37 million this season, but that number can rise up to $49 million if he opts-in to the player option in 2026-27.
LaVine is entering his ninth season in the league and sixth season with the Bulls since being drafted No. 13 overall by Minnesota in 2014. He has averaged at least 23.7 points per game in each of the past four seasons, including a career-high 27.4 points per game in 2020-21.
6. Karl-Anthony Towns
On June 30th, Karl-Anthony Towns received a big payday when he signed a four-year, $224 million contract to remain with the Minnesota Timberwolves – who made a blockbuster trade for Rudy Gobert just one week later. It’s clear this team values big men who dominate down low.
KAT is entering his eighth season in the league since being drafted No. 1 overall by Minnesota in 2015. He has scored at least 24.4 points per game in each of the past four seasons and five of the past six seasons since being named Rookie of the Year. He’s a walking double-double.
5. Devin Booker
On July 7th, Devin Booker signed a four-year, $224 million contract extension – identical to that of KAT – to remain with the Phoenix Suns. It came a week before the team signed Ayton to his contract extension, proving that Booker and Ayton are expected to continue leading this team.
Booker is entering his eighth season in the league since being drafted No. 13 overall by the Suns in 2015. He has averaged at least 24.9 points per game in each of the past five seasons – including at least 26.6 points per game in three of the past four seasons. He’s an electric scorer.
4. Zion Williamson
On July 28th, the New Orleans Pelicans decided to keep their former No. 1 overall draft pick, Zion Willaimson, in town with a five-year, $193 million contract extension – a number that could rise up to $231 million, like Morant. The only question is whether or not we’ll see him play.
Williamson continues to get paid, despite barely playing since going No. 1 overall in the 2019 draft. He only played in 24 games his rookie year, then played 61 games in 2020 before missing all of last year due to injury. What he has done to deserve this big of a contract is beyond me.
3. LeBron James
No one ever really doubted James’ future in LA, but the two sides made it official with a massive two-year, $97.1 million contract extension in mid-August. The deal made LeBron James the highest-paid player in NBA history – with nearly $530 million made in career salary earnings.
James is entering his 20th season in the league and fifth season in LA. He’s an 18-time All-Star, four-time champion, four-time Finals MVP, four-time MVP, and 18-time All-NBA honoree. He’s coming off a year that saw him average 30.3 points per game in 56 games – at 37 years old.
2. Bradley Beal
On July 6th, Bradley Beal continued to prove his loyalty to the Washington Wizards’ franchise and fanbase by signing a five-year, $251 million contract extension – he’ll make $57 million in the final year of the contract. He’s now the owner of the second-largest contract in NBA history.
Beal is entering his 11th season in the league since being drafted No. 3 overall by the Wizards in 2012. He averaged 30.5 points per game in 2019 and 31.3 points per game in 2020 before missing half of last season to injury – he averaged 23.2 points per game in 40 games in 2021.
1. Nikola Jokic
Which brings us to Nikola Jokic, who became the owner of the largest contract in NBA history when he signed a five-year, $264 million contract extension to remain with the Denver Nuggets. The two-time reigning MVP is worth every last penny and will continue to prove it in 2022-23.
Jokic is entering his eighth season in the league since being drafted in the second round of the 2014 draft by Denver. He’s coming off his best year as a pro last season, averaging 27.1 points, 13.8 rebounds, 7.9 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.9 and blocks in 33.5 minutes per game (74 games).
NBA Players to Keep an Eye on This Season
The 2022-23 NBA regular season is set to tip off on October 18, 2022 and will come to an end on April 9, 2023 – with the NBA Finals starting on June 1, 2023. The Celtics, Warriors, Suns, Bucks, Clippers, and Nets are among the teams currently listed as title favorites this season.
Some of the NBA players we’re excited to see go to work this year include LaMelo Ball, Jimmy Butler, Luke Doncic, Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, Jayson Tatum, Ja Morant, Stephen Curry, Paolo Banchero, Jabari Smith, Keegan Murray, Kawhi Leonard, Trae Young, and more.
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While you never really know what you’re going to get once the regular season begins, you can at least bank on NBA players making it exciting. There’s going to be a lot of highlights, drama, trash talk, and buzzer-beaters coming in just a few weeks – so make sure you’re prepared!
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