Unless NBA trade winds blow, there won’t be very much drama next summer for the Clippers and their free-agent class, unlike this year when L.A. had to make choices on the likes of Reggie Jackson and the injured Kawhi Leonard, as well as deciding on an extension for Terance Mann. The Clippers, in the end, kept all three players aboard.
They also kept rebuilt veteran Nicolas Batum, who had a resurgence in L.A. last year and agreed to come back on a two-year, $6.5 million contract, with a player option for next year. That means Batum, a versatile defensive veteran averaging 9.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 43.8% 3-point shooting, will be a free agent again next summer. And according to The Athletic front-office guru John Hollinger, who recently worked for the Grizzlies, Batum is among the Top 25 available guys next summer.
Batum has started 13 of the 14 games in which he has appeared, though he is currently out because of the league’s COVID-19 protocols.
On his early list of the top 2022 NBA free agents, Hollinger had Batum at No. 23 and wrote, “As long as he never has to create offense, Nic Batum can be a really useful player because of his size, defense, shooting and passing. While his usage rate has become comically low for a perimeter player, he offers a more veteran discount version of (Dorian) Finney-Smith in his ability to space the floor, make good decisions and check multiple positions defensively.”
Top-Heavy NBA Free-Agent List in 2022
Here are what Hollinger sees as the 25 best free agents this summer. It is not an especially deep pool, especially at the top, where it would be hard to imagine players like Zach LaVine or LeBron James changing teams. It’s possible that won’t apply to Bradley Beal, Kyrie Irving and James Harden, but in each case, the smart money would be on them staying put.
Even the two good restricted free agents are unlikely to leave their current situations, because the teams that employ them now can match any offer. Basically, the only truly available free agents will be fringe starters and top bench players.
- Zach LaVine, SG, Bulls
- Bradley Beal, SG, Wizards(player option)
- Kyrie Irving, PG, Nets (player option)
- James Harden, SG, Nets (player option)
Tier Two (Restricted)
- Deandre Ayton, C, Suns(restricted)
- Miles Bridges, SF/PF, Hornets(restricted)
- Montrezl Harrell, C, Wizards
- T.J. Warren, SF, Pacers
- Donte DiVincenzo, SG, Bucks(restricted)
- Jalen Brunson, PG, Mavericks
- Collin Sexton, PG/SG, Cavaliers(restricted)
- Mitchell Robinson, C, Knicks
- Bobby Portis, C, Bucks (player option)
- Ricky Rubio, PG, Cavaliers
- Kyle Anderson, SF, Grizzlies
- Victor Oladipo, SG, Heat
- Robert Covington, SF, Trail Blazers
- Jusuf Nurkic, C, Blazers
- Dennis Schröder, PG, Celtics
- Dorian Finney-Smith, SF, Mavs
- Joe Ingles, SF, Jazz
- Nic Batum, SF, Clippers(player option)
- Andre Drummond, C, 76ers
- Marvin Bagley, PF, Kings(restricted)
- Pat Connaughton, SG, Bucks
Short-Term Contract From Clippers Likely for Batum
Obviously, Batum would be due a significant raise next season—he gave the Clippers a discount this year because he is comfortable with the team and knows he would get a payoff next summer. Under NBA rules, the Clippers can offer him a deal starting at about $12 million, and that’s probably where they will land with him.
The only question will be how long the deal runs. Batum turns 33 in December and would likely get a two-year deal, possibly with a third-year team option or partial guarantee —a three-year deal at about $35-40 million, with the final year only partially guaranteed would be a good bet.