Latest news, rumors and buzz at the opening of the free agency

With the depth in the rear view, the NBA season moves on quickly with the competition now gearing up for free agency

The free agency moratorium kicks off Thursday at 6 p.m. ET, the negotiation period during which free agents and teams can begin discussing and agreeing contracts. Players can’t officially sign new deals until 12:01 a.m. ET on July 6.

Few teams – and fewer contenders – have the room for a salary cap to offer maximum contracts, and not many players in this year’s free agent class can force such a deal. Yet this is the NBA, and the competition always finds a way to produce fireworkss (Happy 4th of July!) around free agency. It won’t be a surprise to see more of the same this summer.

Who will be moving in the 2022-2023 season? Who will make the biggest splash? Stay with the USA TODAY Sports NBA crew for the latest news and buzz from around the league as teams begin to negotiate deals with the biggest names on the market.

Tucker reunites with Harden in Philadelphia

In-demand striker PJ Tucker heads to Philadelphia to reunite with former teammate James Harden on the Sixers. Tucker has agreed to terms on a $33.2 million three-year deal with Philadelphia, his agent Andre Buck told USA TODAY Sports’ Jeff Zillgitt. The Sixers will be Tucker’s fourth team in four seasons.

Simons Returns To Blazers With $100 Million Deal

Anfrenee Simons has agreed on a $100 million four-year contract to return to the Portland Trail Blazers, his agent Bill Duffy confirmed to USA TODAY Sports’ Jeff Zillgitt. Simons is a restricted free agent and could have signed an offer letter with any other team, but Portland would have retained the right to match and keep Simons. The four-year-old guard is coming off his best season as a pro, increasing his scoring average from 7.8 to 17.3 points per game.

Monk leaves LA for Sacramento

Reserve guard Malik Monk has agreed to a $20 million two-year contract with the Sacramento Kings after spending one season with the Los Angeles Lakers. Monk, the number 11 pick in the 2017 draft, spent his first four seasons with the Charlotte Hornets.

Portis signs again with Milwaukee

Bobby Portis gets the big contract he hoped for when he turned down his player option for 2022-23. Portis has agreed to re-sign with the Milwaukee Bucks on a $49 million four-year deal. He turned down his $4.6 million option on Wednesday in hopes of securing a lucrative long-term deal, and the bet on itself paid off. The 6-10 forward has been a key rotational player for the Bucks over the past two seasons, including in their build-up to the 2021 championship.

Durant asks for trading hours before opening the free agency

Kevin Durant sent shockwaves through the NBA in the hours leading up to free agency when he asked for a trade with the Brooklyn Nets† The request opens up the opportunity for a team to take a big step for Durant, which could provide significant returns on assets for the Nets.

Phoenix and Miami are two of Durant’s favorite destinations, according to Yahoo and ESPN.

FULL STORY: Kevin Durant asks for trade from Brooklyn Nets

Who are the best free agents available?

1. Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls (unlimited): One of the game’s elite shooters and scorers, LaVine is lining up for a five-year maximum deal and about $212 million from the Bulls or four years and about $157 million from other teams.

Zach LaVine has averaged 25.2 points on 47.4/39.2/83.4 shooting rates for the past four seasons.

Zach LaVine has averaged 25.2 points on 47.4/39.2/83.4 shooting rates for the past four seasons.

2. James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers (unlimited): Van Harden was expected to exercise his $47.3 million player option but chose to decline it to reportedly work on a new deal with the Sixers that would give the team more financial flexibility.

3. Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards (unlimited): Beal declined his $36.4 million player option in a move widely expected to clear the three-time All-Star to re-sign with the Wizards for a maximum deal of five years. But could he finally change his mind and go play somewhere else?

4. Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns (limited): The situation appears to have deteriorated in Phoenix after the Suns decided not to renew Ayton last season’s off-season when they had the chance. Still only 23, Ayton will have suitors, but the Suns can still match any offer.

5. Miles Bridges, Charlotte Hornets (limited): After a career year, Bridges is set for a substantial raise after he and the Hornets were unable to agree on an extension for last season.

6. Jalen Brunson, Dallas Mavericks (Unlimited): Brunson is also poised for a big pay raise after a breakout season, and the Knicks are expected to make a big offer. But see if the Mavs did everything they could to redraw Brunson.

FULL LIST: Best Free Agents Available in 2022 Off Season

Player option decisions affect the free agency landscape

On the eve of NBA free agency, a few superstars turned down the player options on the final years of their contracts to become unrestricted free agents.

However, teams with cash to spare should not hope to sign James Harden or Bradley Beal to a big, smashing contract once the free agency opens. Both seem likely to return to their old teams.

Wednesday was the deadline for Harden, Beal and others to make decisions about their player options ahead of the free agency. Harden declined his $47.3 million option to reportedly team up with the Sixers on a new deal that would give the team more financial flexibility to make improvements to the roster this off-season. Beal declined his $36.4 million player option in a move widely expected to clear the three-time All-Star to re-sign with the Wizards for a maximum deal of five years.

FULL STORY: What Harden and Beal’s decision means for free agency

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NBA tracker for free agencies: latest news, rumours, buzz and signings

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