Of the 19 veterans who had player options on their contracts for the 2022/23 season, 13 picked up those options, choosing the security of the guaranteed money over the uncertainty of the open market. That leaves six players who turned down their options and became unrestricted free agents.
Here’s a breakdown of how those players fared in free agency:
- Option: $3,328,530 (Clippers)
- Free agent contract: Two years, $22,554,168 (Clippers).
- Option: $4,564,980 (Bucks)
- Free agent contract: Four years, $48,578,208 (Bucks). Player option. Trade kicker (15%)
Batum and Portis had been in virtually the exact same boat for the last couple years. After successful initial stints with the Clippers and Bucks, respectively, during the 2020/21 season, they re-signed in 2021 on team-friendly deals for the maximum allowable salaries they could receive using Non-Bird rights.
Having accrued Early Bird rights by this summer, both players turned down their ’22/23 options in order to sign more lucrative multiyear contracts. Portis – who is six years younger than Batum – got two extra years on his deal, but both players received starting salaries of $10,843,350, the maximum allowed this year using the Early Bird exception.
- Option: $6,184,500 (Nets)
- Free agent contract: Two years, $13,281,950 (Nets). Includes unlikely incentives ($1,207,452).
Mills was one of the few players this offseason whose option decision wasn’t a no-brainer. He had a solid first year in Brooklyn, but entering his age-34 season, it was unclear how eager teams would be to give him multiple years.
As it turns out, the Nets were on board with giving him one extra year, with a modest raise. After signing a year ago for the team’s full taxpayer mid-level exception, Mills re-signed for a base salary of $6,479,000, the exact amount of this season’s taxpayer MLE. Because Brooklyn had his Non-Bird rights, the club was able to tack on some unlikely incentives to Mills’ new contract.
- Option: $7,350,000 (Heat)
- Free agent contract: Three years, $33,043,500 (Sixers). Player option.
Tucker’s two-way contributions during the Heat’s playoff run made him a popular target in free agency this offseason, even at age 37. The three-year offer the Sixers gave him was worth the full mid-level exception and was the most that any team could put on the table for Tucker without using cap room or acquiring him via sign-and-trade (the Over-38 rule prevented Philadelphia or another team from offering four years). It’s a huge win for a player who will have celebrated his 40th birthday by the time the contract expires (unless he opts out again in 2024).
- Option: $36,422,136 (Wizards)
- Free agent contract: Five years, $251,019,650 (Wizards). Player option. Trade kicker (15%). No-trade clause.
No player who declined an option this June made out better than Beal. In fact, Beal’s deal was easily the most lucrative of any free agent contract signed this offseason.
Not only did Beal get a five-year, maximum-salary contract that starts at 35% of the 2022/23 cap, but he also got plenty of perks, including a fifth-year player option, a trade kicker, and a full no-trade clause. He was the first NBA player in several years to receive a formal no-trade clause.
- Option: $47,366,760 (Sixers)
- Free agent contract: Two years, $68,640,000 (Sixers). Player option. Trade kicker (15%).
Of the six players who turned down options for 2022/23, only Harden took a pay cut for the coming season. But that was a deliberate choice by the former MVP, who opted to accept a more team-friendly cap number in order to allow the 76ers to use their full mid-level exception and bi-annual exception while remaining under the hard cap.
Harden will still earn a salary worth $33MM in ’22/23, and will be in position to opt out and sign a more lucrative deal next summer if he enjoys a bounce-back year.