Kyrie Irving, Jalen Brunson and Deandre Ayton question marks headline free agency as it prepares to begin

Kyrie Irving, Jalen Brunson and Deandre Ayton question marks headline free agency as it prepares to begin

(CNN)At 6 p.m. ET on June 30, there will be fireworks.

Because at precisely that time, NBA teams are officially permitted to begin negotiations with free agents. Some players’ phones will be ringing off the hook at 6:01 p.m., while others will be forced to wait.

    And following the NBA Draft last week, the beginning of free agency signals the start of a new league year and delivers to fans of all 30 teams the most valuable emotion of all: hope.

      A split of Deandre Ayton, Jalen Brunson and Kyrie Irving. Will he, won’t he? Read MoreThe Kyrie Irving saga has everybody’s head spinning. The future of Irving, one of the league’s best when he’s in form, with the Brooklyn Nets has been uncertain over recent weeks.

        He only played in 29 regular-season games last season, primarily because of his stance against getting the Covid-19 vaccine which made him ineligible for Brooklyn’s home games until New York City’s mandate changed in March. Following a disappointing playoff exit against the Boston Celtics in April, speculation over whether the 30-year-old would remain with the team began to circulate. Although Irving said he’d like to remain with the Nets, playing alongside good friend Kevin Durant, general manager Sean Marks stressed that Irving’s availability would have to play into discussions surrounding his future. But despite saying he’d like to stay, in the weeks following the playoff loss, rumors have simmered over a possible exit from Brooklyn. On Monday, days before the Wednesday deadline to pick up his $37 million player option to stay with the Nets, multiple reports said that Irving received had permission from Brooklyn brass to seek a sign-and-trade deal. Kyrie Irving, Jalen Brunson and Deandre Ayton question marks headline free agency as it prepares to begin Irving drives to the basket against the Celtics during the 2022 NBA Playoffs.Although he was reported to have created a list of teams who he would have considered moving to, the Los Angeles Lakers were reportedly the only team interested and a reunion with LeBron James was too complicated to organize. And so, later on Monday, Irving told The Athletic that he was opting into his player option, saying: “Normal people keep the world going, but those who dare to be different lead us into tomorrow. I’ve made my decision to opt in. See you in the fall. A11even.”It doesn’t rule out the possibility that he could be playing on a different team next season, as the Nets could still trade him, but the likelihood is that possibly for one final year, Durant and Irving will lace up together as teammates in the black and white of Brooklyn. CapitalizingJalen Brunson had a breakout season — and playoffs especially — in 2021-22. The Dallas Mavericks guard averaged 16.3 points in the regular season, before exploding for 21.6 points in the playoffs, helping his team to a famous series victory against the No. 1-ranked Phoenix Suns. But with his contract running out at the end of the season, the 25-year-old became an unrestricted free agent, able to negotiate with any team he wants. With superstar Luka Doncic already tied up to a huge contract, the Mavericks’ capabilities to offer Brunson huge money are limited. And, according to The Athletic, it is likely that the point guard will sign with the New York Knicks when free agency begins on Thursday.In a move which was reportedly made to create space for Brunson’s contract, the Knicks traded center Nerlens Noel and guard Alec Burks to the Detroit Pistons, clearing $19 million in salary on Tuesday.The Knicks, who are always connected to the biggest free agents around, already have close ties to Brunson. His father, Rick, is on the coaching staff of the team, so Madison Square Garden could be the perfect spot for the young star to ascend.Kyrie Irving, Jalen Brunson and Deandre Ayton question marks headline free agency as it prepares to begin Brunson drives to the basket against the Golden State Warriors in Game 5 of the 2022 Western Conference Finals.Other big namesThere are many other free agent questions to be answered around the league.While Zach LaVine, Bradley Beal and James Harden all could technically search for new teams when free agency opens — between a combination of new deals and player options — it is likely that they will remain with the Chicago Bulls, the Washington Wizards and the Philadelphia 76ers respectively. Charlotte Hornets forward Miles Bridges is a restricted free agent and, after an excellent breakout season, could be set for a big new contract. There was speculation the Hornets were unwilling to stump up big money to pay Bridges, but general manager Mitch Kupchak put that to bed on Tuesday. “As an organization, we love Miles,” Kupchak said. “We’re going to bring him back. He’s been great for the franchise, and I believe with his work ethic he’s only going to get better.”Deandre Ayton is the biggest name player who has the highest probability of moving teams this free agency. The 2018 No. 1 overall draft pick by the Suns has become an integral part of the organization’s recent success, but a tough end to their playoff run in 2022 led to questions as to whether Phoenix are willing to offer the big numbers necessary to keep the 23-year-old center around.

          According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Suns “do not value Deandre Ayton at a max contract.” Since a max contract is what his Ayton’s agent thinks the young Bahamian deserves, it looks like he could be on the move with the Detroit Pistons a possible landing spot. It proves to be an intriguing few days, with teams beginning to shape their future and with players possibly finding new homes.