NBA free agency 2022: What a change of scenery could mean for Jalen Brunson and Deandre Ayton

Free-agent guard Jalen Brunson recorded career highs in points, rebounds, assists and steals during the 2021-22 season. Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

What typically happens when NBA free agency turns a role player into a go-to guy for a new team?

One of the challenges as front offices around the league prepare for the opening of free agency (Thursday, 6 p.m. ET) is determining how a player might respond to an expanded role. That's particularly urgent this year for teams evaluating Dallas Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson, who has thrived playing off All-NBA teammate Luka Doncic but will likely be asked to carry a heavier offensive load if he signs elsewhere as an unrestricted free agent.

Although Brunson is the most prominent example of a player who could move into a larger role, he isn't the only one. If Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton changes teams, either via a sign-and-trade deal or the Suns deciding not to match a max offer sheet to him, the restricted free agent also could increase his offensive responsibility alongside lesser offensive talents than Suns guards Devin Booker and Chris Paul.

To better understand how to project Ayton and Brunson, let's take a look back at the recent history of similar free agents and how they've performed with their new teams.

What the past decade of free agency reveals

To find a comparison group, I looked back at the past 10 years of free agents who met the following criteria:

  • Changed teams in free agency

  • Age 28 or younger (Brunson is 25; Ayton is 23) and played at least 1,500 minutes the season before free agency

  • Increased usage rate with new team by at least 4.5%

This scenario isn't necessarily common. Just these six players over that span qualified.