Now that the trade deadline has passed, buyout season is here and ready to bring about huge changes to the playoff picture.
The trade deadline is one of the most exciting times of the year for NBA fans across the country. With Blake Griffin moved last week and the ridiculous sequence of Cleveland turning over half their roster, we had an incredible amount of excitement crammed into just a few days.
While buyout season isn’t nearly as glamorous as the deadline, given the lack of action for contenders outside of Cleveland, it could have just as much impact on this year’s playoffs.
In the NBA, a buyout is when a player and team agree to terminate the contract of the player at a reduced price. If that player clears waivers, they enter free agency and can be signed by another team. This most often occurs when an expensive veteran is unhappy with their current situation on a losing team and wants to find their way to a situation where they can hopefully contribute in the playoffs.
This season we’ve already seen a couple buyouts find their way to contenders in Dwyane Wade getting bought out by Chicago and Greg Monroe by Phoenix. Monroe is a significant pickup by Boston and should play a big role in the playoffs. Wade was a big pickup for Cleveland but was one member of the parade of players Cleveland parted ways with on Thursday.
The list below are players whose situation indicates that both they and their team could be interested in a buyout. While not all of these players will get bought out, they are the most likely candidates given their current situation and ones who could really make an impact in the playoffs.
Point guard is by far the weakest position in the buyout market. Without a lot of expiring veterans on bad teams, there is really only one name likely to be available.
Derrick Rose was another one of the names included on Cleveland’s departures list and was sent to Utah along with Jae Crowder in exchange for Rodney Hood. While Crowder has a role in Utah’s push for the playoffs, Rose does not and the Jazz will waive him in the next few days.
Rose’s stint in Cleveland wasn’t as publicly disastrous as Isaiah Thomas’s, but he struggled to be even an average player. While fans may see the former MVP as an opportunity to buy low on an asset, Rose is barely a viable backup at this point in his career. Minnesota has reportedly reached out to Rose in the hopes of reuniting him with his former coach Tom Thibodeau, but Milwaukee could have some interest as a short-term injury replacement for Matthew Dellavedova and Malcolm Brogdon.
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The good news for teams in the market for wing depth is that there should be plenty of buyout options.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is the most obvious buyout candidate among wings, as the Lakers would love to get out from under his $17.4 million salary. KCP is certainly one of the most talented players who could hit the buyout market, and now that he’s allowed to leave the state a separation makes sense for both sides.
Should Caldwell-Pope find his way onto a playoff team and play well, he could earn a much larger, long-term deal than he would get right now. While several teams would go after him, Cleveland is the most logical fit given their need for additional wing defending and the Klutch Sports connection.
The Atlanta Hawks were clear sellers at the deadline and tried to flip Marco Belinelli for an asset, but were unable to do so. A buyout is the next logical step as the 31-year-old Italian doesn’t fit Atlanta’s rebuilding timeline and several prominent teams could really use his perimeter shooting. San Antonio and Golden State both need bench help and Belinelli is a sensible fit, considering he’s played for both franchises before.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Tony Allen could be available for teams looking for a lockdown perimeter defender. Allen was traded from New Orleans to Chicago as part of the Nikola Mirotic deal, but the Bulls likely don’t see him in their future plans.
It is unlikely the Bulls will keep Tony Allen, league sources tell ESPN. He will likely be waived and become a free agent.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 1, 2018
If Allen passes through waivers, Oklahoma City will likely give him a call in an attempt to patch the Andre Roberson-sized hole in their defense.
Now that Joe Johnson has been traded from Utah to Sacramento, he joins Vince Carter as Kings who could enter the buyout market. There are several reports that Johnson will be bought out over the next few days, with several contenders like Golden State, Boston, and Oklahoma City interested in acquiring him. Carter may face a similar fate as his minutes and role have steadily declined over the course of the season.
The final wing buyout candidate is Tyreke Evans. The Grizzlies tried to move Evans before the deadline, but their asking price of a first-round pick was too rich and they failed to reach a deal.
Adrian Wojnarowski has reported that Memphis is now possibly looking to hold onto the eight-year vet in the hopes of re-signing him this summer, but there’s a chance they still reach a buyout if he lets them know he isn’t likely to return. Should Evans become available, teams like Boston, Denver, and Miami would all have interest in acquiring him as a huge contributor off the bench.
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Forwards and Centers
Much like Belinelli, the Hawks tried and failed to trade Ersan Ilyasova before the deadline and are now likely looking at a buyout. Playoffs teams could always use more shooting, and finding a guy that’s 6’10” and can make 37+ percent of his threes is hard to do mid-season. Oklahoma City and Golden State could both use him as a backup big, as well as San Antonio because it just kinda makes sense that he’d become a Spur.
Brook Lopez is yet another very expensive player on an expiring deal that the Lakers are unsure whether they will bring back next season. With the new addition of Isaiah Thomas, the Lakers have over $100 million committed to players this season. While Lopez has said he isn’t looking for a buyout right now, there’s a decent chance that the Lakers push for one over the coming weeks.
Lopez is still a quality center and putting up over 20 points and six rebounds per 36 minutes. His ability to step out and hit open threes makes him a versatile asset for teams in the playoffs. If a buyout is reached, New Orleans would have a significant interest in Lopez as a short-term replacement for DeMarcus Cousins.
According to former Cavs GM David Griffin, Lakers C Brook Lopez is someone to ‘keep an eye’ on in regards to a buyout. (via @SiriusXMNBA)— MyNBAUpdate (@MyNBAUpdate) February 3, 2018
The final buyout candidate is also the most compelling. Nerlens Noel has plummeted from a blue-chip prospect to a guy getting DNPs on one of the league’s worst teams in just a couple of seasons. With a thumb injury and how deep Noel is in Rick Carlisle’s doghouse, it would behoove both sides to reach an agreement.
Noel’s talent for this season makes him useful, but his value down the road makes him extremely compelling. Noel is looking for a big payday this summer, but should he find the right spot this season he may choose to re-sign. Cleveland is a team that would covet Noel’s athleticism and rim protection, and their ability to offer him significant playing time now and in the playoffs seem to make them an ideal landing spot for Noel.
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