After what was supposed to be a quiet trade deadline was single-handedly shaken up by the Cleveland Cavaliers, the eyes of the basketball world now turn towards the buyout market.
Because, contrary to expectation, various players on teams lacking postseason aspirations ended up not being dealt, many believe the next few weeks will unfold even more explosively than the average buyout period.
According to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, a player must be bought out by March 1st in order to be eligible for the playoffs. It’s an annual tradition, and every season, one or two legitimate difference-makers join contenders through this very means.
This year, however, it’s not unreasonable to think we could see at least three times that many make a move and join some of the elite teams around the Association.
It helps that the trade deadline was a bit of dud (unless you’re the Cavs), because fewer teams than ever were willing to shell out first-round picks. It doesn’t hurt that the Golden State Warriors appear to be as vulnerable as they have been in recent memory.
No matter the reason, the player movement over the next few weeks is going to be fascinating to observe.
We present some of the top potential buyout candidates.
There was significant interest in Marco Belinelli around the league, to the point Atlanta shut him down days before the trade deadline in hopes they could get a deal done.
Somehow, one never came. And now, like his teammate Ilyasova, Belinelli will likely hit the buyout market, and he should draw similar interest.
A career 37.7 percent three-point shooter with championship experience, the Italian swingman would be a wonderful bench piece on a playoff team.
Upon being traded from the New Orleans Pelicans to the Chicago Bulls, reports immediately came out that Tony Allen would be waived by his new team. Not that surprising, considering the Bulls are in full rebuild and Allen is a 36-year-old better-suited for a small role on a contender.
One team that could be interested in acquiring his services are the Oklahoma City Thunder, who have the need for a defensive wing after Andre Roberson’s season-ending injury.
How much Allen has left in his legs is up for debate, as he was only playing 12.4 minutes nightly for the Pelicans before being dealt. Perhaps a change of scenery helps him find one last bit of juice to make a difference on a good team this postseason.
Per multiple reports, Joe Johnson will likely be bought out now following his trade to the Kings.
The veteran scorer has seen his role diminished under head coach Quin Snyder, and with good reason: He’s simply no longer the player he used to be. Johnson is averaging a career-low 7.3 points per contest this season, while playing his fewest nightly minutes at 21.9.
Perhaps in a different role on a contender, the seven-time All-Star could regain his form from last season, when he was the Utah Jazz’s closer and a 41.1 percent three-point shooter.
The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor says to keep an eye out on the Thunder as a Johnson suitor.
After a long-winded free-agency saga, Shabazz Muhammad decided to re-sign with the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sept. 12.
It wound up being the wrong decision, as the fifth-year wing is playing the fewest minutes of his career outside of his rookie season, and has seen his role become nonexistent under head coach Tom Thibodeau.
It’s unclear what the market would be for the UCLA product. He’s a career 31.7 percent three-point shooter, a black hole when he touches the ball and is already 25 years old.
Maybe a playoff team who struck out at the trade deadline and with other buyout candidates but badly needs wing depth could make a run at him. They just need to hope he can find some of the scoring chops he displayed in 2016-17.
The ageless Vince Carter is somehow still producing at 41 years old.
Most of Carter’s raw metrics aren’t all that impressive, but the fact he’s still hitting 36.7 percent of his shots from beyond the arc proves that he can make a positive impact off the bench on a good team were he placed in that position.
Considering the Kings are headed nowhere, seeing Carter bought out wouldn’t be remotely surprising.
Whether a contender swoops him up remains to be seen, but chances are, someone will give the future Hall-of-Famer a shot at an end-of-bench role.
According to Sportsnet’s Michael Grange, keep an eye out for a potential Carter reunion with the Toronto Raptors.
Following Derrick Rose’s inclusion in the three-team trade that landed him in Utah, reports nearly immediately came out that the Jazz planned to waive the former league MVP.
Although he’s had a bit of a strange season (to say the least), Rose can still score at relatively effective clips, primarily out of the pick-and-roll, where he places in the 73rd percentile, per Synergy Sports.
The likeliest suitor for Rose once he hits the open market are the Timberwolves, where he can reunite with his former coach, Thibodeau.
Somewhat surprisingly, no trade came for Ersan Ilyasova.
Scratch that, it wasn’t all that surprising considering the 30-year-old power forward owns a no-trade clause in his contract, meaning he was able to reject any deal that wasn’t to his liking.
Now, provided the inevitable happens and the Atlanta Hawks do buy him out, Ilyasova gets what he wants: the ability to choose his next team.
And he won’t have a shortage of suitors.
In the half court, according to Synergy Sports, Ilyasova ranks in the 79th percentile league-wide, scoring an impressive 1.02 points per possessions (PPP). He’s a veteran who knows his role and can knock down triples from the 4-spot.
Coming off the bench, the Turkish big man can play an important role for a contender. It’ll be interesting to see where he ends up.
Corey Brewer isn’t close to the player he once was. This season, the Los Angeles Lakers wing is putting up a meager 3.5 points per game while seeing the 12.6 nightly minutes.
For a player so dependent on agility and lift in his prime, the fact Brewer has lost a step has all but killed his ability to produce nightly.
Could a contender lacking wing depth be interested in his services anyway?
Sure. But only as an end-of-bench option.
An elder statesman on the rebuilding Sacramento Kings who could see himself get bought out is Zach Randolph.
The 17-year vet is averaging 14.5 points and 7.0 rebounds per contest thus far this season, while attempting a career-high 2.3 triples nightly.
Randolph was never much of a defender, and that hasn’t changed at his advanced age. But even today, at 36 years old, he still places in the 82nd percentile as an isolation scorer and the 83rd percentile on put-backs, according to Synergy Sports.
The two-time All-Star could give a contender extra firepower off the bench, provided he finds the right fit.
Yet another Sacramento player who could potentially be headed for a buyout, Kosta Koufos’ contract will likely compel this player-and-team marriage to stick together. At least for another year.
Koufos has a player option on his deal for next season, one worth $8.7 million. Because his play doesn’t exactly scream max extension, the Ohio State product will almost certainly opt in and remain with the Kings in 2018-19.
This time next year, a buyout could be more easily stomached by Sacramento. This season, however, a split would probably be too pricey.
But never say never. And Koufos, with his rebounding, soft touch around the basket and veteran presence, would be a solid third-string big on an elite team.
This situation is a bit hairy.
With a preposterous two years and $37.8 million left on his contract after this season, negotiating a buyout on a deal of that magnitude will be no easy feat. But the New York Knicks have motivation to do so, seeing as how Joakim Noah has seemingly become a problem in the team’s young locker room.
Though Noah isn’t the player he once was, he can still provide a contender with 12-15 minutes per night thanks to his defense, rebounding and passing.
ESPN’s Ian Begley says to keep an eye out on Oklahoma City and Minnesota as potential Noah suitors if he gets bought out.
At one point in his career, Arron Afflalo was one of the top two-way shooting guards in the league. His point-stopping prowess and three-point stroke made him an excellent complementary piece throughout his heyday.
Now, the Orlando Magic 2-guard is playing career-low minutes while averaging just three points nightly. Like his teammate Speights, the UCLA product is on a minimum one-year, $2.3 million contract.
If he requests a buyout from the Magic, one will be easy to come by.
As far as potential suitors go, the Thunder, who are lacking a defensive-minded wing since Roberson went down, could take a look at him, provided they don’t sign Allen instead.
Since joining the Phoenix Suns, the annual tradition around the trade deadline became waiting to see if Tyson Chandler finally got dealt to a contender. With his pristine rebounding marks and hellacious rim dives, the seven-footer would make a welcome addition on any contending team, whether as a starter or reserve.
Nevertheless, yet again, this season, Chandler wasn’t moved. But this season may be different.
Then again, Chandler has publicly voiced satisfaction with his role – that of mentor – with Phoenix. Plus, he won a title with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011, so he probably doesn’t feel the need to ring-chase at this point in his career.
If he were to come available, Chandler would likely have a bevy of suitors to choose from. He may not be the monster he was in his prime, but he’s still got enough left in the tank to make a difference.
The situation between Luol Deng and the Lakers has been ugly basically from the start.
During the crazed summer of 2016, when the salary cap spiked and teams spent like a bunch of college grads after their receiving their first paychecks, Los Angeles was particularly quick in giving Deng – a veteran wing who didn’t really fit either their style of play or timeline to contention – a four-year, $72 million deal.
Almost immediately, buyer’s remorse set in. And both parties have been stuck ever since.
Even after this season, Deng is owed another two years and $36.8 million on his deal. Buying him out seems like a long shot, at least for the foreseeable future.
But if the unfathomable does happen and Deng hits the buyout market, the Duke product could muster up some interest among teams with the foresight to play him at small-ball power forward. Over his last 28 games as a member of the Miami Heat in 2015-16, when Deng played strictly stretch-4, he put up 15.2 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.2 steals per contest.
In the right role, the two-time All-Star can still be productive.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear Deng and the Lakers will find resolution anytime soon.
Despite his less-than-gaudy career averages, Brandan Wright has typically had a positive impact on every team he’s been on throughout his career.
And that’s no different this season, when his on/off differential is an impressive +9.5.
Wright is an athletic big man who can finish lobs and protect the paint. Because he’s a vet and a consummate professional, the former North Carolina Tarheel will likely have multiple interested suitors if he does get bought out.
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst mentioned Cleveland as potentially being interested in the seven-footer, provided the Memphis Grizzlies come to terms with releasing him.
There hasn’t been much buzz regarding a Marreese Speights buyout from the Magic, but one wouldn’t be totally surprising.
The Florida native is only signed to a one-year, $2.1 million deal, so if he expresses to management that he’d like to suit up for a contender, they could easily work something out.
Speights is hitting 37 percent of his three-point looks over the past three seasons. That, coupled with his championship experience with the Warriors from 2014-15, could make him a coveted piece on the buyout market.
Since his breakout campaign as a member of the Charlotte Hornets in 2013-14, Josh McRoberts has struggled to stay on the floor. Various ailments have forced him to play in just 83 games over the past four seasons, and just two this season with the Dallas Mavericks.
With Charlotte, McRoberts became a sort of do-everything big man with a funky game; standing at 6-foot-10 with a left-sided-leaning gait, the Duke product was a dime-dishing, three-point-hitting power forward.
This season, his contract is finally expiring, and is worth merely $6 million. The Mavericks have no reason to buy him out, as they won’t be needing to open up a roster spot anytime soon.
But if for whatever reason they do, it’s possible McRoberts could see some interest on the buyout market. The attention he’d receive, however, would surely be hampered by his lack of health over the past four seasons.
There are various reasons to think the Lakers keep Channing Frye for the rest of the season.
He’s a vet with championship experience who will work wonders in the youthful Los Angeles locker room. Additionally, he and head coach Luke Walton have a relationship dating back to their college days at Arizona. Oh, and Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka used to be Frye’s agent before taking on his new career path.
Nevertheless, the floor-spacing almost-seven-footer still has plenty left in the tank. If he were to request a buyout, Pelinka and Co. would surely work one out with him without a problem.
On the open market, Frye, thanks to his three-point stroke and professionalism, would draw interest from every single contender looking for bench help.
Long-shots to get bought out
Though a buyout would be somewhat surprising, Brook Lopez has publicly stated it wouldn’t totally shock him to see one take place. The Lakers are young, well out of playoff positioning in the stacked Western Conference and don’t have much of a chance to make a late run at the eighth seed.
So to save some cash and allow the seven-footer to find a better opportunity to win, Los Angeles could negotiate a buyout on the final year Lopez’s deal, which is worth $22.6 million. Obviously, for that to happen, the almost-30-year-old will need to negotiate a price more reasonable for both parties.
If they can come to some sort of agreement, Lopez will probably be the most-coveted player on the buyout market.
Apart from Karl-Anthony Towns, Kevin Durant and Marc Gasol, the Lakers big man is the only active player averaging at least 1.4 blocks and 1.3 triples per contest in 2017-18.
His ability to space the floor and protect the rim is quite unique, and if he becomes available, it’s very likely teams like the Warriors and Cavaliers will come knocking.
His buyout likely won’t come cheap, however, so it’ll be interesting to monitor what Los Angeles decides to do with its starting center.
Kenneth Faried and the Denver Nuggets have had a tumultuous relationship of late – one predicated on a lack of trust between player and organization.
The former Team USA big man big man has seen his playing time and role with Denver dwindle over recent years. This season, he’s playing just 14.4 minutes nightly.
That’s why, despite the fact he has another year (and $13.8 million) on his deal, it’s not entirely impossible Faried agrees to a reasonable buyout price just to find a new opportunity.
Faried can throw down lobs with the best of them and attacks the offensive glass with tenacious ferocity. In the right role, he can still help potential contenders, and would likely attract multiple suitors if he hits the open market.
Another member of the Grizzlies who somewhat shockingly wasn’t dealt at the deadline is Tyreke Evans. Memphis’ front office made the decision to shut him down on Jan. 31 as trade talks for the swingman advanced, as they didn’t want to risk an injury ruining a potential deal.
And then, much to everyone’s confusion, the deadline came and went without a move for Evans coming to fruition.
Seemingly nary an offer came that enticed general manager Chris Wallace enough to move the resurgent Evans, who’s averaging 19.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists per night, and who was arguably the most attractive player on the trading block at the deadline.
Perhaps Wallace convinced himself any offer without a first-round pick attached to it would be worth a player of Evans’ caliber. Maybe the market for the Memphis wing wasn’t quite as active as many expected.
Regardless, it appears shortsighted for the Grizzlies to have kept Evans, as they don’t own his Bird (or early Bird) Rights this offseason, meaning they can’t save any cap space in re-signing him.
Although a buyout looks unlikely for Evans at this point, he’s on an extremely cheap deal, he’s too good of a player to be on a team trying to rebuild (i.e., tank) and if he asked for one, he’d probably get it.
If the improbable happens and Evans does become a free agent before March 1st, the market for him would be at least 10 teams deep, led by each of the league’s top contenders.
Last but not least, we present the least likely buyout candidate: the recently traded Isaiah Thomas.
Between coming back from injury and being placed in a high-pressure situation, Thomas simply wasn’t able to find his form as a member of the Cavs.
Now, as a Laker, the diminutive-yet-explosive will have a chance to rebuild his stock heading into unrestricted free agency. But wouldn’t he be better-served doing so on a different team?
Thomas’ agent, Aaron Goodwin, has already publicly stated his client will not come off the bench. Lonzo Ball is injured, so that shouldn’t be a problem for now. But once he comes back, should the 29-year-old Thomas start over either the rookie phenom or his young backcourt partner, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope?
Considering what the Lakers’ short- and long-term goals are, probably not.
What’s more, Thomas is only owed $6.3 million for this season; as far as a buyout is concerned, money wouldn’t be an issue.
He may be better off hitting the open market, picking his next destination (preferably one that will allow him to have a bigger role), and proving to his potential free-agent suitors this summer that he can still make a difference at the highest level of competition by doing damage once the postseason rolls around.
A Thomas buyout won’t happen anytime soon.
But as the March 1st deadline approaches, if the two-time All-Star begins to find his old swagger with Los Angeles, don’t be surprised if rival teams put just a bit of pressure on Goodwin to convince his client to agree to a buyout, and then join a contender.
If he shows even a semblance of the explosiveness he had in his final season with the Boston Celtics over the next couple of weeks, Thomas wouldn’t have a shortage of teams angling to acquire his services.
You can find Frank Urbina on Twitter @frankurbina_.
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