The three weeks between the trade deadline and March 1 are a busy time for veterans on expiring contracts trying to find new squads. Players on NBA teams must be waived by the end of March 1 in order to remain eligible for the playoffs. A total of 20 players on standard NBA contracts were waived within those three weeks. Of those 20, several of them agreed to reduce their guaranteed salary so they could move to new destinations.
Remaining salary before buyout: $15,006,250
Marvin Williams was waived by the Charlotte Hornets after agreeing to give back $956,349. This is equivalent to his prorated end-of-season salary with the Milwaukee Bucks ($604,278 cap hit for Milwaukee). Players giving up the equivalent amount of salary that they are set to earn with their new team is usually the norm in buyouts. Financially he breaks even at the expense of losing his Bird rights, which didn’t hold much value since he did not get moved ahead of the trade deadline and the Hornets did not plan on re-signing him.
In Milwaukee, Williams is already getting consistent playing time with about 17 minutes per game. Mid-season signings rarely make significant impacts for their new teams but so far Williams is showing a lot of promise to be an exception. Soon to be 34-years-old, proving he can contribute on a contending team will improve his stock in free agency. He was going to be on an NBA franchise next season even if he finished this season in Charlotte, but this opportunity in Milwaukee could add more time to his next deal.
Remaining salary before buyout: $13,000,000
Like Williams, his former teammate Michael Kidd-Gilchrist also gave up what was supposed to be his prorated minimum for signing with Dallas on the same day he cleared waivers. He surrendered $810,763, but he signed with the Mavericks for a $798,479 prorated minimum salary ($595,122 cap hit for Dallas). Overall the Hornets saved $1.77 million by buying out both veterans, but they were never close to the luxury tax this season.
The Hornets extended Kidd-Gilchrist in 2015 to a four-year $52 million deal but it never quite worked out between both parties. His minutes declined each season and this season he only appeared in 12 of 51 games for the Hornets. The lack of playing time made leaving Charlotte early a no-brainer, and even if things don’t work out in Dallas, another team will take a shot on Kidd-Gilchrist next season. Being 6-foot-6 inches and a below-average shooter makes him unplayable in certain situations, even if he were to transition into a being full-time small-ball center. His time in Dallas will be about discovering what his role is in the modern NBA.
Remaining salary before buyout: $18,086,956
Reggie Jackson was waived by the Detroit Pistons after agreeing to give back $800,000. His prorated minimum salary with the Los Angeles Clippers is $734,025 ($512,721 cap hit for the Clippers). Jackson leaves the Pistons after having spent five years with them and his pick-and-roll partner, Andre Drummond. They reached the playoffs twice in Jackson’s five years there, yet they were never more than a fringe postseason team. He had always been productive but has yet to prove if he can be a starting point guard on a good team.
Jackson’s decision to leave the Pistons early holds some risk. He battled several injuries throughout his time in Detroit causing him to miss many games, including 42 straight this season. He needs playing time to build up his free agency stock and he was getting a lot of minutes in Detroit. So far with the Clippers, he has averaged 20 minutes per game, which is great if he keeps them but there is no guarantee he is in their rotation during the playoffs. If Jackson proves he can be a contributor for a contender, like he was in Oklahoma City, that would be more impressive to potential suitors than filling up the stat sheet on a lottery team. If his tenure with the Clippers is successful, they are limited in re-signing him to either a minimum contract or via what will likely be the taxpayer mid-level exception (T-MLE). The T-MLE is currently projected at $6 million, which could be on the lower end of offers he will receive this summer.
Remaining salary before buyout: $3,200,000 (2019-20), $3,600,000 (2020-21, player option)
Markieff Morris sacrificed the most guaranteed salary in a buyout than any other player this season. Morris gave back a total of $4,540,113 to the Pistons. $940,113 came out of his 2019-20 salary and the remaining $3.6 million came from declining his 2020-21 player option. His prorated minimum salary right after clearing waivers would’ve been $694,702, but he signed with the Lakers for $1.75 million for the rest of the season. While it appears he lost $2.8 million in the process, the combination of the $1.75 million for 2019-20 and signing for at least the veteran minimum in 2020-21 (currently projected at $2.45 million for Morris) will recoup enough money to almost break even. Like Jackson, having a shot to prove he can contribute for a contender is more valuable to Morris’ free agency stock than finishing the season with Detroit.
For Detroit, they generated a significant amount of savings between this season and the next. The buyouts of both Jackson and Morris reduced the Pistons payroll by $1.74 million. This, combined with the Drummond trade leaves the Pistons $3.3 million below the luxury tax. Throughout the season the Pistons were just $4,000 below the luxury tax, so now they have the flexibility to take chances on young free agents. Getting off of Drummond and Morris’ player options for next season puts them at a projected $36 million in cap space next summer.
Remaining salary before buyout: $7,000,000 (2019-20), $6,650,000 (2020-21), $7,000,000 ($1.35 million guaranteed, 2021-22)
The waiving of DeMarre Carroll will leave dead money in his name between this season and the 2021-22 season. He only gave back $811,447 of the $15 million guaranteed to him, the total of which will be divided over the next three seasons. Carroll walks away from San Antonio giving up just north of 5 percent of his guaranteed salary and will have a shot with the Rockets to prove he’s worth a long-term deal. As of now, his future as an NBA player isn’t looking particularly great, but fortunately for him, he secured that contract with the Spurs.
The Spurs opted against using the stretch provision on Carroll which would’ve given them a $1.6 million dead cap hit between the 2020-21 and 2024-25 seasons. The amount of dead money the Spurs have is a little alarming, but none of it should significantly affect them over the long-term. Pau Gasol was bought out last season and they still owe him $5.1 million this year because of it.
Remaining salary before buyout: $18,500,000
Allen Crabbe was waived by the Minnesota Timberwolves and reportedly has given back $681,544, according to Dane Moore. Signing him on March 2 will add a $412,008 cap hit to whichever team signs him as long as it’s just for the rest of the season. Since signing his four-year, $74.8 million deal, he has slowly gotten lost with each new team that traded for him. Now he gets to pick his team of choice and should probably join whichever team will give him the most playing time.
The savings for Minnesota are significant as they are currently over the luxury tax after the D’Angelo Russell trade. $681,544 in savings would bring them from $1.13 million over the luxury tax to just $454,725 above it. There are still ways for the Wolves to get below the tax while fulfilling minimum roster requirements.
Remaining salary before buyout: $2,564,753 ($1,620,564 cap hit)
Anthony Tolliver was waived by the Kings after giving back $144,901. According to Jeff Siegel of Early Bird Rights, the Kings receive no savings against their cap sheet. Any savings for the Kings would be insignificant as they’re $16 million below the luxury tax. He was traded to the Kings in January as salary-filler and is not part of the Kings’ long-term plans. Allowing him to become a free agent was mainly a favor on their part.
Remaining salary before buyout: $1,645,357
Jordan McRae was waived by the Denver Nuggets after agreeing to give back $390,424. The bench scorer was recently acquired by the Nuggets after having a breakout season in Washington. He wasn’t getting consistent playing time with the Nuggets so his tenure there ends after appearing in just 4 games for them. According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo, the Phoenix Suns intend to put a waiver claim on him. Whichever team claims him will hold his early Bird rights, which is beneficial to cap space teams. With a minimum $1.7 million cap hold, he doesn’t interfere with cap space and teams can go over the cap to re-sign him after spending their cap space.
Other players that got waived between February 7 and March 1 but did not reduce their guaranteed salary include Chandler Parsons, Nenê, Derrick Walton Jr., Gerald Green, Tim Frazier, Isaiah Thomas, DeMarcus Cousins, Troy Daniels, Dion Waiters, Dragan Bender, Amile Jefferson, Jonah Bolden, Trey Burke and Tyler Johnson. Bender is currently on a 10-day contract with the Warriors while Waiters is set to have a meeting with the Lakers.