NBA Buyout Market: Who’s Signed, Who Matters, And How Can We Profit

Breaking Down The NBA Buyout Market

The buyout market is more interesting now more than ever. First off, the divide between tanking teams and non-tanking teams has never been starker, and tanking teams are no longer shy about their “commitment to young player development.” They actively don’t want good vets around, and are more willing to cut loose anxious vets who want playing time and to compete.

Second, players have been empowered to an unprecedented extent, and many no longer feel obligated to honor the terms of their contract. Anthony Davis, you signed a fucking contract, man. Players across the league see their colleagues requesting buyouts and trades and, after a short look in the mirror, determine they’re also good enough to demand things of their franchise. Don’t sleep on the fact that Thon Maker and Marquese Chriss demanded trades and both got what they wanted.

While it’s probably more complicated than I’m making it seem, here’s a preliminary look at who will, might, or already has become available, and where they might go. For each player, I’ll generally assess how much you ought to take notice of where they go from a handicapping perspective.

Quick Note
In order to sign a player, a team must have an open roster spot. That’s why a lot of trade deadline deals might seem confusing or pointless; the point was to open a roster spot to sign a player to be named later. So, for instance, the Celtics traded Jabari Bird to the Hawks for cash and whoever they will sign with an open roster spot. The Hawks waived Bird.

Already Signed

Wes Matthews

Provides: Shooting, some secondary playmaking, wing depth.

Waived by: New York, after being traded there by Dallas.

Signed by: Matthews has already signed with the Pacers for their playoff run. The move was a bit surprising given that Indiana likely has no shot at a title run. However, Matthews was reported to prioritize playing time in his decision; Indiana provides him with a chance to start and play a ton of minutes at the 2 (his preferred position) with Oladipo out for the year.

Does he factor into a handicap? Matthews doesn’t move the needle because of his lack of explosiveness on either end, but he does help solidify Indiana’s rotation and will help keep them afloat the rest of the way. He played 30 minutes in his first game with the Pacers, and will continue to log major minutes the rest of the way. I’m not saying he makes them better, per se, but he does provide a very legitimate stopgap in the place of Oladipo and helps legitimize them as a mid- to lower-tier playoff team in the East.

Wayne Ellington

Provides: SHOOTING.

Waived by: Phoenix, after being traded there by Miami.

Signed by: Ellington has already signed with the Pistons for the remainder of the season. While the Pistons are struggling to make the playoffs with or without Ellington, he definitely was a strong pickup for them, especially considering they recently traded away wing depth in Reggie Bullock and Stanley Johnson. Ellington will play a major role for Detroit down the stretch and will need to live up to his name as one of the best shooters in the league. He better, as they reportedly paid him a full $2.4 million to come to the D.

Does he factor into a handicap? Yes, I think he does make Detroit a better team going forward. He offers super-reliable shooting and, simply by being on the floor, provides more space for their archaic two-big lineup to operate in the middle of the floor. I like this pickup for Detroit and think they have what it to takes to go on a little run and sneak into the back of the playoffs.

Jeremy Lin

Provides: Great backcourt piece who can play big-time minutes on a contender.

Waived by: Atlanta.

Signed by: Lin has already signed with the Toronto Raptors. What an awesome, awesome pickup for the Raptors, as Lin provides another depth piece and gives them even more lineup flexibility. He will play a lot, and contribute. Fred Van Vleet’s latest injury also makes the Lin pickup even more valuable in the short-term as the team looks to stay in the hunt for the #1 seed in the East.

Does he factor into a handicap? I’d say yes. Lin is an undoubtedly good NBA player. Not great, but good. He’ll help Toronto and gives them a veteran backcourt piece to pair with Gasol and a bunch of high-energy guys on their second unit. Don’t be surprised to see Lin on the floor during crunch-time every now and then.

NBA Trade Deadline: Short-Term Upgrades

Available but Unsigned

Carmelo Anthony

Provides: Scoring and excitement.

Waived by: Chicago, after being traded from his exile in Houston.

Potential Suitors: Melo has long been rumored to be joining Lebron James in LA. I’d be shocked if he didn’t go there or to join other banana boat member D-Wade in Miami. Not too shabby of a choice — South Beach or Hollywood, Melo?

Does he factor into a handicap? I always have been and always will be a huge Melo guy. He gave me some unbelievable memories in the Garden. I still think he can contribute and playing with Lebron James, perhaps one of a handful of guys in this league that Melo might actually admit is better than him, would be a great thing for his career. I think Melo can definitely contribute for the Lakers and even be dangerous at times. I could see him winning a couple of games for them with hot shooting.

Enes Kanter

Provides: Bench big-man scoring, interior presence.

Waived by: New York.

Potential Suitors: Teams looking for a backup big.

Does he factor into a handicap? No. This man’s ceiling his empty stats on a bad team and he has no floor because he doesn’t make winning plays. He cost himself greatly by being a publicly bad teammate in New York.

Markieff Morris

Provides: Shooting, defense.

Waived by: New Orleans, after being traded there by Washington.

Potential Suitors: Teams looking for wing depth.

Does he factor into a handicap? In the right situation, I think Kief could really help a team looking for a lift on the wing. He is big, physical, and can still shoot it. His most important quality, though, is his legit size that makes him a viable candidate to guard the Lebrons, KDs, and Kawhis of the world.

Zach Randolph

Provides: Veteran leadership (maybe), ability to mentor a young big, ring-chaser.

Waived by: Dallas, after being traded there by Sacramento.

Potential Suitors: Teams looking for a veteran presence and a small amount of backup big minutes.

Does he factor into a handicap? No.

Marcin Gortat

Provides: Backup big minutes, physicality, toughness minutes.

Waived by: The Clippers.

Potential Suitors: Anybody who strikes out on Lopez.

Does he factor into a handicap? No.

Greg Monroe

Provides: Bench scoring pop.

Waived by: Brooklyn, after being traded there by Toronto.

Potential Suitors: Teams who want a scoring big and choose him over Kanter.

Does he factor into a handicap? No.

Milos Teodosic

Provides: Creativity, ball-movement, offensive energy, unpredictability.

Waived by: The Clippers.

Potential Suitors: Teams looking for guard depth.

Does he factor into a handicap? I think Milos on the Warriors would be awesome and he’d be a great backup point guard for them. It’s extremely difficult to factor into the point spread when you’re playing alongside multiple all-stars, but he could stabilize the point guard position behind Steph Curry and alleviate the playmaking responsibilities of the rest of their roster. He would make them better.

The “Please Buy Me Out Already” Guys

Robin Lopez

Provides: Toughness minutes, screening, rebounding, defense

Current Team: Lopez is currently (and rather unsuccessfully) attempting to negotiate a buyout with the Chicago Bulls. Chicago attempted to trade Lopez but was unsuccessful. The Bulls front office feels that Lopez’ publicly chattering about his desire to be bought out and play for the Warriors damaged his trade value at deadline-time.

Potential Suitors: This has looked to be Warriors all the way and, even despite the resurgence of Boogie, Golden State is still the most likely landing spot here. Boston, Philly, or Utah could all be interesting fits.

Does he factor into a handicap?: No, but he will help someone. I doubt he plays much anywhere he goes. The Golden State pipe dream was really about him being a contingency plan for Boogie. Boogie looks great, though, and so less insurance is needed. I think they would still be amenable to bringing him into their locker room and for occasional minutes, similar to the Varejao role at the beginning of the Warriors title run. That would be an awesome fit.

Frank Kaminsky

Provides: Change-of-pace stretchy big.

Current Team: Kaminsky does not want to be in Charlotte, where he isn’t playing at all. But they were unable to find a new home for him at the trade deadline, prompting the oft-humorous Kaminsky to tweet:

Potential Suitors: Teams who need a big and prefer a shooting-type option to a Lopez type.

Does he factor into a handicap? I’m a Kaminsky fan and think he could be Kelly Olynyk if used like Kelly Olynyk. But he’s been improperly used in Charlotte and not playing has hurt his value. He doesn’t move the needle at all right now, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kaminsky re-emerge later in his career as a deadly pick-and-pop guy.

NBA Trade Deadline: Short-Term Upgrades

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