February 8th was a huge day for NBA teams and fans alike. The end of the trade deadline saw absolute mayhem with a total of 15 deals made since the blockbuster trade on January 29 between the Pistons and Clippers, which moved Blake Griffin to Detroit. The next key date for player migrations is March 1; that’s the day players must be bought out in order to be eligible for this year’s playoffs.
There are plenty of candidates who could be part of that market, to name a few: Marco Belinelli, Derrick Rose, Shabazz Muhammad, Ersan Ilyasova, Brook Lopez, Channing Frye, Jarrett Jack, Vince Carter, Tyreke Evans, Tony Allen, Marreese Speights, Boris Diaw, Arron Afflalo, Nerlens Noel, Corey Brewer and Joakim Noah Some of those players have already been waived or are in the process of being bought out; Tony Allen was waived recently by the Chicago Bulls and Oklahoma City are said to be the frontrunner for his services.
Greg Monroe was already bought out by the Phoenix Suns and recently acquired by the Boston Celtics and before the beginning of the season, Dwyane Wade was bought out by the Bulls before joining the Cleveland for a short stretch.
Just this weekend, Memphis Grizzlies big man, Brandan Wright was bought out by his former team to sign with the Houston Rockets for the rest of the season. Joe Johnson also joined Houston after a buyout from the Sacramento Kings.
Funnily enough, Johnson was formerly bought-out by the Brooklyn Nets and joined the Miami Heat in 2016 where he revitalized his career; the buyout system has certainly been kind to him. Marco Belinelli was bought out and subsequently signed by the Philadelphia 76ers just yesterday, a nice addition to a team searching for its first playoff appearance since 2012. Notice a trend with any of these signings?
Most players who are bought out are in the twilights of their career and generally looking to land themselves in winning situations, hence why the top teams in each conference are generally the beneficiaries of the buyout market. The earlier trade deadline could see a further narrowing of player movement towards the winning teams. Other than the Cavaliers, none of Boston, Toronto, Houston, Golden State and San Antonio made moves before the deadline.
Last year there were rumblings of possible future changes to the buyout rules. ESPN’s Zach Lowe spoke to some league executives who made some suggestions to even the system so that the contending teams wouldn’t be the only ones benefiting from an important player acquisition medium:
“The league could move up the drop-dead date for playoff eligibility — now March 1 — so that it comes before the trade deadline. It could limit buyout signings to one per team. One exec even suggested a ‘buyout wire’ that would operate like the waiver wire.”
Other prominent NBA front office members have contrasted such suggestions. Last year Celtics’ general manager, Danny Ainge, made comments to a Boston radio show revealing an opposing view:
“We went and did these buyouts every year to try to help our team, and rarely did those work. Rarely. It sounds good on paper. Everybody said, ‘Oh my gosh, they just added so-and-so to the team,’ when, in fact, those players may take away minutes from a younger player that is better, change the chemistry and the roles of the players inside your organization.”
He makes a fair point, despite the talent available this year, rarely do players picked up off waivers have a significant impact on their respective. Last year, Andrew Bogut lasted 56 seconds for the Cavaliers before fracturing his tibia and being ruled for the season. Deron Williams was virtually unplayable in the Finals against Golden State. He averaged a stunningly poor 1 point per game, in just over 12 minutes of playing time in that series. Heck, the poor guy had former teammates jeering about his play; this from Richard Jefferson in an exchange with reporters:
Richard Jefferson: When you ask Deron about golf, his eyes light up. When you ask Deron about MMA, his eyes light up.
Dave McMenamin: What about when you talk to him about coming off the bench for the Cavs?
RJ: His eyes did not light up. His eyes did not light up.
Chris Geeter: What about when the Warriors saw him coming off the bench?
RJ: Their eyes lit up.
The list of last year’s buyout players compared to the current crop pales in comparison in terms of relative talent. A large portion of the guys mentioned earlier have plenty of juice left in the tank and could actually contribute to a winning team. Though it is still luck of the draw when it comes to finding a diamond in the rough. The biggest success story for a buyout player comes from former Celtics’ big man, PJ Brown. Brown was acquired by Ainge in 2008 and ended up being a valuable contributor to a championship winning team. For every PJ, there’s always at least five or six more ‘Andrew Boguts’ in this league come buyout season.
Below you’ll see where players claimed off waivers have gone in relation to where they finished in the standings:
While it’s become common knowledge that the buyout market benefits the better teams, the actual player movement indicates otherwise. Yes, you have to take into account the caliber of the players and where they moved, it’s hard to deny the facts. Other than in 2009, where the same amount of players went to the top five and bottom 25 teams, players have gone to the less successful teams. Every transaction should be judged individually but it’s narrow-minded and reactionary to think a huge overhaul of the system is needed, especially when you take into account where players have actually landed over the past decade.
This season we’ve already seen four players join two of the top five seeded teams. That trend is likely to continue if you factor in the rumors around the association. Marco Belinelli could return to his former home in San Antonio and Derrick Rose has already been linked to his former coach in Minnesota if he were to be bought by the Jazz, which is likely to be the case.
The Thunder are looking for a replacement for the injured Andre Roberson, and Tony Allen could be a cheap short-term fix if he still has something to offer.
Last year the movement was relatively even to the upper-echelon and lesser teams; that came after a stark difference in 2016 where 14 of the 18 players claimed went to teams seeded five to 30. If the moves already made in the buyout market this year are a sign of things to come, it seems that the top five teams will reap the benefits of a possibly stacked array of players.
For the record, as of February 9th, ESPN’s Bobby Marks reported there were 15 teams with an open roster spot: Atlanta, Charlotte, Cleveland (2), Chicago, Houston, Indiana, Clippers, Minnesota, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Orlando, Philadelphia, Portland (2), Toronto and Washington (2).
Houston filled two spots recently by adding Brandon Wright and Joe Johnson so they’ll have to waive another player to fit him on their squad. The interesting one to note in that list is the Cavaliers. They already made a whirlwind amount of moves at the trade deadline, though they still have space to add more talent, certainly look for them to be active. If Golden State were to add someone they’d need to free up a roster spot by waiving someone, the same with Boston and San Antonio.
Will we see another PJ Brown from this year’s crop of players? It seems more likely than ever; the talent pool is greater and the lack of movement from the better teams before the trade deadline (other than Cleveland) indicated a shift in priorities for those teams in how they can add some extra depth to their rosters.
If you thought the Cavs were DONE adding players after their last-minute trading frenzy…think again.
Posted by ClutchPoints on Saturday, February 10, 2018
Stats and sources provided by CBS Sports and Hoops Hype.