No sooner does the frenzy at the NBA’s annual trade deadline calm down than speculation begins about the faces who might end up in new places via the unofficial buyout market.
These transactions don’t generally pack the same wallop as the blockbuster or multi-team trades. Salary cap implications and future draft picks are minimally involved or not at all. And the players changing uniforms either always have been or at this stage of their careers are seen as role players.
Still, a pickup now whose performance on a given night or two can swing an outcome can be worth way more than his pro-rated minimum salary. The buyout market is open now, with business heating up as March 1 approaches. Why? That’s the last date a player can be bought out and still sign in time to participate in the playoffs.
Here (in alphabetical order and not accounting for some veterans already waived such as D.J. Augustin and Enes Freedom) are 15 players who might negotiate their freedom – or have it negotiated for them—and be in position to sign up with a contender or an ambitious pretender.
Kent Bazemore, L.A. Lakers: The Lakers stood pat at the deadline, but Bazemore already was out of the rotation. The 32-year-old swingman’s $2.4 salary comes off the books in a couple of months.
Eric Bledsoe, Portland: Getting moved two weeks ago from the Clippers landed the stocky point guard with a Blazers team not very interested in his services. Any buyout would have to account for the guaranteed portion of his salary for next season ($3.9 million).
Goran Dragic, San Antonio: Seems to be at or near the top for many of the buyout shoppers. Dallas is considered a favored destination to team with pal Luka Doncic, but the Lakers and Chicago — hobbled by injuries to Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso and lately Zach LaVine — are said to be interested, as is Milwaukee hoping to plug Pat Connaughton’s spot (hand fracture).
Drew Eubanks, Toronto: Eubanks, moved in last week’s Thaddeus Young-Dragic deal, didn’t get extended by the Spurs beyond this season. And the Raptors already have an awful lot of length.
Derrick Favors, Oklahoma City: Favors has had his own injuries on a team riddled by them, leading to extremely uneven minutes. Complicating matters, the 30-year-old power forward has a player option for $10.2 million for 2022-23.
Gary Harris, Orlando: Not moved at the deadline by the Magic, Harris has a $20.5 million salary on a contract near its end. Injuries have limited him in the past year, but the defensive-minded guard has averaged 11.4 points in 29.4 minutes this season.
Jeremy Lamb, Sacramento: It’s hard to see how Lamb figures into the Kings’ pecking order of guards and wings. That, his move after one appearance to the team’s inactive list and his expiring $10.5 million salary got him on this list.
DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Lakers: The big man could be in line for his second buyout in six months — he left Detroit in September on a $4 million buyout to sign his $2.6 million deal with LeBron & Co. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst before the New Year said that Jordan is a candidate to be cut loose, and the 33-year-old has made only four appearances for 42 minutes in 2022.
Robin Lopez, Orlando: There’s been speculation that the height-challenged Bulls might be interested in a reunion with their free-spirit former big man (2016-19). His one-year, $5 million deal ends this spring, and he offers size, defense and (with the Wizards last season) an amusingly accurate hook shot.
Paul Millsap, Philadelphia: One of the adults packaged in the James Harden-Ben Simmons trade last week on what was Millsap’s 37th birthday. The 16-year veteran hasn’t played since Dec. 27, but Sixers coach Doc Rivers told reporters he might use Millsap at center and as an old-head in the locker room.
Mike Muscala, Oklahoma City: The Thunder hold a team option at $3.5 million on Muscala’s services for 2022-23, so take that off the table. He might have been a trade target last week but for his right ankle injury that will linger past the All-Star break.
Tomáš Satoransky, San Antonio: The Spurs’ focus on young talent and backcourt depth chart don’t suggest much of a role for the 30-year-old Satoransky. He only has managed 5-of-31 shooting from the arc this season but shot 37.4 in his four previous seasons averaging 25.3 minutes for Washington and Chicago. He also had a 3-to-1 assists/turnover ratio.
Dennis Schröder, Houston: Could he wind up back with the Lakers, where things went so haywire in the first place for the 28-year-old scoring point guard? Schröder is at the end of his one-year, $5.9 million consolation deal with Boston. And he did finish second in Kia Sixth Man balloting with OKC two seasons ago.
Tristan Thompson, Indiana: Already on the outs in Sacramento, Thompson’s opportunities figure to be limited in Indianapolis by the presence of guys such as Goga Bitadze, Isaiah Jackson and freshly acquired Jalen Smith. Still, his career average of 4.4 offensive rebounds per 36 minutes is better than Joel Embiid’s, Nikola Jokic’s or Anthony Davis’.
John Wall, Houston: How do you negotiate down from a guaranteed $47 million for next season, a player option, for a guy who has appeared in only 40 games the past three seasons and none at all in two of those? Wall is 31 now, either seriously avoiding mileage or accumulating rust lately, with a game that was built on speed.
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