The NBA trade deadline has passed and a whirlwind of activity saw at least 40 players, 18 draft picks and one set of draft rights change places over the course of 11 trades. All total, 18 NBA teams made some sort of deal in the weeks leading up to what many thought might be a quiet deadline.
Now, teams move on to buyout season. The buyout market is the last real chance for teams to make meaningful additions before the NBA playoffs. A buyout occurs when a player is waived by his current team (generally agreeing to forgo some portion of his guaranteed money) and becomes a free agent. Buyout candidates are usually veteran players on expiring contracts from teams that aren’t playoff contenders. In order to be playoff eligible, players must be waived by March 1.
Some teams that could be searching for buyout help are the Boston Celtics, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Laker and Toronto Raptors. All would like to strengthen their rotations with a veteran addition or two for the playoffs.
With that in mind, here are the top five buyout candidates:
Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers
Thompson is easily the No. 1 player whom playoff contenders are hoping will be bought out. He’s got a tremendous amount of playoff experience, he’s still young enough (turns 29 in mid-March) to be a good bet to stay healthy, and he’s productive. Thompson is averaging 11.9 points and 10.4 rebounds per game, and is in the last year of his deal. He also has the potential to again be a solid defender, despite not showing that on a terrible Cavs team.
One challenge? Thompson is a Klutch Sports client. A Klutch client has never given money back in a buyout. If Thompson wants to be set free, he may need to change that trend.
Darren Collison, free agent
Fine, this is cheating a little, but Collison is reportedly considering an NBA return after his surprising retirement this past offseason. It seems likely that Collison will decide between one of the two Los Angeles teams, with the Lakers being a slight favorite over the Clippers. If he does make an NBA comeback, Collison could provide some shooting and scoring off the bench. He shot over 40 percent from behind the arc in his last four seasons, including a league-leading 46.8 percent in 2017-18. The only concern is if Collison will be in NBA shape quickly enough to help a contender, considering he hasn’t played in almost a year.
Marvin Williams, Charlotte Hornets
Multiple teams engaged Charlotte in trade talks for Williams, but were unable to complete a deal. That leaves them hoping the 15-year veteran comes to an agreement on a buyout. Williams has been in and out of the Hornets rotation recently, as Charlotte has prioritized playing its young forwards more minutes. When Williams has played, he’s been a solid shooter and defender. He’s an ideal option for any team looking for a stretch four for a playoff run. Williams is rumored to be considering retirement after this season, so it’s a good bet he wants to go out with a playoff run.
Isaiah Thomas, L.A. Clippers
Thomas was acquired by the Clippers at the deadline from the Washington Wizards, but will reportedly be waived so L.A. can open a roster spot for a buyout candidate. If Thomas is indeed let go, he should be on the radar for several teams. He can still score, averaging 12.2 points this season on over 41.3 shooting from 3-point range. His defense remains an issue, but as a spark-plug scorer off the bench, teams could do a lot worse than giving Thomas a chance.
New York Knicks
OK, this is cheating again, but with good reason. The Knicks have several veterans who could be buyout candidates. Big men Taj Gibson and Bobby Portis, and guards Reggie Bullock, Wayne Ellington and Elfrid Payton could all be let go to join contenders. All of their contracts were set up to be fairly easy to move on from, and none seems to be in New York’s long-term plans. With a new front office in place, the Knicks could choose to take a look at several other options for the rest of the season. That might free up any of the five veterans with little to no guaranteed money on the books for 2020-21. Expect at least one or two of these players to request, and be granted, his release over the coming weeks.
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