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Keep an eye on these 34 players as the NBA’s buyout market gets going

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The NBA trade deadline has passed, but that doesn’t mean the league’s roster-churning is done. Teams are still reworking rosters in the wake of trade deadline deals, cutting some players loose where they’ll have an opportunity to latch on in other places.

This takes two forms. The first is when a team must waive a player to complete a trade, such as when the Detroit Pistons had to waive Joe Harris on Thursday to take in Danuel House from Philadelphia. The second is when a veteran player isn’t in a team’s plans and they give him his wings, either via immediately cutting him or agreeing to a buyout … like when the Pistons subsequently waived House on Thursday.

When we say “buyout,” what typically happens is that a player agrees to take less than the full salary remaining on his deal to be released from his contract and sign with a different team. Typically, the team and the player’s agent negotiate that amount to exactly match the player’s veteran minimum contract for the remainder of the season, so that it ends up a wash for the player.

Regardless, the key date here is March 1. Any player waived before this date is eligible to participate in the playoffs, so while much of the action will begin Sunday when players begin to clear waivers, this will be a rolling market for the next three weeks.

And, if you look at the rosters, there will surely be some action. Among playoff hopefuls, the Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, Indiana Pacers and Sacramento Kings have one open roster spot; the Golden State Warriors, New Orleans Pelicans, Oklahoma City Thunder and Minnesota Timberwolves each have two; and the New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers have three. That’s 23 positions if they all get filled, and it’s still possible more spots open up between now and March. Very few of these players are difference-makers, or even rotation players, but these are the options teams are sifting through as they fill their rosters for the playoffs.

Finally, note that the buyout rules are more stringent now. Players who were making more than the non-taxpayer midlevel exception ($12.4 million) before being waived cannot sign with teams that were above the first apron (essentially, a cap number of $172.3 million, or $7 million above the luxury tax line).

Call them the Spendthrift Seven: Boston, Denver, Golden State, Miami, Milwaukee, Phoenix and the LA Clippers. Players with an asterisk (*) next to their name carried a cap number that disqualifies them from signing with any of those seven teams.

Here are the top players on the market, or potentially on the market, since we’re covering anyone who seems at least somewhat likely to be waived by March 1.


Group 1: Legit rotation players

1. Spencer Dinwiddie*, waived by Raptors: Dinwiddie’s weird refusal to shoot for the last month was one of many reasons the Nets were happy to see him gone, but he’s a talented offensive player and also a quite durable one. He’s only 30, has a career PER of 15.3, got the size to switch across positions, and can generate offense with the second unit. The Spendthrift Seven can’t sign him, but backcourt-needy teams like the Lakers and Mavs are reportedly thirsting for his services.

2. Delon Wright, Wizards: I was a bit surprised Washington didn’t convert him into a second-round pick at the deadline since he’s unlikely to be back next year, but this was a tough deadline to get value for expiring contracts. Wright is 31, and his infrequent 3-point attempts limit his floor-spacing capability, but he’s still a stealthy ballhawk who can either run an offense or play off the ball at 6-5.

3. Troy Brown Jr., Pistons: I think it’s unlikely he hits the market, because he has a reasonable deal for next season that is non-guaranteed for $4 million, and the Pistons need some players of his ilk. However, if he isn’t in the Pistons’ plans, Brown is a good pickup for a back-end rotation spot because he plays defense and can make an open shot (36.9 percent from 3 this season, 35.5 percent career). He fell out of the mix in Minnesota and with the Lakers a year ago because of his lack of offensive punch, but the advanced numbers show him as a pretty decent player.

4. Kyle Lowry*, Hornets: Lowry’s foul-grifting attempts get more side-eye from the refs than they used to, and his shot-creation capability has gone off a cliff this season at age 37. Nonetheless, he may still have something in the tank as something of a “3-and-D” point guard for a team that can put enough ballhandling and shot creation at the wing spots to keep Lowry off the ball. Reuniting with Daryl Morey and Nick Nurse in his hometown of Philadelphia seems all but a foregone conclusion at this point.

Group 2: Potentially helpful vets

5. Marcus Morris Sr.*, waived by Spurs: Morris is ineligible to return to the Sixers because he went to San Antonio via a three-way trade, not via consecutive trades to Indiana and then the Spurs. He also can’t become a Clipper again because they’re one of the Spendthrift Seven. He’s definitely not what he was, but as a backup four or a junk-ball five, teams could do worse because of his floor-spacing potential. Could he possibly reunite with his twin brother, Markieff, in Dallas?

6. Cedi Osman, Spurs: I think it’s unlikely he gets bought out since the Spurs could do something with his Bird rights this summer (either via keeping him or via sign-and-trade) and seem to like him. Osman isn’t exactly setting the world afire while the Spurs absorb their nightly tramplings, especially at the defensive end, but he’s a legit wing who is shooting 37.5 percent from 3.

7. Evan Fournier*, Pistons: Fournier has spent most of the last two seasons in cold storage at the end of New York’s bench since Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau soured on him in late 2022. The French guard has played just 13 minutes this season despite being healthy all year. However, he’s only 31 and looked pretty spritely while averaging 14 points a game for France at the FIBA World Cup.

8. Shake Milton, Pistons: Milton is 27 and comes off a pretty decent four-year run with the Sixers, but he was inexplicably horrible in his 38-game tenure with Minnesota before the Wolves exchanged him for Monté Morris at the deadline. The Bucks’ acquisition of Patrick Beverley makes it perhaps less likely that he would reunite with Doc Rivers in Milwaukee, but if the Pistons decide to uncrowd their backcourt and part ways with Milton (who has a non-guaranteed $5 million deal for next year that Detroit would likely waive in June to generate more cap space), he should have a market.

9. Danuel House, waived by Pistons: House is 30 and hasn’t been good in five years, but the temptation of an athletic wing who can sort-of shoot is pretty strong, and the wing market isn’t exactly flooded with talent.

10. Otto Porter Jr., Jazz: The oft-injured Porter checks a size-shooting box but has played only 15 games this year and reached double-figure scoring in zero of them. Even if he’s capable of playing, he might have considerably less impact than he did in the Warriors’ championship run two years ago.


Otto Porter Jr. tries to work around Washington’s Deni Avdija earlier this season. (Brad Mills / USA Today)

 

Group 3: Surplus bigs

11. Thaddeus Young, waived by Nets: Young started several games for Toronto recently and still could make an impact from the elbows with his passing ability and weird array of running flips and floaters. He’s only 6-8 and can’t protect the rim anymore, but he is an active, handsy defender who had a 16.0 PER in his limited run this season. He’s a weird, funky player who doesn’t fit everywhere, but, at 35, he can still play.

12. Chimezie Metu, waived by Grizzlies: I was surprised Memphis cut him to sign two-way GG Jackson to a four-year contract, as I thought Metu had given Phoenix decent minutes this season as a combo big. Metu is a bit caught in between positions, because he’s only 6-9 but doesn’t shoot well enough to play the four unless there’s a stretch five next to him. However, he’s been a useful bench piece in both Phoenix and Sacramento and could add value in the right situation.

13. Mike Muscala, Pistons: This one feels unlikely. First, it seems Detroit is fond of the newly acquired veteran as he leads the Pistons on their quest to win 10 games and avoid historic disaster. He also has a PER of 8.5 this season and was nailed to the bench in Boston last spring after the Celtics made him a deadline acquisition, so he may not have as much stomach to leave a situation where he’s playing regularly.

14. Bismack Biyombo, waived by Grizzlies (in January): Don’t forget about Biz, who gave the Grizzlies some good minutes as a traditional rim-running and shot-blocking center earlier this season; the Grizzlies only waived him once it was clear their season was circling the drain and it was time to work on next year. Sure, he can’t shoot at all and might have the worst hands in the league, but you’re not getting this level of rim protection from any other scrap-heap center.

15. Danilo Gallinari, waived by Pistons: The walking definition of toast on defense as a 6-10 stretch five, but Gallinari still provides enough stretch ability and individual scoring with second units to make him valuable in the right situation.

16. Taj Gibson, 10-day contract with Knicks expired: The Knicks have three open roster spots and need another big, with Mitchell Robinson injured. Get your Thibs smiling gif ready.

Group 4: Fliers on young guys

17. Killian Hayes, waived by Pistons: The “Can’t play Pena” memes were strong on the Interwebs on Thursday, when the Pistons cut Hayes a day after Monty Williams started him and played him 30 minutes. (Added bonus: In the movie, they traded him to Detroit!)

He was in the way in Detroit, both in terms of minutes for other players and in terms of his lack of shooting fatally congesting an already-clogged floor, but Hayes is only 22 and has some promise in a different locale because of his defense. Obviously, a ghastly 45.6 career percent true shooting mark makes fixing his shot critical for whatever team employs him next.

18. Aleksej Pokuševski, Thunder: With Poku a free agent after the year and clearly not in the mix in OKC, could the Thunder let him walk and use his roster spot on a more immediately compelling veteran? If so, he’d be worth a shot for a rebuilding team.

19 .Malachi Flynn, Pistons: The Raptors tried to make him a rotation player this season, but it didn’t really stick, and Detroit may have too many guards for him to get in the mix much. All of this is to say he might be out of chances, but he may still have a chance of landing on a rebuilding team and getting a consistent 20 minutes a night to make his case.

20. Kira Lewis Jr., Jazz: Lewis is only 22 and has played only 720 NBA minutes in his last three seasons; we just don’t really know what he is yet, other than that his coaches really don’t like playing him. His meh stats from the G League the last two years indicate we probably aren’t missing much, and he’s unlikely to get a chance in Utah with so many guards in front of him.

21. James Bouknight, waived by Hornets: His departure is the coda to the total disaster that was the 2021 draft for the Hornets, with only JT Thor lingering around until his inevitable departure when new management comes in (Right? Right?!) after the season. Charlotte took Bouknight in the lottery, traded a future first for Kai Jones and then grabbed Thor at No. 35; the Hornets’ depth has been a non-stop problem ever since. Bouknight probably needs to bottom out and make a tour through the G League before he gets another chance.


James Bouknight was a lottery pick just a few years ago. (David Butler II / USA Today)

Group 5: The rest

22. P.J. Tucker, Clippers: Extremely unlikely to get his wings unless he gives back a huge sum of money due to the $11.5 million player option he has for next season. Once Tucker picks that up, he’ll become a trade chip in June.

23. Robin Lopez, waived by Kings: It might be the end of the line for the 35-year-old Lopez, who is ineligible to return to the Bucks and had only played 65 minutes this season. The NBA’s leading mascot tormentor is a beloved locker room guy, however, and that could allow him to stick in a 15th roster spot.

24. Furkan Korkmaz, waived by Pacers: An alleged shooter who is only at 35.5 percent from 3 for his career in seven pro seasons and routinely gets carved up on defense, Korkmaz’s next contract might be coming from Europe.

25. Kevin Knox, Jazz: Let me put it this way: I don’t think Utah did the Fontecchio trade to get their mitts on Knox. He can tease at times with a size-skill combination, and the Pistons seemed weirdly enamored of him. But, at this point, we have mountains of data to show he’s a replacement-level player at best.

26. Joe Harris, waived by Pistons: If it’s the end of line for my fellow Wahoo, it’s been a great run. He hasn’t looked the same since ankle surgery two years ago and played only 15 games for Detroit.

27. Lamar Stevens, Grizzlies: Stevens’ gritty defense will play well in Memphis, but he can’t shoot (28.5 percent from 3 career), and that limits his appeal.

28. Ish Smith, Hornets: Smith has played for an NBA-record 13 teams. Can he squeeze in a 14th before the sun sets on his decade and a half in the league? He’s 35, can’t shoot and had a PER of 6.7 this season while playing entirely too many minutes on a threadbare Hornets roster.

29. Patty Mills, Hawks: One way for Atlanta to clear minutes for Kobe Bufkin would be to take the Mills bat out of Quin Snyder’s hands; the 35-year-old guard has a 6.5 PER in 202 minutes this season.

30. Garrison Mathews, Hawks: One way for Atlanta to clear minutes for A.J. Griffin would be to take the Mathews bat out of Quin Snyder’s hands; the veteran wing has a 7.0 PER in 447 minutes this season. Mathews also has a non-guaranteed year left on his deal after this one.

31. Wes Matthews, Hawks: One way for Atlanta to clear minutes for Seth Lundy would be to take the Matthews bat out of Quin Snyder’s hands; the 37-year-old guard has a 5.5 PER in 232 minutes this season.

32. Jock Landale, Rockets: Landale hardly plays but has an $8 million non-guaranteed deal for next year that could be used in the trade market; that likely prevents Houston from cutting him loose now.

33. Boban Marjanović, Rockets: The Serbian giant hardly plays (just 48 minutes this season) but is also immune from being waived because everybody loves him.

34. Ryan Arcidiacono, waived by Pistons: The 29-year-old can’t rejoin New York this season, so he is presumably waiting until training camp for the Knicks to reunite him with the Villanova gang.

(Top photo of Delon Wright, Evan Fournier and Shake Milton: Tommy Gilligan, Brad Rempel, David Richard / USA Today)

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