Buyout market primer: Players who could potentially join NBA title contenders
The roster reshuffling of the NBA’s trade deadline often ends with a few veteran players landing in places they shouldn’t. Contracts are included to make deals work. Salaries are dumped to help certain franchises clear space or duck the luxury tax line. All of which leads to ill-fitting circumstances.
A buyout offers a chance for remedy. Rather than see an experienced player ride out the remainder of the season as the material form of an expiring contract, agreeable teams often negotiate with those veterans for the soft termination of their deals. Thus creates the final wave of NBA movement before the playoffs, as contenders and near-contenders look to scoop up those bought-out veterans before the postseason eligibility deadline on March 1.
Below is a guide to help navigate that secondary market, and which players are and might be available to help those vying for a title.
ALREADY BOUGHT OUT
• Danny Granger (76ers via Pacers, F, 30): The former All-Star was a Sixer for all of a few days, as he elected to surrender his Bird rights (and the possibility of a sign-and-trade this summer) for the sake of a buyout. Considering how Philadelphia has been playing of late, it’s hard to blame him; deadline deals have sent the Sixers from terrible to truly horrid, as evidenced by the 73 points they surrendered in the first half of Monday’s game against the last-place Bucks.
Rather than be party to that train wreck, Granger now has the freedom to gauge the opportunities offered by several different contending teams. The Clippers are reportedly at the top of his list, though the Rockets, Bulls, Heat, and Spurs have also registered interest in signing Granger for the remainder of the season. To join a formidable team at this stage in the season is a rare opportunity. Granger might never have this chance to position himself for a title again, though he also needs to determine which team would give him the best chance to showcase his value.
While a former All-Star and volume scorer, Granger has now been injured and/or irrelevant on the NBA scene for the better part of two seasons. He has quite a bit to prove as he heads toward unrestricted free agency this summer, and a late-season surge for a quality team would help salvage his market value. That likely wouldn’t be possible if Granger were to latch on to play spot minutes for a deep reserve, creating incentive to find the plausible contender with the most accommodating depth chart.
• Caron Butler (Bucks, F, 33): Milwaukee brought Butler back as a veteran mentor and Wisconsin native, but apparently it’s time he move on. A buyout between Butler and the Bucks is already complete, according to Yahoo! Sports, and from a basketball perspective their separation makes sense. There is hardly much place in Milwaukee’s present and future for an aging scorer like Butler, particularly when he would undoubtedly rather play out the season on a team that doesn’t hold the league’s worst record. He’ll have his options among the contenders — the Heat, Thunder, and Spurs are reportedly in the mix — provided that he’s willing to accept a more marginal role.
• Jimmer Fredette (Kings, G, 25): It’s not often that a decent prospect is cut loose around this time of year, but Fredette is in a particular state of limbo after playing out three years in Sacramento. Back in October, the Kings decided that the third-year gunner would not be a part of their future; newly hired general manager Pete D’Alessandro opted to turn down the fourth-year option on Fredette’s contract, worth $3.1 million for the 2014-15 season. As a result, Fredette was set to be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, at which time he and the Kings would almost certainly go their separate ways.
Fredette has only played sparingly since, logging 11.3 minutes per game appearance along with 15 DNP-CDs. He’s seen a bit more time since the Kings parted ways with backup point guard Greivis Vasquez via trade, but Fredette is still squarely third on the depth chart at the position. In most cases, he would be left to play out the season with whatever minutes he could scrounge up. But Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé was apparently inclined to do Fredette (and his agent, whom he shares with Rudy Gay) a solid, which paved the way for the guard’s release.
Fredette is in a position to benefit from most any kind of move. As a career 40-percent three-point shooter (and even better 49-percent shooter from deep this season), he would make a quality catch-and-shoot option off the bench for a potential playoff team. That said, it might be more prudent for Fredette to make a play for bigger minutes on a lesser roster with his free agency impending. He’s had scant opportunity to showcase his game over the past two seasons, even as his ball handling tightened and his shooting percentages rose. A solid run in bigger minutes could earn Fredette a more lucrative contract this summer, provided he’s able to make the most of it.
• Metta World Peace (Knicks, F, 34): It’s been months since World Peace was an active part of the Knicks’ rotation, due equally to a left knee injury and Mike Woodson’s curious reluctance to play him thereafter. On Jan. 24, World Peace told Knicks media that was again ready to play after recovering from platelet-rich plasma treatment on his sore knee. Since that time he’s played in just six of New York’s 13 games, for a grand total of 42 minutes — an average of seven per appearance. He hasn’t sulked or lashed out in response to reduced role, though World Peace did break his own news on Saturday by tweeting that his agent was working on a buyout. He was officially released on Monday.
That’s a shame, as the pairing of World Peace and Carmelo Anthony — in theory a yin and yang of defense and offense at the forward spots — was never quite given the opportunity to work as intended. The two played just under 200 minutes together this season due to World Peace’s injury and the quirks of Woodson’s rotation, though World Peace did make a noticeable defensive difference for the Knicks when on the floor regardless. That’s more testament to New York’s otherwise lacking defensive personnel than any unique value World Peace might present at this point in his career, though as a free agent he does offer the ability to float between both forward positions with strength enough to guard bigger opponents and obstruct plays down low. Just don’t expect him to contribute all that much offensively, nor move laterally like the Ron Artest of old.
• Roger Mason (Kings via Heat, G, 33): Mason’s spot in Miami appeared safe after he made it through the contract guarantee deadline unscathed, but the Heat doubled-back on that decision to save a bit on their luxury tax bill and free up a final roster spot. That’s a tough break for Mason, though he could end up latching on elsewhere as a last-ditch ball handler with long range touch. Just last season Mason averaged 41.5 percent shooting from deep in nearly 20 minutes per game for the then-Hornets. He won’t be playing that much again (nor should he), but Mason could make sense for some team as a final piece of backcourt insurance.
• Antawn Jamison (Hawks via Clippers, F, 37): Like Mason, Jamison was acquired in a financially motivated deal by a team with no interest in keeping him. This particular situation is slightly more surprising, though, if only because the Hawks’ frontcourt — now without Al Horford, Gustavo Ayon, and Pero Antic sidelined — has been reduced to playing Elton Brand for 30 minutes a night. Jamison isn’t much of a player at this stage in his career, but in theory he could have helped sop up minutes and put up points until one of Atlanta’s other bigs returned.
Instead he’ll be sent on his merry way, which is just fine. Jamison was a means to an end, which in this case helped Atlanta score a quick buck solely through their willingness to play along. He hasn’t played well enough this season to make a more convincing case to remain a Hawk, nor does he seem to even want to. That said, Jamison might be surprised to find a pretty dry market for his services after clearing waivers. There are worse options to fill a final roster spot than a stretchy forward who works hard and keeps positive without any role expectations. But the playoff team most desperate for frontcourt depth just paid another team for the ability to give him away.
• Ronnie Brewer (Rockets, G/F, 28): Over the past two seasons, Brewer has played out stints with New York, Oklahoma City, and Houston to no avail. It would seem as though the game itself has left him behind. Brewer was skilled enough as a defender and cutter to prove helpful for the Jazz in the late 2000s and again for the Bulls soon after. Yet team defense has evolved in such a way that the costs of relying on range-less wing players are increasingly prohibitive. Double that for a guard who has no capacity to create whatsoever, as is the case with Brewer.
It’s unfortunate that a player who moves so intuitively and dedicates himself defensively could see his NBA career fall through the gaps, but survival of the fittest has no regard for the “right way” tenets that previously made Brewer a Jerry Sloan favorite. There’s a slight possibility that Brewer’s D and NBA experience could help him latch on elsewhere, but his chances are running thin.
POTENTIAL BUYOUT CANDIDATES
• Ben Gordon (Bobcats, G, 30): We have some reported movement on this front via Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, and it’s a divorce that’s been long in the making. Gordon really hasn’t been more than a blip on the Bobcats’ season; he’s logged just 259 minutes to date, never as a regular member of Steve Clifford’s rotation. Were his $13.2 million salary less egregious, he might well have been dealt. Trust that Charlotte tried.
Instead the Bobcats will at least pursue the possibility of working out some kind of discounted buyout, which would allow Gordon to chase opportunity elsewhere while removing the shadow created by that dark cloud of a contract. Gordon can still play a bit when he cares to, a distinction the Bobcats know all too well. If given incentive to focus and put in effort, he’s a useful volume scorer who needn’t hijack the offense to be effective. When he can’t be troubled to commit, though, Gordon looks to get his offensively while unplugging completely on defense. Most of the teams who will consider Gordon on the rebound should be competitive enough to hold his attention, but who’s to say when we haven’t seen him play competent basketball in more than two years?
Other possibilities: Richard Jefferson (Jazz), Andris Biedrins (Jazz), Charlie Villanueva (Detroit), Chris Kaman (L.A. Lakers), Kris Humphries (Celtics).
ALREADY OFF THE BOARD
• Glen Davis (Clippers via Magic, F, 28): I couldn’t really tell you why the Magic dedicated over 30 minutes and 11 field goal attempts per game to Davis over the course of this season, save for the fact that he happened to be around. But apparently the passing of the trade deadline allowed them to drop the pretense; with the reported intent to give minutes to younger players, Orlando has agreed to buyout terms with Davis and cut the seven-year veteran loose. The Magic will have more shots and playing time to dole out among Andrew Nicholson, Tobias Harris, and Kyle O’Quinn (not to mention the wings that could see more time with Harris playing more power forward), while Davis has free rein to chuck up mid-range jumpers with the team of his choosing.
On a deal that paid him $6.5 million on average between this season and next, Davis was a burden. His play has never commanded that kind of salary, even dating back to his more noteworthy runs with Boston and Orlando. But a minimum deal reframes his worth entirely for the contending Clippers, who completed their signing of Davis on Monday after he cleared waivers. While not exactly a move that tips the conference hierarchy, that the Clippers can now round out their rotation of bigs while relying less on Ryan Hollins is an inarguable plus. Los Angeles has a chance to make good use of Davis in moderation. With a lower usage rate and a better playmaker, Davis’ mid-range jumpers become a decent release valve rather than an offensive bane. As part of a team looking to stabilize its impressive defense, Davis is valuable cog with a strong body. That combination makes him a bit get at so small a price, especially when Davis and Doc Rivers already have a strong working relationship and rapport.
• Jason Collins (Nets via free agency, F/C, 35): The biggest name on this list for reasons that have little to do with basketball. Groundbreaking cultural potential aside, Collins is a veteran who should quickly get up to speed with in terms of Brooklyn’s schemes, playbook, and jargon. Collins doesn’t have a ton to offer beyond hard screens and solid team defensive play, though he does provide hyper-specialized value for any franchise eyeing a specific matchup against a post-up threat. Read more on what Collins has to offer the Nets here.
• Earl Clark (Knicks via Cavaliers, F, 26): The two-year, $8.5 million contract given to Clark by former Cavs GM Chris Grant didn’t even survive its first season. In fairness, the second year of that deal — and exactly half of its value — is fully unguaranteed, making his release neither costly nor much of an indictment on Grant. Clark is a weird player who didn’t at all work out in Cleveland, but was given a contract to reflect that possibility. Had the Sixers not taken the mercy of waiving Clark after acquiring him at the trade deadline, the Cavs likely would have done the same at some point in the offseason.
Though not at a point where he could provide reliable minutes for a high-functioning team, Clark does have some value. The key is managing expectation; so long as he’s allowed to play a carefully controlled role as a come-what-may variable, Clark can sporadically make a difference with rebounding and positionally pliable defense. New York should be a decent fit in that regard, as Clark has an opportunity to guard multiple positions and inject a little athleticism into a team that could badly use both.
• Shannon Brown (Knicks via Spurs, G, 28): Another get for the Knicks, who wasted little time in filling the roster spots of Metta World Peace and Beno Udrih. Brown can be a decent NBA player in the right context, though New York is an odd fit for a player best served by working off of other playmakers. The Knicks are painfully short on those, though perhaps Brown can carve out some other means of utility to help a team in shambles.
• Drew Gooden (Wizards via free agency, F/C, 32): It’s understandable that NBA coaches and executives might be frustrated with Gooden’s shaky team defense, but he’s a better player than some currently in the league. Every available candidate in this pool is flawed, Gooden surely among them. But few free agent alternatives can claim to have produced in so wide a range of contexts, and made good out of so many unfavorable situations. In light of that (and the fact that Gooden shares an agent with John Wall, Nene, Martell Webster and Al Harrington), Gooden snagged a 10-day contract with the Wizards this week, largely for the purpose of filling in for the injured Nene. The two players are wildly different in terms of approach, but at this point Washington needs viable NBA-caliber bigs to fill minutes at the least. Gooden should be able to oblige.
• Beno Udrih (Grizzlies via Knicks, G, 31): World Peace wasn’t alone in abandoning Mike Woodson’s sinking ship, as Udrih — a backup point guard who hadn’t played a minute for the Knicks since Jan. 24 — sought release as a means of returning to the court. He’s certainly good enough to be a regular rotation player, making it easy to understand why 13 straight DNP-CDs might urge Udrih to pursue release.
For New York, though, what persuasive reason did the team have to part ways with a serviceable reserve ball handler? There’s nothing wrong with generating a little goodwill by doing right by a veteran, but the Knicks are fighting for their playoff lives with a career-worst (and now legally troubled) Raymond Felton, a minutes-restricted (and age-limited) Pablo Prigioni, an undrafted rookie in Touré Murry, and one of the shakier shooting guard rotations in the league. Even if Udrih was bugged by his meager role, was there really no more amenable solution than cutting a useful player loose?
Apparently not, as far as the Knicks saw. Udrih was released by New York only to be claimed off waivers by Memphis — an arrangement that allows other teams to assume employ of a released player on that players’ previous contract terms. Considering that Udrih was already playing on a one-year veteran minimum deal, a waiver claim allowed the Grizzlies to nab a nice reserve guard without having to compete with other suitors. Considering the price and Memphis’ needs for both ball handling and shooting help, that was a terrific play.
OTHER FREE AGENT OPTIONS
• Ivan Johnson (F, 29): Though currently playing in China, Johnson has reportedly caught the eye of a few different teams looking to add size following the deadline. There’s risk here; Johnson is a mite unpredictable, which doesn’t bode well for an addition intended to provide a low-maintenance boost. But if some team can get Johnson to play nice, they’d score a decent scorer and rebounder for the stretch run.
• Rodrigue Beaubois (G, 26): It’s been a sharp downward slope for Beaubois over the last few season, as he went from the Mavs’ point guard of the future to an oft-injured variable to a roster castoff. He didn’t even attend an NBA training camp this season as an unrestricted free agent due to a hand injury, though it looks like Beaubois might have a shot at joining the Celtics in the near future. According to Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com, Beaubois looked solid in his workout with Boston, and could soon play his first NBA game since March of 2013.
Other unsigned NBA veterans: Kwame Brown, Corey Maggette, Josh Howard (D-League), Stephen Jackson, Dahntay Jones, Chris Wilcox, Hakim Warrick, Maalik Wayns, Lance Thomas, Luke Walton, Eddy Curry, Ryan Gomes, Kelenna Azubuike, Tyrus Thomas, Sasha Vujacic, Baron Davis, Chris Duhon, Josh Childress, Luther Head, Charlie Bell, and Jamaal Tinsley.
Other NBA veterans who will be available after finishing the season in China: Delonte West, Sebastian Telfair, Bobby Brown, Donté Greene, Shelden Williams, James Singleton, Josh Powell, Darnell Jackson, and Dominique Jones.