NBA: Assessing what remains of the buyout market

NBA Cleveland Cavaliers Tristan Thompson (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
NBA Cleveland Cavaliers Tristan Thompson (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /
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NBA Atlanta Hawks
NBA Atlanta Hawks Evan Turner (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

The NBA’s buyout market is heating up, with the Bucks, Clippers, and Lakers making some recent, key additions to their team. Who else could be on the move?

February? It stinks, plain and simple. Easily a bottom-tier month.

On top of having almost no redeeming qualities – in the parts of the country where it’s cold, it’s freezing – it’s one of those special times of the year when the sports calendar isn’t overflowing with attention-grabbing events. Granted, the Super Bowl always falls in February, but after that’s over there’s still three more weeks to go.

Three more weeks to trudge through before you can even start thinking about warm weather and sunshine. Unless you’re a Valentine’s Day aficionado, I’m guessing you detest this dreadful time of year just as much as I do. Even the NBA, the lone respite for the sports-obsessed among us, takes a full week off in the middle of the month to celebrate the game’s best and brightest.

Thankfully, the NBA does offer up a proverbial life raft, and a much-needed one at that. The league’s annual trade deadline always falls in February, and the juicy rumors and fake trades that have come to define this seminal time on the league’s calendar usually provide just enough intrigue and excitement to sustain us through this, quite literally, dark time.

It feels like more and more fans eagerly anticipate the trade deadline with each passing year. We’ve never seen player movement the likes of which the league has experienced over the last decade, so it’s easy to see why the day that is known for players changing teams would be one of the things that most excites observers.

And unlike the playoffs, everyone gets to participate. Cheering on a miserable, lottery-bound team? Don’t worry. The excitement is still palpable! Use this time to escape from the dreadful on-court product that you’ve been subject to all year. Offloading veterans, role players and, on the rarest of occasions, a disgruntled star to playoff hopefuls, in exchange for a fruitful mix of assets and young players, is practically a yearly tradition at this point. It’s kicking the proverbial can down the road.

On the other end of the spectrum, teams with legitimate playoff aspirations – often with dreams of playing into June – feast on the less fortunate, hoping to poach useful contributors to fortify their ready-made rosters.

Back in 2004, the Detroit Pistons swung a deal with the Portland Trail Blazers to bring Rasheed Wallace to Detroit. They later cruised to one of the most unexpected titles in recent memory, topping the Lakers 4-1 in the NBA Finals.

Fifteen years earlier, the Pistons shipped out Adrian Dantley to bring in Mark Aguirre, famously a good friend of then-star Isiah Thomas. They ended up winning the title that year too.

Outside of the Pistons, however, deadline acquisitions don’t exactly lead to a ring at the end of the road. The Cavs struck a deal for Antawn Jamison in 2010 in a last-ditch attempt to win one before LeBron’s impending free agency. They lost in the second round.

In 2014, the Dallas Mavericks thought that Rajon Rondo was the missing piece they needed to return to the Finals. Things didn’t exactly go according to plan; they fell to the Houston Rockets in the first round that spring.

The trade deadline is often a breeding ground for hope and optimism, but there’s another date on the calendar that teams fixate on – another opportunity to bring in talent can make a difference in May and June. That day is March 1st.

Players who are bought out of their contracts have to sign on the dotted line with their new team before that important deadline in order to maintain playoff eligibility. While it doesn’t possess the same flash and substance, the buyout market typically offers contending teams the opportunity to improve without sacrificing any of their meaningful contributors.

Marvin Williams, Reggie Jackson, and Markieff Morris have already secured buyouts from their respective teams this season, choosing to sign on with the Milwaukee Bucks, LA Clippers, and Los Angeles Lakers. In this year’s (supposedly) wide-open title race, there are a number of flawed teams who can conceivably convince themselves that an acquisition on the buyout market could propel them to the Finals. Let’s assess the market, and look at some of the guys who might be looking for work in the next week or so.