NBA’s buyout market nearly always more style than substance

Milwaukee Bucks Marvin Williams (Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)
Milwaukee Bucks Marvin Williams (Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images) /

The NBA buyout market is something NBA voices spend much time dissecting, even if the truth — particularly recently — is most often much ado about nothing.

Maybe this is the year that one of the much-ballyhooed players plucked off free agency after being bought out makes a substantial impact in the NBA Playoffs.

Of course, if it does happen that way, it will be a fairly significant departure from the norm.

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There have already been two players — both let go by the Charlotte Hornets — who have been bought out and signed by new organizations. Marvin Williams signed with the Milwaukee Bucks after the final two months of his contract were bought out and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist joined the Dallas Mavericks after getting his freedom from Charlotte a bit early.

To make room for Williams, the Bucks waived former lottery pick Dragan Bender. In order to fit Kidd-Gilchrist onto its roster, Dallas cut loose injured Ryan Broekhoff.

There are currently nine players that have been bought out, according to Luke Adams of Hoops Rumors.

That group includes Ryan Anderson (Houston Rockets), Trey Burke (Philadelphia 76ers), Tim Frazier (Detroit Pistons), Jeff Green (Utah Jazz), Tyler Johnson (Phoenix Suns), Nene Hilario (Atlanta Hawks), Iman Shumpert (Brooklyn Nets), Isaiah Thomas (LA Clippers) and Dion Waiters (Memphis Grizzlies).

That does not include C.J. Miles, Chandler Parsons or Gerald Green, each of whom was waived but is recovering from injuries that will likely preclude them from playing for the remainder of this season.

There is also a host of candidates that could still hit the open market, most notably Tristan Thompson of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Reggie Jackson of the Pistons and Maurice Harkless of the New York Knicks.

In the last decade, there have been 11 players bought out and signed by teams that wound up in the NBA Finals that season. Of those 11, exactly one — Peja Stojakovic of the Mavericks in 2011 — played a significant role in the playoffs for a team that won the title.

Stojakovic had been bought out by the Toronto Raptors in January 2011 after having been limited to just eight games with the New Orleans Hornets and two with Toronto due to back problems. The Mavs added the former All-NBA wing and he came off the bench in the postseason for 7.1 points in 18.4 minutes per game on a shooting line of .408/.377/7-for-9.

The other team in that same series, the Miami Heat, had added Mike Bibby after he had been cut loose by the Washington Wizards on Feb. 28, 2011.

While Stojakovic’s former Sacramento Kings teammate started 20 of Miami’s 21 playoff games in 2011, he averaged just 3.7 points in 20.8 minutes per game while shooting a dismal 28.1 percent overall and hitting 25.8 percent on 3.3 3-point attempts per game.

Hardly an impact player … except perhaps for Miami’s opponents.

The Mavericks in 2011 had a second buyout recipient, having added Corey Brewer, who ended up with the Knicks after the Carmelo Anthony trade and was cut on March 1. In Dallas’ 21 playoff games, Brewer appeared in six, logging just 23 minutes.

When Miami won the title in 2012, they got 12 playoff appearances and seven starts out of free agent pickup Ronny Turiaf — playing in roughly half of their 23 postseason games in all. He averaged 1.9 points and 2.6 rebounds in 10.1 minutes per game and was 10-for-18 from the floor. The veteran got the ring, but he was hardly a major component.

Matt Barnes, at age 36, came to the Golden State Warriors in March 2017, less than two weeks after being cut by Sacramento. He played 61 minutes in the Warriors’ title march that spring, scoring nine points with nine rebounds in 12 games. Barnes made 4-of-15 from the floor and 1-of-8 from deep.

Last season’s Toronto Raptors had a bought-out player on their championship squad. But Jeremy Lin played in only eight playoff games for 27 minutes, posting nine points and four assists on 2-of-9 shooting.

Most of these acquisitions barely register as even being on the margins.

Among players who wound up signing with teams that lost in the Finals over the past 10 years, we have:

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So while analysts may get very excited over the possibilities of what a bought-out player could potentially add to a contender, the simple fact is that guys continue to get bought out for one overwhelming reason.

They’re just not that good anymore.

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So if you’re looking for deep impact from this year’s buyout crop once the dust settles on March 1 — the last day a player can be waived and still be eligible to play for a new team in the playoffs — you might be well advised to temper your expectations … a lot.