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NBA Saturday: Breaking Down the Buyout Market

The buyout market is taking shape. Here is the latest on players that are or will soon be up for grabs.

Jesse Blancarte profile picture
Updated 10 months ago on
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After the trade deadline passes each season, at least a handful of teams start buyout discussions with players for various reasons. For teams, it’s an opportunity to save some money on players who are not in the team’s long-term plans. For the players, it’s an opportunity to hit the market and sign with a contender or a team that will give them a big role and a lot of playing time to showcase themselves for a new contract in the offseason.

Here is a breakdown of the players that have already been waived this season and the players that are likely to be bought out in the next few days.

Joe Johnson –

Johnson reached a buyout agreement with the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday and has committed to signing with the Miami HEAT, according to Shams Charania of The Vertical. Johnson is probably the best overall player on this season’s buyout market and has been shooting the ball particularly well since early January.

Johnson joins the HEAT in search of an opportunity to prove he’s worth another sizable contract in the upcoming offseason. At age 35, Johnson is well past his best years, but he can be an impact player for the HEAT, who are now thin in the backcourt with Beno Udrih and Tyler Johnson out for the season.

David Lee –

The Boston Celtics acquired Lee last offseason by trading Gerald Wallace and Chris Babb to the Golden State Warriors. With Draymond Green taking over as a do-everything power forward for the Warriors, there wasn’t much of a role left for Lee in Golden State.

Unfortunately, Lee never had much of a role with the Celtics either. In 30 appearances, he averaged 7.1 points and 4.3 rebounds per game, while shooting 45.3 percent from the field.

Lee opted to sign with the Dallas Mavericks and is already making an impact. In his second game with his new team, Lee tallied 14 points and a season-high 14 rebounds. Lee is still capable of rebounding the ball and having the occasional scoring outburst, but his days as a 20-10 player are past him and his defense has always been problematic. Still, as far as buyout pick-ups go, this is a pretty solid one for the Mavericks.

Ty Lawson –

It’s been a rough season for Lawson, who was acquired by the Houston Rockets last offseason for Joey Dorsey, Nick Johnson, Kostas Papanikolaou, Pablo Prigioni, a 2016 first-round pick and cash consideration.

Lawson started the first 11 games of the season, but became a backup when J.B. Bickerstaff took over for Kevin McHale. The fit was always going to be tricky since both he and James Harden are ball-dominant guards. The hope was the two could learn to play off of one another, but that never came together.

The Rockets tried to trade Lawson before the trade deadline, engaging in discussions with teams like the Utah Jazz, but were unable to move him.

Lawson will draw interest from teams once he hits the market. However, Lawson hasn’t been an impact player all season and he comes with obvious issues (though reports indicate that he has conducted himself in a professional manner with the Rockets this season). If a team signs Lawson and can somehow get him to play at, or close to the level he played at in his peek years with the Nuggets, it will be a major addition.

Lawson has averaged six points, 3.5 assists and 1.7 rebounds in 22.8 minutes per game for the Rockets this season.

Marcus Thornton –

Thornton, age 28, has played in 47 games this season for the Houston Rockets. He was originally included in the February 18 trade with the Detroit Pistons that was going to send Donatas Motiejunas to Detroit.

However, the Pistons voided the trade because of Motiejunas’ ongoing back issues, meaning that Thornton ended up staying put in Houston. Now, it is being reported by The Vertical that Houston will waive Thornton.

On the season, Thornton has averaged 10 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game, while shooting 33.8 percent from distance and 47.3 percent from the field. Thornton is a career 35.9 percent three-point shooter. His ability to score the ball in bunches and spread the court with his streaky three-point shooting will make him an interesting buyout acquisition for teams in the need of scoring on the wing. Though he is shooting below his career-average from distance, he is still a decent threat from the outside.

Anderson Varejao –

Varejao was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers, along with a second-round pick, in exchange for a second-round pick. Portland immediately waived the long-time Cavalier and Varejao soon after signed with the defending champion Golden State Warriors.

Varejao is an above average passer with a good motor. His size and ability to move the ball quickly should be a nice addition to the Warriors’ second-unit, especially with Festus Ezeli still sidelined.

J.J. Hickson –

The Denver Nuggets and Hickson agreed to a buyout last week and he soon after signed on with the Washington Wizards.

Hickson appeared in 20 games for the Nuggets this season. He averaged 6.9 point and 4.4 rebounds in 15.3 minutes per game.

Hickson, age 27, has bounced around the league, playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Sacramento Kings, Portland Trail Blazers and the Nuggets. Hickson had one of his best statistical seasons in 2010-11 with Cleveland, where he averaged 13.8 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game.

Andrea Bargnani –

The Brooklyn Nets waived forward Andrea Bargnani last Saturday. The former No.1 overall pick signed a two-year, veterans minimum contract (with a second-year player option) during the offseason.

In 46 games with the Nets, Bargnani averaged 6.6 points, 2.1 rebounds and shot just 18.8 percent distance and 47.1 percent from the field. It is unclear at this time where Bargnani may go, or if he will sit out the remainder of the season.

Bargnani is a career 35.4 percent three-point shooter, which in theory should make him a worthwhile addition for any team in need of court-spacing from the power forward or center positions. But with Bargnani taking just 0.3 three-point attempts per game and hitting just 18.8 percent of his attempts, it’s hard to see what kind of value he can bring to teams at this point.

Kevin Martin –

On Thursday, Marc Stein of ESPN reported that the Minnesota Timberwolves and shooting guard Kevin Martin are in advanced negotiations on a contract buyout.

Martin, age 33, has made a name for himself throughout his career for shooting well from three-point range (38.5 percent) and for drawings fouls and getting to the free throw line frequently. Martin’s per game numbers are down this season, but just last season he averaged 20 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game, while shooting 39.3 percent from distance and 44.2 percent from the field.

Martin has averaged just 21.4 minutes this season and his shooting percentages have dropped off. However, Martin could be a nice addition for any team in need of a scoring-wing who can space the court. Martin’s defense is problematic, but there’s no doubt he is a scoring threat that opposing defenses will have to account for.

Andre Miller –

On Thursday night, the Minnesota Timberwolves announced that they had finalized a buyout with Andre Miller.

Miller, age 39, is a steady-handed floor general with a ton of experience. He isn’t much of a shooter and is limited in what he can do physically at this point in his career. But Miller’s game has never been dependent on athleticism and if a team is in need of an experienced point guard, there aren’t many players, if any, out there with more experience than Miller

In 26 games with the Timberwolves this season, Miller averaged 3.4 points and 2.2 assists per game.

Update: According to Shams Charania of The Vertical, Miller has committed to signing with the San Antonio Spurs.

Chris Copeland –

The Milwaukee Bucks waived Copeland to clear a roster spot to add Steve Novak, who was bought out by the Nuggets, who acquired Novak in the deal that sent Randy Foye to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Orlando Magic soon after claimed Copeland off free agency waivers. Copeland, age 31, has never put up huge numbers in his short NBA career. However, in his first two seasons, he shot over 40 percent from distance and is a 36.5 career three-point shooter.

Steve Novak –

Novak, age 32, can do one thing exceptionally well, and that’s shoot the long-ball. Novak is a career 43.1 percent three-point shooter. If there was ever a team that needed additional shooting to space the floor, it’s this year’s Milwaukee Bucks.

Jesse Blancarte is a Deputy Editor for Basketball Insiders. He is also an Attorney and a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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