The NBA trade deadline has passed, but we are far from the end of the player movement. It has become normal that a robust buyout market emerges after the deadline, as players who weren’t moved — or were moved to match salaries — are set free to sign with contenders for the minimum. These buyout players are valuable weapons for cap-limited teams in need of more depth.
Who will end up on the buyout market this year? Here are ten potential candidates of varying likelihood.
1) Derrick Rose, Jazz
Derrick Rose was sent to Utah as part of a three-way trade the Cavs made on deadline day. Reports have said he is likely to seek a buyout and receive one from the Jazz. If that happens, the Minnesota Timberwolves have been mentioned as a potential landing spot. He has great familiarity with his former coach Tom Thibodeau and ex-teammate Jimmy Butler, and is said to have interest in a reunion.
2) Joe Johnson, Kings
The possibility of a Johnson buyout was first floated by Marc Stein of the New York Times, and that was even before he was traded by Utah to Sacramento. The Kings are looking to go young and give their rookies more playing time. Johnson doesn’t really fit in there, and Sacramento could do right by him by letting him go. His leadership and scoring ability would be a really nice addition to the bench of some contender. The Rockets are among the teams that would have interest in him, as are the Warriors.
3) Shabazz Muhammad, Timberwolves
A valuable bench option over the past two seasons with Minnesota, Muhammad has completely fallen out of Tom Thibodeau’s rotation, playing in just 31 games this season. It’s bad enough that he’s reportedly asked the organization to let him go. He was not traded at the deadline, so a buyout may be the cleanest route to go. Muhammad can absolutely score a bit off the bench, though he’s not much of a defender. Teams are always looking for points, and if Muhammad hits the market, he could provide a few for someone.
4) Vince Carter, Kings
The 41-year-old is on a team going nowhere and is running out of time to win that elusive NBA title, so Carter is a pretty good candidate to be handed a buyout after the trade deadline. He’s been little more than a bit-part player in a mentor role for the listless Kings, and this season could be his last chance to win in the playoffs. He’s obviously not the same player he once was, but he can still contribute in limited duty and add depth to a good team. The Warriors have been mentioned as a possibility for him if he gets bought out.
5) Tony Allen, Bulls
Allen was traded to Chicago in the Nikola Mirotic deal, but he won’t be there long. The only question is how he leaves town. Initial reports indicated that Allen would likely be released, and then there was talk of him being traded. Since Allen wasn’t traded by Chicago, they may buy him out. He would have a long queue of interested suitors if that happens. Perimeter defenders of this caliber don’t come available this late in the season very often.
6) Channing Frye, Lakers
Frye was one of two expiring contracts sent by Cleveland to the Lakers in the Isaiah Thomas trade. The veteran is under contract for $7.5 million this season, and it’s possible the Lakers will buy him out so he can sign elsewhere. He’s been a valuable part of three NBA Finals teams and one champion in Cleveland, and the floor-stretching big man can definitely still contribute. Would he be willing to flip from the Cavs’ side to the Warriors? If so, Golden State reportedly would have interest.
7) Joakim Noah, Knicks
The marriage between Noah and the Knicks has gone south very quickly, with the center having played just 40 minutes total for the team all season. To make matters worse, he’s still owed $38 million over the next two seasons, and he’s not going to give that up. The Knicks would probably love to talk buyout terms with him, but so far, Noah isn’t interested. He’s still a candidate, but something of a longshot given his understandable reluctance to let the Knicks have any money back. It’s worth keeping an eye on, but something has to change before it becomes a reality. If he were to be bought out, the Thunder and Timberwolves reportedly would have interest.
8) Zach Randolph, Kings
Randolph was brought into Sacramento as a mentor for a very young team, but one has to wonder how long he’ll stick there. The gentleman known as Z-Bo has been a pretty steady contributor for the Kings, averaging 14.5 points and seven rebounds per game. Randolph is owed over $11 million next season, and he may give some of it back for the chance to go to a contender. The Kings may not be willing to entertain the thought of getting rid of their leading scorer and rebounder, but they’re not going anywhere and have no incentive to win, so it can’t be completely ruled out.
9) Luol Deng, Lakers
It’s no secret that the Lakers are desperate to get out from under Deng’s awful contract — two years and about $36 million to go after this year, guys! It’s also no secret that no team is going to be charitable enough to bail them out of that one. Deng has played just one game for the team this season. It’s debatable whether the team would cut their losses and try to move on from this massive free agent blunder, but it can’t be ruled out, since he’s clearly not in their plans and isn’t going to get traded. He could still contribute. It’s just a matter of how desperate the Lakers are to get rid of him.
10) Brook Lopez, Lakers
A whole lot of teams are probably sitting around and hoping the Lakers decide to set Lopez free. He’s a highly-paid free-agent-to-be on a team that doesn’t really have any incentive to win games this season, which describes your ideal buyout candidate. He’s still a quality contributor even though his numbers are down this year, as the Lakers give him fewer minutes than he’s ever had before. Solid big men are always at a premium this time of year, and this is a guy one year removed from scoring 20 points per game.