By Jared Peterman
Every year, NBA teams and players mutually agree to buyout the remainder of the player’s contract, usually at a lesser cost than what the player is owed, for the chance to join another team. This action is usually a domino effect from the NBA trade deadline in the middle of February where teams out of contention make a trade for an expiring contract attached with draft picks or a player that will get minutes down the stretch for them. This also happens with teams out of contention that couldn’t find a trade for the player or promised the player a buyout to allow them to play for a contender, while the team plays younger guys.
This year, the buyout rule seemed to go to an extreme. Useful veterans like Deron Williams, Andrew Bogut, Brandon Jennings, Terrance Jones, Jose Calderon, and Matt Barnes were all bought out by their teams, cleared waivers, and now are free to sign with any team they would like. The common trend lately for veterans in free agency has been to take less money and in some cases, less minutes to play for the Cavaliers or Warriors. Teams like the Houston Rockets even made trades during the deadline that looked useless to create more money in their buyout wallet for these players.
The verbal agreement signings have already begun as the Cavs will sign Williams and Bogut after clearing waivers at 5 P.M. to boost their bench down the stretch and in the playoffs. The Warriors agreed to sign Calderon, but after the injury to Kevin Durant, they plan to waive him and sign Barnes instead, according to Marc Stein of ESPN. The current three seed in the East, the Washington Wizards, are also reaping the benefits by signing Jennings to backup John Wall, a need all season.
This rule seems outrageous in a sense. It’s almost like playing fantasy football when a team out of contention drops a solid fringe starter after the trade deadline to help another team out.
Yes, teams save some money on the end of the player’s contract, but it’s not like the teams will go bankrupt if they pay the player’s full contract.
Yes, teams out of contention want their younger guys to play and clear some roster spots to try out some of their D-Leaguers, but why can’t they just bench the veteran or make them inactive?
Buyouts happen every year, and most years, the players aren’t of the caliber as this year’s buyout market, but it’s to a point where this rule can be abused. Last year, the big coup was Joe Johnson signing with the Heat, and before that was Caron Butler signing with the Thunder. Did either team get significantly better or win the title? No, but that doesn’t mean the rule should be allowed. This year, it almost seems inevitable that Bogut, Williams, or Barnes will play a role in winning a NBA championship.