The NBA buyout market is the last major moment within the NBA season for significant player movement. It’s fun! However, there are teams that think the fun isn’t fair.
After the trade deadline passes, the reactions settle and the focus on this season resumes, NBA buyout season begins in earnest. Players leave teams, join new ones and get to suit up for their new home in the playoffs. Players floundering on one team can move on and hopefully make a contribution for a better fit elsewhere.
It is, in many ways, in-season free agency. After a player and a team agree on a deal for the player to take less money to no longer play there anymore, that player can move on.
“With Andre Drummond going to the Los Angeles Lakers and Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge to the Brooklyn Nets, there are front-office executives determined to push the commissioner’s office to reexamine the process of post-trade-deadline buyouts. If the clear-eyed reality is that these players are simply faded All-Stars released from the back end of expensive contracts, the visual of them flocking to superteam rosters in two marquee markets does cast a chilling impact on the league’s collective psyche.”
What it seems like on the surface is that the rich get richer with multi-time All-Stars while teams looking to pick themselves up the standings don’t get to be part of the discussion.
Unfortunately, that is kind of by design, and it does not seem likely to change. Alternative processes like blind-bidding would have to be ratified by the players’ union. That would mean the players agreeing to no longer having control over where they go in exchange for … something, presumably. Maybe.
The reality is that players, once bought out, get to choose among interested teams. The ways to avoid this are to not sign players to contracts that will later be bought out, or to be a team in title contention, or to claim the player you want on the waiver wire before the buyout happens.
Or, to just be better. As Wojnarowski states: “Historical data shows that buyout players have chased winning situations, not big markets.”
While there will always be the discussion of the disadvantages of small-market teams, changing the NBA buyout process is a rather small means of trying to even the playing field and would take a significant amount of work to change in a way that all involved parties find equitable.