The trade deadline has come and gone in the NBA, but teams still have plenty of work to do to improve their rosters before the playoffs.
The buyout market presents teams with their final opportunity to add talented depth to their rosters, crucially, without giving up assets. So we’ll be taking a look at which players are most likely to find themselves needing new homes in the coming days.
The center position is where the most exciting players of the buyout market reside. Two of the more prominent names in the sport have already found themselves bought out by their old teams in Andre Drummond and LaMarcus Aldridge.
Drummond hasn’t played in a game in around a month while the Cleveland Cavaliers searched for a trade partner that never came. Drummond, who is 27-years-old, is 6-foot-10 and 280 pounds and has been one of the best rebounders in the NBA since his rookie season in 2012-13, averaging 13.8 rebounds per game over his career. Drummond is an excellent combination of size, defense and rebounding that will come on the cheap, but for Drummond to be successful on a contender, he will have to accept a much lesser offensive role.
Aldridge hits the buyout market as a much different center option than fellow center Drummond. Aldridge is now in the tail end of his career; at 35-years-old he was bought out by the San Antonio Spurs on Friday morning after playing limited minutes this season. Aldridge’s role will be to provide veteran leadership and stretch scoring to the bench of a contender. Despite having a down season, Aldridge still managed to average 13.7 points per game, 46.4 percent shooting and 36 percent shooting from three-point range.
Aldridge and Drummond’s destinations seem to be set in stone already, with Drummond long rumored to be joining the Los Angeles Lakers and Aldridge seemingly heading to the Miami HEAT. A wrench was thrown into that slightly when the Memphis Grizzlies waived Gorgui Dieng on Friday. Dieng provides defense, rebounding and even the ability to stretch the floor in a limited capacity. In 21 games this year, Dieng is averaging 7.9 points and 4.5 rebounds per game while shooting 47.9 percent from three-point range on 2.2 attempts per game. Dieng also doesn’t have the downsides that Drummond and Aldridge have; Drummond wants the ball in his hands on offense often and Aldridge is well-past his prime and isn’t the same player he was five years ago. Dieng doesn’t need the ball in his hands to impact offense, mostly just finishing layups or taking spot-up threes and at 31-years-old Dieng still has a few years left in his prime.
While Drummond, Aldridge and Dieng will take the headlines, there are some other centers to keep in mind. Kelly Olynyk was involved in a deadline day trade from the HEAT to the Houston Rockets, making him a prime candidate to be bought out. Olynyk played in 43 games this season for Miami and averaged 10 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, making him an interesting option for teams needing scoring depth at center. The Sacramento Kings Hassan Whiteside is another player who could see himself in need of a new home. Whiteside’s 7-foot-tall, 270-pound frame makes him a desirable option for any team in need of a center, but effort will always be a concern surrounding him.
The big names on the buyout market this year are mostly going to be centers, but a few wings may end up on the market in the near future that would attract contenders’ interest.
The most notable wing that could see himself as a free agent would be Otto Porter. Porter was traded from the Chicago Bulls to the Orlando Magic, who had a fire sale on deadline day. Porter is now stuck on a Magic team not looking to compete for the rest of the season and with one year left on his current deal, he will undoubtedly be looking to have his contract bought out. Assuming he does get bought out, Porter’s skill set as a two-way wing will have every contender in need of shooting and defense calling. Porter has struggled to stay healthy this year, but in limited showing he’s averaged 9.9 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game while knocking down 40 percent of his three-point shots. Porter has been consistently dangerous from beyond the arc his entire career, shooting 40.9 percent from three for his career.
Every team with championship aspirations will throw their hats in the ring if Porter hits free agency, but it’s not a given he will see the market. The Magic now owns porter’s Bird rights and that is a valuable enough asset that they may opt to keep him and try their luck at resigning him in the offseason. If he does end up in free agency, the Portland Trailblazer are a team that desperately needs help on defense and with shooting off the bench, both areas Porter specializes in. The Boston Celtics have similar issues that Portland does and with a real lack of depth in Boston, Porter would be an exciting fit there. Really, if Porter becomes available, every team that thinks they could make a run in the playoffs this year will try and sign him up, so it’s difficult to predict where he would end up.
While Porter is the prized commodity when it comes to wings, there are a few other names to look out for. Rodney Hood was traded to the Toronto Raptors on deadline day and if the Raptors don’t feel as if they can compete, Hood could find himself as a dangerous scoring option in free agency. Porter’s new teammate James Ennis is another player who could be bought out, as the Magic likely want to give as many minutes as possible to younger players.
The guard position looks like it may be the weakest crop of players in the buyout market, but there will still be options to improve team depth. Looking at primary ball handlers, the recent Magic acquisition Jeff Teague is all but certain to end up in free agency. While Teague is no longer a starting point guard, he has proven himself to be a reliable backup point guard the past few years. Another backup point guard to keep an eye on is the New York Knicks’ Austin Rivers. Rivers has struggled to find the court this year in his ninth NBA season, playing in just 21 games so far. If the Knicks want to be active in the buyout market, Rivers may be the player to make room for a new addition. But Rivers has proven to be a capable backup option over his career and some teams lacking point guard depth may take a run.
There are some off-ball guards to keep interested in as well over the next few days. Detroit Pistons’ Wayne Ellington is the odd man out in a team looking to give minutes to their younger core. Ellington, a career 38.1 percent three-point shooter, is currently hitting 43.1 percent of his 6.4 attempts from deep this season and high-level shooting is always in demand. Another valuable off-guard who could provide a defensive boost if bought out is Avery Bradley, who wound up on the Rockets along with Olynyk via trade. Like Ellington, Bradley is a capable shooter from deep, hitting 36.5 percent of those attempts over his career, but Bradley’s value primarily stems from his defensive abilities. Two-way guards like Bradley are always a valued commodity in the NBA and if he hits free agency, he surely won’t be there for long.
While these are some of the bigger names to keep track of, there are plenty of players who will become free agents looking for new homes.
The buyout market will begin to escalate in the coming days, but teams have some time to make these decisions. The deadline for a player to be bought out and remain and remain playoff eligible is Friday, April 9.