Predicting Final Landing Spots for the NBA's Top Buyout Candidates
Player movement doesn't end at the trade deadline.
Teams can come to agreements with players and buy out their contracts up through March 1, which allows them to hit waivers and then become free agents. As Larry Coon writes in his wonderful CBA FAQ:
After the player clears waivers, he and his former team are free to go their separate ways. There is a quid-pro-quo between the player and team regarding contractual obligation and salary -- in exchange for gaining his freedom, the player agrees to give the team a break on the remaining salary he is owed.
Buyouts don't happen with alarming frequency, and it's not too likely that many high-quality players are allowed to hit waivers during the same season. This 2013-14 seems to be a bit different, though, as teams are getting smarter about contracts.
Eight players have either been bought out and failed to land on a team yet or are heavily rumored to be entering the free-agent-pool in the near future. All eight should find another landing spot (assuming the buyouts are completed), but where will they go?
Will they all find their way to contenders? Will they just look for opportunities to play?
Be conscious of the fact that few teams are in position to add more than one player for the stretch run, so don't just expect every player to be projected to join the Miami Heat. They can't have everyone, despite what some fans and media members might lead you to believe.
When Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald asked an Eastern Conference scout whether the Miami Heat would prefer Danny Granger or Caron Butler, he seemed to be rather conflicted:
“They’re very comparable,” an Eastern Conference scout said. “Granger is better off the ball, Butler a little tougher.” The scout said Granger has lost a step, but Butler isn't clearly better, and the scout would lean toward Granger for Miami because the Heat could pick his brain on Pacers’ personnel and tendencies, adding “that definitely has value beyond what you get studying film.”
While that's true, Butler has a few advantages of his own.
Not only do he and Dwyane Wade remain friends from their time together during Butler's first go-round with the Heat, but LeBron James and Granger don't have the greatest history. The current Milwaukee Buck, who has yet to be bought out, would make for a much friendlier locker room, and chemistry is something the defending champs pride themselves on.
Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times reports that Butler is in the midst of buyout discussions, but there's still no guarantee he hits the market.
If he does, it'll be awfully difficult for him to overlook the team that drafted him back in 2002.
Predicted Landing Spot: Miami Heat
The Charlotte Bobcats and Ben Gordon have seemed to be parting ways for months now. But after failing to move his gaudy expiring contract at the trade deadline, the 'Cats are still looking to get this overpaid shooting guard off the roster.
Especially after acquiring Luke Ridnour and Gary Neal from the Milwaukee Bucks, Charlotte has no room for Gordon in the rotation. But someone would.
That someone is a team that desperately needs shooting from the perimeter. After all, Gordon has struggled with his outside game during limited action this year, but last season, he drilled 38.7 percent of his looks from downtown.
He might have fallen out of favor in Charlotte, leading to the ongoing buyout discussions first reported by Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, but he'd be able to find a home elsewhere. The Memphis Grizzlies, for example, would probably love to have him.
Not only have the Grizz made 60 fewer triples than anyone else in the NBA, per Basketball-Reference, but only four teams have been less efficient when letting it fly from beyond the arc. They clearly need help there, and they can't wait much longer.
The Grizzlies are still a bit shy of the playoff picture in the brutally difficult Western Conference, and shoring up the offense would certainly help. So long as Gordon could become an efficient marksman in limited action—though not as limited as what he's experienced in Charlotte—he would do exactly that.
Predicted Landing Spot: Memphis Grizzlies
It's time for the Sacramento Kings to free Jimmer Fredette after keeping him trapped at the back end of the rotation ever since using a Top 10 pick on him in the draft a few years back.
Fortunately, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reports that the two sides are finalizing a buyout agreement that would allow the man with a penchant for deep three-pointers to ply his trade in a new location. It's hard to imagine him failing to find a home, though the options are still limited.
I broke down his best chances of finding a new job here, but the Utah Jazz are the best location.
Though every Jimmer-to-Utah rumor has been firmly rebuffed by the team's front office, it's hard to imagine it saying no when nothing has to be given up for his services. He's an immediate upgrade over Diante Garrett as a backup point guard for Trey Burke, and the ticket sales would skyrocket.
After Jimmer reached mythical status at BYU, he remains a godly figure in Salt Lake City.
EnergySolutions Arena might sell out. His jersey might challenge LeBron James' for the No. 1 spot in the league. Oh, and the Jazz would be able to evaluate another high-potential player who could help further the ongoing rebuild.
The only reason this might not happen—much like the Jimmer-to-New York ideas—is that it makes too much sense.
Predicted Landing Spot: Utah Jazz
There's still no guarantee Danny Granger gets bought out by the Philadelphia 76ers after he was traded there in the deal that sent Evan Turner to the Indiana Pacers.
"He is a good guy, a good person, and a hell of a player," Philly head coach Brett Brown told CSNPhilly.com's Dei Lynam. "He has different ideas on what is best for him and his family at this stage of his career. I don’t begrudge him for any of that. I think it is our job to run a business and treat people well, and we will do that. I think the timeline with Danny is still open-ended."
But let's go ahead and assume that Granger is freed from an obviously tanking team, giving him the luxury of choosing his next destination. He'll be looking for both playing time and an opportunity to go past the 82nd game of the season, which allows two franchises to jump to the head of the pack—the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs.
Though Caron Butler seems to be the preference in South Beach, Granger remains a possibility.
However, the Spurs should be considered the leading candidate, especially given the number of injuries they've dealt with throughout the season. ESPN's Marc Stein reports on Twitter that San Antonio is interested in the forward's services, and it's tough to imagine that interest not being mutual.
Granger is the marquee name in the group of buyouts and potential buyouts, so it only makes sense for him to go join one of the marquee contenders.
Predicted Landing Spot: San Antonio Spurs
Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the Atlanta Hawks had officially bought out Antawn Jamison after acquiring him from the Los Angeles Clippers, and now it's time to ask the big question.
Is he going to find a home in the NBA?
It's the same question B/R's Zach Buckley addressed after the news broke, writing the following:
He might not be completely out of options. Before his buyout was even completed, potential suitors were starting to emerge.
The Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs were both interested in him over the offseason, according to ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst and Arash Markazi. The Washington Wizards still reportedly view him with tremendous respect.
I wouldn't be shocked if Jamison found himself without a job in a few weeks, but it would be a bit surprising. There's always room for floor-spacing power forwards who can provide veteran leadership, particularly in a league that continues to value three-point shooting more and more.
Miami and San Antonio both have more pressing needs, but the Wizards seem like a likely landing spot. This is a team that was already struggling to find quality frontcourt options behind the starters, and losing Nene to a lengthy MCL injury isn't going to help.
Washington is a young squad, and the presence of veterans would greatly aid the youngsters come playoff time. That's part of the reason Andre Miller was brought aboard, and adding Jamison would fill the increasingly small void.
Predicted Landing Spot: Washington Wizards
This is purely speculative, but B/R's Ben Leibowitz makes a compelling argument about why we should consider Chris Kaman a dark-horse candidate to be bought out:
Although there haven't been reports that Los Angeles Lakers center Chris Kaman will be bought out in the coming days, there’s reason to believe NBA fans shouldn’t rule it out as a possibility for three reasons:
I can't argue with that, but it'll take a lot for the Lakers to actually pull the trigger. Especially with the way Kaman has been playing lately and the lack of healthy bodies in the Staples Center, a buyout feels unlikely.
Should Kaman hit waivers or clear them and become a free agent, expect to see him join the Miami Heat. He's the perfect fit for that squad, bringing rebounding and toughness to the table. The Los Angeles Clippers would make for a nice landing spot as well.
But once March 1 has come and gone, Kaman will remain in a purple-and-gold uniform.
Predicted Landing Spot: Los Angeles Lakers
Quality point guards in the NBA are not a dime a dozen, and Beno Udrih is still (kind of) a quality point guard.
The 31-year-old averaged only 5.6 points, 1.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game for the New York Knicks, shooting 42.5 percent from the field and an identical percentage from beyond the arc. However, he's better than the numbers would indicate.
As soon as he lands in a new spot, one that isn't so dysfunctional and doesn't force him to interact with a coach who loves throwing him under the bus and getting embroiled in wars of words, he'll show exactly that.
"The Spurs are the team I hear mentioned the most," Steve Kyler wrote during a BasketballInsiders.com chat after being asked where Udrih will sign. "I know Washington tried to sign him this summer, but with the arrival of Andre Miller that’s not nearly the pressing need it was."
It's hard to argue with the San Antonio Spurs as the No. 1 location for Udrih.
Not only would he be going to a squad known for maximizing the talents of role players, but he'd get to play quite a bit. Does Gregg Popovich really want to roll with Cory Joseph and Patty Mills as the primary backups for Tony Parker?
Probably not, especially given the tough nature the Western Conference playoffs are sure to boast.
Predicted Landing Spot: San Antonio Spurs
Metta World Peace
According to B/R's Jared Zwerling on Twitter, Metta World Peace's father said he'd love to see his son on the Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio Spurs or Oklahoma City Thunder.
It's tough to imagine either of the last two destinations coming to fruition, though.
I already have the Spurs as the favorites to sign both Beno Udrih and Danny Granger, and it's highly unlikely they'd value MWP above either of those guys. Granger is better, and Udrih plays a position that's more in need of filling in San Antonio. The Thunder are cost-conscious and don't need to add another defensive standout at this point in the season, especially when there are chemistry concerns.
That leaves the Clippers.
Even after landing Glen Davis, who was bought out by the Orlando Magic, LAC still needs to fill out its frontcourt. Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Davis and Ryan Hollins are the only players capable of lining up at the 4 or 5, and Matt Barnes does not count.
World Peace has been more effective guarding power forwards over the last few seasons, and he'd add the extra depth necessary to ensure the Clippers a spot amongst the Western Conference elite.
Plus, we already know he's quite comfortable in L.A.
Predicted Landing Spot: Los Angeles Clippers