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What Inside Sources Are Saying About NBA's Top Buyout Candidates

Jake Fischer@JakeLFischerContributor IMarch 23, 2021

San Antonio Spurs center LaMarcus Aldridge (12) drives past Boston Celtics center Daniel Theis (27) during the second half of an NBA basketball game in San Antonio, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Eric Gay/Associated Press

Just two days remain before the NBA's trade deadline, and teams like the Cavaliers, Spurs and Pelicans remain active, searching to deal several players before they begin contract buyout negotiations instead.

On Monday, we discussed some of the buzziest names involved in teams' negotiations, from Victor Oladipo and Aaron Gordon to Devonte' Graham and Spencer Dinwiddie.

This rundown examines the players trending toward the buyout market, with details from their teams' conversations with rival front offices.

   

Andre Drummond

David Zalubowski/Associated Press

It's been five-plus weeks since the Cleveland Cavaliers began sitting their burly center, hoping to both move Drummond and create more playing time for Jarrett Allen. Cavs officials have maintained an optimism that Drummond could at least return the draft capital Cleveland surrendered to acquire him from Detroit last February: a future second-round pick.

There's been difficulty for any interested suitor, though, even the Boston Celtics with their famous $28.5 million trade exception, to make the salaries match, especially for a player who will likely command a pricey contract in free agency this summer.

"The hard part is he just makes so much money," one assistant general manager said. "It's hard to not include a contract you don't want to trade."

Along with the Celtics, the New York Knicks, Dallas Mavericks and Chicago Bulls are known to have kicked the tires on Drummond, according to league sources, and the possibility always remains that some team will emerge at the eleventh hour with the draft asset for which the Cavs have been holding out.

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But contenders such as the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets (though Brooklyn's interest seems to have waned since it signed Blake Griffin) have been bullish that Cleveland will fall short of finding a trade, leading to Drummond's agreeing to a buyout and becoming an unrestricted free agent just like Griffin before him. At this juncture, you'd be hard-pressed to find an executive who doesn't believe Drummond would join the Lakers in that scenario, as a starting role would likely be waiting for him.

In addition to Drummond, sources said Cleveland has held numerous conversations on JaVale McGee, Larry Nance Jr. and Cedi Osman. With Nance, the Cavaliers' asking price appears high. The front office is seeking at least a first-round pick for a player whose father once starred for the franchise and who has been a staple of the team in its transition past the LeBron James era.

   

LaMarcus Aldridge

Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

The San Antonio Spurs have made it clear that LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan are available via trade, according to league sources. Gregg Popovich, of course, announced Aldridge and San Antonio's mutual interest to part ways, yet the rumblings surrounding his destination have remained quiet.

Only the Celtics and Miami Heat have been consistently mentioned by league personnel as teams with significant interest in Aldridge. And similar to the Drummond situation, it seems both franchises may be content to wait to add his services on the buyout market. The Heat are expected to make a spirited pursuit of Aldridge if he does become a free agent, but the Celtics could offer a primary frontcourt role in Brad Stevens' offense. "That sounds like their No. 1 priority," one team scout said.

DeRozan is also playing out the final year of his contract, and sources said he has an interest in playing elsewhere following this season—perhaps with an eye toward the Eastern Conference. DeRozan is quietly having an exceptional season, scoring 20.3 points per game on 49.1 percent shooting and boasting a 7.5-to-1.7 assist-to-turnover ratio. "He's transformed himself into this swing playmaker," one team analytics staffer said.

The likelihood appears low that DeRozan will reach a buyout with San Antonio, but by all accounts his time with the Spurs seems to be nearing its end.

The ever-active Knicks have considered acquiring DeRozan, sources said, but New York has the same reservations regarding that possible move as with the Victor Oladipo scenario we detailed Monday.

There's a faction of the Chicago front office that feels adding one piece such as DeRozan could push the Bulls firmly into the postseason, sources said.

And the Orlando Magic have discussed trading Evan Fournier, also on an expiring deal, plus a first-round pick for DeRozan, as the four-time All-Star could re-sign and help bolster the Magic once their roster returns to full health next season.

Multiple league sources mentioned Trey Lyles and his representatives are interested in a new destination for the 25-year-old forward and that the Spurs are also open to moving Rudy Gay in the final year of his contract.

   

JJ Redick

Chris Szagola/Associated Press

Aside from increasing Lonzo Ball trade speculation, the New Orleans Pelicans have not been nearly as rumored in conversations with league personnel as they were in January and February. There seems to be little traction in any deal for Eric Bledsoe, sources said, and JJ Redick appears more likely headed for the buyout market.

With his interest in playing for a Northeast team nearer his family in Brooklyn so well known, that's of course narrowed the market for any move. The Nets don't appear in need of much shooting, and some Philadelphia 76ers officials who predate Daryl Morey are still soured on Redick from his disappointing defensive performance in the 2019 postseason, sources said.

Perhaps the Celtics and Knicks, with needs for perimeter reinforcements, would send a second-rounder to the Pelicans, but it feels more like the veteran will reach a buyout agreement.

   

Otto Porter Jr.

Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

As the Bulls have weighed adding to their roster for a postseason run, Chicago's main trade piece is Otto Porter Jr.'s $28.5 million expiring contract. Porter is certainly available, league sources said, but what he could net remains unclear.

He would theoretically be the salary that goes back to San Antonio in any DeRozan trade. Porter's deal was also mentioned by several league executives as potential bait to pry Harrison Barnes from the Sacramento Kings. But Sacramento is seeking significant draft capital for Barnes, and it appears Porter may be the veteran wing available for a contender in the coming days—if he and Chicago come to terms on a buyout.

Teams have shown interest in Thaddeus Young, though Chicago's recent adjustment of adding Young to the starting lineup and sending Coby White to the bench seems geared toward maximizing White's, Lauri Markkanen's and Zach LaVine's skill sets more than exhibiting Young to drive trade conversations with other front offices.

Chicago appears willing to discuss Markkanen. But his injury history and inconsistent defense that may cloud any trade talks have already impacted the Bulls' early extension conversations with the fourth-year forward. Chicago has previously offered somewhere in the range of $15 million in average annual salary, sources said, but there's a large gap between that and how his representatives seem to value Markkanen.

But if Chicago does swing a deal before the deadline, expect the Bulls to try to improve their playoff chances, not piece off their roster.

   

George Hill

Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

There hadn't been much chatter regarding the Oklahoma City Thunder's veteran point guard, but as the trade deadline inches ever closer, Hill's name has emerged more and more in conversations among team executives. Both Los Angeles teams and Philadelphia have expressed interest, according to league sources. The Thunder's asking price appears clear. "They're willing to [both] take back and trade salary for draft compensation," one Western Conference official said.

The Sixers have a first-round pick at their disposal, and Hill would not require them to move Danny Green's salary, the trade chip necessary for any Kyle Lowry transaction. Plus the collective bargaining agreement bars teams from trading any player back to a previous team during the same season.

Neither Los Angeles club has first-round capital to play with, but there's hope among several teams that OKC will come to a buyout agreement with Hill. Thunder general manager Sam Presti, however, has little history of awarding buyouts to veterans. "That is not OKC's M.O.," one assistant general manager said. Maybe that will drive one of these contenders to splurge for Hill before the 3 p.m. ET buzzer.

   

Jake Fischer covers the NBA for Bleacher Report and is the author of Built to Lose: How the NBA's Tanking Era Changed the League Forever.

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