The 2023 NBA trade deadline is at 3:00 PM ET on Thursday, February 9. That means teams are facing their last window to make significant upgrades to their roster. But there’s one more transaction window after the trade deadline has come and gone.
The buyout market has become the trade deadline’s less glamorous cousin. The big moves are done at the deadline, but there are always a handful more deals to come through the end of February.
Following the February 9 trade deadline, the next big date to watch is March 1. Players waived after March 1 are not eligible to play in that season’s playoffs. Effectively, that’s the last day for playoff teams to add anyone who is on another team’s roster after the trade deadline.
The way this happens is that the player is waived by his current team. Upon clearing waivers, which the vast majority of players do, they become a free agent. In many of these cases, players and their former team will come to an agreement to buy out the remainder of their contract. This means the player gives back some portion of their guaranteed salary in order to become a free agent.
Sometimes these buyouts occur immediately on the heels of the trade deadline and the player clears waivers by the end of the weekend. For others, the buyout negotiations may run through the All-Star break and get completed before the end of the month. But in almost all cases, any significant buyouts will occur by March 1, to allow that player to remain playoff-eligible.
Here are some key players to keep an on eye on for the 2023 buyout market. In most cases, these are veterans on an expiring contract. Some may have some salary that goes into next season, and it’s very rare for a deal running more than two seasons to be bought out. In addition, most of these players are either out of their team’s rotation, or they are blocking minutes for a younger player to get into their team’s rotation. Or their teams are expected to make other changes before the deadline, which will push them even further to the backend of the roster.
Russell Westbrook (Jazz, PG, 34)
The Jazz are going to buy out Russell Westbrook. It's just a matter of how quickly and how much he'll give back. After that, Westbrook will find a new home fairly quickly. He's not the inevitable triple-double machine he once was, but Westbrook adapted to playing a complementary role quite well with the Lakers. He'll do the same for another contender for the playoff run. Maybe even one right down the hall from the Lakers in the building they share.
Patrick Beverley (Magic, PG, 34)
(UPDATE: Waived by Orlando, 2/12/23)
Beverley is highly likely to be bought out by the Orlando Magic, following a trade that sent Mo Bamba to Los Angeles Lakers. Look for Beverley to be highly sought after by contenders who need a defensive-minded guard. Because he's been with a third (and now fourth) team, since the Minnesota Timberwolves traded Beverley, don't be surprised if he lands back there eventually.
Danny Green (Rockets, SG, 35)
Reggie Jackson (Hornets, PG, 32)
(UPDATE: Waived and agreed to buyout with Charlotte, 2/12/23)
Sounds like the Hornets are going to set Jackson free after acquiring him for Mason Plumlee. With so many guards already in the fold, that makes sense from the Hornets perspective. Jackson should catch on somewhere, but it might take a bit. Outside of his former team, the LA Clippers, no one seems to have a huge need at point guard right now. Jackson may be able to give it a couple of weeks and see which contender can offer him the biggest role.
Will Barton (Wizards, SG, 32)
Barton is owed $14,375,000 from Washington for this season. It wouldn’t be a surprise at all if he gave some of that back to catch on with a contender. Outside of a few games here and there over the last month, Barton is completely out of the Wizards rotation. If he’s not traded, Barton is a prime buyout candidate, and he’ll help a contender in need of bench scoring.
Khem Birch (Spurs, C, 30)
Birch hadn’t play in a game in over a month for Toronto, despite being active every night. That could change with the Spurs, who now have plenty of center minutes available. A buyout for the big man would be a bit tricky, because he’s owed $6.7 million this season and $6.9 million for next season. San Antonio took on some money into next season already, so eating a little more probably isn’t a big deal. But don’t expect it.
Dewayne Dedmon (Spurs, C, 33)
(UPDATE: Waived and agreed to buyout with San Antonio, 2/9/23)
The Spurs didn’t acquire Dedmon to play for them. It’s unlikely he’ll even report to the team. San Antonio did that deal to get a second-round pick for eating some salary. Dedmon probably won’t be a buyout, as much as he’ll be a straight waiver. But he’ll still be available for contenders looking for a backup center. The real question is how much Dedmon has left in the tank. The Heat haven’t had much size behind Bam Adebayo, and Dedmon couldn’t crack their rotation. He might be cooked.
Goran Dragic (Bulls, PG, 36)
Dragic is clearly nearing the end of a long career, but he can still play. Despite being caught up in an overstuffed backcourt, he’s given the Bulls solid minutes. If Chicago pivots to selling, and Dragic isn’t traded, there’s a good bet he’ll be waived to let the veteran guard join a contender.
Andre Drummond (Bulls, C, 29)
Sticking in Chicago, but in the frontcourt, we have Drummond. He’s in a weird spot. Sometimes he plays, sometimes he doesn’t. When he does play, Drummond is the same guy he’s always been: terrific rebounder, solid enough finisher and mostly a mess on defense. The one challenge for a buyout for Drummond? He’s owed $3.4 million on a player option for next season. Unless he really wants to hit free agency now, the Bulls would be on the hook for some additional dead money next year.
Bryn Forbes (Timberwolves, SG, 29)
Forbes rarely plays for the Wolves. They’ve got a bunch of guards in front of him, and they’re reportedly interested in adding another backcourt player before the deadline. If so, Forbes is a good candidate to be waived. Should that happen, a contender on the lookout for some shooting off their bench could bring Forbes in for the stretch run.
Justin Holiday (Rockets, SG, 33)
(UPDATE: Waived by Houston, 2/13/23)
It’s not really clear what the Rockets plans are, but they’re probably going to move on from Holiday. Holiday’s shooting has dipped and around the first of the year, he was replaced in the Hawks rotation by rookie A.J. Griffin. Let’s see what Houston’s appetite is for dead money, as they’re definitely moving from John Wall and probably Danny Green.
Serge Ibaka (Pacers, C, 33)
(Updated: Waived by Indiana, 2/22/23)
Ibaka wasn’t traded to the Pacers to play for them. They’ll likely straight waive the veteran big man. Whether or not a contender signs Ibaka is another question. He hasn’t played much in the last year or so, and he hasn’t looked very good when he has seen minutes.
Furkan Korkmaz (76ers, SG, 25)
Korkmaz has asked for a trade, and that’s far more likely than a buyout from the Sixers. But if Korkmaz was to sent to a team in a salary-dump deal, then the chances of a buyout go way up. He’s another guy with money into next season ($5.4 million), so that’s a factor here. If set free, Korkmaz could bring some shooting to a contender’s bench.
Alex Len (Kings, C, 29)
Len has barely played this season, but when we last saw him, he looked OK. The Kings recently took Kessler Edwards into their final roster spot. If Len’s expiring $3.9 million salary can’t be used as salary-matching in a deal, there’s a good chance he’ll get waived to open up a roster spot. He’s 29 years old and very much an old-school center, but could be worth a flyer for a contender with depth issues up front.
Kevin Love (Cavaliers, PF, 34)
This one is surprising, but there’s something going on with Love and the Cavs. He got hurt, but after getting healthy (or at least healthy-ish), Cleveland dropped him from their rotation. Love hasn’t shot it well this year, and he’s mostly a stretch 5 now, so he’s not returning anywhere near the value of his $28.9 million contract. But the Cavaliers got caught without viable frontcourt depth at the end of last season. They’ll probably just ride out Love’s deal. However, if the veteran wants to play, this is a situation to keep an eye on.
Nerlens Noel (Pistons, C, 28)
We’re at the annual “Nerlens Noel is available!” part of the NBA calendar. Noel isn’t a part of the Pistons present or their future. His $9.2 million contract for this season is probably just a bit to big to be tradable. That means Detroit will probably work a buyout with Noel and let him move on after they exhaust all trade options before Thursday’s deadline.
Kelly Olynyk (Jazz, PF, 31)
The Jazz are far more likely to trade Olynyk than they are to buy him out, but the second is somewhat of a possibility. With a pretty light guarantee next season, it’s possible that Olynyk decides he’d rather finish the year with a contender. His ability to space the floor, pass and play better-than-you-think defense would put him at the top of a lot of lists. But Olynyk’s $12.8 million salary is one Utah should be able to move without much worry if they want.
Derrick Rose (Knicks, PG ,34)
Rose hasn’t played in over a month. When we saw him earlier this season, he lacked even the limited post-injuries burst he once had and he was struggling to knock down jumpers. New York is reportedly working with Rose on finding him a new team. If that doesn’t happen, the roster spot might be more valuable to the Knicks than Rose on the bench. If there’s a buyout, some team will convince themselves to take one last shot on the 14-year veteran.
Terrence Ross (Magic, SG, 32)
(UPDATE: Waived and agreed to buyout with Orlando, 2/12/23)
If we hadn’t already used the joke on Nerlens Noel, we’d use the “Terrence Ross is available!” joke here. We’re on trade deadline three of Ross being available, and it’s hard to see going 3-for-3 on deadlines passing without him being traded. Ross has rarely played since Orlando got healthy. But he can still provide points in a flurry off a bench. If the Magic don’t trade him, it’s hard to see why they wouldn’t buy him out and let Ross catch on with a contender.
John Wall (Rockets, PG, 32)
(UPDATE: Waived by Houston, 2/12/23)
The Rockets and Wall are definitely going to go their separate ways...again. When you’re already carrying over $40 million in dead money for a guy, what’s $6 million or so more? Unlike the first buyout, this one might not even end up with Wall giving any money back. Much like Derrick Rose, the real question is: How much can Wall even help a contender?
Thaddeus Young (Raptors, PF, 34)
The entire Toronto roster is in flux ahead of the deadline. No one but Scottie Barnes and maybe Pascal Siakam seem like safe bets to remain Raptors come Thursday afternoon. Young could be dealt, as he’s on a pseudo-expiring deal with only $1 million of his $8.1 million deal guaranteed for next season. If he’s not traded, Toronto could decide to move on and buy out Young and let him finish up the year with a team trying to make a playoff run.