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Ranking the NBA’s Buyout Market Options

Waived players present one of the last chances for contending teams to add some help, and this class is loaded—well, as loaded as it can get for a group of journeymen and misfits

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

What’s left in the aftermath of the trade deadline—a scene scattered with the shells of Woj bombs, general managers’ iPhone chargers, a broken Shams Cam, and a box labeled “For sale: Nik Stauskas and Wade Baldwin jerseys, never worn”—is a group of players who still, after all this, don’t yet know their fate. They’ve either been waived or will be soon, and the rest of the league is waiting. The buyout market is the last chance for teams to add a player who could make a difference. For as apocalyptic as this trade deadline has been, the buyout market could look like the bread aisle when a storm’s coming.

But this year’s lot is artisanal! Many of the bought-out players remaining can be helpful additions for teams that need that last bit of oomph for the postseason. It’s shaping up to be one of the better classes, which means this group may not stay a group for long. Here’s a ranking of the remaining players, and what gaps they can fill:

1. Robin Lopez

Lopez, a 30-year-old center in his third season with the Bulls, will be the best prospect available if Chicago decides to let him go. Which they should—last season, Lopez was benched so the Bulls could properly lose. He’s a veteran in his prime playing for an organization that is still trying to fail; Chicago has no need for him. However, this is John Paxson and the Chicago front office, and mercy seems about as foreign as defense in the Windy City: “My feeling right now—it can change—is Robin will be with us,” Paxson said Thursday. “Our players love him. He’s a great teammate. We don’t feel it’s an absolute given that we have to just buy a guy out to help another team.”

Golden State is reportedly interested in Lopez, continuing the Warriors’ never-ending hunt for temporary centers. He’d be a smart addition behind DeMarcus Cousins; Lopez is a more adept rim defender who checks the traditional center boxes.

2. Wayne Ellington

Ellington’s obvious draw is his shooting, though he regressed some this season on the Heat. (Over his career, he’s at 38.0 percent from behind the arc; in 2018-19, Ellington’s shot 36.8 percent.) Many teams are planning on calling, but Detroit is reportedly the front-runner for Ellington, which would put an end to his warm-weather streak (Miami to Phoenix) but presents a chance to help a perimeter in need. The Pistons shoot like you would expect a team headed by Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond to, with the second-worst 3-point percentage in the league.

3. Markieff Morris

Because of a neck injury that’s kept Morris out since December 26, he can’t provide immediate help for a bench unit. The original diagnosis had Morris out for six weeks, but he plans to seek a second opinion to determine if the condition is something more serious. Morris was moved out of the Wizards starting lineup midseason, but had better production coming off the bench, and could be a reliable rotation forward if he can get healthy.

4. Enes Kanter

The only thing Kanter wants is to play, and it’s been well-documented that sometimes he just can’t. But like I wrote in The Ringer’s Trade Deadline Tracker, he’s good for instant offense if a team can live with what comes on the other end of the court.

5. Frank Kaminsky

Your intuition likes a player like Kaminsky because your intuition still thinks of the Wisconsin senior draining 3s on his way to AP Player of the Year. He could never fashion the same success in four seasons with Charlotte, stuck between positions, trying to figure out what could separate him as a player if his iconic 3-point shot wouldn’t fall in the NBA.

The Hornets tried to trade him before the deadline, but couldn’t. They’ll likely waive him. When ol’ Kaminsky caught wind of his name being shopped, this was his apparent response:

That’s 62 O’s, which makes 19 more O’s than total 3s Kaminsky’s made this season (43).

6. Carmelo Anthony

There’s no pleading ignorance after signing Anthony anymore. After two failed runs with the Thunder and the Rockets, it’s evident what he brings to the court—a player with a poorly-aged jumper who has lived out his life as a first option—and with what humility he’ll bring it. Anthony is expected to be “among” the Lakers’ “considerations,” according to ESPN; and in all seriousness, the Lakers could use a veteran in the locker room.

The Other Guys

It’s a loaded buyout market (or as loaded as a group of waived players can get). Other buyout candidates worth mentioning include Zach Randolph, Marcin Gortat, and Greg Monroe—journeyman bigs who can still produce in limited minutes (very limited, in Randolph’s case). Monroe’s only 28, though it feels like he’s been in the league much longer. Guards Milos Teodosic, Shelvin Mack, Ben McLemore, Nik Stauskas, and Wade Baldwin are also likely to all be bought out, and Michael Beasley, one of the only Lakers who did move, is available for backup on the wing.