The trade deadline is awash with high-profile rumors, with fan bases across the continent dreaming of All-Star acquisitions. It also brings a surge of NBA buyout candidates in 2023, either with players looking for an opportunity on a winning team or franchises keen to move on veterans after failing to land a deal.
The NBA buyout market can provide useful depth for contending teams and open up minutes for young players on rebuilding ballclubs.
Best NBA buyout candidates in 2023
The Play-In Tournament has decreased the number of teams who could be buying out their veterans. Some options are still out there, however. We have picked out a few of the top buyout candidates this winter.
It was a short-lived reunion with D’Angelo Russell. The Lakers added to their backcourt with Russell and Malik Beasley, then flipped Thomas Bryant to the Nuggets. To reinforce the frontcourt in Bryant’s absence, Los Angeles dealt Beverley to the Magic for Mo Bamba. It seems Orlando, with a logjam in the backcourt, will buy Beverley out.
There are signs of decline from Beverley on the defensive end, though his ferocious competitiveness can still inject energy for any team. He is an asset off the bench, even if not a staple of the rotation. His days of being around 40% from three are behind him, too. A lot of contenders will take an interest, however. Miami, Phoenix and Denver would all make sense as landing spots.
Recently returning from an ACL injury, Danny Green appeared set to be a part of the Grizzlies’ rotation down the stretch. Instead, he was involved in a multi-team trade centered around Eric Gordon. Green is now a Rocket, and is surely destined for a buyout.
There are naturally some doubts about Green’s conditioning. Even so, he is a proven playoff performer, and could fulfil a role for a contender this postseason. The experience, streaky shooting and high defensive IQ make Green an asset, despite being a long way off his peak level on the defensive end. In a quirk of the CBA, he could be reacquired by the Sixers, but there will be a queue of teams interested in the former Raptor.
Remarkably back on the Houston Rockets, John Wall is set to be bought out in the coming days and hit the free agent market. Signing with the Clippers didn’t work out for Wall, but the five-time All-Star is still an option to run bench units for point-guard-needy teams. The question, though, is whether anyone wants to take that risk.
The way Wall played with Los Angeles could deter some suitors. Others might see it as a free-hit, which so many buyouts are. Rumors that the Suns could make a move surfaced soon after the trade — how does Wall look backing up Chris Paul?
Traded to the Utah Jazz in a stunning three-team deal, Russell Westbrook is an immediate, and seemingly inevitable, buyout candidate in 2023. Westbrook has built a marginal Sixth Man of the Year case with the Lakers, but has never been a good fit in Los Angeles. His scoring and playmaking could still be an asset to another team, particularly without the bloated contract number.
The Clippers and Heat are two rumored destinations for the former MVP. Other franchises needing some scoring punch off the bench could show interest, but a Westbrook buyout only makes sense for teams who have their clutch time line ups set in stone. There is a place for Westbrook down the stretch, and potentially for a fringe playoff role on the right teams.
Far from the sexiest of NBA buyout candidates in 2023, Cory Joseph has seen his minutes fluctuate off the bench for the Detroit Pistons this season. The Toronto native shot over 40% from three last season, but has endured a poor outside shooting campaign in 2022-23, which could put off potential suitors if he is bought out.
On the other hand, Joseph has the highest assist rate and one of the lowest turnover marks of his career. The Pistons are 6.4 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor.
Teams looking for some steady point guard minutes off the bench could show some interest, with the Lakers, Clippers and Raptors as possible landing spots.
Shooting over 40% from three for a third consecutive season, Alec Burks is perfect for a team looking for a bench scoring option. The trouble for Detroit, though, is a $10 million per season salary, including a team option for 2023-24. Figuring out a trade will be tricky.
While Burks has been a staple of the Pistons’ rotation, a buyout could make sense here. Detroit is focused on the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes, and at 31 years old, Burks is surely keen to play postseason basketball this spring.
Burks’ use to a contender will be matchup dependent, but that injection of offence off the bench could swing a playoff game or two.
The Pistons are at the center of the 2023 NBA buyout market (learn more about how buyouts work here). Not only do they have one of the best players available ahead of the trade deadline in Bojan Bogdanovic, Detroit also has a collection of veterans who could be useful to playoff-bound teams.
Nerlens Noel has amassed a grand total of 148 minutes in 2022-23 (as of January 25th). Behind Jalen Duren and Isaiah Stewart in the pecking order, few players are as well-suited to a buyout as Noel. His contract includes a team option for next season at just under $10 million, so the Pistons just need to come to an agreement for the remaining money this season.
A lack of minutes over the last couple of seasons might put off some suitors. It isn’t long ago that Noel was an above-average rim protector, though. He could provide some solid backup five minutes for a team like the Clippers or Nuggets.
It is a bit of a reach to pick Gordon Hayward as one of the NBA buyout candidates in 2023. Hayward is still a productive player when healthy, and Charlotte surely aren’t going to buy him out of a contract which pays him north of $30 million in 2023-24.
Even for the NBA, Hayward being bought out would be pretty weird. This is more of a name to keep an eye on in the summer or at the 2024 trade deadline when the former Celtic could be the most sought after of all buyout candidates.
Featured in trade rumors throughout the Magic’s rebuild, Terrence Ross hasn’t been moved, and with an $11.5 million contract, contenders will be reluctant to make a deal before the deadline. Ross is a free-agent-to-be, and has averaged just eight points per game this season (his lowest mark since his rookie year).
Orlando’s backcourt is getting healthier, shunting Ross further down the queue for minutes. A below-average defender, Ross doesn’t fill the three-and-D need of many competing teams, but he is shooting 45% on corner threes and can get his own in short bursts.
A bit of microwave scoring, as mentioned with Burks, can be a nice X-factor in the postseason.
Making just over a quarter of his threes, Bryn Forbes has fallen out of the Timberwolves’ rotation. Minnesota do not fit the blueprint for most buyout-agreeing teams, but it makes sense for Forbes to pursue opportunities elsewhere.
Unfortunately, being a liability on defense can outweigh the shooting when the lights are brightest. Forbes’ shooting could intrigue some front offices, but he has his work cut out to make a playoff rotation.
Synonymous with veteran leadership and toughness, James Johnson has morphed into the Udonis Haslem/Andre Iguodala role over the last few seasons. Indiana is still in a playoff spot, but with Tyrese Haliburton injured, they could allow Johnson to explore the free agent market and slot at the end of a contender’s bench.
The Cheyenne native wouldn’t be the first late-thirties player to join a title challenger in a part-coach, part-cheerleader role.