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Nick Wass/Associated Press
Despite all of the activity at the 2019 NBA trade deadline, teams weren’t able to check off every item on their shopping lists.
Luckily, there’s another avenue to explore for help—the buyout market.
While it rarely offers a legitimate difference-maker—this year won’t be the exception—clubs can still find a role-playing contributor or, if they’re lucky, maybe a fifth starter. For buyers bogged down by injuries or looking to restock the shelves after a lopsided exchange, this could be their last chance to add a reinforcement for the stretch run or into the postseason.
Before looking at who’s available, it’s important to note who is not.
DeAndre Jordan won’t join the market, per Marc Stein of the New York Times, and it doesn’t sound like the Atlanta Hawks veterans will, either, per Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The Indiana Pacers already pounced on Wesley Matthews, per The Athletic and Stadium’s Shams Charania, and the Detroit Pistons look like they’re getting Wayne Ellington, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
But there are still several players who could help out a contender, including the following six who are either already available or could be soon.
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Mary Altaffer/Associated Press
At what point does a future Hall of Famer stop being interesting? Carmelo Anthony must be inching toward that time if he’s not already there.
He flamed out with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets the past two seasons, exiting each spot via trade followed by a release shortly thereafter. The Chicago Bulls were the latest team to cut ties, rostering him only for the cash considerations that came along with him.
It’s possible Anthony is just done as an NBA contributor, but maybe someone could still use his scoring. He’s only played 10 games this season, and he had 22-plus points in three of them. Just two seasons back, he was giving the New York Knicks 22.4 points a night.
That isolation-heavy teams like the Thunder and Rockets bailed on Anthony doesn’t bode well for his next fit. He’d be more attractive if he’d take modest minutes and operate mostly as a catch-and-shoot spacer, but there’s zero reason to think that’s happening.
Still, if win-now clubs are desperate for scoring, Anthony packs the meanest punch on the buyout market. The Los Angeles Lakers are considering him, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, and it seems unlikely they’ll be the only ones.
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Michael Reaves/Getty Images
Want confidence that Marcin Gortat could help a win-now team? He started for one this week, the 43rd time in 47 appearances he’d been an opener for the Los Angeles Clippers.
But with L.A. leaning into a rebuild, the 34-year-old became expendable and was waived Thursday.
“We will miss the toughness Marcin brought to the group,” Clippers President of Basketball Operations Lawrence Frank said. “He was a tenacious defender and screen-setter.”
In limited duty, Gortat can continue adding value as a throwback bruiser. His screening is elite. He’s averaging 8.1 screen assists per 36 minutes, which is tops among this year’s rotation players. He’s also stingy around the rim, holding opponents 3.2 points below their normal shooting rates within six feet. And he makes smart decisions, posting a career-best 3.1 assists per 36 minutes.
While clubs won’t have trouble finding interior bigs, not all are as steady as Gortat. He’s hoping to land with the Golden State Warriors, sources told Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes, although the champs plan to see what all is available before making their move.
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David Zalubowski/Associated Press
Frank Kaminsky was supposed to be a building block for the Charlotte Hornets. They turned down a boatload of picks to make him the ninth overall selection in 2015—Justise Winslow, Myles Turner and Devin Booker were three of the next four picks—and proceeded to give him their fourth-highest usage percentage as a sophomore.
But his minutes tailed off a bit in Year 3 before torpedoing this season to just 271 in 24 games (11.3). He’s fourth in Charlotte’s four-man rotation at center and someone the club shopped heavily ahead of the deadline. He’s been mentioned as a buyout candidate, via Sporting News’ Sean Deveney, and general manager Mitch Kupchak told reporters he’d be willing to meet with Kaminsky about the situation.
Assuming Kaminsky hits the open market, what does he offer potential suitors? Mainly a size-shooting combination that’s intriguing when he’s hitting. The 7-footer averages nearly two triples per 36 minutes for his career and converts his outside looks at a roughly league-average rate (34.7 percent).
There isn’t a whole lot else to his game. He’s never averaged nine boards or one block per 36 minutes, doesn’t have a ton of success as an inside-the-arc scorer and is an easy target for opponents with his subpar athleticism and lateral quickness. But if you want spacing from the 5 spot, this might be as good as it gets on the buyout market.
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Mary Altaffer/Associated Press
Enes Kanter wanted a chance to play, and the New York Knicks gave him a path to get one by granting his (overdue) release.
He’s on a short list of elite rebounders and post-scorers. He’s averaging double-digit points and rebounds in under 26 minutes a night for the second straight season. Hassan Whiteside is the only other player to have done so more than twice.
That’s a testament to Kanter’s skills. He’s fundamentally sound and slippery in the post, capable of consistently finding his own shots down there and converting them. He’s also a workhorse on the glass, especially at the offensive end. Since the start of the 2011-12 season, Kanter has corralled the fourth-most offensive boards despite ranking 103rd in minutes over that stretch.
But the limited run is also a reflection of Kanter’s deficiencies. He’s best at the thing most clubs are racing away from—ball-pounding post-ups. He doesn’t offer shooting range, isn’t always a willing passer and is defensively challenged inside and out. He’s almost unplayable when teams force him to defend in space, and he’s a non-factor at the rim (63.1 percent shooting against, seventh-worst among rotation bigs).
Still, he can help anyone in need of rebounds and cook against second-team centers. Given the massive frontcourts forming atop the Eastern Conference, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Kanter added as a part of that arms race.
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Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press
Robin Lopez embodies just about all of the coveted “-able” words in the basketball lexicon—reliable, dependable, plug-and-playable. But the one left up in the air is probably the most important: available.
You might assume that wouldn’t be an issue, considering he’s a 30-year-old playing on an expiring contract for a 12-42 rebuilder with a top-tier prospect at his position (Wendell Carter Jr., last summer’s No. 7 pick). But last month, word leaked to Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes that the Chicago Bulls weren’t interested in a buyout, and it doesn’t sound like that’s changed yet.
“My feeling right now—it can change—is Robin will be with us,” Bulls executive vice president John Paxson said, per K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune. “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.”
Lopez, though, would prefer to land in the playoff race. More specifically, he has his sights set on the Warriors, sources told Haynes, and there’s expected to be mutual interest.
No matter where Lopez lands—again, assuming he goes anywhere—he’d likely slot in as a steady second-teamer who thrives doing grunt work. He can bang around the restricted area, protect the rim and dislodge defenders with solid screens. As long as he isn’t asked to do more, he could beef up a contender’s bench.
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Duane Burleson/Associated Press
After spending the previous two-plus seasons with the Washington Wizards, Markieff Morris moved twice around the deadline—first to the New Orleans Pelicans and then to the waiver wire.
If healthy, the 29-year-old looks like the best remaining option in the buyout pool. He can play the 4-spot in jumbo lineups or the 5 in small-ball looks, providing scoring, defense, toughness, rebounding and a touch of shooting (35.6 percent from distance since the start of 2016-17) at either position.
But he hasn’t suited up since Boxing Day, battling what was diagnosed as transient cervical neuropraxia, a neck injury, and given a six-week recovery timeline. Haynes reported Thursday that Morris will likely seek a second opinion on the ailment.
If he’s fit to play, he’ll have suitors, including the Lakers, according to Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times. Really, any contender with a frontcourt vacancy should be considered an option if he’s cleared.
Morris is on course to average double-digit points for the sixth straight season. His player efficiency rating over that stretch is a respectable 14.6, or about league-average. Among the buyout options, he’s the easiest to envision filling a starting spot, although a high-minute reserve role might be his most likely destination.
Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.