Updated: Aug 5, 2021
The NBA trade deadline for the 2020-21 season was Thursday, March 25, at 3 p.m. ET. Among other essential trades, fans saw several high-profile moves by teams and players in the NBA buyout market, with players like Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond, and LaMarcus Aldridge all signing with new teams.
A buyout occurs when a player and franchise mutually decide to part ways. The two parties then must agree to a restructured contract. Typically, the player sacrifices an agreed-upon portion of their guaranteed salary to become a free agent before the deadline. Buyouts are mutually beneficial, allowing teams to save money on players whose contracts are unlikely to be renewed and allowing players the opportunity to compete for a championship or put themselves in a better position to improve their stock heading into free agency.
The typical buyout candidate is a veteran player on a team not in the playoff race. In the last year of their contracts, these players are usually, but not always, with teams who do not intend to resign them. Both parties are motivated to agree on a buyout because the players are not in their desired role, or the team does not feel like the player is contributing to the future of the franchise.
Andre Drummond was arguably the best player in this year's buyout market. Drummond, 27, who is in the prime of his career, averaging 17 PPG and 13 RPG, did not fit with 17-32 Cleveland Cavaliers' timeline. As reported by Drummond's agent, Jeff Schwartz, the center who was due $28.7 million from Cleveland this year, agreed to surrender only $794,536 of guaranteed salary to Cleveland to become a free agent. According to Bobby Marks, Drummond would eventually reach a 1-year (remainder of the season) deal with a $554,988 cap hit with the Los Angeles Lakers. This deal puts Drummond in a great position to compete for a championship with the defending champion Lakers while saving Cleveland a chunk of money on a player who likely would have walked in free agency.
The Detroit Pistons bought out Blake Griffin before the deadline. Griffin's buyout was unique because he was not in the final year of his contract. Griffin, 32, was set to earn $75 million over the remainder of this season and the 2021-22 season. The two parties reached a deal where Griffin would give up $13.3 million from Detroit to become a free agent. Griffin then signed a 1-year deal on the mid-level exception worth $5.9 million with the Brooklyn Nets. Because Griffin was not in the final year of his contract, he will earn an additional $29.8 million from Detroit next season. Which places Griffin, a veteran player, in a great position to play for his first ring and allows the rebuilding, 14-35 Pistons to save some money on a player likely set to leave the team this summer.
LaMarcus Aldridge's buyout deal with the Nets was the third significant move in this year's buyout market. Aldridge, 35, was due $24 million this season. As part of his buyout restructuring, Aldridge and the San Antonio Spurs agreed to a deal that would send $7.25 million back to the Spurs. Although Aldridge is certainly past the prime of his career, he still represented a championship-caliber addition to a team making a push. In addition to Griffin, the Brooklyn Nets would also add Aldridge on a 1-year deal worth $878,000, with a $555,000 cap hit for Brooklyn. Aldridge will likely play a vital rotational role as they seek a first finals run in several years.
Until next time...