Every year, after the trade deadline expires, a new phase of player movement begins: the buyout period. Players with bad contracts and/or redundant, ill-fitting skillsets are waived and -- if they clear waivers-- they become free agents. The quality of this group is not particularly awe-inspiring, but it's a cheap way for playoff teams to add depth.
Enter the Mavericks.
Armed with few trade assets, the Dallas Mavericks' chance of completing a blockbuster deal was comically small. However, their track record at bringing in players who have been waived out is pretty good. Peja Stojakovic was waived by Toronto before becoming a key part of the 2011 Maverick championship run. Last year, Dallas reacquired Rick Carlisle's long lost son J.J. Barea (although that happened towards the beginning of the year) and also made the high-profile signing of former Knick Amare Stoudemire. Both played pretty well, and were key bench pieces down the stretch.
This year, there may not be a player with Stoudemire's profile (his contract was atrocious, but Stoudemire was still an efficient, productive player), but there are several interesting prospects for a Maverick team looking to upgrade their bench for a late push to move up in the standings. With Memphis in apparent "sell" mode (not to mention the Rockets seemingly on the cusp of blowing things up), Dallas may have a shot to avoid a first round matchup with the Terrible Trio of Warriors, Spurs and Thunder.
So, let's take a look at the buyout candidates:
He made an appearance on my possible trade target list from earlier this week, but as I pointed out, his contract was considered a little too rich for the Mavericks' liking. If waived, however, he likely shoots right to the top of Mark Cuban's wishlist. ESPN's Tim MacMahon tweeted that the Mavs have an interest in the 33-year old guard, something that's been rumored for what seems like a half-decade now. Will this marriage finally take place? Martin checks plenty of boxes for Dallas. He would be an excellent kickout option for the Mavs' pace and space style offense. He also moves really well without the ball, which makes him a better fit as a bench scorer than most of the other players on this list, since Dallas already has a bunch of guys who like to handle the rock.
Martin is getting a little long in the tooth and his percentages have dipped, but those are typically the only reasons players of this caliber are available, and with Martin one can reasonable project some positive regression once he starts playing meaningful games again (and with better teammates, for the most part). Just don't ask about his defense.
Adrian Wojnarowski broke news of possible deal involving Stephenson to Orlando on Tuesday, and according to reports, if that deal is consummated, Stephenson would be waived. It's been quite a fall from grace for Lance, who broke out in a contract year with the Pacers, only to post an historically bad shooting season after being signed by Charlotte. He's now been traded twice since.
For those who don't remember, Dallas had a deal ready for Stephenson if the Rockets had matched their offer to Chandler Parsons. Stephenson's skillset had at one point been described as "LeBron lite", as he's posted several triple doubles in his career and uses his handles and burly build to power his way to the basket on drives. There were questions about Stephenson's jump shooting, and those concerns proved genuine when he converted just 18 of 105 threes (17 percent) with the Hornets. Lance has also been something of an odd-fish, as well, notoriously blowing in LeBron's ear during the 2014 playoffs and reportedly clashing with teammates while in Indiana. To his credit, Stephenson has managed to stay out of the news during his time in L.A, and has even shot the ball fairly well, too, in limited opportunities.
"Born Ready" is a gamble Dallas might not be willing to take now, but he's an intriguing talent still young enough (he'll be 25 all season) to turn things around.
One way or another, it would seem David Lee's days in Boston are numbered. If the Celtics don't find a trade for the power forward, he'll be bought out, and that scenario looks increasingly likely. Once upon a time, Lee was a double-double machine, and after being displaced by Draymond Green in Golden State, Lee stepped up and played well for the Warriors in the playoffs. That led some to predict a renaissance in Boston, which has not happened. Lee's offense looks a bit broken, but the still 32-year old has some NBA traits left to offer teams.
Lee is fairly skilled for a big man, as a terrific high-post passer who at one point could also reliably knock down the 15-18 foot jumper (I haven't seen a lot of Lee this year, but based on the numbers that day may or may not have passed). Lee remains a solid rebounder, as well. While his defense has long been the subject of ridicule, it's worth pointing out that his defensive data suggests much greater effort recently than in years past. Lee's bread and butter is in the pick and roll game as a finisher (this year aside, Lee has been a superb rim-runner throughout his career), which could make him a good fit with the heavy pick-and-roll Dallas team.
Reports on Johnson being bought out vary, but there seems to be sentiment that it could happen eventually. Johnson's contract is awful and his athleticism has waned almost entirely, but he's still an interesting player who in some ways seems perfect for the Mavs. He can shoot, and pass, and his size makes him capable as a post-up option. He won't give you much efficiency, or rebounding, or defense, but as a skilled vet he makes plenty of sense as a leader for a second unit. What would make his coming to Dallas a little tricky is that there was a lot of noise coming out of the east coast media regarding a rift in the locker room between Johnson and former Net/current Mav Deron Williams. It's possible this was all smoke and no fire, but it would certainly be interesting if the pair were reunited in Big D.
To be honest, from the Nets perspective, I'm not sure why they'd let Johnson go. They'll still be on the hook for his money either way, and unlike other teams (like, say, the TImberwolves), the Nets don't have much incentive to cut a player like this loose. They owe their draft pick to the Celtics, so there's no point to lose intentionally, and they don't appear to have much in the way of young players who need developmental time. Johnson has logged heavy minutes despite his age and has been the primary crunch time scorer. Brooklyn's probably better off just keeping him, for now.
Hibbert's status as a buyout candidate is most difficult to gauge, but recent reports have him as being amenable to the idea. Hibbert is, like Lance Stephenson, another former Pacer whose stock has fallen greatly in a short period of time. Acquired by the Lakers this offseason, Hibbert has not played very well in L.A, shooting just 44% from the field and struggling on defense in a league that is shifting away from the lumbering giant big man.
Hibbert is by most accounts a good guy, who has taken to his mentoring role well and provides locker room stability for an otherwise young if not dysfunctional Laker squad. Aside from that, I don't know what traits he really offers Dallas. He's not a pick and roll option, and the things he does well (passing out the high-post, protecting the rim) are things the Mavs already get from their three man rotation center. But, he's a name, and if bought out he would be an inexpensive option to bring in on a trial basis.