I love the NBA buyout period. There’s nothing more exciting than convincing yourself an aging veteran or Michael Beasley is going to be the difference between your favorite team exiting in the first round or making it all the way to the Finals.
So let’s get really irrational and rank which buyout guys are going to have the biggest impact down the stretch of the season.
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1. Brandon Jennings, Wizards
I’m all in on the Jennings experience in Washington. As SI's boy magician Andrew Sharp astutely proclaimed on Twitter, Jennings has never not spiritually been a Wizard. In all seriousness, I like this move a lot for Washington, who desperately needed bench help ahead of the postseason, and the organization did a good job of turning elbow grease into Bogdan Bogdanovic and Jennings. With John Wall and the Wiz’s starting lineup humming along nicely, Jennings won’t be called on to make a major impact. But in spot minutes, he can offer more than Trey Burke, and his ability to create off the dribble could help buoy offensively–challenged bench lineups. The Wizards famously rely on their starting five more than any other team in the league, and for much of the season they were absolutely getting killed with their backups on the court. Jennings joining Bogdanovic in the rotation gives the Wiz two players who are more than just warm bodies, and as long the Washington bench can buy time for its starters, the Wizards are actually in a pretty good place.
Missing a game-winning, wide-open three against Boston in his first game notwithstanding, Williams is a really nice pickup for Cleveland. It’s remarkable how the Cavaliers have gone through this season without a veteran backing up Kyrie Irving. Kay Felder and Jordan McRae weren’t exactly difference makers on the court, and while Williams is far removed from his prime, he’s been fairly solid this season and is much more trusted in big moments. Williams probably isn’t going to swing a playoff series for the Cavs—we’re already scraping the bottom of the barrel with these buyout guys—but if his presence at point guard helps lift even a tiny fraction of the burden on LeBron’s shoulders, it could pay dividends by the time the Finals roll around.
3. Matt Barnes, Warriors
If Barnes can take Kevin Durant’s place in the death lineup and make some of the open threes Harrison Barnes missed during last year’s Finals, he could actually make a fairly nice impact for Golden State. On one hand, Barnes is joining a team that is already a heavy title favorite, so it’s kind of impossible for him to really move the needle. On the other, the Durant injury creates a temporary niche for Barnes that if he thrives in would make him a valuable pickup.
4. Andrew Bogut, Cavaliers
This is the perfect buyout signing, because it’s almost purely name driven and then we forget about the guy a few weeks later. Remember how little Timofey Mozgov played in last year’s Finals? The Cavs basically have a more broken down version of that player in Bogut, who’ll get a lot of facetime while he sits on the bench during a Cavs-Warriors Finals. The Aussie center was always a solid defender, but I’m not sure what you can really expect from him at this point. Bogut was expendable for a reason, and it must mean something that he didn’t re-sign with Golden State, right? The impact is already getting weak, people.
I will always have a special place in my heart for Cole, but if you‘re going to sign a former Heat point guard: WHY NOT MARIO CHALMERS??? Of the two, Rio is a better three-point shooter, and he’s certainly a willing defender. Chalmers, shockingly, has the ability to swing games with his scoring ability (the Thunder of all teams know this well!), and unlike Cole, he’s actually had some substantial moments in the league that weren’t largely LeBron driven. I know Chalmers has a torn Achilles in his past, but I am legitimately surprised he hasn’t caught on with a team yet. I really miss Mario Chalmers, guys.
Some Other Guys, Maybe
Jose Calderon is out there as a double-buyout guy, having been let go by the Lakers and Warriors in the last month. I would not count on him to do much of anything. Jared Sullinger could return to Boston and immediately rebrand himself as an asset.
And that’s it! Those are your buyout guys. Let’s all agree to forget about how largely inconsequential these signings are going to be and freak out again at the same time next year. One of these days, when Michael Beasley actually wins Finals MVP, we’ll all have the last laugh.