What is an NBA buyout? How does it work?

Every sport has a mode of buying players. NBA also has certain ways of switching players from one particular franchise to another. The most common date for buying a player is the trade deadline. 

Thousands of fans await this date to see if their team strikes gold by drafting one of the big fishes in the circuit. The trade deadline is usually fun for supporters, but the teams might decide not to buy a player during the mentioned period. 

It is safe to say that the trade deadline is not like other deadlines because you might see franchises buying and selling players mid-season to strengthen their squad and fill the gaps that are exploited by the contenders. 

This is where buyout comes into play. The name makes sense now, isn’t it? Well, here is the exact meaning of what a buyout is.

What is an NBA buyout?

There are times where players feel that they cannot go along with the management any further. At this particular moment, they inform the franchise regarding their inconvenience.

A buyout contract is then signed where both the franchise and the player agree to part ways, and the player agrees to waive off a percentage of their contract to allow them to start a new career (with another franchise). This mutual understanding is not always possible, as the team might seem reluctant to let a player go.

This temporary retention’s main purpose is that the team plans to cash in the opportunity by trading the player with another franchise for some extra money. This is only possible before the trade deadline because franchises seldom have any budget remaining to invest.

Why do we need NBA buyouts? 

Buyouts can prove to be a win-win situation for both the player and the team. The team can dump a player to buy a new and more capable one. On the other hand, the player can find a team that offers him the package and role he wants. 

Markeiff Morris is a prime example of a player and team benefiting from a buyout. He used to play for the Pistons, but during his ninth year in the league, he left the Pistons and started searching for a perfect team. After changing the franchise 5 times, he finally found Lakers who complimented his needs. 

Type of players who get bought out:

Although any player can exercise buyout, specific classes of players are more likely to be bought out.

The veterans

You would frequently see veterans getting bought out. The reasons behind such high turnover are various problems that these players inherently bring with their age. Injuries, cramps, diminishing speed, and reflexes are some of the topmost factors behind such deals. 

The expired ones

Some players have a year or less remaining in their contract duration. Mostly you would see such players search for a better prospect and leave the team once they find one.

On the contrary, team management also offers a buyout to invest money in a more value-adding player. This type of buyout is usually done for less popular players because franchises tend to retain them.

The cash-ins

Teams also buy players which they don’t need currently, but they can help them in a favorable trade-off in the future.

Such players can prove to be a surprise package for the fanbase where they score great numbers. If they do not perform well, the team can go on with the initial plan and trade them to get funds collected for bigger investments.

The high maintenance 

Buying a bigwig is incredibly beneficial for teams, but that’s not always the case. Usually, the heavy purchases do not pay off, so the team is technically paying more than what was expected in return.

Such high maintenance players with extended allowances and undermining performance become a burden, leading to their eviction through trade-off or a mutual buyout. 

A perfect buyout – PJ Brown:

Almost a decade ago, in 2008, Celtics bought PJ Brown amidst their champaign, and the team went on to win the finals. Brown did not play that effectively in the league stage but impressed everyone in the playoff stage.

The team got everything out of him what they wanted to. Even though Brown’s numbers won’t show the kind of role he played, but it is safe to say that his role was more supportive than an extravagant one. 

PJ Brown’s buyout story is nothing less than a fantasy that happens once in a blue moon. Even the Celtics GM said they tried their luck many times before finding Brown a perfect fit. He further stated that the inclusion of a new player takes away youngsters’ chances and influences the team’s chemistry. 

Does buyout really work?

The possibility of a buyout working is remote because the team releasing a player and another team buying the same player is done without extensive planning. In the history of the NBA, you would rarely see a buyout working for either of the team, but things go against the odds on some occasions. 

Considering the player’s perspective, he does receive a better contract or a franchise with frequent chances, but the problem lies with the fans’ perception. People usually start disliking the players who leave their franchise.


Buyouts are a gamble that can do wonders for a franchise, but mostly it turns out to distort the team combination. The teams who have miserable team combinations or going through a bad patch can invest their money in such players because what can go wrong when you are already at the lowest?

On the other hand, those teams can invest their money in buyouts whose bench strength is prominent but lacks a certain player type. They can experiment by buying a player with experience in the required role. 

The evolving teams should refrain from such experiments and focus on developing planned trade-offs to help them win with proper strategy. You must know as a fan that PJ Brown’s case is nothing more than an exception.