Several small market executives spoke off the record to Howard Beck of Sports Illustrated about how they believe they are at a disadvantage due to the growth of the buyout market.
While former All-Stars such as Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond and LaMarcus Aldridge have joined big market teams, they were each on contracts deemed too expensive for any teams to trade for given their decline in play.
“You’re just helping the rich get richer,” a general manager with a small-market team said.
Bought-out players typically sign for a prorated portion of the minimum salary, allowing their new teams to add talent without regard for the salary cap.
“It’s a definite concern,” says another team executive working in a small market. “Without a doubt, players that are entering the buyout market will only be looking at contending teams. And most of the time, historically, their preference has been to go to the teams in the bigger markets. ... And it gives teams an opportunity to sit back and add players on minimum deals that they normally wouldn’t be able to acquire.”
Midseason buyouts used to be much rarer, but it has spiked over the past two years.
“It’s very, very hard for the small markets or mid markets to say we’re not gonna buy you out,” said one small-market GM, “because you can’t get players there anyway. If you don’t do them favors, an agent will say, ‘I’m not gonna bring my guys to you.’”
Some team executives have pushed the NBA for reform despite its already extensive system of rules that favor small markets.
“The way you know the NBA doesn’t think it’s a problem is they’re reticent to acknowledge it’s been a problem,” says one of the small-market execs. “The inaction tells you, ‘We’re cool with it.’ ”
Bobby Marks of ESPN writes that the Milwaukee Bucks are the team who has signed the most bought out players since 2015.