From surprising results to blockbuster trades and marquee free-agency signings, the 2020-21 NBA season has been rich in attention-grabbing storylines. Those include last week’s developments on the buyout market that offered a bonus dose of trade deadline-like emotions.
The Los Angeles Lakers went through tumultuous negotiations with the Toronto Raptors involving Kyle Lowry, which dragged on until the very last minute before the trade deadline passed last Thursday. After the talks ended in a fiasco, L.A – just like the Brooklyn Nets, the other favorite to this year’s NBA title – stayed away from the trade extravaganza and instead focused their attention on the buyout market.
The Lakers eventually ended up signing Andre Drummond while the Nets, having already secured Blake Griffin’s signature, added LaMarcus Aldridge to their roster. Each of those big-name signings couldn’t have happened without the players’ ability to negotiate a buyout agreement with former employers — which then allows them to join a championship team for a fraction of the salary they gave up.
Those moves reportedly sparked fury in certain small-market front offices, which could lead to changes in the buyout market free-agency system. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, NBA executives have been voicing concerns over the chilling effects of the buyout market on the competitiveness and power balance in the league:
The NBA is hearing the renewed calls from small-market executives to overhaul the buyout free agency system, an insistence that the odds are unfairly weighted against them and that the salary cap system has been contorted to satisfy the glamour markets supply of star talent for championship runs.
From Andre Drummond to the Los Angeles Lakers, Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge to the Brooklyn Nets, there are front office executives determined to push the commissioner’s office to reexamine the process of post-trade deadline buyouts.
The NBA is reportedly concerned about the buyout market’s potential to bypass the luxury tax system more than its disputed fairness. Nevertheless, league officials are said to be planning on bringing up the issue during the next Collective Bargaining Agreement talks.
Meanwhile, the concerned executives pushing for reexamination of buyout market rules have reportedly discussed a range of potential solutions:
As a way to recapture some control of the process, NBA GMs have discussed pursuit of everything from a blind bidding system, similar to how amnesty claims have functioned; a compensatory draft provision that delivers second-round picks from the players’ new team to the old one; even moving the buyout market ahead of the trade deadline to make it harder for agents and players to manipulate the process.
Wojnarowski added that any effort to alter the free agency and buyout market systems would likely be met with a pushback from the National Basketball Players Association.
Vogel hopes Drummond will remain with Lakers beyond 2020-21
The Lakers capitalized on the one-of-a-kind opportunity to sign Drummond, one of the best big men in the game, until the end of the season on a minuscule, prorated minimum salary.
And even though the franchise’s payroll might make it difficult for L.A. to keep the center at Staples Center beyond the summer, head coach Frank Vogel hopes the two sides will be able to come to an agreement. “That’s certainly what we’re hopeful for,” Vogel said.
“This summer will play out and we’ll let that happen when it happens, but we want him to help us during this championship run this season. But we’re hopeful that he’s a Laker for a long time to come.
“That’s what we’re envisioning and we think he’s going to be a key piece for us both in the short team and in the long term.”