The best buyout signings in NBA history

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Ryan Murphy

February 16th, 2022

Every true NBA fan knows there are five seasons: Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer, and Buyout.

Nestled between the trade deadline on Feb. 10 and the deadline for playoff eligibility on March 1, Buyout Season is a narrow three-week window that allows teams to load up on recently waived veterans for the postseason stretch run. Although most buyout candidates are broken-down has-beens, teams occasionally luck out and nab an overlooked and under-appreciated cast-off who helps lead them on a deep playoff run.

Today we'll look at a handful of these diamonds in the rough as we rank the five best buyout signings in NBA history.

5. Markieff Morris, Los Angeles Lakers (2020)

The Lakers might still be stuck on their 16th championship if not for the contributions of Markieff Morris. The sweet-shooting big man joined LA on Feb. 23, 2020 after being waived by the Detroit Pistons, and immediately became one of the team’s most indispensable reserves.

Re-cast as a smallball five, he led the Lakers in 3-point shooting in the 2020 NBA Playoffs and scored 16 points or more three times. His court spacing and clutch shooting were especially invaluable against the Miami Heat, whom the Lakers took down in six games to win the league’s first - and thankfully only - Bubble Championship.

4. Blake Griffin, Brooklyn Nets (2021)

Brooklyn nearly reached the NBA's mountaintop in 2021 thanks to the efforts of Blake Griffin. Signed by the Nets on March 8, 2021 after being waived by the Detroit Pistons, the six-time All-Star rediscovered his mojo in the Big Apple, where he started 10 games in the second half of the season and averaged 10.0 points on 49% shooting from the field and 38% from deep.

Griffin’s renaissance continued in the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Bucks, where he had 18 points and 14 rebounds in Game 1, and dropped 17 points in Games 5 and 7. No longer the best leaper in the game, he made his impact by diving for loose balls, setting rock hard screens, and outmuscling bigger opponents under the glass. Milwaukee ultimately prevailed, but Griffin gave his fading reputation a big boost with his tireless balls-to-the-wall play.

3. Chris Andersen, Miami Heat (2013)

One team’s trash can be another team’s treasure. That was certainly the case in 2013, when the Miami Heat signed flamboyant center Chris Andersen after he was waived by the Denver Nuggets. "Birdman" hadn’t played in 10 months following knee surgery, but he showed no signs of rust after taking his talents (and tattoos) to South Beach.

The 6’10” pivot averaged 4.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 1.0 swat per game, and helped the Heat win the franchise’s third championship with his relentless energy and first-rate rim protection.

2. Boris Diaw, San Antonio Spurs (2012)

Boris Diaw went from the cellar to the penthouse on March 23, 2012 when he was waived by the 7-38 Charlotte Bobcats and joined the 31-14 San Antonio Spurs. The multi-talented Frenchman fit in seamlessly with his selfless passing and help defense, and powered the Spurs to two conference titles and an NBA championship over the next three years.

Diaw’s finest moment came during Game 6 of the 2014 Western Conference Finals, when he sent the Oklahoma City Thunder packing by scoring 26 points on 8-14 shooting from the floor and 3-6 from beyond the arc. Not bad for a guy the Bobcats deemed expendable.

1. Derek Fisher, Oklahoma City Thunder (2012)

It’s hard to believe that any team with title aspirations would cut ties with a five-time champion, but that’s precisely what happened on March 19, 2012, when the Houston Rockets waived Derek Fisher. OKC scooped him up two days later, and it proved to be one of the most impactful signings of the season.

The 37-year-old Fisher was an absolute rock for the young Thunder in the playoffs, and although his stats may not jump off the page (6.3 points and 1.3 assists in 20 playoff appearances), his veteran leadership and timely shotmaking were instrumental in guiding Oklahoma City to its first NBA Finals appearance in franchise history.

Thunder star Kevin Durant summed up Fisher’s intangibles perfectly when he said, "He’s a smart guy, smart mind. He’s a great motivator, great speaker and can really relate to a lot of guys and demands that respect from everybody. He’s a great locker-room guy."