The fun and excitement of the NBA trade deadline is accompanied by a secondary market that's sometimes equally intriguing -- the buyout market.
Candidates are usually veteran players stuck on losing teams, which agree to buyout terms with the player so that he's free to sign with a contender. On Wednesday, we received news of our first big-name buyout, as Greg Monroe and the Suns have that would make Monroe an unrestricted free agent after he clears waivers.
Monroe is a 27-year-old, bona fide low-post scorer with some defensive issues, and has shown that he is still capable of putting up numbers in limited minutes.
So, the question becomes, where should he sign? Here are five teams that appear to be the best fits.
The Celtics continue to play all-world defense, but their offensive rating slipped to 101.3 points per 100 possessions in the month of January -- 29th in the league over that span. A large reason for that has been the fact that Boston has difficulty scoring when Al Horford isn't on the court. With Horford on the bench, the Celtics' offensive rating drops from 108.0 to 99.3. Monroe, despite his defensive deficiencies, could certainly come in for 15-20 minutes per game and provide some much-needed scoring off the bench.
New Orleans Pelicans
This makes the most sense on paper; the Pelicans have a glaring need for a center following the season-ending Achilles injury to DeMarcus Cousins. The Pels have started Anthony Davis at center in the two games without Cousins so far, which isn't a bad idea, but playing Omer Asik for 24 minutes like they did in Tuesday's loss to the Kings is unacceptable for a team still hoping to make the playoffs. Monroe can start alongside Davis or provide scoring and rebounding off the bench, which means New Orleans will undoubtedly give Monroe a hard look.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Go ahead, try to name the Thunder's backup center. Trick question ... they don't have one. Jermai Grant has been filling in at center for the second unit, but at 6-foot-8, 203 pounds, he's not exactly an earth-mover out there. The lineup of Grant, Paul George, Alex Abrines, Raymond Felton and Patrick Patterson has a net rating of minus-33.6 in 85 minutes this season -- not good. OKC has felt a glaring hole in the middle behind Steven Adams since dealing Enes Kanter to the Knicks in the Carmelo Anthony deal. Monroe would bring much of what Kanter brought (scoring and rebounding), although he could be equally as unplayable defensively in the playoffs. Even if that's the case, he would provide some depth to help the Thunder get through the regular season healthy.
A slow, plodding center doesn't make much sense for the high-octane, 3-point happy Rockets, but signing Monroe would add another scorer and give Houston the offensive versatility to play different styles. When they bring in PJ Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute off the bench, it might behoove the Rockets to sometimes have an offensive threat like Monroe at center rather than a guy like Nene. It's also a little bit of insurance so that the Rockets aren't left in the lurch if the 35-year-old Nene gets injured like he did last postseason. Monroe probably wouldn't become a staple in the postseason rotation, but he'd be an offensive weapon at Mike D'Antoni's disposal should the need arise.
There can't be any talk of any transaction anywhere without somehow bringing the Cavs into it. Monroe does absolutely nothing positive for Cleveland's atrocious defense, but finding an answer to that might be a lost cause at this point. So they might as well go the other way by bringing in another scoring option to come off the bench. He would be an obvious replacement for some of Kevin Love's minutes, but even before Love got hurt Tyronn Lue went back to starting Love and Tristan Thompson together, leaving a hole at backup center that's been filled by Channing Frye. Monroe would give them a known quantity off the bench, able to get some low-post buckets when the offense isn't clicking. And at this point, any change in Cleveland might be a good change.