Once the trade deadline passes and the dust settles from the swapping of players and picks, teams assess what they do (and do not) need for the season’s stretch run. It has become a part of the yearly NBA process. Players that could not get moved via trade are bought out, and contending teams make their move.
Addition without subtraction — it is the perfect model for successful franchises. Teams have the ability to add key pieces to strengthen their roster without moving players that have been integral to their success. This year has been no different.
NBA TRADE DEADLINE: Biggest winners and losers
Greg Monroe was one of the first candidates taken off the market, signing with the Celtics after being bought out by the Suns in January. The Rockets will receive an immediate boost once veterans Joe Johnson and Brandan Wright join the team following their buyouts.
Marco Belinelli will bring championship experience and sharpshooting to Philadelphia. Former league MVP Derrick Rose has also been commanding interest among playoff teams since being waived by the Jazz.
These players are the latest to join a history of late-season free agent acquisitions made by playoff and title contenders. Though some have been misses (Andrew Bynum and Deron Williams), there are a number of free agents signed after the deadline that have made important contributions to their teams.
Most fans would not consider adding a veteran of 10-plus years to be a splash — they would be correct, but history suggests that sometimes a ripple is all a contending team needs to make. Let's take a look at some of the more impactful late-season signings since 2008.
P.J. Brown, 2008 Celtics
Brown is the first noteworthy example of a late-season acquisition in the past 10 years. In February of 2008, a 38-year-old Brown joined the Celtics nearly nine months removed from appearing in an NBA game.
While his scoring average was less than three points per game, Brown played a major role in Boston. In Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, Brown scored 10 points without missing a field goal, highlighted by a clutch dagger with over a minute left. The Celtics went on to defeat the Lakers in the 2008 NBA Finals, and Brown retired a champion.
Derek Fisher, 2012 Thunder
In the lockout-shortened season of 2011-12, Fisher joined the Thunder after being waived by the Rockets, who acquired him at the trade deadline. Having won five NBA titles prior to signing with the Thunder, Fisher brought championship experience to a young Oklahoma City team featuring Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Kevin Durant.
Fisher played over 22 minutes per game in the 2012 playoffs and helped the Thunder reach the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history.
Boris Diaw, 2012 Spurs
Diaw signed with San Antonio in March of 2012 following a buyout from the historically bad Charlotte Bobcats. (The team's .106 win percentage is still the worst in league history.) He started in all of the Spurs' postseason games in 2012. San Antonio reached the Western Conference finals where the Spurs lost to a young, talented Thunder team.
Diaw re-signed with San Antonio in the 2012 offseason and spent the next four years of his career there. He proved his worth as a valuable long-term asset for the Spurs, posting averages of 6.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and 5.8 assists in a 2014 NBA Finals victory over the Heat.
Chris Andersen, 2013 Heat
When the Heat signed "Birdman" in January of 2013, it had been 10 months since he had logged a minute in an NBA game. After two 10-day deals, the Heat decided to keep Andersen on board for the remainder of the season.
In 14.9 minutes per game, Andersen posted averages of 4.9 points and 4.1 rebounds in the regular season, and the Heat’s record following his acquisition was 39-3. In the postseason, Andersen hit double-figure scoring four times and was an important reserve throughout the Heat’s 2013 title run.
Joe Johnson, 2016 Heat
Johnson is no stranger to the buyout market. Shortly after the 2016 trade deadline, the 16-42 Nets parted ways with the elite scorer. The Heat quickly swooped in, adding Johnson to a team that eventually finished 48-34. In 38 total regular season and postseason games, Johnson averaged just under 13 points per game and helped the No. 3 Heat push the No. 2 Raptors to seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals.