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How do waivers work in NBA?

Contracts and technical matters in the NBA seem quite complicated at the first glance. It comes as no surprise because there are many terms and details that not every person is familiar with. A waiver is such a concept, that is frequently misunderstood.

How do waivers work in the NBA? When a team in the NBA releases any player before his contract is over, this is called a waiver. Generally, after any team waives a player from the roster, it is obliged to pay the money which is stipulated in the contract.

Waivers are quite complicated in the NBA, but not as difficult as they may look. In this article, we will have a thorough insight into waivers and how they work for different teams.

NBA and Salary Cap

Before we move to the detailed analysis of waivers, we should first talk about rosters in the NBA and a salary cap. Both of them are strongly intertwined with each other. The roster should have 15 players and the NBA imposes a salary cap so that none of the teams has all the best players in the squad. Whenever a particular team decides to waive a player, they free up a space for the new member.

What happens when a player is waived?

As we have already mentioned above, when a player is waived from the team, he is still eligible for getting a certain amount of money that was specified in the deal. He is no longer a member of the team and immediately they enter a waiver wire, where other teams in the league can claim the player. If after 48 hours, none of the teams in the NBA signs a player, the latter enters an unrestricted free agency.

There are cases when several teams want to claim the waived player and in that case, the player goes to the one with the worst win percentage. However, the salary cap should be considered in advance.

How a player is waived from the team?

This one is pretty straightforward – the team should inform the NBA commissioner with the request that they want to waive a player. After that, the player is released from the team after the request. Once the decision is made, it cannot be taken back, so teams need to be cautious before they go for such a move.

NBA teams can also request waive amnesty, which basically removes the contract from the team’s salary cap, but such a thing can only be done once.

What are the main reasons behind waivers?

There are many reasons, why teams waive players from their squads, but the most important one is that the player does not fit in the roster. There is simply no place and he also lacks the necessary skills, that will contribute to the team’s success. Frequently, such players take up a lot of the salary cap and after waiving, it is possible to sign a more productive player.

Is it possible to sign a waived player?

Yes, it is possible to sign a waived player. There is almost a 2-day period where teams in the NBA or outside the league can compete for signing the player. After signing a new contract with the player, he immediately becomes a member of the team with a renewed contract.

What if the player is not signed after the waiver?

It is a frequent occurrence, that a player is not claimed by any team in the NBA when he is waived. In such cases, unrestricted free agency, the term which we have already mentioned above enters the business. The player gets complete control over which team to choose to play for, and the remaining amount of money, stipulated by the contract must be paid by the waiving team itself.

Are there specific periods for waivers?

There are no specific periods for waiving players in the NBA. Teams can waive athletes whenever they want throughout the regular season, but there is one interesting moment that teams need to take into account: after March 1, if the player is waived, he cannot be added to the roster of the team, that made a request for the claim. The same applies to unrestricted free agencies.

Notable players to be waived from teams

Numerous players have been subject to waivers, but surprisingly some of them were famous names. Let’s have a look at them on our list below.

Steve Nash

Legendary Canadian Steve Nash is one of the best players of his generation. When he signed for the Los Angeles Lakers in 2012, a lot of experts deemed the Los Angeles side as the main favourites to win the title, but injuries impacted Nash severely and eventually, he was waived by the Lakers in 2015.

Vince Carter

Vince Carter was a phenomenal player who never got the chance to win the championship title. Playing over 20 years in the NBA, he was waived by the Phoenix Suns in 2011 and while a lot of people expected he would retire soon afterwards, he kept on playing, announcing the end of his career only in 2020.

Dwyane Wade

The symbol of the Miami Heat – Dwyane Wade moved to the Chicago Bulls in 2016, which was a surprising move, as many people expected him to retire with the Heat (which eventually happened that way). With the Bulls he only spent one season, before being waived in 2017, joining the Cleveland Cavaliers alongside LeBron James. Soon he left the Cavaliers as well and returned to the Heat once again.