The Cleveland Cavaliers were one of the winners of the NBA trade deadline, in part, because they didn’t do anything.
While some teams gave up assets to acquire players, the Cavaliers waited patiently until after the deadline, when teams waived the players they couldn’t trade.
As a result, the Cavs were able to add Deron Williams and Andrew Bogut, two veteran players, who, while dubious as starters, can make meaningful contributions off the bench for a now-stacked Cleveland team.
The Golden State Warriors had a similar, albeit less fruitful experience — they added Jose Calderon, only to waive him after two hours to sign Matt Barnes instead. Either player would have been useful off the bench for the Warriors.
According to ESPN’s Zach Lowe, some NBA teams would like to make a change to this Cavs-Warriors-centric buffet. Executives have reportedly proposed changing the rules after a player goes unclaimed on the waiver wire.
Currently, when teams waive players, those players go on a 48-hour waiver wire, where teams under the salary cap can claim them. However, as Lowe notes, teams have little incentive to spend money on players (usually with higher salaries) when they have been cut for under-performing. Those players, if they go unclaimed, become free agents, and often times sign with the best teams. As of late, it’s turned into a rich-get-richer situation.
As Lowe notes, some of the proposed scenarios limit the player’s freedom to choose a team, which seems unfair. However, perhaps with a tweak of the rules, the NBA could make it more financially beneficial for a player to go to a team that isn’t one of the top championship contenders, like Cleveland and Golden State. And if those teams want to bolster their roster with bought-out veterans, then they will have to clear up the cap space to get them or spend more.
Personally, I feel it's at least worth looking into it. They've definitely got to be careful about infringing on the rights and freedoms of teams and players, but it is getting to the point where top teams can blatantly thumb their nose at the salary cap. Also, I don't think the league has ever been this much of a two team race - at least in the shot clock era - and seeing all these players signing on with either Golden State or Cleveland doesn't give me much hope for things to become more competitive in the near future.