The vast majority of players placed on waivers go unclaimed and become free agents, but this year, there have been more waiver claims than usual, including a pair of players claimed after their previous teams waived them using the amnesty clause. Last month, Luke Adams provided a rundown on how teams can claim players off waivers, so now let's take a look at how this season's waiver claims have worked out.
- The most prominent example is Jeremy Lin, who was twice claimed off waivers this season after originally being let go by the Warriors. The Rockets claimed him December 11th, waived him a couple weeks later, and the Knicks made their claim December 27th. Left knee surgery will likely keep him out for the rest of the season unless the Knicks make a deep playoff run, but he'll wind up averaging 14.6 PPG and 6.2 APG, not too shabby for a player twice on the NBA scrapheap.
- Knicks GM Glen Grunwald struck gold with yet another waiver claim in Steve Novak, whom they picked up December 21st. Novak’s rise coincided with Lin’s, as he broke loose for 19 points in Lin’s first start, and has kept up his consistent long-range bombing even without Lin on the floor. He led the league in three-point percentage at 47.2%, but his shooting has never been in question. The difference this year was that he did enough in other phases of the game to warrant significant playing time. A career 4.9 PPG scorer, he averaged 10.4 PPG in 21.7 MPG beginning with that 19-point game on February 6th. We can only imagine how much better the Spurs would have been had they not waived him December 19th.
- Waiver claims are so infrequent that teams will sometimes agree to terms with players before they clear waivers. That’s what appeared to happen in March, when J.J. Hickson was dressed in Warriors gear and ready for a shootaround with Golden State when word hit that the Blazers had claimed him. We’ll never know how it would have worked out for him with the Warriors, but Hickson has thrived since joining Portland on March 21st, more than tripling the scoring average he put up in the first half of the season with the Kings (15.1 PPG to 4.7 PPG). He averaged 17.6 PPG and 10.6 RPG as a starter over the final eight games, and will be a sought-after commodity this summer, particularly if the Blazers fail to extend a qualifying offer, making him an unrestricted free agent.
- Chauncey Billups warned teams not to claim him when the Knicks amnestied him before the season, hoping he could sign with a contender as a free agent, but the Clippers claimed him anyway December 12th. It all worked out, as the Clippers became the sort of contending team Billups wanted to play for anyway when they traded for Chris Paul a few days later. Billups slid over to shooting guard and adjusted smoothly to his new position, averaging 15.0 PPG before going down with a season-ending Achilles’ tendon tear on February 6th.
- The Kings had much less success with claiming an amnestied player, saddling themselves on Dec. 17th with Travis Outlaw for $12MM over the remaining four years of his contract. He was even less of a factor in Sacramento than he was for the Nets before they waived him, averaging just 4.3 PPG in 12.8 MPG, his worst numbers since he was a rookie in 2003/04.
- The Warriors tried to replace Jeremy Lin when they claimed Ish Smith, another backup point guard, off waivers from the Grizzlies on December 16th. Smith was there for only six games and 63 total minutes before the Warriors put him back on waivers on January 14th. He went unclaimed this time, and was signed as a free agent February 2nd by the Magic, with whom he’s played the rest of the season.
- The Blazers quietly let go of backup big man Chris Johnson at the trade deadline, and amid rumors the Celtics were interested, the Hornets snapped him up off waivers March 19th. Depleted as the Hornets were along the front line this year, Johnson still only saw 82 total minutes over seven games before New Orleans put him back out on waivers April 18th. He remains unsigned since.
- Rod Higgins, the president of basketball operations for the Bobcats, gave son Cory Higgins quite a present on Christmas Day when the team claimed him off waivers from the Nuggets. The undrafted 22-year-old rookie from Colorado stayed on the Bobcats roster the entire season, averaging 3.9 PPG in 11.1 MPG.