Waiver claims are usually rare in the NBA, but since the trade deadline less than three weeks ago, five players have been claimed. Teams claimed two others off waivers earlier this season, and put together, they have many similarities. Six of the seven make the minimum salary, which stands to reason, since that’s the only sort of player that every team can claim. Any other salary requires the use of cap space or an exception of some kind, and several teams don’t have that sort of flexibility.
Three of the seven players claimed off waivers went to the Sixers, who used their ample cap space on the lone waiver claim who’s not making the minimum. A trio of claimed players were placed on waivers by the Pelicans, including Ish Smith, who went from New Orleans to Philadelphia. Four of the seven claimed players were involved in trades shortly before their releases.
Here’s a look at each waiver claim this season:
- A.J. Price: Pacers to Cavaliers — The veteran point guard began the regular season with the Cavs, but Cleveland dropped him in favor of Will Cherry less than a week into the season. Price’s run as an injury fill-in for the Pacers apparently inspired Cleveland to think twice about that decision, claiming Price off waivers and letting go of Cherry shortly after the Pacers released Price. Still, Price failed to stick with Cleveland, as the team cut him once more in January rather than guarantee his entire salary for the season.
- Tarik Black: Rockets to Lakers — Houston reluctantly waived Black when the team needed a roster spot for Josh Smith and couldn’t find a trade partner for another of its reserves, and the Lakers foiled Charlotte’s plan to claim Black by submitting a claim of their own. L.A. had priority because of its inferior record, and the Lakers have made frequent use of their find, giving the rookie seven starts in 18 appearances.
- Ish Smith: Pelicans to Sixers — Like Price, he became a team’s 16th player this season thanks to the hardship provision, inking a deal with the Thunder when they were decimated by injuries. The Thunder kept him when the provision expired and waived Sebastian Telfair instead. Smith finally became a roster casualty when the Thunder took on more players than they gave up in the Reggie Jackson/Enes Kanter trade, with Oklahoma City conveying him to the Pelicans in a separate deal. New Orleans, content with the second-round pick, cash, and draft-and-stash player it also acquired in the deal, waived Smith right away, and the Sixers pounced, giving him a key reserve role that’s encompassed 22.0 minutes per game.
- Thomas Robinson: Nuggets to Sixers — The Robinson claim was perhaps the most controversial in the league so far this season, with the Nets having already set up a deal to sign Robinson once he passed through waivers. Philadelphia stymied those plans and also likely cost the Nuggets some cash in the transaction, too, as I explained. Denver briefly held the former No. 5 overall pick following a deadline-day trade with the Blazers. He’s still on his rookie-scale contract, making him the only player who’s earning more than the minimum salary this year to have been claimed off waivers.
- Shawne Williams: Pelicans to Pistons — The Williams claim happened the same day that the Sixers derailed Brooklyn’s plans of signing Robinson, and though Detroit’s move received less fanfare, Williams has played a more expansive role this season. He started 22 games for the Heat, who shipped him to New Orleans in the three-team Goran Dragic trade. The Pelicans quickly let him go, but while the Pistons seemed anxious to bring him on board, they’ve given him only 9.6 minutes per game so far, less than half of what he saw in Miami.
- Justin Hamilton: Pelicans to Timberwolves — Another player who went from Miami to New Orleans in that trade ended up on waivers, and Minnesota wound up with a player it had apparently wanted to trade for prior to the deadline.
- Glenn Robinson III: Timberwolves to Sixers — The Wolves let go of Robinson when they brought Hamilton aboard, and once more the Sixers caused some angst among the Nuggets, who were reportedly interested in Robinson before Philly jumped in.