Waiver claims don’t happen very often in the NBA. During the 2016/17 league year, for instance, only six players were claimed off waivers. So far in 2017/18, four players – David Nwaba, Nicolas Brussino, Kay Felder, and DeAndre Liggins – have been claimed off waivers.
Nwaba, Brussino, Felder, and Liggins have something in common; they’re all on minimum salary contracts. While a player earning more than the minimum can also be claimed off waivers, not every NBA team has the ability to claim any waived player. In fact, there are only a few instances when teams can claim a player who is earning more than the minimum salary, which is one reason why waiver claims rarely happen.
A team placing a waiver claim on a player earning more than the minimum must have one of the following to accommodate the player’s salary:
- Cap room
- A trade exception
- A disabled player exception
As I noted on Sunday, a player like Mindaugas Kuzminskas is a candidate to be claimed, but his odds of being snatched up before reaching free agency would be much higher if he were on a minimum salary contract. Teams will be reluctant to take on his $3MM salary, and only half the NBA’s teams are even eligible to place a claim on him.
When considering which teams might place a claim on a waived player, it’s also worth noting that waiver priority is determined by record — the worst teams get first dibs on each waived player. Prior to December 1, waiver order is currently determined by last year’s record. That will change in a few weeks, but for now, a team’s 2016/17 record determines its waiver priority.
Taking all the details above into account, the current NBA waiver order is listed below. We’ve also noted which teams can place a claim on a player earning more than the minimum salary. If two teams that finished 2016/17 with identical records place a waiver claim on the same player, their head-to-head records would determine which team gets priority. If they split their head-to-head matchups, a coin flip determines which team gets priority.
Here’s the full list of teams, in order of current waiver priority:
- Brooklyn Nets ($3,396,169; cap room)
- Phoenix Suns ($8,948,187; cap room)
- Los Angeles Lakers
- Philadelphia 76ers ($15,120,873; cap room)
- Orlando Magic
- Minnesota Timberwolves
(tie) New York Knicks ($2,381,964; TPE)
- Sacramento Kings ($4,254,216; cap room)
- Dallas Mavericks ($12,526,578; cap room)
- Note: Mavericks would need to renounce their exceptions to use cap room.
- New Orleans Pelicans ($3,853,931; TPE)
- Charlotte Hornets
- Detroit Pistons
- Denver Nuggets
- Miami Heat
(tie) Portland Trail Blazers ($12,969,502; TPE)
(tie) Chicago Bulls ($11,457,398; TPE)
- Note: Bulls could get up to $15,046,009 in cap room by renouncing exceptions.
- Indiana Pacers ($6,126,114; cap room)
(tie) Milwaukee Bucks ($5,000,000; TPE)
- Atlanta Hawks
(tie) Memphis Grizzlies ($3,408,520; TPE)
- Oklahoma City Thunder
- Washington Wizards
- Cleveland Cavaliers ($5,811,114; TPE)
(tie) Los Angeles Clippers ($7,273,631; TPE)
(tie) Toronto Raptors ($11,800,000; TPE)
(tie) Utah Jazz
- Boston Celtics ($8,406,000; DPE)
- Houston Rockets
- San Antonio Spurs
- Golden State Warriors
Salary information from Basketball Insiders used in the creation of this post.