2019/20 NBA Waiver Claims

Waiver claims are something of a rarity in the NBA. In order to claim a player off waivers, a team generally must be able to fit the player’s entire salary into cap room, a traded player exception, or a disabled player exception. While there are a few teams with sizable trade exceptions available, disabled player exceptions can only be granted during the season, and the Hawks are the only team with any cap room left.

Given those limitations, the players most frequently claimed on waivers are those on minimum salary deals, since any club is eligible to place a claim on those players using the minimum salary exception. Even then though, there are exceptions — the minimum salary exception can only be used to sign players for up to two years, so the same rules apply to waiver claims. If a player signed a three-year, minimum salary contract, he can’t be claimed using the minimum salary exception.

Taking into account all the rules that reduce the odds of a waiver claim – not to mention the limited roster spots available for NBA teams – it makes sense that nearly all of the players who get released ultimately clear waivers. The 2018/19 league year featured 10 waiver claims, but the number of claims in a year typically falls short of that. During the 2017/18 league year, only four players were claimed off waivers. That number was six in 2016/17 and seven in 2015/16.

Despite how infrequent they are, we still want to track all the waiver claims that take place during the 2019/20 league year, so we’ll do so in the space below. This list will be updated throughout the offseason and regular season to include the latest claims.

Here’s the list:

  • Timberwolves claim Tyrone Wallace from Clippers (July 8) (story)
    • Having missed out on their top free agent target – D’Angelo Russell – the Timberwolves gave themselves a low-cost depth option at the point guard spot by claiming Wallace from the Clippers. His $1,588,231 salary remained non-guaranteed following the claim though, so Minnesota eventually decided to cut Wallace before opening night and wasn’t on the hook for his cap charge.
  • Pistons claim Christian Wood from Pelicans (July 17) (story)
    • Wood has been claimed off waivers twice in 2019, with the Pelicans nabbing him when the Bucks initially waived him in March. Wood impressed down the stretch in New Orleans, averaging 16.9 PPG and 7.9 RPG in eight games, but apparently wasn’t in the plans for new head of basketball operations David Griffin. Now he’ll start the regular season with the Pistons, who won’t have to fully guarantee his $1,645,357 salary until January.
  • Lakers claim Kostas Antetokounmpo from Mavericks (July 21) (story)
    • Antetokounmpo was on a two-way contract with Dallas, and now occupies one of the Lakers‘ two-way slots. It’s unclear if the Lakers would’ve placed a claim if he had a different last name — his connection to older brother Giannis Antetokounmpo was probably a factor in the team’s decision, since L.A. will want to target the reigning MVP in free agency in 2021.
  • Mavericks claim Aric Holman from Lakers (August 29) (story)
    • A month after the Lakers claimed a Mavericks player, Dallas returned the favor by claiming Holman off waivers. The Lakers had intended to bring Holman to training camp but had to cut him to make room for Dwight Howard. The Mavs took advantage of the opportunity to take an extended look at Holman themselves, but eventually released him.
  • Rockets claim Ray Spalding from Hawks (October 10) (story)
    • A 2018 second-round pick, Spalding joined his fourth team in the span of 16 months when he was claimed off waivers by the Rockets less than two months before the season began. Because Spalding was on a non-guaranteed, minimum-salary contract, it was a simple process for Houston to bring him in and consider him for a regular season roster spot. He was waived before the regular season though.
  • Cavaliers claim Tyler Cook from Nuggets (October 18) (story)
    • After the Nuggets waived Cook to open up a two-way contract slot for PJ Dozier, the Cavaliers took advantage of having their own open two-way slot to claim Cook. The undrafted rookie out of Iowa joined Dean Wade as Cleveland’s players on two-way deals.
  • Cavaliers claim Alfonzo McKinnie from Warriors (October 21) (story)
    • The Cavaliers‘ second claim in less than a week was on one of the most popular waiver targets of the offseason — Cleveland likely wasn’t the only team that put in a claim on the forward, who became the victim of a roster crunch in Golden State. McKinnie opens the regular season as a member of the Cavs’ standard roster.
  • Kings claim DaQuan Jeffries from Magic (October 21) (story)
    • One of five players waived by the Magic just before the regular season, Jeffries may have ended up playing for Orlando’s G League team if he hadn’t been claimed by the Kings. Because he was on an Exhibit 10 contract, Sacramento was able to convert Jeffries to a two-way contract after claiming him.
  • Hawks claim Tyrone Wallace from Timberwolves (October 23) (story)
    • The first player claimed during the 2019/20 league year, Wallace also became the first player to be claimed a second time since July. His minimum salary contract and NBA experience has made him a popular target, and the Hawks had the regular season roster spot available to give him an audition to start the year.
  • Pistons claim Jordan McRae from Nuggets (March 4) (story)
    • The Nuggets didn’t have much of a role for McRae after trading for him at the deadline, so they let him go on the evening on March 1 to allow him to seek a new opportunity. It looked like that opportunity would come in Phoenix, but the Pistons placed a waiver claim of their own and had a better waiver priority than the Suns.
  • Knicks claim Jared Harper from Suns (June 25) (story)
    • This waiver claim was over three months in the making — the Suns initially decided to waive Harper in March, right when the NBA’s transaction moratorium went into effect. When the move finally become official in June, the Knicks were ready with a claim, cutting Kadeem Allen to open up a two-way contract slot.
  • Knicks claim Theo Pinson from Nets (June 26) (story)
    • A day after nabbing Harper, new Knicks president of basketball operations Leon Rose made the second waiver claim of his tenure, waiving free-agent-to-be Allonzo Trier to make room for Pinson. The former Net has a minimum-salary team option for 2020/21. There’s no guarantee New York will pick it up, but the claim signals that the club likes him.
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