The 2021 NBA trade deadline is now behind us, but it’s not the last notable date on the 2020/21 regular season calendar.
Here are a few more dates and deadlines to keep an eye out for over the next couple months:
- Last day a player can be waived by one team and remain eligible to appear in the postseason for another team.
This rule is often the source of confusion. A player who is released by a team doesn’t have to sign with a new team by April 9 in order to be playoff-eligible this spring. He simply has to be waived by his current team before the end of the day on April 9.
As long as he’s no longer under contract by 11:59 pm ET on April 9, a player could theoretically wait until the last day of the regular season to sign with a new club and would still be postseason-eligible. But if he’s cut on April 10 instead, he loses that postseason eligibility.
We’re keeping an eye on the 2021 buyout market in this space.
Five teams were granted a total of six disabled player exceptions this season (the Magic got two) and none of those exceptions were used at the trade deadline.
The Heat lost their $4.7MM disabled player exception for Meyers Leonard when they included Leonard in a pre-deadline trade.
The Warriors ($9.26MM), Magic ($6.14MM and $3.68MM), and Wizards ($4.17MM) all made trades at the deadline, but none of those deals saw them take on a player on an expiring contract who would have fit a DPE. The Nets, meanwhile, still have their $5.73MM exception despite completing two signings on the buyout market (Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge).
At this point, those disabled player exceptions seem unlikely to be used. Maybe a surprise buyout in the next week or two changes that, but it looks like most of this season’s DPEs will expire without being touched.
For more info on how DPEs work, be sure to check out our glossary entry.
- Last day of the regular season.
- Last day players can sign contracts for 2020/21.
- Last day two-way contracts can be converted to standard NBA contracts.
- Luxury tax penalties calculated based on payroll as of this day.
Although we don’t always see a flurry of last-minute activity on the very last day of the regular season, teams around the NBA figure to be active leading up to this date.
Playoff clubs will typically make sure their rosters are fully stocked for the postseason. Even a team with tax concerns that has avoided carrying a full 15-man roster all season will consider filling that 15th spot on the last day of the season, since the prorated minimum-salary cap hit would only be about $11K and the accompanying tax penalty would be very modest.
Meanwhile, lottery-bound teams will often fill their rosters by taking a flier on a prospect or two, signing them to multiyear contracts that include little to no guaranteed money for 2021/22. That way, they can hang onto them for next season if they want, or cut bait during the offseason without any real impact to their cap for next season.
These end-of-season roster moves often fly under the radar, but they’re worth keeping an eye on. Just ask the Heat, who signed Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn to team-friendly three-year contracts at the very end of the 2018/19 regular season and continue to reap the benefits.
It’s also worth noting that in most years there’s a midseason deadline for signing players to two-way contracts, but teams can sign two-way players all the way up until the end of the regular season in 2020/21. As such, some of those openings could be filled down the stretch too.
- Play-in tournament for the seventh and eighth playoff spots in each conference.
We got a preview of the NBA’s play-in tournament at the Walt Disney World bubble in 2020 when the Trail Blazers beat the Grizzlies for the final playoff spot in the West. But 2021 will be the first time we get the full-fledged version of the event.
The plan is for each conference’s seventh and eighth seeds to play one another, while the ninth and 10th seeds face each other. The winner of the 7/8 game will earn the No. 7 seed, while the loser will play the winner of the 9/10 game. The winner of that second game will be the No. 8 seed.
In other words, as long as you finish the regular season in a “standard” playoff position (seventh or eighth seed), you’ll get two shots to win a play-in game. The ninth and 10th seeds will have to win two games to make the postseason.
If the season ended today, the Celtics and Heat would play in the East’s first play-in game, with the winner making the playoffs and the loser facing the winner of a Pacers/Bulls contest. In the West, it’d be Mavericks vs. Spurs, with the loser facing the winner of Grizzlies/Warriors.