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Navigating NBA Waivers and Contracts: A Comprehensive Guide

NBA Waiver Claims and Contract Details: Understanding the Ins and Outs

The world of NBA can be quite complex, especially when it comes to waivers and contracts. Whether you’re a seasoned fan or a newcomer to the game, understanding the nuances of these two topics can be essential to making sense of the business side of the league.

This article delves into waiver claims and contract details, covering everything from release waivers and unconditional release to becoming a free agent and the payment of current contracts.

Release Waivers and Unconditional Release

When a player is released from their team, they typically go through a waiver process. This means that before becoming an unrestricted free agent, they are available to any of the 29 other teams in the league first.

Depending on the player’s contract, there might be different stipulations before they become a free agent, such as clearing waivers or being claimed by another team. Release waivers refer to the process where a team can remove a player from their roster to make them eligible for the waiver wire system.

Once on waivers, any other team can place a claim on the player. The waiver priority is based on the reverse order of the standings, which gives the team with the worst record first dibs on any waived players.

In some cases, if no team claims the player, they may become an unrestricted free agent. Unconditional release, on the other hand, is similar to a release waiver but without any monetary strings attached.

A player who is unconditionally released is free to sign with any other team and is not bound by any contractual conditions or restrictions.

Claiming and Clearing Waivers

Once the waiver period begins, any team can place a claim on a waived player. The team with the highest position in the waiver order has the first claim.

If no team claims a player, they’ll clear waivers and become an unrestricted free agent. Waived players who clear waivers can be re-signed by their original team or sign with a new team.

When a team claims a player, they must take on their remaining salary from their original contract. For example, if a player is waived with one year remaining on their contract, and they’re being paid $10 million for that year, a team that claims them must pay that entire amount.

This is why teams are often hesitant to claim players on waivers, as they must take on the remainder of their contract. Moreover, if a team’s cap space is full, they cannot claim a player on waivers even if they want to.

Notable Waiver Claims

A few players have become notable names in NBA waiver history. One such example is Jeremy Lin, who was waived by the Atlanta Hawks and claimed by the Toronto Raptors during the 2018-19 season.

This turned out to be a great move, as Lin received playing time and helped the Raptors win their first NBA championship that season. Another example is Steve Novak, who was waived by the San Antonio Spurs and claimed by the New York Knicks.

He became known for his lethal three-point shooting ability and played an instrumental role in the Knicks’ success.

Players on Release Waivers

When a player is placed on release waivers, their team is already aware that they will be losing them. This means that the player could be released to be picked up by another team, or they might clear waivers and become an unrestricted free agent.

The latter is usually not a desirable option, as the player can sign with any team of their choosing. When a player is released via a waiver claim, their new team takes on the remainder of the player’s contract.

They’re bound to that contract until it expires or until the player is traded, bought out, or waived. This highlights the importance of considering a player’s remaining salary before claiming them off of waivers.

Paying Current Contracts

Players in the NBA will sign contracts that will pay them a specific salary per year for a predetermined number of years. This salary will count against a team’s salary cap, which means they’ll have to monitor their available cap space to ensure that they’re not going over the maximum amount.

When a player is traded to another team, their existing contract follows them. This means that the receiving team will be responsible for paying the player the amount already agreed upon with their previous team.

If a player is bought out of their contract, the remaining balance of their salary is often paid over some period of time, or in a lump sum. If a team cannot pay a player the salary they owe them, they’ll often agree upon a buyout amount that will allow the player to find another team to play for.

Becoming a Free Agent

Players in the NBA can become free agents in a variety of ways. The most common is for their contract to expire.

A player can also be waived, in which case they may become an unrestricted free agent. Players can also be traded or sign new contracts with their current teams, which could make them a free agent if the contract has an opt-out clause in it.

Free agency provides players the opportunity to sign with any team they choose. However, it also creates bidding wars between teams, often leading to inflated salaries.

Players who are in high demand can often leverage their status to sign more favorable contracts, which could lead to more money and a chance to play for their desired team.


Understanding waiver claims and contract details is important for those who want to understand the NBA and the business side of the sport. The league is complex, and players moving from team to team can be difficult to keep up with.

Knowing the difference between release waivers and unconditional release, as well as the advantages and drawbacks of claiming and clearing waivers, can help NBA fans better appreciate the strategic decisions that team managers make. It’s also important for players to know what their contractual obligations are and the benefits of becoming a free agent.

Rules Governing Waiver Claims in the NBA

The process of waiver claims in the NBA is subject to specific rules that govern how teams can claim players, especially those who have been released from their original teams. The teams claim priority, the 48-hour time limit, and the process of making claims are three essential aspects of understanding waiver claims in the NBA.

Priority of Claiming Teams

When a team puts a player on waivers, the rest of the league has the opportunity to claim that player. However, it is not a free for all; the NBA has built a structure to ensure fairness in the process.

The priority of claiming teams in the NBA is based on the reverse order of the current NBA standings. According to this order, the team with the worst record is given the highest priority, while the team with the best record has the lowest priority.

The team with the highest priority is allowed to make a claim for any player they want. If that team successfully claims the player, they are added to their roster.

However, if a higher-priority team makes a claim for the same player, they have the right over the lower-priority team that made the first claim.

48 Hour Time Limit

Once a player has been placed on waivers, the claiming process starts and typically lasts 48 hours. This means that all teams in the NBA are given 48 hours to place a claim for that player.

If that player is not claimed within the 48-hour period, he becomes an unrestricted free agent. Timing is everything in the NBA, as a team cant afford to lag before making a claim.

A team that delays filing a claim even for a few hours could lose the player they have been eyeing to another team. As a result, teams that are interested in a player must act with haste during the claiming period.

Process of Waiver Claims

Before making a claim, teams must be aware of the cost. The cost is the players salary, which must be followed by the new team.

Meaning, if a team claims a waived player in advance of his scheduled free agency, they inherit the players remaining salary that he is owed from the current season. This is why many teams only claim a player if they believe he is worth the cost.

To make a claim, a team must submit a request to the league office within the 48-hour claiming period. The request must contain the players name, the team the player was waived by, and the team that is making the claim.

If multiple teams make a claim, the team with the highest priority gets the first claim. Then, the team that made the second request is given the next opportunity to make a claim.

This process continues until the player is claimed or goes unclaimed. One of the complications that arise in making waiver claims is when multiple teams that claim a player have the same priority.

In this case, the team that loses out in the waiver process may file a grievance and ask for an investigation. This investigation is to determine whether the correct process was followed in deciding which team would get the player.


Understanding the rules that govern waiver claims in the NBA is important for following the transaction process of players. The claiming priority, a 48-hour time limit, and the process of making claims are the central aspects of waivers that ensure fairness and transparency.

Teams must be aware of the cost and make quick decisions during the claiming windows, or they risk losing the player they are eyeing. With these rules regulating waiver claims, fans can appreciate the structure and fairness that enables teams to build balanced and competitive rosters.

The article covered key topics in the NBA such as waiver claims and contract details, with a focus on waiver claims. Teams must follow specific rules that dictate the priority of claiming teams, the 48-hour time limit, and the process of making claims.

Understanding these rules is essential for NBA fans to appreciate the structure and fairness exhibited by teams in building competitive rosters. Key takeaways include the importance of timing, the cost of claiming players, and the need for quick decision-making to avoid losing players to competing teams.


Q: How do teams determine their priority in claiming waived players? A: The priority of claiming teams is based on the reverse order of the current NBA standings.

Q: How long is the claiming window for waived players? A: The claiming window for a waived player usually lasts for 48 hours.

Q: Do teams that claim waived players inherit their salaries? A: Yes, the new team must pay the player’s remaining salary from their original contract.

Q: Can a team file a grievance if they lose out on a waived player? A: Yes, if multiple teams that claim a player have the same priority, the team that loses out may file a grievance and ask for an investigation.

Q: Why is it important for teams to act quickly in making waiver claims? A: Other teams interested in the same player can also make a claim, and the one that files the first gets the first right to claim the player.

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