Commentary

PER Diem: Feb. 19, 2009

The trade deadline has passed, but contending teams can still find help on the cheap.

Updated: February 20, 2009, 9:33 AM ET
By John Hollinger | ESPN.com

The trade deadline was Thursday, but there's another deadline coming up that fans should be aware of -- the March 1 waiver deadline. Any player waived by that date can sign with another team and still be eligible for the playoffs, making it an important day for contending teams looking to ink a veteran on the cheap.

If you go through the rosters of the league's bottom feeders, you can find buyout candidates lurking around nearly every corner. All of the players below have expiring contracts and don't seem to be in their team's future plans, which means if they take a buyout that pays a few dollars less than they're owed and re-sign for the veteran's minimum with another team, they still come out even or ahead on the deal. All of which should set up an interesting post-deadline shopping season among the league's contenders.

Among the players most likely to be both available and desirable, here's a top 11 of sorts:

Smith
Smith

Joe Smith: The most notable of the potential free agents is Oklahoma City's veteran forward, back on the Thunder after Tuesday's deal for the Hornets' Tyson Chandler fell apart. Rumors of Smith's going to Boston have been rife all season, and it's highly likely he'll reach a buyout agreement with the Thunder if he's still on their roster this Friday.

Mikki Moore: Of course, the Celtics might not have room for Smith if their rumored interest in Moore is legitimate. Sacramento bought him out on Thursday -- he had only $2 million guaranteed next season if he was waived by draft day -- and rumor has it that there could be a bidding war among contenders that have remnants of their midlevel exceptions left. That sounds bizarre to me -- Moore has been well south of average the past two years and at 33 doesn't seem primed for a renaissance -- but it shows you the desperation for veteran frontcourt talent.

Gooden
Gooden

Drew Gooden, Sacramento: The Kings would gladly take a discount to buy him out. Which makes you wonder if Cleveland would want him back to shore up its frontcourt -- they're familiar with him, after all, for better or worse. The only sticking point here is Gooden's groin injury, which might keep him shelved too long for contenders to be interested.

Chris Mihm, Memphis: Here today after a trade from the Lakers, and possibly gone tomorrow. It sure seems to me somebody could use a 7-foot big man with a soft shooting touch for the playoffs, even if Mihm has hardly played the past three years.

Rasho Nesterovic, Indiana: Another 7-footer who can make shots and has a championship ring; he's familiar with San Antonio's system from his time down there and would make a nice addition to the size-starved Spurs for their playoff run.

Jackson
Jackson

Bobby Jackson, Sacramento: A veteran guard familiar with the playoff wars from his previous tour of duty with the Kings, Jackson could answer Boston's need for scoring off the bench while Tony Allen is on the shelf.

Jason Collins, Minnesota: He doesn't score, he doesn't rebound; heck, he barely even moves. But you have to think some Western GMs have noticed how well he's defended Shaquille O'Neal in the past, and how useful that might be in a playoff series against Phoenix.

Sam Cassell, free agent: Already released by Sacramento, he's now free to pursue any deal that suits him. I'm guessing Boston is off the list, but perhaps the Hornets could find enough loose change in their wallets to take a look at him.

Jerry Stackhouse, Dallas: Unlike the others on this list, he's already on a playoff contender. But he hasn't played for the Mavs since the second week of the season and has only $2 million guaranteed for next year. Any buyout savings would effectively double for the Mavs since they're well over the luxury-tax line, giving them extra incentive to make a deal. However, word has it that Stack is going nowhere.

Atkins
Atkins

Chucky Atkins, Oklahoma City: Another player with only a partial guarantee for next year, Atkins is a misfit in the Thunder's youth movement. Given the demand for veteran point guards to fill out rosters at this time of year, Atkins could find himself beating away suitors should he be released.

Jason Williams, L.A. Clippers: Technically retired, word is that he filed for reinstatement with the league today. If so, the Clippers would likely reach a buyout agreement with him that could allow him to return to the Miami Heat, who are in search of a veteran backup point guard to help out Mario Chalmers.

John Hollinger writes for ESPN Insider. To e-mail him, click here.