There were rumors this might happen today and now it’s official – Earl Watson has been bought out by Oklahoma City. From the official site:
The Oklahoma City Thunder waived guard Earl Watson it was announced today by Thunder Executive Vice President and General Manager Sam Presti. The 8-year NBA veteran appeared in 68 games (18 starts) with Oklahoma City this past season and averaged 6.6 points, 5.8 assists and 2.7 rebounds in 26.1 minutes per contest.
Watson had said late last year that he didn’t expect to be back with team after he was benched for an extended period of time. He was owed $6.6 million for next season, making his expiring contract fairly valuable. But evidently Sam Presti decided the roster spot was more valuable and Watson’s trade value wasn’t worth holding on to him until the trade deadline. Terms of the buyout weren’t released, but obviously the Thunder’s saving some money, and I’d assume it’s a fairly good amount. You can also bet on Watson having something set up with another team shortly.
With young guys like Kyle Weaver, Byron Mullens, Robert Vaden, Serge Ibaka, D.J. White and Shaun Livingston all fighting for one last active roster spot, waiving Watson opens up some more room and more flexibility. Chucky Atkins’ contract is of the non-guaranteed variety and he could also be bought out (for around $970 thousand), clearing more room. Watson was likely to be stuck on the bench for most of the season playing behind Russell Westbrook and Livingston, so if OKC had ideas of trading him, his value could be dashed due to lack of playing time. A wise decision for Presti to open up a spot now so that the Thunder youth movement can press on.