The Toronto Raptors and Peja Stojakovic on Thursday completed a buyout that puts the former All-Star sharpshooter on the open market.
The team did not disclose the financial details of the buyout in announcing it had released Stojakovic, now in his 13th season.
Sources close to the situation told ESPN.com that Stojakovic is determined to return to the Western Conference and join a playoff contender once he clears waivers and becomes a free agent, with three teams at the top of his list: Dallas, New Orleans and the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Raptors publicly acknowledged almost immediately after acquiring Stojakovic from New Orleans that a buyout would be considered if no follow-up trade could be swung. But the Raptors, reluctant to take on long-term salary, were unlikely to find a workable trade, with Stojakovic earning $15 million in the final season of an original five-year deal he signed with the Hornets in the summer of 2006.
"We were clear from the beginning that our trade with New Orleans was made with the future in mind, so a buyout or trade of Peja's contract was a likely option," Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo said in a prepared statement. "Although he did not fit into our plan of developing our young core talent, I'm sure that Peja will add significantly to any veteran team that signs him."
The Mavericks, sources say, are considered the favorite to land Stojakovic. They have minutes to offer at small forward and a well-chronicled need for perimeter shooting. And joining the Mavericks would enable Stojakovic to live within short flying distance of his wife and children, who remained in New Orleans after he was dealt to the Raptors.
Both the Mavericks and the Lakers have a need on the wing thanks to injuries, with Dallas losing Caron Butler to a season-ending knee tear and the Lakers losing newcomer Matt Barnes for two months to a knee injury.
Stojakovic made three All-Star appearances as a member of the Sacramento Kings and sports a career success rate of 40.1 percent from 3-point range. He's been plagued by knee trouble this season and has only appeared in two games for the Raptors, but he did leave an impression on the Mavericks by scoring 17 points in 19 minutes in Dallas on Nov. 15, just days before New Orleans sent the 33-year-old and Jerryd Bayless to Toronto for Jarrett Jack, Marcus Banks and David Andersen.
Stojakovic forfeited roughly $440,000 from a trade bonus in his contract to make the salary-cap math work in the deal that sent him to Toronto.