Upcoming Contract Guarantee Decisions

Less than two weeks remain before teams have to make decisions about whether to pick up the full-season salaries for players on non-guaranteed contracts. The leaguewide guarantee date is January 10th, but those players would have to be released no later than January 7th to clear waivers in time. That leaves four dozen players in jeopardy of losing their jobs, as Marc Stein of ESPN.com points out.

Of course, not every player on a non-guaranteed deal is at risk. Stein identifies a few as slam-dunks to keep their roster spots, and a handful of others he didn’t mention seem unlikely to hit the waiver wire. The Lakers aren’t letting go of rotation pieces like Xavier Henry and Shawne Williams, and the Bobcats, without Jeff Taylor for the season, probably intend to keep newly signed Chris Douglas-Roberts. By contrast, the Magic are almost certain to part ways with Hedo Turkoglu, who hasn’t played a minute this season after the team told him before training camp to stay home. He could have his full $12MM salary guaranteed if the Magic find a trade partner, but that possibility is looking slimmer by the day.

There are some players, like Kendall Marshall and James Johnson, who’ve been signed too recently to accurately gauge whether their teams intend to keep them for long. We won’t include those guys here, but everyone else on a non-guaranteed contract who hasn’t been seeing much playing time and doesn’t fill an obvious need is below. I’ve ranked them in descending order of minutes per game, with a comment assessing their chances of staying in their jobs.

  • Andrew Bynum, Cavaliers (20.0 MPG): Stein figures there’s no chance the Cavs will let him go, and the only reason he’s on my list is because the Cavs would have to lay out an extra $6.25MM for the big man if he stays on the roster past the guarantee date. He’s shown glimpses of his former All-Star form, but as his 0-for-11 performance against the Pistons this week demonstrates, he hasn’t necessarily played like someone worth his full $12.25MM salary.
  • Cartier Martin, Hawks (18.2 MPG): The 29-year-old started and played 31 minutes on the last night of November, but he’s only seen 46 minutes of action spread over five appearances since then, in part because of a sprained ankle he suffered in practice.
  • Matthew Dellavedova, Cavaliers (15.6 MPG): His playing time has bounced up and down since three starts last month when the team was shorthanded, but his 44.1% three-point shooting is one reason he’s probably safe.
  • Diante Garrett, Jazz (14.2 MPG): His minutes have been inconsistent, but the Jazz may be inclined to give the 25-year-old an extended look in a player development year.
  • Mike Scott, Hawks (13.4 MPG): He’s had more appearances of less than 10 minutes than he has games in which he’s played more than 20. Still, he put up a 16.3 PER last year and he isn’t far off with a 16.0 PER this time around, so he’s been efficient when on the floor.
  • Jeff Adrien, Bobcats (12.6 MPG): The power forward’s minutes have fluctuated all season, and he hasn’t played in two weeks. Still, he’s been efficient in his limited time, posting a better-than-average 16.2 PER.
  • Robbie Hummel, Timberwolves (12.2 MPG): Shorthanded Minnesota gave him his first career start on December 16th, but Hummel followed it up with a pair of DNPs. His minutes have been up and down all season, so it’s hard to gauge how the team feels about him.
  • Brandon Davies, 76ers (12.0 MPG) His minutes have been inconsistent, and a 35.9% field goal percentage and his 5.9 PER don’t bode well for his chances of sticking around.
  • Mike Harris, Jazz (11.3 MPG): The 30-year-old journeyman saw regular playing time at the start of the season, but that’s dropped off since, and there doesn’t appear to be a compelling reason for him to stick.
  • Roger Mason Jr., Heat (11.9 MPG): His appearances have ranged from a season-high of 23 on December 8th to a season-low two in his next outing. There was talk over the summer of the Heat carrying only 13 players in the regular season, and while that hasn’t come true so far, there’s no strong indication that Mason will remain the team’s 15th man.
  • Lorenzo Brown, 76ers (10.9 MPG): Like teammate Elliot Williams, he saw his longest periods of action in a pair of mid-month blowouts, but he hasn’t played since, and the Sixers assigned him to the D-League on Thursday.
  • Daniel Orton, 76ers (10.9 MPG): He started four games in late November, but he hasn’t seen as many as 10 minutes in a single contest since.
  • Elliot Williams, 76ers (10.8 MPG): It’s been three weeks since he played more than 10 minutes in a game decided by a margin of fewer than 10 points. Still, the Sixers have to keep at least 13 guys, so unless they want to bring in free agents or 10-day signees, they’ll have to keep at least two of Williams, Orton, Brown and Davies.
  • Lou Amundson, Pelicans (10.5 MPG): Three of his four longest outings came in the 10 days leading up to the return of Anthony Davis, but Amundson has only played five minutes since.
  • Josh Harrellson, Pistons (9.2 MPG): “Jorts” helped the Pistons last week with his two longest stretches of playing time all season, but he’s disappeared from the rotation again this week.
  • Ian Clark, Jazz (8.8 MPG): The summer league star has yet to reproduce the magic with Utah, appearing for just 70 minutes so far this season, and he’s put up pedestrian numbers in three D-League games.
  • Greg Smith, Rockets (8.4 MPG): A sprained knee has limited him to just eight games so far this season, though with uncertainty surrounding the power forward position in Houston and the future of Omer Asik, there doesn’t seem to be much motivation to drop Smith.
  • Solomon Jones, Magic (8.2 MPG): The 29-year-old hasn’t played since December 6th and is seemingly only around in case too many big men go down. The Magic, with little to play for this season, probably don’t need to spend a full season’s salary on such a player.
  • Hasheem Thabeet, Thunder (8.0 MPG): His $500K partial guarantee covers his salary right up until the day Oklahoma City would have to waive him to avoid paying him his full $1.2MM salary. With rookie Steven Adams having beaten him out for the backup center job, Thabeet may not be long for OKC.
  • Julyan Stone, Raptors (7.3 MPG): If GM Masai Ujiri was going to let go of Stone, who’s played for Ujiri in Denver as well as Toronto, he’d probably have done so earlier this month when he waived D.J. Augustin instead.
  • Ryan Gomes, Thunder (7.0 MPG): The veteran swingman has only appeared in four games this season, making him tantamount to an insurance policy Oklahoma City hasn’t needed to exercise. The Thunder are less than $1.5MM away from luxury tax territory, so not having to pay Gomes for the entire season could give the team more breathing room.
  • Ryan Kelly, Lakers (7.0 MPG): Mike D’Antoni hadn’t found much use for this year’s 48th overall pick all season until Christmas Day, when his 17 minutes nearly doubled his previous high. He appears to have played his way into the rotation for now, and given the Lakers’ investment of a draft pick, it seems he’ll stick around.
  • Dionte Christmas, Suns (6.9 MPG): The 27-year-old rookie is a favorite of GM Ryan McDonough, but he hasn’t played as many as 10 minutes in a game in more than a month.
  • Rasual Butler, Pacers (6.5 MPG): The 34-year-old entered the rotation this week for the first time all season, but Friday he saw just six minutes in Danny Granger’s return from injury. If Granger can prove himself fully healthy in the next couple of weeks, the cost-conscious Pacers might unload Butler.
  • Kent Bazemore, Warriors (6.3 MPG): The second-year shooting guard hasn’t grabbed a rotation spot even with other Golden State wings missing time with injury, though I’d be surprised if the Warriors gave up on the 24-year-old so soon, especially if they feel he’d be attractive to other teams in a trade.
  • Peyton Siva, Pistons (5.8 MPG): His $150K partial guarantee became irrelevant a week ago, and if Detroit opts to keep this year’s 56th overall pick, it will represent an investment in the future rather than the present, given his almost non-existent playing time. The Pistons sent him to the D-League on Thursday.
  • Toure’ Murry, Knicks (5.7 MPG): The Knicks wanted to keep some younger players coming out of camp, but they haven’t given Murry much chance to show what he can do in the regular season.
  • Hamady N’Diaye, Kings (5.3 MPG): Apart from a 25-minute appearance in November, he hasn’t recorded double-digit minutes in any game. The 26-year-old probably doesn’t have much upside, and with DeMarcus Cousins locked up long-term, there’s little call for journeyman centers in Sacramento.
  • Henry Sims, Cavaliers (5.3 MPG): The 6’10” center has played more minutes in the D-League than he has in the NBA this year, even though he’s only appeared in three D-League games.
  • Ronnie Brewer, Rockets (4.8 MPG): The seven-year NBA veteran was a part of a vaunted Bulls bench that helped the club to back-to-back top playoff seeds in the Eastern Conference in recent years, and he started 34 games for the Knicks last season. He’s curiously become an afterthought following a midseason trade to the Thunder a year ago, and he’s seen the fewest minutes of his career this season with the Rockets.
  • Cole Aldrich, Knicks (3.5 MPG): He, like Murry, is part of the team’s commitment to young players, but the Knicks didn’t find much use for him with Tyson Chandler out, and he may be the one to go if the team signs Jeremy Tyler.
  • Erik Murphy, Bulls (2.4 MPG): He’s seen just 36 total minutes all season, and the Bulls might want to reduce their luxury tax bill now that they don’t have realistic title hopes. Still, I’d be surprised if they gave up so soon on this year’s second-round pick, especially since more than half of his rookie minimum salary is guaranteed.
  • Malcolm Thomas, Spurs (0.0 MPG): The power forward has yet to make his debut in San Antonio after the Spurs signed him December 3rd, but he’s already been on a pair of D-League assignments. Thomas seems like a long shot to remain on the roster unless the Spurs value him as a long-term asset.
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