Training camp is decision time for NBA teams as they put the finishing touches on the rosters they’ll carry into the regular season after an offseason of movement. I profiled four teams that face particularly difficult choices primarily because they possess too many guaranteed contracts. A much larger group of teams have fewer than 15 players will full guarantees, meaning there’s a chance for players with little or no guaranteed money to stick around for opening night.
Teams are only obligated to carry 13 players in the regular season, and as I noted last month, many in recent years have elected not to fill their rosters to the 15-man maximum for opening night. Still, using the Hoops Rumors Roster Counts as a guide, it’s possible to handicap the battles going on for potential regular season jobs around the league, even as much remains unknown. Here’s a look at where each team with fewer than 15 guaranteed contracts stands.
Six open spots
- Sixers: Ronald Roberts Jr., JaKarr Sampson and Jarvis Varnado all have partially guaranteed deals, but none seem like locks. Second-round pick K.J. McDaniels probably has the best shot of making it from the team’s pool of eight non-guaranteed contracts.
Four open spots
- Cavaliers: One of the opening-night jobs will assuredly go to Anderson Varejao, who has a partially guaranteed contract, but beyond Alex Kirk, who has a smaller partial guarantee, it’s a toss-up.
- Heat: Justin Hamilton is the only one of the team’s four players with partial guarantees who has any NBA experience, one reason why it’s not a slam-dunk that those will be the four the team elects to keep at the end of the month. The Heat are already reportedly penciling in Shannon Brown, who’s on a non-guaranteed deal, for an important role.
Three open spots
- Bulls: Chicago has traditionally carried only the league-minimum 13 players on opening night, so beyond the partially guaranteed deal of E’Twaun Moore, it’s tough to say anyone on the team without a full guarantee has a clear path to opening night.
- Pelicans: There certainly aren’t any assurances that New Orleans will carry a full 15-man roster to start the regular season, either, but if the Pelicans do, small partial guarantees out to Luke Babbitt, Darius Miller and Patric Young make them the favorites for the jobs.
Two open spots
- Jazz: Toure’ Murry has the team’s largest partial guarantee, giving him an edge for one of the spots, but presuming the team carries 15 players for the start of the regular season, it’s a fairly wide open race for the last vacancy.
- Kings: Sim Bhullar and Eric Moreland each possess an advantage thanks to partially guaranteed money, but neither appears particularly safe against the three other camp invitees, all of whom are on non-guaranteed deals.
- Lakers: Ronnie Price picked up key endorsements from Kobe Bryant and Byron Scott, and Wayne Ellington and Jeremy Tyler also have the advantage of NBA experience. Still, no one appears to be a lock.
- Nets: Diminutive partial guarantees to Jorge Gutierrez and second-round pick Cory Jefferson give them slight edges over the non-guaranteed Jerome Jordan and Willie Reed.
- Nuggets: The addition of former NBA starting small forward Alonzo Gee on a non-guaranteed deal puts heat on former second-round picks Quincy Miller and Erick Green, each of whom has a partial guarantee.
- Pacers: One of these open spots belongs to Luis Scola and his partial guarantee, and Shayne Whittington‘s smaller partial guarantee gives him a leg up on the competition for the other.
- Raptors: As with the Pacers and Scola, the Raptors will almost certainly keep Amir Johnson‘s partially guaranteed deal. Proven commodities Jordan Hamilton and Greg Stiemsma would seem to have better shots at the final opening than rookie Will Cherry for a team with playoff aspirations, but we’ll see.
- Warriors: All five players without full guarantees for Golden State have some partially guaranteed salary, with Leandro Barbosa seemingly the chief contender for a regular season job. The other spot, presuming Golden State carries 15 players on opening night, seems like a toss-up.
- Wizards: Glen Rice Jr. has the inside track on one of the openings thanks to his small partial guarantee, while Damion James and Xavier Silas reportedly are the favorites for the other job. Still, it appears there’s a strong chance the team will have only 14 players come opening night.
One open spot
- Bucks: The team will almost certainly keep Kendall Marshall‘s non-guaranteed deal.
- Clippers: Doc Rivers brought only 16 players to camp, so it’s seemingly a mano a mano between Joe Ingles and Jared Cunningham for the 15th spot. Still, it’s quite conceivable that the team will simply carry its 14 fully guaranteed contracts come opening night, given the emphasis on winning now rather than on player development in L.A.
- Grizzlies: Veterans Michael Beasley and Earl Clark look like the favorites here.
- Hawks: Atlanta seems destined to keep the partially guaranteed deal of 2013 second-round pick Mike Muscala.
- Hornets: Jason Maxiell looks like the favorite, but Charlotte has no guaranteed money beyond the 14 players with full guarantees, so there’s a strong chance the team will carry only those 14 come opening night.
- Knicks: The 15th regular season roster spot will almost assuredly go to Samuel Dalembert, who has a partially guaranteed deal.
- Magic: The team reportedly signed Peyton Siva with the D-League in mind, and Seth Curry, who’s played all of two games in the league, is the only other NBA veteran among the players on the Magic without full guarantees. Orlando made a move to secure his D-League rights today, and that seems to signal that the team is more likely to waive him than keep him for opening night. So, Orlando seems like a strong candidate to carry just 14 players at the start of the regular season.
- Thunder: The edge goes to Lance Thomas, but he, like the rest of the Thunder players without full guarantees, doesn’t have any partially guaranteed salary.
Full rosters (15 or more fully guaranteed contracts):
- Trail Blazers
Basketball Insiders was used in the creation of this post.