Four Teams Face Tough Roster Decisions

October is a month of decision-making for NBA clubs, as they sort through rookie scale extensions and options and figure out how to shrink their rosters down to the 15-man regular season limit. That third task is fairly straightforward for most teams, who’ll cut players with non-guaranteed deals and diminutive partial guarantees and keep those on fully guaranteed contracts.

For a few clubs, it’s not so easy, either because they have more than 15 fully guaranteed contracts or because there are players on the roster with little or no guaranteed money whom the club would like to keep at the expense of one or more of their fully guaranteed guys. Often, this means waiving a fully guaranteed contract and eating that money, though sometimes teams are able to work out salary-clearing trades.

A look at our roster counts shows several teams with at least some partially guaranteed money on the books for more than 15 players, but the predicaments of four teams stand out. We’ll profile them here:

It took a series of maneuvers, including waiving and re-signing camp invitee Christian Watford, just to give the C’s enough room to squeeze a contract for Evan Turner under the 20-man offseason roster limit. Boston has 16 fully guaranteed contracts plus a $100K partial guarantee out to Erik Murphy, so more roster gymnastics are ahead for president of basketball operations Danny Ainge. Phil Pressey and the newly acquired Dwight Powell have the cheapest guaranteed deals on the team, as each is in line for less than $1MM, though Pressey, a point guard, might have an edge if Rajon Rondo‘s injury lingers.

The Pistons were set with 15 fully guaranteed contracts before Greg Monroe inked his qualifying offer, which is also fully guaranteed and carries a de facto no-trade clause. That sets up a tough decision this month for coach/executive Stan Van Gundy. Spencer Dinwiddie has the lowest amount of guaranteed money for this season, but his contract is also fully guaranteed for 2015/16. Tony Mitchell is the only Piston who has guaranteed salary that adds up to less than $1MM.

Houston doesn’t look like it’s in a bind at first glance, since the team only has 15 fully guaranteed deals. Yet with projected starting point guard Patrick Beverley on a non-guaranteed contract, GM Daryl Morey will almost certainly part with one of those 15. Nick Johnson, Troy Daniels and Isaiah Canaan, the Rockets with the cheapest full guarantees for this season, all have a significant amount of guaranteed money on the books for 2015/16, too. Ish Smith, Jeff Adrien and Francisco Garcia are each on a fully guaranteed one-year deal that costs the team less than $1MM, but all three are proven veterans who saw time in NBA rotations last season. Further complicating the matter is that the team owes partial guarantees to Tarik Black, Robert Covington and Akil Mitchell.

Minnesota’s situation is another that doesn’t appear troublesome initially, but the team invested a $250K partial guarantee in Glenn Robinson III, this year’s 40th overall pick, to go along with 15 fully guaranteed contracts. Robinson won’t earn a free pass onto the regular season roster, but the team is reportedly looking to unload J.J. Barea, whether by trade or buyout. If the Wolves don’t part ways with Barea, coach/executive Flip Saunders might cast his eye in the direction of Robbie Hummel, the only player with fully guaranteed salary that totals less than $1MM.

Basketball Insiders was used in the creation of this post.

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