The NBA’s hardship rule was little-known and little used when the season began, but the ability for teams to exceed the 15-man roster limit during the regular season has come into play more frequently in 2014/15. Multiple teams have also used the league’s suspended list to add a 16th player to their rosters. The Lakers became the sixth team to carry 16 players during the 2014/15 regular season when they signed Jabari Brown to a 10-day contract today. Here’s a look back at the five other instances in which teams carried 16 men this season:
- Indiana signed A.J. Price on November 6th into the 16th roster spot created through the league’s injury hardship provision. The team’s initial plan was reportedly to sign Gal Mekel instead, but visa issues tripped up that would-be deal. Mekel’s visa might have been ready by the 7th, but teams only have two days to use the hardship provision once the NBA grants it, so Indiana wasn’t in position to wait. The Pacers waived Price to get back down to 15 players on November 28th, and the Cavs claimed him off waivers. Cleveland ultimately let go of Price on January 7th.
- The Thunder used the injury hardship provision to sign Ish Smith on November 7th. They kept Smith as a 16th man until November 26th, when they elected to waive Sebastian Telfair and hang on to Smith even as they cut back down to 15 players. Oklahoma City finally parted ways with Smith at the trade deadline, sending him to the Pelicans, who promptly waived him. The Sixers claimed him off waivers and still have him on the roster, so a contract that was supposed to be a temporary arrangement persists.
- The Grizzlies were an odd candidate to go up to 16 players on November 19th, since they were carrying only 14 players. However, a stomach virus befell several Memphis players, leaving the team shorthanded. The injury hardship exception would have required that the team have four players who’d already missed multiple games, but that wasn’t the case for the Grizzlies. Instead, they used the league’s 20-game suspension of Nick Calathes to place him on the suspended list and sign both Kalin Lucas and Hassan Whiteside to boost their roster to 16 players. They waived Lucas and Whiteside the next day to return to 14 players, though they probably would have been better served keeping Whiteside as a 15th man, since he went on to sign with the Heat and enjoy a breakout campaign.
- Jeff Adrien became the 16th member of the Timberwolves when he signed with the team on November 29th thanks to the injury hardship provision. Minnesota reduced its roster to 15 players when it completed the unbalanced Corey Brewer trade on December 19th. Adrien stayed on as one of 15 players until the Wolves released him on January 7th.
- The Sixers traded for Andrei Kirilenko on December 11th, but he never reported to the team. Philadelphia quietly exercised its right to suspend him for failing to do so, a move that wasn’t discovered until the team traded for Jared Cunningham on January 7th without giving up a player in the move. The Sixers quickly released Cunningham, but they had 15 players on the roster before he arrived, so they took advantage of the ability to place Kirilenko on the suspended list to squeeze Cunningham onto the team as a 16th player, even if only temporarily. They went back up to 16 players thanks to Kirilenko’s suspension when they signed Larry Drew II to a pair of 10-day contracts in late January and once more when they added Tim Frazier on the first of his pair of 10-day deals after Drew’s second 10-day pact expired. They stayed at 16 players through the trade deadline before waiving Kirilenko to return to 15 players on February 21st. They released Frazier from his 10-day deal early to claim Thomas Robinson off waivers on February 24th.
- A suspension for Larry Sanders allowed the Bucks to add Jorge Gutierrez as a 16th man when they signed him to a 10-day contract in January. The NBA stipulated that the Sanders suspension would last at least 10 games, but they left the maximum length open-ended, leaving some uncertainty about whether the team would be able to re-sign Gutierrez when his contract came to an end. The 10th game of Sanders’ suspension coincided with the final day of Gutierrez’s deal. However, the Bucks evidently received the clarity they were seeking, and they re-signed Gutierrez to another 10-day contract shortly thereafter. Sanders’ suspension ended after 12 games, and Milwaukee didn’t sign Gutierrez to a deal for the rest of the season, bringing a close to the 16-man roster dynamic before the Bucks ultimately released Sanders in a buyout deal.