Hoops Rumors will be taking a team-by-team look at the battles for regular season roster spots going on around the NBA this month, the last before rosters shrink from the offseason limit of 20 to the 15-man regular season maximum. We’ve already checked out the Northwest, Pacific, and Southwest division franchises, and now we’ll look at the Central Division:
Analysis: It would seem as though the opening night roster for the Bucks is set, though Gutierrez, a holdover point guard from last season, conceivably poses a threat to some degree and is averaging an assist-to-turnover ratio of better than three-to-one in the small sample size of the preseason so far. O’Bryant, who has the team’s cheapest full guarantee, is averaging 7.3 points and 4.3 rebounds in 18.9 minutes per game in preseason action, not overwhelming stats but not numbers that would suggest his job is in jeopardy. The fully guaranteed salary of Damien Inglis isn’t much greater than Bryant’s, but he’s only a year removed from having been the top pick of the second round and an injury kept him out all of last season, so the Bucks have yet to see what the small forward can do.
Analysis: The Bulls have traditionally carried only 13 players on opening night, the league minimum, though last season was the first since 2008/09 that they carried 14. That’s still one shy of the 15-man maximum that most teams started with, and it underscores the idea that jobs are at a premium at the end of Chicago’s bench. The team is apparently enamored with Felicio, but to stick on the roster into the regular season he’d have to overcome Bairstow’s financial advantage of a sizable partial guarantee, plus one of the fully guaranteed players, unless the team breaks with tradition and carries a full roster. Crawford has four years of NBA experience and the pedigree of having been a first-round pick on his side, but he’s only averaging 5.4 minutes per game in the preseason so far. Moore, who has the team’s cheapest full guarantee, is seeing 26.0 MPG.
Analysis: The specter of the unsigned Tristan Thompson looms over the Cavs, as do injuries to Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and Iman Shumpert. Players at the end of the bench are liable to see some meaningful playing time at the start of the regular season, depending on how quickly those key figures return to the team. Jared Cunningham is tied with J.R. Smith with a team-high 15.0 points per game in the preseason so far, and Cunningham’s 25.0 minutes per game are the most on the Cavs, so he appears to be in strong position. Christmas, who signed just this weekend, played nearly 17 minutes and scored 10 points in his debut, and every Cav who has seen action so far is averaging at least 10 MPG.
Analysis: The Pacers have 15 full guarantees, but the final spot on the opening night roster appears to be in flux thanks to the partial guarantee they gave Douglas, which is almost as large as the full guarantee Shayne Whittington has. Douglas, who’s averaging 6.2 points in 13.1 minutes per game during the preseason, is putting up numbers superior to Whittington’s 2.5 PPG in 9.3 MPG. Paul George and George Hill both believe Douglas is worthy of a regular season spot, as Nate Taylor of the Indianapolis Star notes (Twitter links). “It’s a tough situation for our front office,” George said. “We feel Toney is the makeup of this team.” Fair, a camp invitee with the Pacers for a second year in a row, is also seeing more minutes than Whittington is, but the Pacers reportedly signed Jack with the D-League in mind.
- Jordan Bachynski
- Adonis Thomas — $60K partial guarantee
Analysis: It’s not a matter of sorting through non-guarantees and partial guarantees for the Pistons, who have a league-high 17 fully guaranteed salaries. Detroit will have to eat at least two full salaries, barring a trade. Danny Granger, who continues to nurse his way back to health, seems like the most logical cut despite the $2,170,465 owed to him. Hilliard, with $1.1MM in guaranteed money for this year and next on his contract, has seen less playing time than anyone but Bachynski so far in preseason. However, coach/executive Stan Van Gundy hinted that it’s because the team already has a strong feel for this year’s 38th overall pick, notes Keith Langlois of Pistons.com, so Hilliard seems a decent bet to stick on the roster. A sprained wrist is keeping Cartier Martin, who’s due $1,270,964, from the court, but after seeing little playing time last season, he’s a candidate for the waiver wire. Reggie Bullock, with $1,252,440 coming his way, is aveaging 10.0 points in 18.0 minutes per game, and his upside works to his benefit. The same is true for Dinwiddie, a second-rounder from 2014 who’s seeing 21.2 MPG so far.
The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.