Hoops Rumors is 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, Southwest, Central and Atlantic division franchises, and now we’ll finish up the series with a look at the Atlantic Division:
13 full guarantees (Smallest full guarantee: Tim Hardaway Jr. — $1,304,520; Edy Tavares and Justin Holiday have smaller full guarantees for this season, but their salaries for next season are guaranteed, too.)
- Earl Barron
- DeQuan Jones
- Mike Muscala — $473,638 partial guarantee
- Lamar Patterson — $75K partial guarantee
- Terran Petteway — $75K partial guarantee
Analysis: Muscala has long been a “lock” for the regular season roster, as Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has said, so realistically this is a matter of four players competing for one opening night spot. Patterson has seen far more playing time in the preseason than the other three, as Vivlamore pointed out before this weekend’s game against the Heat (Twitter link), and that still holds true. Patterson, who signed as a draft-and-stash prospect this summer after having been the 48th overall pick in 2014, is averaging 4.0 points in 14.3 minutes per game. Petteway is only logging about half as many minutes per contest, and Barron and Jones have seen fewer than five minutes a night.
- Keith Benson
- James Ennis
- Corey Hawkins
- Tyler Johnson — $422,530 partial guarantee
- Tre Kelley
- John Lucas III
- Greg Whittington
Analysis: Johnson seems like a strong bet for opening night, since half his salary is already guaranteed and he is first in line to become the third-string point guard, a key position given the uncertainty surrounding Mario Chalmers. That ostensibly leaves one open spot, though the Heat, in line to pay repeat-offender tax penalties if they wind up over the $84.74MM tax threshold at the end of the regular season, could save money and keep a spot free beneath the 15-man roster maximum on opening night. Ennis is leading the six Heat players with non-guaranteed salary in minutes per game so far in the preseason, with 17.0 MPG, but Greg Whittington is not far behind, at 16.1 MPG. Making it tricky is that Ennis’ salary of $845,059 would become fully guaranteed on opening night, though in the long run, he’d be cheaper than the other non-guaranteed players, whose full-season salaries would count as $947,276 for tax purposes if they were to stick for all of 2015/16. At least two other teams are interested in Ennis, scouts tell Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel, as we noted earlier, so the Heat might not get the chance to re-sign Ennis later this season if they let him go.
- Aaron Harrison — $75K partial guarantee
- Sam Thompson
- Jason Washburn
- Damien Wilkins
- Elliot Williams — $80K partial guarantee
Analysis: The season-ending injury to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist begat the Wilkins signing, seemingly dampening the chances that any of the other four camp invitees will stick around for the regular season. Wilkins saw nearly 24 minutes of action in his preseason debut, his only appearance with the Hornets so far, taking only three shots and scoring five points. Still, through just one game, he’s managed to total more minutes than any other camp invitee on Charlotte’s roster except for Harrison, who’s averaging 3.8 points in 12.5 minutes per contest across four appearances so far. Harrison has a financial edge thanks to his partial guarantee, though $75K isn’t much to deter the Hornets if they’d prefer Wilkins. Harrison and Wilkins are the same height, but Wilkins has a longer wingspan that would allow him to defend better against small forwards, duties that Kidd-Gilchrist normally assumes.
Analysis: Marble, the 56th overall pick of the 2014 draft who missed much of his rookie season with an eye injury, is averaging 8.8 points in 19.7 minutes, and both numbers are better than any of the other Magic camp invitees so far. None of the others is seeing double-figure minutes, and while Stiemsma comes closest, this weekend’s exhibition against Flamengo of Brazil was his first appearance of the preseason thanks to an Achilles tendon strain that had kept him from playing in the team’s first five preseason games. Ejim has looked sharp in close to 32 total minutes of play across four games, scoring 14 points and grabbing nine rebounds, helping justify his status as the only remaining Orlando camp invitee with partially guaranteed money. However, partial guarantees of $100K apiece didn’t preserve the jobs of Keith Appling and Jordan Sibert, whom the Magic waived this afternoon.
Analysis: The opening night roster for the Wizards appears to have been settled for a while, or at least since trade rumors connecting Temple to the Jazz died down. The Wizards seem to be fond of Temple, who’s leading the team in preseason minutes per game, and they’d have to either trade or eat at least $2MM in salary if they were to get rid of anyone else among their 15 fully guaranteed players. Temple is posting an impressive 7.0 assists in 24.1 minutes per game so far in the preseason, though Smith is dishing dimes at an even more efficient rate, with 4.2 APG in 12.4 MPG.
The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.