Teams face decisions regarding players on non-guaranteed contracts two weeks from Thursday, the last day they can waive those players without their full salaries sticking on the books. It’s a critical date for dozens of players around the league, and the leaguewide guarantee date commonly prompts a wave of cuts.
Note that players earn portions of their non-guaranteed salary for as long as they’re on the roster, and most with partial guarantees have already accrued more than those guarantees provided. That means teams can regard them just like players on non-guaranteed deals at this point, though a few players have partial guarantees sizable enough that they still matter.
We’ll gauge the likelihood of each player with a non-guaranteed salary sticking past the upcoming guarantee date, listing them in three categories:
- Matt Bonner, Spurs — The Red Mamba barely plays, having totaled just 65 minutes all season, but Gregg Popovich saw fit to give him a start in one game, and half his salary is already guaranteed.
- Robert Covington, Sixers — Philadelphia’s starting small forward has been perhaps the most impressive discovery of GM Sam Hinkie‘s rebuilding.
- Langston Galloway, Knicks — More than half of his salary is already guaranteed, and he’s nailed 41.4% of his 3-point attempts while playing 24.9 minutes per contest.
- JaMychal Green, Grizzlies — The 25-year-old is in the rotation, averaging 16.2 minutes per game, and Memphis can use all the youthful contributors it can get.
- T.J. McConnell, Sixers — He’s no longer starting now that Kendall Marshall and Tony Wroten are healthy, but he was an early-season revelation with his passing and outside shooting abilities.
- Luc Mbah a Moute, Clippers — Clippers coach/executive Doc Rivers said last week that it’s “probably safe” to assume the team will keep Mbah a Moute for the balance of the season, so we’ll take Rivers at his word.
- Hollis Thompson, Sixers — Thompson has consistently been a part of Philadelphia’s rotation ever since signing shortly before camp in 2013, and that’s no different this year, as he’s averaging a career-high 26.1 minutes per game.
It’s not a lock, but they’ll probably stick around
- Ian Clark, Warriors — The shooting guard made his first career start on December 11th and took a DNP-CD a week later. Still, he’s seen action in 22 games this season, all of them wins.
- Jared Cunningham, Cavaliers — Cleveland is reportedly dangling Joe Harris in trade talk, with Cunningham’s surprisingly strong play a major reason why.
- Tim Frazier, Trail Blazers — The point guard played sporadically until pressed into emergency duty Monday, when he started and played nearly the entire game because Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum were hurt. Frazier’s numbers, with 12 points, 7 assists and 5 turnovers, weren’t too impressive, but his teammates liked what they saw, as Jason Quick of CSNNW.com detailed.
- James Michael McAdoo, Warriors — His minutes per game have gone down by almost 50% this season compared to last, from 9.1 to 4.8, but it’s doubtful a strong call exists for tinkering with a roster that’s gone 26-1.
- JaVale McGee, Mavericks — It’s been a long slog as the center has nursed a slow-healing leg, but he has a streak of three consecutive 10-plus-minute appearances going for the first time this season, and the majority of his salary is already guaranteed anyway.
- Kostas Papanikolaou, Nuggets — He made his first start this season and only the second of his career Tuesday in place of an injured Danilo Gallinari, and the Nuggets invested heavily in Papanikolaou when they signed him in November. They guaranteed $300K of his approximately $800K salary and dumped former second-round pick Erick Green, whom they’d carried into the regular season instead of Nick Johnson, even though Johnson had two fully guaranteed years left on his deal.
- Lamar Patterson, Hawks — He’s seeing roughly the same amount of playing time as is Mike Muscala, and we list him in the “Don’t get too comfortable” category, but it seems reasonable that Atlanta would invest at least one full season in Patterson, a recent second-round pick.
- JaKarr Sampson, Sixers — The combo forward’s minutes are down but his scoring is up, thanks to improved shooting from the floor. That’s a product of him knowing his limitations, as he’s taking far fewer 3-pointers than before. So the results are mixed, but the Sixers don’t have a ton of intriguing alternatives.
- Donald Sloan, Nets — The point guard has only seen action in 10 games, but Shane Larkin‘s concussion has pressed him into service of late. A lot depends on how quickly Larkin recovers and how well Sloan does in the meantime.
- Ish Smith, Pelicans — He’s logged more than 10 minutes only once in the Pelicans’ last four games, but he’s looked strong enough on the floor amid the team’s early-season injury woes, averaging 5.9 assists against 1.7 turnovers in 23.6 minutes per game, that his place in New Orleans seems secure.
- Jeff Withey, Jazz — The center has worked his way into the rotation and even got a start last week.
- Metta World Peace, Lakers — World Peace’s spot on the roster was a touch-and-go proposition at the end of the preseason, but he stuck for opening night and has ended up with a fairly significant role, averaging 17.3 minutes per game in 17 appearances, with three starts. He took a DNP-CD on Tuesday, but that’s not altogether alarming.
Don’t get too comfortable
- Cliff Alexander, Trail Blazers — A bone bruise in his left knee that he suffered in the preseason slowed his progress, and while he played 17 minutes in his debut on November 15th, he hasn’t played more than four minutes in any game since.
- Cameron Bairstow, Bulls — Almost half his salary is already guaranteed, but he’s only seen 18 minutes so far this season with Chicago already well-stocked in the frontcourt.
- Tarik Black, Lakers — Once the primary backup center, Black has lost his place in the rotation, in part because of a minor ankle injury, and he hasn’t played in an NBA game since November 24th. He’s been healthy enough to play on assignment in the D-League, however.
- Rasual Butler, Spurs — The 36-year-old is a career 36.2% 3-point shooter, but he’s nailing a career-worst 28.6% of his shots from behind the arc this season. He’s racked up five DNPs in the past month after recording just one in the first month of the season.
- Bryce Cotton, Suns — It’s been nearly a month since Cotton joined the Suns, and he still hasn’t made it into a game.
- Toney Douglas, Pelicans — The return of Norris Cole has pushed Douglas out of the rotation, and he hasn’t appeared since December 2nd, throwing his roster spot into question even though he’s averaged 16.3 minutes per contest in the 16 games he has played.
- Jarell Eddie, Wizards — The Wizards just signed him today to a contract that’s reportedly non-guaranteed, meaning his stay in Washington is liable to be short. The team is dealing with a litany of relatively minor injuries, so that would indicate this is merely a stopgap measure.
- James Ennis, Grizzlies — The 25-year-old has played only 27 minutes in five appearances for Memphis since coming over in the November 10th Mario Chalmers trade.
- Cristiano Felicio, Bulls — Chicago is apparently quite high on him, but as with Bairstow, the Bulls simply don’t have enough playing time to go around for all their big men. The rookie center has only managed four minutes all year.
- Aaron Harrison, Hornets — Once a highly touted prospect, like his brother Andrew, Aaron Harrison has seen only 23 minutes all season. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he joins Andrew in the D-League before long.
- Marcelo Huertas, Lakers — A 32-year-old rookie from Brazil, the point guard’s appearances have been sporadic, though he’s averaged 12.9 minutes a night in the 15 games he’s played thus far. This one’s a tough call, but since it’s difficult to envision him improving much at his age, and given the need for the Lakers to concentrate on the future, the feeling here is they’ll use his roster spot for someone else with more upside.
- Cory Jefferson, Suns — He plays power forward, the same position as trade candidate Markieff Morris, but Jefferson has still managed only 20 minutes total all season.
- Chris Johnson, Jazz — His 5.2 minutes per game are significantly fewer than the 17.6 he saw in his time with Utah last season.
- Elijah Millsap, Jazz — As with Johnson, Millsap’s minutes per game are down quite a bit compared to last year, from 19.7 to 8.6, but he has begun to see more playing time of late.
- Luis Montero, Trail Blazers — This season is about player development in Portland, but the Blazers haven’t seen fit to give the rookie more than seven minutes total this season.
- Eric Moreland, Kings — A broken foot ensures he’ll receive a large portion of his salary, though it would seem a stretch for Sacramento to commit a roster spot to an injured player who’s totaled only 24 minutes all season.
- Mike Muscala, Hawks — His salary was thought to be partially guaranteed for $473,638, but instead it’s non-guaranteed, as Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders recently reported. In his last two games, he recorded single digits in minutes during back-to-back contests for the first time in more than a month, a sign that he’s falling off the fringe of the rotation.
- Christian Wood, Sixers — The rookie is on his third D-League assignment of the season, and he’s averaged only 8.1 minutes per game in 14 appearances on the NBA level. The other Sixers with non-guaranteed contracts seem fairly safe, so with the team looking at veterans, Wood appears to be the odd man out.