The majority of the NBA’s 30 teams are still carrying the same 15 players on their roster today that they were when the regular season opened more than two weeks ago. However, multiple teams have shown that they won’t hesitate to dip into the free agent pool early, especially if injuries are causing depth concerns.
The Pelicans cut Lance Stephenson earlier this week when he required groin surgery, signing Archie Goodwin in his place, while the Nets waived Greivis Vasquez, who is expected to undergo ankle surgery, signing Yogi Ferrell today to replace him.
Both Goodwin and Ferrell were cut shortly before the regular season got underway, after having been in a camp with an NBA team. Many more players around the league fit that bill, and those additions to the free agent market have made the list of available players even more intriguing than it was when training camps got underway.
You can check out our breakdown of 2016 free agents for a longer list of names, but here’s a quick rundown of a few of the more intriguing players on the market:
The last restricted free agent
Donatas Motiejunas is the last of this year’s restricted free agents without a deal, though the Rockets are said to have put an offer on the table. It sounds like that offer is similar to the two-year, $15-16MM contracts signed by Tyler Zeller and Festus Ezeli this summer — the second year on those deals is non-guaranteed.
Houston remains the odds-on favorite to ultimately lock up Motiejunas, whose injury history seems to be scaring off rival suitors, but that’s not a given. November 23 is a potential deadline to watch for the veteran forward, since he wouldn’t be trade-eligible this season if he were to sign a new contract after that date.
Veterans waived earlier this year
There aren’t any players out there who would immediately change a team’s fortunes, but there are plenty of guys capable of contributing to a second unit and being productive NBA players. Point guard, in particular, has some interesting names, as Jarrett Jack, Ronnie Price, and Pablo Prigioni were a few of the surprise cuts last month.
The frontcourt is a little thinner when it comes to veteran players who recently appeared to have a decent grip on an NBA roster spot. Still, Carl Landry and Lou Amundson are among the guys who had guaranteed contracts for 2016/17 but were waived within the last few months.
Veterans looking to join contenders
Unlike the veterans listed above, players like Andre Miller, Matt Bonner, and Tayshaun Prince haven’t been on an NBA roster at all since the 2015/16 season ended, and it’s not hard to imagine any of them deciding to call it a career. But none of them seem quite ready to retire yet — they’re just waiting for a good opportunity to catch on with a contender, and if the injury bug hits a few teams hard this season, a door could certainly open up somewhere for them.
Players recovering from injuries
Mario Chalmers has been one of the more noteworthy names on the list of free agent point guards for months, but he’s still recovering from the Achilles injury that prematurely ended his 2015/16 campaign. When he’s healthy enough to play in NBA games, which should happen in the new year, he should draw interest.
The same can probably be said for multiple players waived this week — Lance Stephenson and Greivis Vasquez weren’t cut because they had been ineffective, but because they’re expected to be sidelined for a significant period of time, and their teams didn’t have the flexibility to use a roster spot on them during that time. Both players should have a good chance to land an NBA job when they’re ready to return.
Prospects playing in the D-League
As we saw with Yogi Ferrell, who got a call-up to the Nets today, young prospects who spent time in camp with an NBA team and are now with that club’s D-League affiliate will be candidates to earn spots on 15-man rosters throughout the season. 2016 second-rounders like Ben Bentil and Isaiah Cousins are worth keeping a close eye on, but there’s no shortage of candidates that fall into this group. Many of them show up on the list of D-League affiliate players for ’16/17.
Which current free agent do you think could have a significant impact for an NBA team later this season? Weigh in below in the comments section!