While non-guaranteed NBA contracts don’t technically become fully guaranteed until next Thursday, Monday is really the day to watch. Because players have to clear waivers before January 10 to avoid having their salaries locked in for the rest of 2018/19, a team will have to release a player by January 7 at the latest to avoid guaranteeing his contract.
As our list of non-guaranteed contracts by team shows, there are a number of players around the NBA who don’t have fully guaranteed deals, though many are in no danger of being waived by Monday. It’s not as if the Sixers are seriously considering whether or not to guarantee T.J. McConnell‘s minimum salary. Ditto for the Jazz and Royce O’Neale, and several others players on that list.
However, there are at least a handful of players worth keeping an eye on as Monday’s deadline nears. Here’s a quick breakdown of some of them:
- Michael Carter-Williams, PG (Rockets): Most criticism of the Rockets‘ offseason moves has focused on Carmelo Anthony, but signing Carter-Williams hasn’t worked out for the team either. The former Rookie of the Year has fallen out of the rotation and looks like a potential trade candidate, as David Weiner of ClutchFans.net recently observed (via Twitter). His minimum salary only has a partial guarantee of $1.2MM, but the Rockets would have to eat that amount if they waive him — and would be on the hook for the associated tax penalty. By trading him and including some cash in the deal, Houston could eliminate his cap hit and reduce its projected tax bill, saving a little money. A trade partner would only be on the hook for about $500K of MCW’s salary if he’s waived immediately, and could more than make up that amount with the cash the Rockets sent their way.
- Patrick McCaw, SG (Cavaliers): I don’t expect the Cavaliers to waive McCaw. He’s a young wing who has some upside, and Cleveland can afford to take a long look at him this season before making a decision on his non-guaranteed 2019/20 salary. Still, when the Cavs finalized his offer sheet last week, they also elected to make his first-year salary non-guaranteed, so they have an exit door for a few more days if they want it.
- James Nunnally, G/F (Timberwolves): After thriving as a three-point marksmen in Europe, Nunnally appeared poised to contribute right away for a Timberwolves team in need of shooting. Instead, he has played just 61 total minutes for the club, primarily in garbage time. Nunnally is the only one of Minnesota’s 15 players on a non-guaranteed contract, so if the club wants to open up a roster spot for potential 10-day signings, he’d probably be the odd man out.
- The Pelicans’ non-guaranteed players: No team has more players on non-guaranteed contracts than the Pelicans, who have yet to lock in full-season salaries for Jahlil Okafor, Tim Frazier, and Kenrich Williams. Okafor has played a regular role recently and Frazier was a frequent starter with Elfrid Payton sidelined, so Williams may be the player most at risk here. Since the Pelicans will likely try to be active on the trade market, opening a spot on their 15-man roster by waiving one of these three would create some added flexibility in those discussions.
- The Wizards’ non-guaranteed players: With John Wall out for the season, the Wizards currently have two guards – Ron Baker and Chasson Randle – on non-guaranteed deals, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if one of them is cut by Monday. Although they’re carrying an NBA-minimum 14 players, the Wizards are allowed to dip down to 13 for up to two weeks at a time and did so earlier in 2018/19 to help keep their projected tax bill in check. It’s possible they’ll do so again now.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.