Early to mid January is a period of flux for a number of NBA rosters, as teams navigate two key deadlines.
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All full-season contracts officially became guaranteed on Thursday, after a handful of clubs beat the deadline earlier this week and released players on non-guaranteed contracts to avoid having those cap hits lock in.
The next deadline arrives on January 15, which is the last day of the 2018/19 league year for teams to sign players to two-way contracts. After that day, teams can waive players on two-way deals, or convert them to standard contracts, but they can’t add anyone new on a two-way pact.
With those factors in mind, here are a few teams to keep an eye on within the next week or two:
Having waived Ron Baker on Monday, the Wizards dipped down to 13 players on standard contracts. Teams are permitted to carry fewer than 14 players for up to two weeks at a time, so Washington will have until January 21 to sign or acquire a player to fill that slot.
It’s unlikely that the Wizards will guarantee that 14th player a rest-of-season contract, unless there’s someone they really love. A series of 10-day contracts is more likely, particularly before the February 7 trade deadline arrives.
The Suns are in a similar spot to the Wizards, with just 13 players on full-season standard contracts. However, Phoenix already filled its 14th roster slot by signing by signing Quincy Acy on Monday.
Still, Acy received a 10-day deal which will expire after next Wednesday, so the Suns are on track to have their roster count drop back to 13 players soon. They’ll have to eventually re-sign Acy or add someone new to the roster in order to get back to the league-mandated minimum of 14 players on standard deals.
Portland Trail Blazers:
In one of 2018/19’s under-the-radar roster oddities, the Trail Blazers have kept both of their two-way contract slots open all season. Portland doesn’t have its own G League affiliate, so perhaps the franchise views two-way players as unnecessary if they’re not contributing to the NBA team — so far, the club hasn’t been short-handed enough to need those extra contributions.
The club’s unsettled ownership situation could also be a factor here. Two-way players are very inexpensive in relative terms, but they still represent two more player salaries that need to be paid. Longtime Blazers owner Paul Allen passed away in 2018, so perhaps the front office hasn’t felt the need to ask ownership for the money for those two extra salaries.
Nonetheless, with Tuesday’s deadline for two-way signings fast approaching, it would be a surprise to see the Trail Blazers leave both spots open for the rest of the season. It could make sense for Portland to sign a player or two with some NBA experience, who could contribute down the stretch if necessary.
New York Knicks / New Orleans Pelicans:
The Knicks and Pelicans are currently the only two other NBA teams with two-way contract openings — they each have one. I’d expect both clubs to fill those slots by the January 15 deadline, though their priorities may be different.
The Pelicans – like Portland – don’t have their own affiliate and may prefer a player capable of helping out right away rather than a raw prospect, given their position in the standings. The Knicks, on the other hand, have their nearby Westchester affiliate at their disposal for developmental purposes. And given their current focus on developing prospects, even at the NBA level, it would be in the club’s best interests to bring aboard another young player for that two-way opening.