When the Thunder signed Deonte Burton on Sunday, the move ensured that the team got back to the NBA-mandated roster minimum of 14 players (not including two-way contracts). Teams are permitted to dip below 14 for up to two weeks at a time, and Oklahoma City had been at 13 since February 24, so a roster move was required on Sunday.
Since the Thunder project to have the NBA’s most expensive tax bill in 2019, it makes sense that they’d take the entire allowable two weeks before signing a 14th player — by not paying a 14th man for those two weeks, the team will save approximately $500K on that year-end tax bill.
Currently, there are three teams in a similar boat to the Thunder. The Raptors, Heat, and Rockets are all carrying just 13 players on their 15-man rosters, and will have to make roster moves within the next week to get back up to 14 players. All three teams are trying to either stay out of tax territory or limit the amount of their projected tax penalties, so they – like OKC – may take the full two weeks to add a 14th man.
Toronto and Miami have been at 13 players since March 2, when 10-day contracts expired for Jodie Meeks and Emanuel Terry, respectively. They’ll have until this Saturday to get back to 14 players. Meeks and Terry remain on the free agent market, making them candidates to rejoin the Raptors and Heat, but both teams could end up going in different directions.
As for the Rockets, their roster count briefly dipped to 12 players on March 4, when Terrence Jones‘ and Chris Chiozza‘s 10-day deals expired. Jones was quickly re-signed, but Houston has been carrying just 13 players since then. The club will have another week to get to 14. With Jones’ second 10-day contract set to end on Wednesday night, a pair of roster moves will be necessary for the Rockets.