Few Roster Spots Still Open Around NBA

Once the Trail Blazers make their deal with Carmelo Anthony official, only seven teams around the NBA will have open spots on their rosters. Six of those clubs have openings on their standard 15-man squads, while the seventh has an available two-way slot.

Typically, in the first half of an NBA season, some teams keep a roster spot open to retain flexibility and to avoid paying a player who hardly ever actually sees the court. However, whether it’s a result of an increased focus on player development or a steady stream of injuries league-wide, most clubs this season have taken advantage of all 17 roster spots (15 standard, two two-way) available to them.

As Bobby Marks of ESPN observes (via Twitter), the six teams that haven’t signed a 15th man are all somewhat limited by their cap situations. Here are those six teams:

  • Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Denver Nuggets
  • Golden State Warriors
  • Miami Heat
  • Oklahoma City Thunder
  • Orlando Magic

The Heat and Warriors literally can’t sign a 15th man unless they cut salary costs elsewhere, since they’re right up against the hard cap. The Thunder are already in the tax and – as Marks notes – the Cavaliers and Nuggets would go into the tax by signing one more player. The Magic wouldn’t technically become a projected taxpayer by adding a 15th man, but they’re close enough to that threshold that it makes sense for them to hold off until they really need to fill that spot.

There’s just one team that hasn’t used both of its two-way contract openings:

  • Phoenix Suns

The Suns have their own G League affiliate, so it’s not clear why they haven’t yet taken advantage of that second two-way contract slot. The deadline for teams to sign players to two-way contracts is January 15 — it’s a pretty safe bet that Phoenix will sign a second two-way player by that point.

In total, 450 standard roster spots and 60 two-way slots are typically available during the NBA season, for a total of 510 players on 30 teams. Currently, 504 players are on standard contracts or two-way deals (the Nets are carrying an 18th man while Wilson Chandler serves his 25-game suspension), leaving few NBA job opportunities up for grabs unless teams start making cuts.

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