The NBA’s roster rules don’t require teams to carry a full squad of 15 players on standard contracts all season long, but they do call for a minimum of 14 players (not counting two-ways).
A club is permitted to temporarily dip below that minimum during the regular season, but can only do so for up to two weeks at a time. Once that two-week grace period is up, the team must get back to having at least 14 players.
With that rule in mind, the Celtics and Bucks will be required to make additions to their respective rosters this week.
In a series of three trades at the February 10 deadline, Boston sent out seven players and took just two back, creating five open spots on its 15-man roster. The Celtics have since signed two players – Luke Kornet and Sam Hauser – but still have three roster openings. Their two-week grace period comes to an end this Thursday, so they’ll have to add a 13th and 14th man at that point.
Milwaukee, meanwhile, entered trade deadline day on February 10 with a full 15-man roster, but made a three-for-one trade, opening up a pair of roster spots. Since then, the Bucks have signed DeAndre’ Bembry, but parted ways – at least temporarily – with Greg Monroe, who had been on a 10-day contract. Because Bembry’s signing occurred after Monroe’s deal expired, the club has had two open roster spots since the trade deadline and will have to fill one of them before the end of the week.
Neither the Celtics nor the Bucks will be forced to sign anyone to a rest-of-season contract this week if they don’t want to.
For instance, Milwaukee has reportedly been “aggressive” in its pursuit of Goran Dragic and would likely happily sign the veteran point guard for the rest of the season. But if Dragic delays his decision or joins another team, the Bucks could simply fill their 14th roster spot with a 10-day signing, temporarily meeting the minimum roster requirement while continuing to weigh their rest-of-season options.
[UPDATE: Dragic is signing with the Nets]
The Celtics, meanwhile, haven’t been linked to Dragic, and there aren’t a ton of intriguing alternatives on the buyout market, so it’s possible they’ll turn to a couple young players rather than veterans. President of basketball operations Brad Stevens has suggested the team may take the Miami Heat route of signing a prospect or two to a late-season multiyear deal for developmental purposes. But if Boston hasn’t yet zeroed in on a specific candidate for that sort of investment, 10-day signings are a viable possibility for the short term.
The Celtics aren’t far off from the luxury tax line, while the Bucks are already in the tax, so the two teams will be cost-conscious as they consider potential roster moves. I’d expect both clubs, for now at least, to simply get to the required roster minimum of 14 players while keeping their 15th slots open.