Thunder, Rockets Among Teams Facing Roster Crunch

We’re approximately three months away from the deadline for NBA teams to finalize their rosters for the 2022/23 regular season, so there’s no urgency for those clubs to get their 15-man squads in order anytime soon.

Still, there are already a small handful of teams that are carrying more than 15 players on guaranteed contracts for ’22/23. Sooner or later, those teams will have to trade or release one or more of those players in order to get down to the regular season limit.

[RELATED: 2022/23 NBA Roster Counts]

Here’s an early look at the teams that will have some decisions to make:

Teams with more than 15 guaranteed contracts:

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • 17 guaranteed contracts
  • 1 partially guaranteed contract

The Thunder will technically dip to 16 players on fully guaranteed contracts once JaMychal Green‘s reported buyout is completed, but that number will climb back to 17 once Mike Muscala officially re-signs with the team.

There are a number of directions Oklahoma City could go with its final roster spots, but at least three players (besides Green) will have to be traded or released. The best candidates appear to be Derrick Favors, Ty Jerome, Theo Maledon, Darius Bazley, and Vit Krejci (who has the lone partially guaranteed contract).

None of those five players is owed guaranteed money beyond this season — Favors, Jerome, and Bazley are on expiring contracts, while Maledon and Krejci have non-guaranteed salaries beyond 2022/23.

By reaching a buyout agreement with Green, the Thunder signaled they’re not necessarily prioritizing keeping bigger expiring deals around for potential trades later in the offseason or during the season, so Favors ($10.2MM), Bazley ($4.3MM), and Jerome ($4.2MM) certainly aren’t locks to make it to opening night.

Houston Rockets

  • 18 guaranteed contracts

The Rockets’ roster surplus is largely a result of the four-for-one trade they made with Dallas for Christian Wood. Sterling Brown, Trey Burke, Marquese Chriss, and Boban Marjanovic came to Houston in that deal, but reports have suggested that at least two or three of those players probably won’t be on the team’s opening night roster.

Marjanovic is said to be the most likely of the four to remain in Houston. Trading or waiving the other three would get the Rockets down to the 15-man regular season limit.

The club could also explore other moves to pare down its roster count. Eric Gordon and Kenyon Martin Jr. are among the players who have frequently been mentioned as potential trade candidates.

Teams with more than 15 players on standard contracts:

Note: Exhibit 10 deals aren’t considered standard contracts for the purpose of this section.

Memphis Grizzlies

  • 15 guaranteed contracts
  • 1 partially guaranteed contract

Danny Green looks like the probable odd man out in Memphis. His $10MM salary is only partially guaranteed (for $6.96MM) and he’ll likely miss most or all of the 2022/23 season while he recovers from a torn ACL.

Still, I wouldn’t consider that a lock quite yet. Green could be a valuable piece in the postseason if he has recovered by then — and if his recovery does take longer than he anticipates, his $10MM expiring contract could still be a useful asset at the 2023 deadline. Perhaps the Grizzlies will find a small deal involving a player like Santi Aldama, Killian Tillie, or Xavier Tillman before the season begins in order to make room on the 15-man squad for Green.

Toronto Raptors

  • 12 guaranteed contracts
  • 4 partially guaranteed contracts
  • 1 unsigned second-round pick

While second-round picks are often signed to two-way contracts or stashed overseas, that rarely happens for a player selected as high as Christian Koloko was (No. 33). Those players usually receive at least a couple guaranteed seasons, and I’d expect the Raptors to take that route with Koloko.

If they do, that would leave four players on partially guaranteed contracts – Justin Champagnie, Dalano Banton, Armoni Brooks, and D.J. Wilson – vying for the final two roster spots. If the Raptors want to keep more than one of those players, or if they’d like to promote two-way RFA David Johnson to the 15-man roster, Svi Mykhailiuk could be a release candidate, despite having a guaranteed minimum salary.

Philadelphia 76ers

  • 12 guaranteed contracts (once James Harden re-signs)
  • 2 partially guaranteed contracts
  • 2 non-guaranteed contracts

The Sixers don’t have a major crunch, but after Harden re-signs, there will only be three roster spots available for four players without full guarantees.

One of those players is Trevelin Queen, who has a $330K partial guarantee and was just signed this offseason. Those factors will likely give him a leg up on a 15-man roster spot. Charles Bassey also has a small partial guarantee (about $75K), while Isaiah Joe and Paul Reed are on non-guaranteed contracts.

In order to keep all four players, the Sixers would have to make a trade or a cut to reduce their roster count. Tobias Harris, Matisse Thybulle, Furkan Korkmaz, and Shake Milton are among the players who have been mentioned in trade rumors this offseason.

Cleveland Cavaliers

  • 13 guaranteed contracts
  • 2 non-guaranteed contracts
  • 1 RFA

At this point in the offseason, restricted free agent guard Collin Sexton looks like a solid bet to end up back in Cleveland. If he returns to the Cavaliers, they’ll have 14 players on guaranteed contracts, plus Dean Wade and Lamar Stevens on non-guaranteed deals.

If the Cavs want to keep both Wade and Stevens, Dylan Windler could be the odd man out. He’s on an expiring contract and has struggled to find a place in the rotation while battling injuries in his first three NBA seasons.

Detroit Pistons

  • 15 guaranteed contracts
  • 1 signing to come

The Pistons have yet to formally sign Kevin Knox — they’re likely waiting to determine if and how they’ll use their cap room, since Knox’s reported two-year, $6MM deal could fit into their room exception if it has to.

Knox would be Detroit’s 16th player on a guaranteed contract, but the fix looks pretty simple. Kemba Walker‘s reported buyout agreement with the Pistons isn’t yet official. Once Walker is bought out and Knox signs, the team will be back at 15 guaranteed contracts.

Orlando Magic

  • 15 guaranteed contracts
  • 1 non-guaranteed contract

Barring a surprise, Devin Cannady – the only player without a guaranteed contract – will likely be the casualty of Orlando’s roster crunch.

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