For the first time, NBA teams are permitted to carry up to 17 players this season. In addition to carrying up to 15 players to the NBA roster, teams can add two more players on two-way contracts. The rule changes related to roster sizes have allowed teams to maintain a little extra flexibility, and many clubs are taking advantage of that added flexibility to open the season, carrying the full 17 players.
Several teams still have open roster spots though, affording those clubs a different kind of flexibility. A team carrying only 14 NBA players, for instance, has the opportunity to sign a free agent or add a player in a trade at any time without waiving anyone, all the while avoiding paying for a 15th man who almost certainly won’t see much playing time.
Teams carrying just 14 NBA contracts:
- Boston Celtics
- Charlotte Hornets
- Detroit Pistons
- Houston Rockets
- Indiana Pacers
- Los Angeles Clippers
- Minnesota Timberwolves
- Oklahoma City Thunder
- Portland Trail Blazers
It makes sense that a few of these teams would avoid carrying a 15th man to open the season. The Rockets, Thunder, and Trail Blazers are all taxpayers, and teams like the Clippers and Hornets are close enough to the tax threshold that avoiding a 15th salary is logical. Among these clubs, the Celtics seem like perhaps the best bet to fill their final roster opening soon, now that the team has likely lost Gordon Hayward for the season.
Teams carrying just one two-way contract:
- Atlanta Hawks
- Houston Rockets
- Milwaukee Bucks
- Minnesota Timberwolves
- New York Knicks
- Portland Trail Blazers
The Trail Blazers don’t currently have a G League affiliate of their own, but the other five teams on this list do, so that’s probably not the reason Portland has waited to fill its second two-way slot. In all likelihood, these six teams will add a second two-way player in time for G League training camps, which open next week. The season tips off on November 3.
Grizzlies point guard Mario Chalmers is among the players who received an increased salary guarantee this week when he remained under contract, according to data from Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders and ESPN’s Bobby Marks. Chalmers, who received a modest $25K guarantee when he signed with the Grizzlies in the offseason, now has a fully guaranteed minimum salary for 2017/18.
[RELATED: 2017/18 NBA Salary Guarantee Dates]
Chalmers, who tore his Achilles in March 2016, wasn’t able to make a full recovery during the 2016/17 season, but looked good in camp and the preseason with Memphis this fall. His strong showing earned him a roster spot over fellow point guard – and 2016 first-rounder – Wade Baldwin, who was waived by the Grizzlies. Chalmers will earn a minimum salary worth about $2.106MM this season, though it’ll only count for approximately $1.471MM on Memphis’ cap.
Other players receiving increased guarantees this week include Khem Birch of the Magic and Pistons big man Eric Moreland. According to Pincus’ and Marks’ data, Birch will see his salary guarantee jump from $25K to $408K, while Moreland’s will increase from $750K to $1MM. Both players will receive fully guaranteed 2017/18 salaries on January 10, if they remain under contract.
Birch, who has spent the first few years of his professional career with teams in the G League or overseas, was excited to make an NBA roster for the first time this season, as Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel detailed over the weekend. The Canadian big man didn’t see any action during the Magic’s first game of the season on Wednesday night.
As for Moreland, the 25-year-old was a surprise inclusion in the Pistons’ rotation on Wednesday night, playing 12 minutes as a backup center. While he didn’t score at all, Moreland picked up three steals during his time on the court.
After waiving veteran point guard Beno Udrih on Saturday, the Pistons are down to 14 players on their NBA roster to open the season, and head coach Stan Van Gundy doesn’t anticipate filling that final opening right away, per Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press.
“Is there going to be anyone out there right now?” said Van Gundy, who also serves as the Pistons’ president of basketball operations. “I don’t know that. I’m not saying there won’t be, but that’s not really the plan, but as you get going on and you assess needs or get an injury, that 15th spot can give you some flexibility.”
In his latest predictions feature, Zach Lowe of ESPN speculates that a number of players will be put on the block this season if not officially traded. Since we already know that there’s at least some truth to the oddly specific guess that the Timberwolves would trade Cole Aldrich for Jared Dudley, perhaps we should take a closer look at some of the rest.
Among the other trade predictions that Lowe makes is one that has the Raptors seeking to shop big man Jonas Valanciunas. Considering that the traditional Lithuanian center has been the subject of speculation over the course of the past few seasons, this one seems like rather low hanging fruit.
Similarly, Lowe makes the thoroughly uncrazy prediction that Eric Bledsoe will be on the move. What bonus points Lowe doesn’t earn for predicting a Bledsoe trade, however, he does earn for earmarking the Nuggets and Clippers as possible interested suitors. Alas Denver, it’s worth noting, is already rather backloaded at the guard positions.
There’s more from around the league:
- The NBA will name Michelle Johnson their new Senior Vice President and Head of Referee Operations, Shams Charania of The Vertical tweets. Johnson is a retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant General.
- The NBA coaching community could soon have another recent league veteran join its ranks. As Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype writes, Kendrick Perkins – who played 11 seasons in the NBA – believes he would have plenty of options to accept a role on the sidelines.
- Only a few players from the 2014 NBA Draft class have landed sizable pay days and that’s for good reason, Mitch Lawrence of Forbes writes. Beyond players like Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, few have earned substantial rookie contract extensions. Only Marcus Smart, he writes, has been a notable contributor to an elite playoff team.
Only two of the Pistons‘ opening day starters are set in stone, the other three have yet to be determined, Keith Langlois of the team’s official website writes. With Avery Bradley at the two and Andre Drummond in the middle, head coach Stan Van Gundy is hard-pressed to figure out who will join them at tip-off.
“Everything’s a consideration,” Van Gundy said, before implying that Tobias Harris would probably start for the Pistons but, then, again might not. “I thought he was good off the bench last year. I’m really not locked in to anything.”
As Langlois explains, what Van Gundy decides to do with Harris will impact the other decisions he’ll have to make with the Pistons’ lineup. If the 25-year-old forward plays the three, they’ll look to somebody like Jon Leueur to fill in at the four. If they pencil Harris in at the four, they could turn to someone like Stanley Johnson to man the three.
Another decision that the Pistons will need to come to terms on ahead of opening day is who to start at the point. On one hand the idea of a healthy Reggie Jackson working in tandem with Drummond is tantalizing but there’s no guarantee it plays out that way in the first game of the season.
Langlois writes that Ish Smith could get serious consideration to start for the Pistons. “We found out last year just about anybody’s going to play pretty well with Ish,” Van Gundy said.
The Pistons have picked up their fourth-year option on Stanley Johnson and third-year option on Henry Ellenson for 2018/19, the team announced in a press release Sunday. Detroit faced an Oct. 31 deadline to pick up their options for 2018/19. Johnson will make $3,940,402 next season while Ellenson will pocket $1,857,480.
Johnson, 21, enters his third NBA season. After a solid rookie campaign, Johnson’s scoring production was cut in half last season as he averaged 4.4 PPG and 2.5 RPG in 73 games. The first-round pick from 2015 (eighth overall) is still a young asset with potential and figures to be a key part of the Pistons’ team in 2017/18.
Ellenson, 20, only played in 19 games as a rookie last season, posting a meager 3.2 PPG and 2.2 RPG. However, the Pistons’ first-rounder (18th overall) from last season possesses a strong 6’11” frame and offensive potential that has forced the Pistons to consider him for a starting role.
For all of this year’s decisions on 2018/19 rookie scale options, be sure to check out our tracker.
Detroit had already trimmed its roster to 15 players plus a pair of two-way deals, so the decision to waive Udrih could pave the way for another move.
The 35-year-old spent one season with the Pistons after being claimed off waivers last October. Udrih appeared in 39 games in Detroit, averaging 5.8 points and 3.4 assists in 14.4 minutes per night. He will go back on waivers, putting him in a situation similar to last year, when the Heat released him just before the start of the season.
Udrih was a first-round pick by San Antonio in 2004. He has also played for the Kings, Bucks, Magic, Knicks and Grizzlies.
- While Pistons projects Luke Kennard and Henry Ellenson figure to make an impact on the team eventually, they’ll have to beat out defensive-minded veterans Reggie Bullock and Anthony Tolliver for minutes, Keith Langlois of the team’s official site writes. Both Tolliver and Bullock provide plenty of intangible skill that make life easier for the second unit.
The Pistons have made a pair of roster cuts, waiving Landry Nnoko and Derek Willis, per Rod Beard of The Detroit News (Twitter link). Both players are on track to join the Grand Rapids Drive, Detroit’s G League squad, as affiliate players.
Nnoko, a 6’10” center, joined the Pistons this summer after spending last season playing in Italy. As for Willis, the 6’9″ forward went undrafted out of Kentucky this year before accepting a training camp invite from Detroit.
The pair of roster moves bring the Pistons’ roster count to 17, with two of those players on two-way deals. Detroit now has 15 players on NBA contracts, so no further cuts are necessary before opening night, though that doesn’t guarantee that the team won’t make any additional moves.
If the Pistons do end up making another cut, veteran point guard Beno Udrih would likely be next on the chopping block, since he’s the only other player on the roster with a fully non-guaranteed salary.