Opening day rosters: Who made the cut?
After a months-long crawl of roster moves, internal evaluation, and exhibition games, we're just 24 hours away from the official start of the NBA season. Yet before the actual schedule gets underway, all 30 teams took part in one final bit of housekeeping: the finalization of their opening day rosters. While teams were allowed to field larger rosters during training camp, they were bound by a 15-man limit as of 5 PM on Monday. Below is a primer of the most notable decisions: those who made the cut, those who aren't quite home free, and those who were released into the free agent wild.
Omri Casspi, Houston Rockets. Casspi likely wasn't in much jeopardy given the structure of his contract (guaranteed in its first season, fully unguaranteed in its second), but the sheer size of Houston's training camp left open the possibility of his release. Casspi answered that uncertainty with a terrific preseason, in which he made a case for himself as a stretch 4 option to fill the role of former Rocket Carlos Delfino.
Jamaal Tinsley, Utah Jazz. Trey Burke's finger injury put the Jazz at an immediate disadvantage, with only John Lucas III around to steer the offense. Tinsley -- who played in 103 games for Utah over the past two seasons -- is a serviceable fill-in. He hadn't fared especially well during his time with the Jazz, but some level of familiarity in the 11th hour of training camp is useful.
Chris Smith, New York Knicks. Oh, the rotten smell of nepotism. There is no evidence -- none whatsoever -- to suggest that the younger brother of J.R. Smith is an NBA player. Yet there Smith is, earning a paycheck and taking up a roster spot at the expense of actual basketball talent. This spot on the Knicks' roster wasn't going to swing much of anything, but the lingering presence of the less-talented Smith minor does speak volumes about the franchise's operation in general.
Cole Aldrich, New York Knicks. On the other hand, New York did make a pretty smart move in retaining Aldrich, a big man who can rebound at an NBA level and could grow into a functional interior defender. New York is in need of just such a player with Kenyon Martin frequently injured, Amar'e Stoudemire often unavailable, and Andrea Bargnani undependable.
Touré Murry, New York Knicks. An interesting guard prospect who is worth keeping an eye on. Murry will likely be capable of defending proven NBA players at both backcourt positions in the near future, a valuable skill for a reserve. His controlled offensive game also works in his favor, and contrasts nicely with the more audacious Raymond Felton and J.R. Smith.
Cartier Martin, Atlanta Hawks. Martin has been an NBA regular (largely with the Wizards) since 2008 by way of a series of one-year deals. He's a capable long-range threat who competes defensively, but really doesn't have all that many NBA-level skills. That's decent enough for an end-of-the-bench type, particularly on a team where Martin could serve a similar function in designed plays to Kyle Korver and John Jenkins.
Shelvin Mack, Atlanta Hawks. Another fitting (if uninspiring) deep reserve for the Hawks. Atlanta could do worse in a third point guard, as would have been the case had the Hawks kept Royal Ivey, who was competing with Mack for the spot.
Dwight Buycks, Toronto Raptors. An impressive showing in the Orlando Summer League led to Buycks securing a contract with the Raptors, guaranteed for $700,000 -- a bit more than the minimum salary -- in its first season. Toronto wasn't likely to let Buycks loose after offering him a multiyear deal with guaranteed money attached, but the Raps' recent cuts affirm his status on the roster.
Isaiah Canaan, Houston Rockets. Canaan makes for the fourth point guard on Houston's depth chart, a sign which -- along with Houston's commitment to the D-League model -- bodes for likely assignment to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. As a quality scorer off the dribble, Canaan could eventually become a functional replacement for Aaron Brooks once he gets up NBA speed.
Robert Covington, Houston Rockets. Covington might be the most traditional stretch forward on Houston's roster, an interesting option to fill frontcourt minutes if he can eventually adapt to the NBA three-point arc. His deal is guaranteed for the minimum this season with a partial guarantee in its second season and a fully unguaranteed third year.
SO FAR, SO GOOD
Michael Beasley, Miami Heat. There's plenty of time for Beasley to wear out his welcome in Miami, though he'll open the season as a official member of the Heat. If all goes well, he could come to provide some spot scoring in limited minutes. If things go downhill, then Miami -- a franchise as mindful of its culture as any in the league -- could cut Beasley loose in short order.
Julyan Stone, Toronto Raptors. Stone's status with the Raptors would be more solid were it not for an unfortunate hip injury, but he's impressed team officials in camp to the point of earning a roster spot. The injury caused Toronto to hedge its bet on Stone with an unguaranteed deal (and the subsequent signing of Buycks), though for the moment he'll round out the roster as the Raps' 15th man.
Jeff Adrien, Charlotte Bobcats. Cuts have been made in Charlotte, but Adrien, again, sticks around. Good on him; Adrien is a quality rebounder and effort defender, fit to round out a rotation of bigs with some unreliable components.
Matthew Dellavedova, Cleveland Cavaliers. The Aussie point guard beat out San Antonio's Patty Mills to start for the national team in the 2012 Olympic Games, and more recently beat out four others for the right to remain on the Cavaliers roster. At worst, he's a decent pick-and-roll prospect; Dellavedova can shoot well enough to keep defenders honest and has the vision to be pick-and-roll-literate at an NBA level. Cleveland could well opt to go in a different direction, though, as their roster needs demand.
Robbie Hummel, Minnesota Timberwolves. Hummel famously battled his way back from two major knee injuries during his time at Purdue, and makes the cut with the Wolves by way of his flexibility. There's a balance to his game that makes him more than a mere shooting specialist; Hummel's potential to be a solid wing rebounder, natural feel for makings secondary plays (i.e. countering an opponent's hard close-out with a drive and dish of his own), and general sense of where to be on the floor bode well for his potential as an NBA role player.
A.J. Price, Minnesota Timberwolves. Price's limitations as a ball handler were on full display with the Wizards last season, as he looked hopelessly overmatched in his attempts to help fill in for the injured John Wall. That said, Price isn't a totally unreasonable choice for what amounts to a fourth point guard for the Wolves. There are better candidates than Price, but his signing is ultimately of little consequence. He won't play much, and if he does then Minnesota will have much bigger problems than Price.
Ronnie Brewer, Houston Rockets. While Brewer survived Houston's deadline cuts, his fully unguaranteed contract leaves him in a precarious spot. It also doesn't bode well that Brewer failed to catch on with either New York or Oklahoma City last season; he's a useful defender and cutter, still, but one that hasn't had much luck endearing himself to NBA front offices. Plus, for a Rockets team that values three-point shooting in its wings, Brewer could be a tough sell for playing time and, conceivably, a roster spot.
Brandon Davies, Philadelphia 76ers. Davies came late to the Sixers, having first tried out in (and been cut from) camp with the Clippers. No matter; Philadelphia is in a much better position to see what Davies has to offer, and more patiently gauge whether any of his intriguing attributes -- mid-range shooting, decent athleticism, surprising ball skills for a big man -- can pan out at an NBA level. If not, he'll be cut loose from his unguaranteed deal with no harm done.
Dionte Christmas, Phoenix Suns. Christmas has the potential to be a rotation-level scorer without failing in other phases of the game. That's worth a closer look, particularly when Phoenix has the freedom to release him with little penalty if things don't quite work out.
Josh Howard, San Antonio Spurs. It may have seemed odd that San Antonio signed Howard only to waive him a day later, but that temporary membership with the Spurs gives San Antonio exclusive domain over Howard's D-League rights. Such an arrangement makes sense for both parties, as Howard is still a few months away from a full return to basketball action and the Spurs are still very much in the market for a reserve small forward.
Marcus Camby, Houston Rockets. Camby is expected to be out of action for 2-3 months after having surgery to repair a torn plantar fascia, which makes him of little use to Houston in the interim. Camby is insistent that he'll attempt to secure a roster spot after surgery, and in the meantime plans to hang around with the Rockets.
Reggie Williams, Houston Rockets. With Casspi, Brewer, Canaan, and Covington making the Rockets' final roster, something had to give. Williams -- a good scorer, albeit one who has never quite found the balance between individual and team offense -- was among the victims.
Lou Amundson, Los Angeles Clippers. It's a bit surprising that the Clippers didn't make a commitment to Amundson, especially considering that they have an open roster spot to give. They're also faced with the somewhat terrifying proposition of Byron Mullens and Antawn Jamison playing consistent minutes, and yet the scrappy, board-focused Amundson goes free.
Royal Ivey, Atlanta Hawks. It's possible that Ivey has only lingered in the league for so long out of clerical error. Kudos to him, though -- it's not easy extending a career as a backup, but Ivey has hung around for nine seasons and I'd suspect that we haven't seen the last of him.
Chris Douglas-Roberts, New York Knicks. It never seems to work out for Douglas-Roberts, in part because unapologetic gunning isn't a particularly attractive quality in a minimum-salary player.
Ike Diogu, New York Knicks. A per-minute wonder who's a bit undersized and bit limited for consistent NBA burn. The Knicks opted for Aldrich's height and rebounding over Diogu's low-bodied post game, which is quite justifiable given their particular needs.
Jeremy Tyler, New York Knicks. Tyler has a jaw-dropping combination of size and target="_blank">athleticism, and yet three teams have passed on him since 2011. That's not a great sign, though the 22-year-old big man will inevitably get another chance down the line -- especially once he recovers more fully from foot surgery.
Dan Gadzuric, Los Angeles Lakers. L.A. might be desperate for anything that vaguely approximates NBA talent, but Gadzuric is an especially poor fit given what Mike D'Antoni's system typically asks of its bigs.
DeSagana Diop, Cleveland Cavaliers. It's almost unfathomable now that Diop was once the starting center of an NBA Finals team, largely because he was then mobile enough to play strong interior defense. That was a long time ago, and very clearly an aberrant stretch of a career spent ineffective and largely out of shape.
Damion James, Denver Nuggets. James is a physical small forward with a workable post game, though beyond that he lacks the tools to be a particularly useful NBA player. Considering that Denver already has three young wings on its roster in Jordan Hamilton, Quincy Miller, and Evan Fournier, there's not much room for another developing wing with an even narrower skill set.
Renaldo Balkman, Dallas Mavericks. Balkman had a shockingly effective run for Puerto Rico in the FIBA Americas tournament this summer, though faced an uphill battle in making a team that already had 15 guaranteed contracts going into camp.
Fab Melo, Dallas Mavericks. Same story, though with less impressive credentials. We haven't seen much yet to suggest that Melo is an NBA player, though his size and mobility alone made him worth checking out for a Dallas team lacking for interior defense.
Devin Ebanks, Dallas Mavericks. Once more: Dallas just didn't have the room. Ebanks is a borderline NBA talent, though, with the rebounding ability and length to entice some teams more than others.
Josh Childress, Washington Wizards. Childress is only 30, but -- thanks to a tour overseas and a lackluster return -- hasn't played many helpful NBA minutes since 2008. That the Nets didn't like him on a minimum-salary deal was a bad omen, as is this cut. It's simply getting harder and harder to find reason to sign wings who both lack ball skills and can't shoot, no matter their peripheral contributions.
Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Washington Wizards. Mensah-Bonsu was a long-shot to make the roster to begin with, as Washington was already bumping up against the roster maximum. Even Shannon Brown, Kendall Marshall, and Malcolm Lee -- all of whom were acquired in Washington's move for Marcin Gortat -- couldn't land a roster spot.
Seth Curry, Golden State Warriors. The difference between the Knicks and the Warriors: Where Chris Smith rakes in a minimum salary and a position of NBA employ, Steph Curry's brother Seth -- who, need be noted, is a much better player than Smith -- has to earn his keep with the D-League's Santa Cruz Warriors.
Joe Alexander, Golden State Warriors. Another cut made with the D-League in mind. Alexander is still working his way back from injury, and will do so under the Warriors' watch if he opts to sign in the D.
Chris Johnson, Minnesota Timberwolves. Johnson's signing was one of the last moves of David Kahn's eventful turn as Minnesota's GM, and it strangely included a fully guaranteed salary (worth $916,000) for the 2013-14 season. The Wolves ate that sum just to cut Johnson loose, primarily as a means to free up an additional roster spot to hold on to a prospect -- 2012 draftee Robbie Hummel -- they found more interesting.
James Johnson, Atlanta Hawks. Johnson does a little of everything, but doesn't do anything particularly well. That can make him a tough sell as a training camp player, given that he doesn't have much immediately apparent appeal.
Jarvis Varnado, Miami Heat. Varnado managed to sign with the Heat on four separate occasions: Once on an unguaranteed deal in 2012, twice on 10-day contracts in 2013 (after being released by Miami and subsequently by Boston), and once more for a rest-of-season deal with future, unguaranteed salary. Beasley and Greg Oden are just much better potential players, while Roger Mason Jr. -- who takes Miami's 15th roster spot -- satisfies a very different need.
D.J. White, Chicago Bulls. White is certainly good enough to compete for a roster spot, but has no skills to guarantee one. As a result, he finds himself caught and released by the Bulls -- a team with four bigs already under contract, not to mention a 2013 second rounder (Erik Murphy) looking to play his way into a guaranteed first-year salary. Chicago will run light with just 13 players on its roster, but every addition need be carefully considered with the luxury tax penalties involved.
Eric Griffin, Miami Heat. A freak athlete who came late to basketball, Griffin was likely too much of a project for a team in Miami's position.
Hilton Armstrong, Indiana Pacers. Armstrong played out a rookie deal and change in the league, all without establishing his credentials as an NBA-caliber scorer, defender, or rebounder. Size alone will score him some training camp/summer league invites and perhaps even the odd 10-day contract, but he's better suited to a career in another professional league.
Tim Ohlbrecht, Philadelphia 76ers. The Rockets signed Ohlbrecht last season and passed. Then, for good measure, one of the executives who originally signed him in Houston (Sam Hinkie, who is now general manager of the Sixers) passed again despite his team lacking for remotely serviceable NBA talent.
Myck Kabongo, San Antonio Spurs. Kabongo ditched the NCAA after a suspension-marred sophomore season, only to go undrafted -- the culmination of a two-year slide for the one-time first-round hopeful. Excepting a sure contract offer from an interested NBA team, this cut could be the best-case alternative; if San Antonio opts to tab Kabongo for its D-League affiliate, he could set out on a developmental path similar to fellow Longhorn -- and current Spur -- Cory Joseph.
Corey Maggette, San Antonio Spurs. And with that, Maggette will likely hang 'em up after 14 years in the pros. Good to see him get one last shot at an NBA roster after being cast off in Detroit last season.
Dexter Pittman, Chicago Bulls. Just your periodic reminder that if you are a 6-11, 300-pound center who cannot rebound nor score efficiently, there probably isn't a place for you in the modern NBA. Salary data for this post courtesy of Sham Sports.