Surveying the notable moves of the contract guarantee deadline
The NBA calendar is littered with various deadlines, which naturally bring droves of business as each cutoff nears. One lesser-known limit is currently upon us: Jan 10 is the date after which player salaries for the season are guaranteed, meaning the release of any player on a fully or partially unguaranteed contract must have formally cleared waivers by that particular date. In effect, that waiver requirement shifted the deadline to end of business by Tuesday, Jan 7.
Therein lies the motivation for the flurry of moves over the past few days, most of which involve lesser-known players on the fringes of NBA rosters. The most notable moves are discussed below, both in terms of which players survived the deadline to remain with their respective teams and which were released in time to sign elsewhere.
Patrick Beverley and Greg Smith, Houston Rockets -- Neither player was in any danger of being released at the deadline, but consider this your periodic reminder that Daryl Morey locked up a quality point guard and a rotation-caliber big man on multiyear, unguaranteed contracts in the middle of the NBA season. Plenty of prospects have fluttered in and out of Houston during Morey's tenure, and more still in and out of the Rocket-operated Rio Grande Valley Vipers. Gather enough talent on low-cost deals, though, and a few keepers are bound to emerge.
Such has been the case with Beverley and Smith, both of whom contribute to the polar structure of Houston's cap sheet. Up top are Dwight Howard and James Harden, who will make a combined $34.2 million this season. Below them are Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik, each due an identical $8.4 million. Beyond those four players, Houston has 11 making $2 million or less in salary this season including nine in minimum-salary range. That's about as clean as a team's finances can get, and from that spotless salary structure comes the ability to complete or facilitate all kinds of trades.
Plus, with the way that Houston has both scouted and developed (as with Terrence Jones, who was brought along slowly as a rookie) talent of late, we shouldn't jump to write off Isaiah Canaan and Robert Covington -- both of whom have been incubating on Beverley-like deals.
Matthew Dellavedova, Cleveland Cavaliers -- For a pure minimum signing with only $100,000 guaranteed over two years, Dellavedova has already made a noticeable splash on the NBA scene. That's true in part because his style of play demands attention; Dellavedova isn't anything more than a serviceable contributor, but he's locked into the game so consistently that he stands in sharp contrast to some of his floating Cavalier teammates. One could certainly do worse on a minimum deal than a hard-working facilitator who can stretch the floor, particularly when Kyrie Irving and Jarrett Jack have missed time with injury.
Michael Beasley and Roger Mason, Miami Heat -- The decision to keep both Beasley and Mason is a statement on Greg Oden (whose contract is guaranteed this year) as well, considering that the defending champs have decided to stand pat with a full, 15-man roster. Beasley has easily cleared the bar in performance to make him worth keeping, while Oden's potential value deserves Miami's time and attention. Mason, though, was an expendable piece had the Heat thought it necessary to bring along one more big. That wasn't the case, and while any of the three could still be released down the line at fairly minimal cost, Miami seems to have enough confidence in its roster as-is to move forward with Beasley and Mason in tow.
Brandon Davies and Hollis Thompson, Philadelphia 76ers -- With nothing to lose, Sixers GM Sam Hinkie stocked his roster in a low-cost, low-risk, Morey-like fashion befitting his Rockets pedigree. Among those to make the cut were the undrafted Davies and the unknown Thompson, the latter of which has become arguably this season's most improbable starter. He didn't exactly rise up the depth chart by force; Thompson is about as invisible as NBA players come, contributing sparingly as a scorer and wing rebounder on a team that rarely looks his way. That minimalism isn't in itself a bad thing, though it's hard to say anything definitive about a player who touches the ball so infrequently despite now logging over 20 minutes a night.
The same could be said of Davies, though he's been less reliable than Thompson in his minutes this season. In theory, Davis could be an interesting stretch option off the bench, provided that he makes spot-up jumpers consistently and proves competitive on the glass. He hasn't done either as of yet, though the Sixers have seen fit to continue his extended tryout while cutting another player (Daniel Orton) loose. It's early yet for Davies -- maybe something will click for him as the season rolls on.
Darius Morris (10-day contract) and Maalik Wayns (10-day contract), Los Angeles Clippers -- The revolving door of point guard help begins. With Chris Paul out with a separated shoulder and Darren Collison assuming his starting role, L.A. has leaned on Jamal Crawford as both the starting shooting guard and backup point. He's capable of handling the ball, and did so plenty for the second unit even prior to Paul's injury. But it's nice to have a bit of insurance to round out the rotation, and thus the Clippers have brought in Morris and re-signed (after initially waiving) Wayns on 10-day contracts. Both have a shot to stick, though for what it's worth the Clips apparently weren't so enamored with Wayns as to guarantee his contract for the season.
Other players who made the cut: Mike Scott and Shelvin Mack (Atlanta); Jeff Adrien and Chris Douglas-Roberts (Charlotte); C.J. Miles and Henry Sims (Cleveland); Kent Bazemore (Golden State); Rasual Butler (Indiana); Robbie Hummell (Minnesota); Cole Aldrich and Toure Murry (New York); Hasheem Thabeet (Oklahoma City); Elliott Williams and Lorenzo Brown (Philadelphia); Dionte Christmas and Leandro Barbosa (10-day contract) (Phoenix); Malcolm Thomas (San Antonio); Julyan Stone (Toronto); Ian Clark (Utah).
Stephen Jackson, Los Angeles Clippers -- Doc Rivers wanted a touch of veteran help on the wing with J.J. Redick out of the lineup, and Jackson showed up to shoot 27 percent from the field and seven percent from three-point range. That was that.
Cartier Martin, Atlanta Hawks -- Martin was the most significant contributor released before the guarantee deadline, though he remains a nondescript role player on an unremarkable team. Still, Martin had played well enough for the Hawks this season, logging 17.5 reliable minutes per game. That number had been dwindling a bit with Lou Williams assuming a greater cut of playing time at shooting guard, though it seemed Martin had been sturdy enough to stick around in case of emergency.
Hawks GM Danny Ferry apparently thought differently. There's nothing particularly special in Martin's game -- no single contribution to point to as definitive reason that he should have stayed. Yet the fact that Martin is so comfortable in the role player set is both admirable and useful; it's nice to have a player around who will work hard defensively, move the ball, and space the floor, though a lack of standout attributes made Martin expendable in this case.
Ryan Gomes, Oklahoma City Thunder -- In a bit of bookkeeping acrobatics, Oklahoma City squeezed Gomes into a preexisting trade between the Celtics and Grizzlies rather than waive him outright. In the process, the Thunder widened their room under the luxury tax line to roughly $2.3 million -- a nice buffer to make a signing or two to round out the roster.
Shawne Williams, Los Angeles Lakers -- The Lakers had four players on unguaranteed contracts, but chose to release Williams over Xavier Henry, Elias Harris, or Ryan Kelly. That decision was wholly understandable. Williams wasn't terrible, and his effort level seemed more consistent as a Laker than it's been in his previous stops. But Williams -- who acts more as a stretchy power forward these days -- is really only as useful as his three-point percentage. The shots weren't falling for him, so out he goes.
Daniel Orton, Philadelphia 76ers -- This might at first seem a curious choice considering the Sixers' circumstances and Orton's size, not to mention the concurrent decisions to maintain players like Williams and Brown. Yet Orton doesn't have much to offer beyond the most immediate benefits of being a very large human being. In that alone a select group of players have been able to find consistent NBA employ, but I see little reason to lament the release of a player who hasn't shown a single NBA-caliber skill. Orton is just 23 years old, and essentially doubled his NBA experience through 22 games and 251 minutes with the Sixers. He'll have his opportunities going forward, but he has a ways to go in terms of claiming steadier footing on an NBA roster.
Others who were released prior to the deadline: Andrew Bynum (Chicago via Cleveland); Seth Curry (Memphis); Hedo Turkoglu and Solomon Jones (Orlando); Hamady N'Diaye (Sacramento); Mike Harris (Utah). Salary data courtesy of Sham Sports.