NBA Final Roster Spot Analysis

NBA Final Roster Spot Analysis
Keith Smith plays NBA GM, assessing the final roster spots for each team, including financial impact, and his thoughts on how opening day rosters may look.

Atlanta Hawks

Available Standard Spots: 1

Available Two-Way Spots: 0

Competitors Johnny Hamilton, A.J. Lawson, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Jahlil Okafor

Financial Impact: Atlanta is right at the luxury tax line. Keeping either veteran (TLC or Okafor) will have the Hawks dodging the tax all season long.

The Hawks are currently dealing with injuries in both the frontcourt and on the wing. That means if they’re going to carry 15 players on standard deals, they’re choosing between Luwawu-Cabarrot and Okafor. Okafor fills more of an immediate need with both Clint Capela and Onyeka Okongwu limited.

 

Boston Celtics

Available Standard Spots: 1

Available Two-Way Spots: 1

Competitors Ryan Arcidiacono, Garrison Mathews, Juwan Morgan, Jabari Parker, Theo Pinson

Financial Impact: The Celtics are over the tax and won’t drop under it without a trade. They’d have to eat $100,000 if they waived Parker. That’s not a huge amount, but it could be enough to keep him around.

Boston doesn’t have any glaring needs roster-wise. Mathews, Morgan and Pinson all have Two-Way eligibility left, so one of them is probably headed that way. The best bet is that will be Mathews. That gives Parker a leg up on claiming the final standard spot.

 

Brooklyn Nets

Available Standard Spots: 1

Available Two-Way Spots: 1

Competitors DeAndre’ Bembry, Devontae Cacok, David Duke

Financial Impact: Brooklyn is so far beyond the luxury tax that it doesn’t matter how this shakes out. They did manage to save themselves about $6.9 million in actual dollars by swapping Doumbouya for Sumner in the trade/waiver game.

Brooklyn cleared the roster spot necessary to keep Bembry when they traded away Sekou Doumbouya. Brooklyn will waive Edmond Sumner, who is out for the season. Cacok or Duke will likely be converted to fill the open Two-Way spot.

 

Charlotte Hornets

Available Standard Spots: 0

Available Two-Way Spots: 0

Competitors Vernon Carey Jr., D.J. Carton, Wesley Iwundu, Nick Richards, Xavier Sneed

Financial Impact: Charlotte is going to eat some salary no matter what. They have 16 guaranteed deals right now. But they are $19.7 million clear of the luxury tax line, which leaves plenty of room for flexibility.

Charlotte is going to make a couple easy cuts by waiving Carton and Sneed. Then it comes down to keeping an extra big (Carey or Richards) or an extra wing (Iwundu).

 

Chicago Bulls

Available Standard Spots: 2

Available Two-Way Spots: 1

Competitors Tyler Cook, Alize Johnson, Stanley Johnson, Daniel Oturu, Matt Thomas, Ethan Thompson

Financial Impact: Chicago is about $4.7 million clear of the luxury tax. That’s enough wiggle room to fill both standard spots and to keep things open for in-season moves.

The Bulls are dealing with some injuries as the season starts. They’re down both Patrick Williams and Coby White. Williams’ injury probably gives Stanley Johnson an edge in claiming a spot. Alize Johnson and Thomas are likely battling for the other spot. Cook, Oturu and Thompson are all in the mix to fill the open Two-Way position.

 

Cleveland Cavaliers

Available Standard Spots: 4

Available Two-Way Spots: 1

Competitors Mitch Ballock, Tacko Fall, Kyle Guy, Mfiondu Kabengele, R.J. Nembhard, Lamar Stevens, Denzel Valentine, Dean Wade

Financial Impact: The Cavs are only about $2.9 million under the luxury tax. That’s too close for comfort for a poor team. That could put Cleveland in a position to leave a standard roster spot open for a while.

Cleveland is in an interesting spot. They gave Valentine $500,000 guaranteed, so he’s probably claiming a spot. Dean Wade has seen rotation minutes, so he’s probably got a spot too. That leaves a pretty good battle for the final two standard spots and the Two-Way spot.

 

Dallas Mavericks

Available Standard Spots: 0

Available Two-Way Spots: 0

Competitors Moses Brown, Trey Burke, Feron Hunt, Carlik Jones, Frank Ntilikina, Tyrell Terry

Financial Impact: Dallas is well clear of the luxury tax this season. Eating some dead money is no big deal now. Next season, things tighten up considerably as Luka Doncic’s max extension kicks in. That could be a factor in putting dead money for either Burke or Terry on the books for 2022-23.

The easy decision for the Mavericks is to waive Brown, Hunt and Jones. That’s also the most cost-effective, but Brown has a lot of upside. Frank Ntilikina likely has a spot locked in. Burke’s stance against getting vaccinated could play into moving on, but that would cost around $6.4 million total in dead money. Waiving Terry would cost about half of that.

 

Denver Nuggets

Available Standard Spots: 1

Available Two-Way Spots: 0

Competitors Tarik Black, P.J. Dozier, Davon Reed, Matt Ryan

Financial Impact: Denver only has about $1.4 million in wiggle room under the tax. But Dozier has become a rotation player for them. They aren’t going to lose him because of tax concerns. If necessary, they’ll make a salary-dump trade later.

This one is cut and dry. Dozier will get the final standard roster spot for the Nuggets.

 

Detroit Pistons

Available Standard Spots: 0

Available Two-Way Spots: 0

Competitors Jared Cunningham, Cassius Stanley, Derrick Walton Jr.

Financial Impact: Despite a league-high $45.5 million in dead money on the books, Detroit is still $11.4 million clear of the tax. No financial concerns when it comes to their roster here.

The Pistons cleared the necessary roster spots to keep all of their guaranteed contracts when they worked their recent trade with Brooklyn.

 

Golden State Warriors

Available Standard Spots: 2

Available Two-Way Spots: 1

Competitors Jordan Bell, Avery Bradley, Langston Galloway, Damion Lee, Mychal Mulder, Gary Payton II

Financial Impact: Like a fat guy and his feet, the Warriors are so far above the luxury tax that they can’t even see it anymore.

Golden State has one of the best roster battles in the league playing out. Lee is a lock to get one spot. Right now, Bradley has the advantage to claim the final spot. That would mean the Warriors would eat some money for Payton’s guarantee. Mulder can’t be directly converted to a Two-Way, but he’s a good bet to land there after being waived.

 

Houston Rockets

Available Standard Spots: 0

Available Two-Way Spots: 0

Competitors Armoni Brooks, Daishen Nix, Khyri Thomas

Financial Impact: The Rockets are over $4 million clear of the tax. That’s enough space to make whatever moves they need to in-season.

When Houston added four rookies in the first round of the 2021 NBA Draft, they basically filled out their roster. Barring a John Wall trade that frees up roster spots, none of the players above will stick in Houston. In addition, one of them will be waived in order for Houston to complete the acquisition of Sekou Doumbouya from Brooklyn. And Doumbouya’s time with the Rockets will be short-lived, as he’ll be waived immediately after being acquired. Houston essentially bought a future second round pick in this deal.

 

Indiana Pacers

Available Standard Spots: 3

Available Two-Way Spots: 0

Competitors Oshae Brissett, Nate Hinton, Kelan Martin, Keifer Sykes, Terry Taylor, Brad Wanamaker

Financial Impact: The Pacers cleared enough space under the luxury tax by salary dumping Edmond Sumner on Brooklyn. That will allow them to keep Brissett and Wanamaker, and maybe even Martin.

Brissett has become a rotation player for the Pacers and will remain one with T.J. Warren on the shelf. He’s staying. Brad Wanamaker probably has the inside track to the other spot. Martin has pushed his guarantee deadline back twice, in hopes of sticking around. It’s not really about his play though. It’s about Indiana’s desire to stay under the tax.

 

Los Angeles Clippers

Available Standard Spots: 1

Available Two-Way Spots: 0

Competitors Harry Giles III, Isaiah Hartenstein, George King, Moses Wright

Financial Impact: LA zoomed past the tax line a while ago. They aren’t going to let that keep them from filling a need.

The Clippers have one open standard spot and it’s going to either Giles or Hartenstein. With Serge Ibaka still recovering from a back injury and Ivica Zubac the only other center on the roster, one of the camp bigs will make the team.

 

Los Angeles Lakers

Available Standard Spots: 2

Available Two-Way Spots: 1

Competitors Chaundee Brown, Mac McClung, Cameron Oliver, Trevelin Queen, Austin Reaves

Financial Impact: The Lakers are going to leave a roster spot open, but it’s not about luxury tax concerns. LA is $17.9 million over the tax line. They’re committed to being a tax team. This is more about flexibility to fill a need in-season.

When Reaves had his Two-Way deal converted to a standard contract, he locked in the Lakers 14th roster spot. Los Angeles will leave the 15th spot open into the season. The other four players are competing for the second Two-Way spot.

 

Memphis Grizzlies

Available Standard Spots: 0

Available Two-Way Spots: 0

Competitors Shaq Buchanan, Jarrett Culver, Kris Dunn, John Konchar, Sean McDermott, Sam Merrill

Financial Impact: Memphis has over $11 million in dead money and will add between $1.5 million and $6.4 more to the tally. But the Grizzlies are well under the luxury tax line and have more than enough room for in-season maneuvering. Miami Heat – 1 open Standard spot, 0 open Two-Way spot.

The Grizzlies have had no issues eating guaranteed salary in the past. They’ll have to do it again this year. In fact, they’ve already eaten guaranteed money for five players. They’ll be cutting a decent player to get into roster compliance.

 

Miami Heat

Available Standard Spots: 1

Available Two-Way Spots: 0

Competitors Micah Potter, Ja’Vonte Smart, Dru Smith, D.J. Stewart Jr.

Financial Impact: Miami is only about $250,000 under the tax. They’ll pay the tax if they have to, but that will come if they have an in-season need to fill. Thus, they’ll be leaving the 15th roster spot open for now.

Despite having an open roster spot, it’s likely all of the Heat’s training camp invites are ticketed for Sioux Falls in the G League.

 

Milwaukee Bucks

Available Standard Spots: 2

Available Two-Way Spots: 0

Competitors Elijah Bryant, Javin DeLaurier, Georgios Kalaitzakis, Johnny O’Bryant, Tremont Waters

Financial Impact: Milwaukee is in unprecedented territory at about $18.9 million of the tax line. Such is the life when you’re the champs. But they won’t go any deeper into the tax unless they have to. That’s why they’ll leave the 15th spot open.

The Bucks drafted and signed Kalaitzakis in part to keep their tax bill down. Teams don’t face an increased tax penalty when they sign their own draft picks. He’s got a spot. The other standard spot will likely stay open.

 

Minnesota Timberwolves

Available Standard Spots: 2

Available Two-Way Spots: 0

Competitors Brian Bowen II, Matt Lewis, Isaiah Miller, Jaylen Nowell, Chris Silva

Financial Impact: Minnesota is only $800,000 under the tax. Filling the 15th spot would push them into the tax. That’s not something a team in their position will do. If the season goes well, that could happen down the line to aid a playoff push.

Jaylen Nowell has one spot locked down. He’s carved out a semi-regular rotation role. The 15th spot will likely stay open.

 

New Orleans Pelicans

Available Standard Spots: 0

Available Two-Way Spots: 0

Competitors Zylan Cheatham, Wenyen Gabriel, Jared Harper

Financial Impact: With $19.7 million under the tax, New Orleans can make whatever moves they need without worries.

The Pelicans roster is set. They gave recent draftees Herb Jones and Didi Louzada guaranteed money into 2022-23. Those signings locked things in.

 

New York Knicks

Available Standard Spots: 1

Available Two-Way Spots: 1

Competitors Dwayne Bacon, Wayne Selden, Aamir Simms, M.J. Walker

Financial Impact: New York is $19.1 million under the luxury tax line. They’ve got the flexibility to add salary throughout the year if they need to.

After waiving Luca Vildoza, the Knicks roster seems pretty set. Maybe Bacon or Selden plays well enough in the preseason to snag the 15th spot. Simms and Walker are competing for the open Two-Way spot.

 

Oklahoma City Thunder

Available Standard Spots: 2

Available Two-Way Spots: 0

Competitors Gabriel Deck, Mamadi Diakite, Rob Edwards, Kenrich Williams, D.J. Wilson

Financial Impact: No team in the NBA is further below the tax than Oklahoma City is at $56.8 million. They’ve got all the room they could ever need to take on money without issue.

OKC is keeping Kenrich Williams. The final spot is probably between Deck and Diakite. The Thunder also aren’t averse to eating dead money as they rebuild, so a surprise waiver could be in play as well.

 

Orlando Magic

Available Standard Spots: 0

Available Two-Way Spots: 1

Competitors Jeff Dowtin, Hassani Gravett, Admiral Schofield, Jon Teske

Financial Impact: Orlando is $22.9 million under the luxury tax. That’s enough room to take on some salary in-season if the opportunity arises

The Magic have their standard roster set. The four camp invites are battling for the open Two-Way spot.

 

Phoenix Suns

Available Standard Spots: 1

Available Two-Way Spots: 1

Competitors Chasson Randle

Financial Impact: The Suns are about $8.2 million under the tax. That’s enough to do whatever they need to as far as in-season moves go.

The Suns are the only team in the league who didn’t bring extra players to training camp. Chasson Randle is there on a camp deal as the 15th man. That’s no guarantee he’ll get that final spot though. Phoenix has regularly left the 15th spot open.

 

Portland Trail Blazers

Available Standard Spots: 2

Available Two-Way Spots: 0

Competitors Marquese Chriss, Quinn Cook, Patrick Patterson, Dennis Smith Jr.

Financial Impact: Portland is $1.3 million over the tax line. That’ll go up a bit more if they keep one of the veteran camp players. They’ll still be within range of a salary-clearing trade to dodge the tax, if necessary.

Portland will keep at least one of these veterans. It’s unclear if they need another frontcourt player or if they want some additional backcourt depth. They could go with both, but the Blazers have regularly left a spot open following the preseason.

 

Sacramento Kings

Available Standard Spots: 1

Available Two-Way Spots: 0

Competitors Matt Coleman III, Chimezie Metu, D.J. Steward, Emanuel Terry

Financial Impact: Sacramento is $6.2 million under the tax line. They’ve still got about $5.8 million of their Non-Taxpayer MLE left. That’s enough room to make a move in-season.

The Kings don’t really need to keep Metu as a fifth center, but they already guaranteed him almost $900,000. He’s getting that final roster spot.

 

San Antonio Spurs

Available Standard Spots: 0

Available Two-Way Spots: 1

Competitors Al-Farouq Aminu, Keita Bates-Diop, Drew Eubanks, Jock Landale

Financial Impact: San Antonio is almost $18 million clear of the tax. They can take on some salary if/when they trade Young and still stay well under the tax.

The Spurs have 17 fully guaranteed contracts. That makes for some healthy competition for roster spots. The bet here is that Aminu goes, as he was a salary-matching throw-in in the DeMar DeRozan sign-and-trade with Chicago. Landale was brought over from Australia, so he probably sticks too. And Eubanks has been a rotation player the last two seasons. That leaves Bates-Diop on the outside looking in…unless a Thaddeus Young trade opens up a roster spot somehow.

 

Toronto Raptors

Available Standard Spots: 3

Available Two-Way Spots: 0

Competitors Isaac Bonga, Sam Dekker, Freddie Gillespie, Reggie Perry, Ishmail Wainright, Yuta Watanabe

Financial Impact: The Raptors are in a weird spot. They aren’t a terrible team, but aren’t a playoff lock either. That makes being about $4 million into the tax an untenable place to be. That’ll come down some after the camp cuts, but look for Toronto to shed some further salary if they can.

Toronto was the only team to hand out significant guaranteed money to players that fighting for roster spots. It used to be a regular occurrence, but after the pandemic-impacted seasons, most teams were very conservative this offseason. For the Raptors, that means a great battle to monitor. Watanabe is probably a lock to get one spot. He’s been a rotation player in the past. Wainright got guaranteed money both this season and next. He probably stays too. And Toronto will likely carry 15 players, due to injuries already impacting the roster. Look for whoever plays best out of Bonga, Dekker and Gillespie to snag that final spot.

 

Utah Jazz

Available Standard Spots: 2

Available Two-Way Spots: 1

Competitors Derrick Alston, Marques Bolden, Malik Fitts, Miye Oni, MaCio Teague

Financial Impact: The Jazz are deeper into the tax than they’ve ever been, as they are about $16.4 million over the line. The new ownership group said they’d spend for a contender, and they’ve got one. But don’t expect them to add more salary unless they really need to.

Oni is a lock to get one of Utah’s open spots. The other four players are likely competing for the open Two-Way spot. Utah will leave one roster spot open for in-season flexibility.

 

Washington Wizards

Available Standard Spots: 1

Available Two-Way Spots: 1

Competitors Jaime Echenique, Daniel Gafford, Jordan Goodwin, Jay Huff, Jordan Schakel

Financial Impact: Washington has pushed it about as close as they can to the tax without going over. They’re just under $1 million shy. Don’t expect the Wizards to go into the tax for a team that isn’t a lock to make the playoffs.

This one is simple: Daniel Gafford has that final roster spot locked up. He’s also the Wizards starting center until Thomas Bryant returns, and may keep the job even then. The other four camp players are fighting for the second Two-Way spot.