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.
Roger Mason Jr., Miami Heat. Because honestly: You can never have a robust enough Norris Cole insurance policy.