When the Raptors waived Justin Champagne on Thursday night, they became the 11th NBA team to create an opening on its 15-man roster.
Early in the season, we often don’t see teams take advantage of those open roster spots. However, we’re getting to the point in the year when they’ll start to become more important.
January 5 is the first day that teams can begin signing players to 10-day contracts, which require an open roster spot unless the team qualifies for a hardship exception. We’re also entering trade season, so teams with openings on their rosters will have more flexibility to accommodate two-for-one type deals.
It’s also worth noting that January 7 is the last day a team can waive a player on a non-guaranteed contract and avoid paying his full-year salary, so we could see more roster spots around the league open up within the next eight days as some of those players on non-guaranteed deals are cut.
For now, here are the 11 teams with open roster spots:
- Atlanta Hawks
- Charlotte Hornets
- Cleveland Cavaliers
- Golden State Warriors
- Los Angeles Clippers
- Los Angeles Lakers
- Miami Heat
- Philadelphia 76ers
- Phoenix Suns
- Portland Trail Blazers
- Toronto Raptors
Some of these clubs have avoided carrying a 15th man due to luxury tax concerns. The Heat, for instance, are so close to the tax line that they’re not expected to fill their 15th roster spot until March. But 10-day contracts cost so little that we’ll likely see some taxpaying teams take a flier on a free agent or two.
One team on this list that’s well clear of tax territory is Charlotte, but the Hornets may be saving their 15th roster spot for restricted free agent Miles Bridges. If Bridges signs a contract and faces a lengthy NBA-mandated suspension, the Hornets would be able to move him to the suspended list five games into that suspension, reopening their 15th spot until he’s eligible to return.
As our roster counts page shows, there are currently no NBA teams with open two-way slots — all 60 are filled.