It’s media day so let’s take a look at some names of players that have signed for training camp deals that will most likely not make the final roster of their current club, but could find a home somewhere else.
Atlanta-The Hawks have a logjam in the front court. While most teams are trying to find ways to get as much shooting and skill on the floor to create space, the Hawks find themselves with 9 “Bigs” fighting for spots. That number does not include Tyler Cavanaugh (whose shooting makes him an interesting potential asset, but not quite good enough yet). It wouldn’t make any sense to part ways with recent acquisitions John Collins, Miles Plumlee or Dewayne Dedmon even though they all play the same role and minutes will be scarce for 1 of those guys. Mike Muscala is the furthest along and longest-tenured of the skilled bigs so our bet is that he’ll continue on as the mainstay in Coach Bud’s offense. The development of DeAndre’ Bembry and Taurean Prince will also eat into the PF minutes as those players are tough enough to defend and rebound in smaller lineups. That leaves the following guys on the chopping block for Atlanta, and with enough skill to stay in the NBA.
Nicolas Brussino-claimed off waivers requested by Dallas this Summer, that means that Atlanta doesn’t have a ton invested in him making it easier to say goodbye. His extremely friendly contract would likely be claimed again if waived, meaning the Hawks wouldn’t be on the hook for money owed. He’s the least proven of the group, but also the youngest with some potential. Brussino is fighting an uphill battle in Atlanta, so expect the personnel scouts to attend their preseason games in order to gauge his talents. One landing spot is MIN, as they need to add as much shooting as possible and will need some smaller contracts with Wiggins extending and Towns following up shortly after.
Luke Babbitt-just under $1 million is guaranteed and the total contract is just under $2 million making Babbitt either; a) an extremely valuable piece, or b) a mistake easily dismissed with barely any cap ramifications. Babbitt’s shooting and gravity has already been discussed on the site and he still has the capability of making an impact for a playoff team. Expect MIN’s pro personnel department to be at every Hawks game to get a jump on who will hit the scrap market. The middle ground in all aspects of this shooting triumvirate, his 1-year deal makes his future the most difficult to control if he puts up good numbers given he’s younger than Ilyasova and routinely less-compensated. Babbitt is a tricky one to figure out, but it is more probable than not that he’ll be in a different uniform this season.
Ersan Ilyasova-he signed a 1-year, $6 million deal this past July which is the most significant investment of this group. Most executives will give the benefit of the doubt to the player they pegged as being the right guy. So it will take outstanding camps from Brussino or Babbitt to unseat Ilyasova. In his 28 games with Atlanta last season, Ilyasova rebounded well and was sufficient from the 3PT line. With so many young players on the roster, Bud may want to have a veteran who gives consistent production in a year of ups and downs. On the off chance he does get waived, Ilyasova will likely be picked up after clearing waivers to sign a minimum contract with a shooting deficient team.
Trey Lyles-the Nuggets are making a push for the playoffs. They added Paul Millsap to a roster that already consisted of Kenneth Faried, Nikola Jokic, Wilson Chandler, and Juancho Hernangomez. They drafted Tyler Lydon with the pick they received from Utah that was packaged with…Trey Lyles. Not a good sign when you’re acquired on draft night and the team you’re moving to selects someone that plays the exact same role! So where can Lyles find minutes with the Nuggets? He’s about as far down the depth chart as you can be while still having a locker. The positive outlook for Lyles is that he’s still on a rookie scale deal and has a good pedigree. The NBA is all about reclamation projects, especially on cheap deals. The nail in the coffin may have been the Josh Childress signing, as the brass wants a couple veteran presences to continue the internal development of their young talent. Lyles is neither a veteran presence nor one of their key pieces. So he’s on the outside looking in at the moment. The Clippers could be a destination for Lyles as they don’t have a big with his skill set. But it’s highly likely that Lyles floats around the G League until some salaries come off and sign for a minimum deal.
Shawn Long-just like being traded with a pick that essentially replaces you, being traded for $100K usually spells trouble. Houston has a top-10 team salary, and Long’s contract is not guaranteed. It’s going to be a tough task for Long to unseat any of the incumbents in his role. If Ryan Anderson had been packaged in the rumored deals, Long would have had a chance as his shooting from the upper quadrants fits well with how the Rockets play. Much like the other contenders in the Western Conference, Houston went all in. They need players who are going to win games in the playoffs and Long is not one of those players yet. His fate, much like Trey Lyles, is grim. But it’s worse given that his money isn’t guaranteed. After some time in Rio Grande Valley, don’t be shocked if Long takes a month in China to make some cash.
Jonas Jerebko-here is a tricky situation as Jerebko has playoff experience, a small contract, and a game that fits how the NBA is played. He has enough size to play a small 5 in a pinch and is a career 35.2% shooter from 3PT range. It gets tricky for Jonas because of Hayward’s departure. Jerebko is great as a player with creators around so he can settle into catch & shoot or pick & pop actions. With Hayward off the Jazz, that means that Rodney Hood and Alec Burks are the main creators, along with the ageless Joe Johnson. Joe Ingles maintains his cult status and facilitator on the second unit and it’ll be tough to have Ingles, Jerebko and Sefolosha on the court at the same time. The reason why it’s tricky is because Jerebko signed a 2-year deal with Utah this off season and no GM wants to cut a player he just signed. He’s an odd fit, and may end up on the chopping block…but for now he’s safe as his defensive versatility allow him to be a 5th big if necessary. And sadly, that most likely means that Joel Bolomboy finds himself off the roster.