By now, NBA teams have made the necessary roster cuts to bring their respective rosters to the maximum 15 spots. Teams had until 5 p.m. EST today to get their rosters finalized for Opening Night, which is tomorrow. While teams were required to have no more than 15 players on their team, some teams opted to head into the season with 14 players.
The past several weeks were very crucial for players on non-guaranteed contracts trying to earn their way onto rosters. They had to battle through practices and preseason games hoping to catch the eye of the coaching staff. Many of these players on non-guaranteed deals were guaranteed virtually nothing to come into camp, while some did earn partially-guaranteed contracts.
As roster battles began to heat up over the past few weeks, some players that ultimately earned a spot on final rosters previously went undrafted. We’ve seen in recent years the number of undrafted players that catch on with teams increase due to other opportunities to first develop in the D-League or even overseas.
With so many undrafted players beginning to catch on, we decided to take a look at some notable names who earned rosters spots that previously went undrafted. Some of these players went undrafted in June’s draft, while others went undrafted in previous drafts. These players highlighted are coming into this season set to make their NBA debuts.
Rodney McGruder, Miami HEAT:
McGruder’s journey to make the final roster for the HEAT really just goes to show how hard he’s worked to get to this point. The former Kansas State guard went undrafted in 2013 and has since played in the D-League and overseas. He spent this past season with the HEAT’s D-League team, the Sioux Falls Skyforce.
McGruder was signed to a non-guaranteed contract over the summer. He averaged 7.4 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.8 assists in eight preseason games. The offense became a priority for the HEAT and they opted to keep McGruder since he shot 35 percent from three-point range. In order to make room for McGruder, the HEAT waived veteran Beno Udrih, who was on a guaranteed deal.
Troy Williams, Memphis Grizzlies:
It was reported over the weekend that former Indiana forward Troy Williams will make the Grizzlies’ final roster. Williams made a name for himself this preseason as he proved to be one of the best players on the team so far. In six games, Williams averaged 13.2 points, four rebounds and 1.7 steals per game. His 13.2 points led all rookies in scoring.
Perhaps one of the best areas of his game Williams put on display was his shooting. He shot 52.1 percent from the field, including 42.1 percent from three-point range. In addition, he recorded the best plus/minus on the team at 9.7. New Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale is known for his work developing players, and Williams could be his latest project.
Bryn Forbes, San Antonio Spurs:
Playing in limited minutes this preseason, Forbes was able to make an impression on the Spurs to lock down the final roster spot. In six games, he averaged 9.5 points in 15.2 minutes per game, while shooting 58.8 percent (10-of-17) from three-point range. His 9.5 points per game ranked 10th among all rookies in the preseason.
Forbes recorded his best game in the Spurs’ preseason finale against the Houston Rockets, scoring 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field. Forbes has made a name for himself during his career as a knock-down shooter. He was a 43.5 percent three-point shooter in four seasons in college, including 48.1 percent his senior year at Michigan State.
Fred VanVleet, Toronto Raptors:
While he may not see a lot of minutes once the regular season starts for the Raptors, VanVleet will serve as the team’s third point guard option behind Kyle Lowry and Cory Joseph. Though he may not play a lot, his time being around veterans like Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas will be beneficial for him.
In seven games during the preseason, VanVleet averaged 8.3 points, 2.4 assists and 2.3 rebounds in 20 minutes per game. His best game of the preseason happened against the Argentinian basketball club San Lorenz, when he recorded 31 points, five rebounds and five assists.
Tim Quarterman, Portland Trail Blazers:
While Quarterman’s preseason stats don’t necessarily jump off of the page, the coaching staff saw enough of him in practice to keep him on the final roster. In just three games, he averaged two points and one assist per game. He appeared in the Orlando Summer League with the Charlotte Hornets and averaged 5.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game.
Quarterman showed during his time at LSU that he can be an effective point guard who can get his teammates involved. He brings great length to the position and can drive to the basket and shoot from deep. His role moving forward remains to be seen with Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum and Shabazz Napier all capable of handling point guard duties and ahead of him on the depth chart.
Dorian Finney-Smith, Dallas Mavericks:
For Finney-Smith, it was his length and athleticism that ultimately helped him earn a spot with the Mavericks. It also doesn’t hurt that his head coach compared him to Al-Farouq Aminu in terms of his size and ability on defense.
The former Florida Gators forward didn’t put up big numbers during the preseason, but showed at times that he can be a solid defender in certain situations. With so many other scoring options ahead of him on the roster, he’ll be a player the team can count on to make hustle plays and defend for 10-15 minutes a night.
Ron Baker, New York Knicks:
Baker joins VanVleet as a former undrafted player out of Wichita State that will earn an NBA roster spot. He’s shown flashes during the preseason that makes the Knicks keeping him around seem like a good decision. It seems likely he could see time throughout the season with the Knicks’ D-League affiliate, the Westchester Knicks. In addition to Baker, the Knicks will keep undrafted players Marshall Plumlee and Maurice Ndour as well.
Sheldon McClellan, Washington Wizards:
The former University of Miami product was projected to be a late-second-round pick, but ultimately didn’t hear his name called on draft night. During the preseason, McClellan proved to be a solid option off of the bench for the Wizards and turned in his best outing after he dropped 20 points, four assists and three rebounds in his second game. The Wizards are also keeping undrafted players Danuel House and Daniel Ochefu.
Kyle Wiltjer, Houston Rockets:
It appears as though Wiltjer has locked up one of the Rockets’ roster spots heading into Opening Night. The former Gonzaga power forward grabbed the last roster spot as it was reported Monday that the Rockets waived Pablo Prigioni, Gary Payton II, P.J. Hairston and LeBryan Nash. Wiltjer averaged 8.3 points in six preseason outings for the Rockets, while also shooting 41.7 percent from three-point range.
While these players worked hard to get to this point, most of them will probably say the hardest part of the process will be staying on the roster. For the time being, these players can take pride in the fact that they transformed themselves as undrafted players to guys that will officially be on an NBA roster.
The Case for Upperclassmen in the NBA Draft
College upperclassmen are becoming increasingly viable options in the NBA Draft, writes David Yapkowitz.
Each year when the NBA draft comes around, there seems to be an aversion to taking upperclassman with a top selection. More specifically, it’s college seniors who often find themselves getting drafted in the second-round if at all.
It can be understandable. NBA teams are clearly looking for a home run pick with a lottery selection. They’re looking for a player who they can build a foundation around for years to come. College seniors often project as solid role players to strengthen a team once that foundational superstar is already in place.
However, recent years have seen the entire first round dominated almost entirely by freshmen and sophomores. In 2017, a college senior wasn’t drafted until the San Antonio Spurs took Derrick White with the 29th pick. The Los Angeles Lakers followed that up with Josh Hart. Hart ended up having a better rookie season than a few of the underclassmen taken ahead of him.
A few other upperclassmen, Frank Mason III, a senior, and Dillon Brooks, a junior, both had better rookie seasons than many of the freshmen taking before them as well. Junior Semi Ojeleye is playing a major role for the Boston Celtics who are in the Eastern Conference Finals.
In 2016, Malcolm Brogdon, another college senior, was taken in the second-round with the 36th pick by the Milwaukee Bucks. He went on to win the Rookie of the Year award and was a starter for a playoff team.
Senior Tyrone Wallace was taken with the last pick in the draft at No. 60 that year. When a rash of injuries hit the Los Angeles Clippers this season, Wallace stepped in right away as a starter at times and helped keep the team afloat in the playoff picture.
There were a few college seniors that went undrafted in 2016, players such as Fred VanVleet Yogi Ferrell that have had better NBA careers to this point that a lot of the underclassmen taken ahead of them.
This isn’t to say that NBA teams should completely abandon taking young, underdeveloped players in the first-round. The Spurs took Dejounte Murray, a freshman point guard, over Brogdon, Wallace, VanVleet and Ferrell. That’s worked out well for them. It’s more a testament to having a good front office and scouting team than anything else.
But maybe NBA teams should start expanding their horizons when it comes to the draft. There appears to be a stigma of sorts when it comes to upperclassmen, particularly college seniors. If a guy can play, he can play. Of course, college production is often not the best means of judging NBA success, but it does count for something.
With the 2018 NBA draft about one month away, there are a few interesting names to look at when it comes to college seniors. Players such as Devonte’ Graham from Kansas, Theo Pinson from North Carolina, Chandler Hutchinson from Boise State, Jevon Carter from West Virginia and Bonzie Colson from Notre Dame are all guys that should be on NBA team’s radars.
Sure, none of those guys are going to turn into a superstar or even an All-Star. But you’re probably going to get a player that becomes a solid contributor for years to come.
Again, it’s understandable when teams take projects in the lottery. After a long season of losing, and in some cases years of losing, ownership and the fanbase are hungry for results. They don’t want a top pick to be used on a player that projects as only a solid contributor.
But after the lottery, the rest of the draft gets a little murky. A good front office will find an NBA caliber player whether he’s a freshman or a senior. The NBA Draft isn’t an exact science. Nothing is ever for sure and no player is guaranteed to become the player they’re projected to be.
College upperclassmen tend to be more physically developed and mentally mature for the NBA game. If what you’re looking for is someone who will step right in and produce for a winning team, then instead of wasting a pick on the unknown, it might be better to go with the sure thing.
NBA Daily: Are the Houston Rockets in Trouble?
Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals may have been the perfect storm for Houston, writes Shane Rhodes.
The Houston Rockets took a gut punch from the Golden State Warriors, but they responded in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.
After they dropped the first game of the series, Houston evened things up at one apiece Wednesday night with a 127-105 blowout win over Golden State. With the Warriors struggling on the offensive end and Houston rebounding from a less than stellar Game 1, the Rockets rolled through the game with relative ease.
But was their improved demonstration a fluke? While fans may not want to hear it, Game 2 may have been the perfect storm for Houston.
The Rockets’ gameplan didn’t change much from Game 1 to 2. They attacked Steph Curry relentlessly on the offensive end, James Harden and Chris Paul took plenty of shots in isolation and their role players got shots to drop that just weren’t going down in Game 1. Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza and P.J. Tucker exploded for 68 points while shooting 66.7 percent from three after scoring just 24 the previous game. The trio averaged only 35.8 points collectively during the regular season.
Meanwhile, Golden State couldn’t buy a bucket; starting Warriors not named Kevin Durant scored just 35 points. Curry shot just 1-8 from downtown while Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguadola combined for just 19 points while shooting 35 percent from the floor. All of that will undoubtedly change.
So, going back to Oakland for Game 3, where do the Rockets find themselves? Not in a great place, unfortunately.
Golden State did their job: they stole a game — and home-court advantage — from the Rockets at the Toyota Center. Now, as the series shifts back to Oracle Arena and, assuming the Warriors return to form in front of their home crowd, Houston will have their work more than cut out for them. If Curry, Thompson and Durant all have their shot falling, there isn’t much the Rockets can do to keep up
The Warriors, aside from Curry, played great team defense in Game 2, something that will likely continue into Game 3. The Rockets hit plenty of tough, contested shots — shots that won’t drop as they move away from the energy of the home crowd and shots that Golden State would gladly have Houston take again and again and again. Harden and Paul didn’t exactly bring their A-game in Game 2 either — the two combined for a solid 43 points but took an inefficient 38 shots to get there. If the two of them play like that at Oracle, the Warriors will abuse them in transition, something that can’t happen if the Rockets want to steal back the home-court advantage.
The aforementioned trio of Gordon, Ariza and Tucker are unlikely to replicate their Game 2 performance as well, and relying on them to do so would be foolish on the part of Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni. Devising a game plan that will keep the offense moving while not leaning heavily on the role players will be of the utmost importance — if the offense returns to the bogged down effort that Houston gave in Game 1, the Rockets stand no chance.
Meanwhile, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr will likely adjust his defense in an effort to limit the Rockets effectiveness in the isolation while also trying to find somewhere to hide Curry on the defensive end. It almost certainly won’t be the same sets that Houston throttled in Game 2 which will take another toll on the Rockets offense, especially if they fail to execute.
Not everything looks bad for Houston, however. Faced with a do-or-die scenario, Harden, Paul and co. were the more aggressive team from the jump. Pushing the pace flustered the Warriors and forced some pretty bad turnovers consistently throughout the night. If they come out with the same kind of energy and pace, the Rockets could have Golden State on their heels as they did in Game 2.
Budding star Clint Capela also has plenty of room to improve his game, as he has averaged just 8.5 points and eight rebounds through the first two games of the series — the Rockets need him to play his best basketball of the season if they want a chance to win.
Still, the Warriors are virtually unbeatable at home. The team has lost three games this postseason, just four times over their last two playoff trips and not once at Oracle, making the Rockets’ task even more daunting than it already was. Like Game 2, Game 3 should be played as a do-or-die situation for the Rockets because, if they don’t come out with the same aggressive, up-tempo energy, things could be over quickly.
NBA Daily: Hope Not Lost for Mavs
The Dallas Mavericks were the lottery’s biggest losers, but VP of basketball operations Michael Finley still believes the team will land an elite talent.
Dallas Mavericks vice president of basketball operations Michael Finley knows what it’s like to be on the other side of the draft process. In 2018, he’s an executive for the third-worst team in the league that somehow slipped to the fifth overall pick in Tuesday night’s NBA Draft Lottery, but in 1995 he was a kid from the University of Wisconsin hoping to get drafted.
Finley was a first-round pick that summer, ironically selected by the Phoenix Suns, who won the first overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft earlier this week, but he says he doesn’t even remember the lottery. The lottery wasn’t the event then that it has since become.
“The lottery wasn’t this big when I was in the draft,” Finley told Basketball Insiders. “I don’t even remember how the lottery process played out when I was coming out of college. It’s grown so much, but the league has grown. It’s good for fans, and it’s good for people to get excited about this process.”
Of course, the irony in getting excited about a draft pick isn’t lost on him.
“It’s kind of weird that [fans] are celebrating the losing process, isn’t it?”
Not surprisingly, Finley wasn’t especially thrilled to see his team fail to reap the rewards of a Dallas Mavericks season that was stepped in that losing process. The lottery odds will change next year, and Finley believes that’s a good thing.
“It’s a good thing to change the system a little,” he says. “It will help keep the integrity of the game intact, especially toward the end of the year. It also will be even more suspenseful than these lottery events have been in the past.”
That’s next year, though. This year, the Mavericks are tasked with finding an elite player at a pick lower than they expected. Finley’s trying to look at things optimistically.
“It could have been sixth,” he said. “It’s still in the top five, and going on what we did this season, we don’t want to be in this position next year, so hopefully the guy we pick at #5 will get us out of the lottery and back into the playoffs.”
In fact, having that selection doesn’t preclude the team from finding a star, especially in a draft this loaded. Most agree that Luka Doncic and DeAndre Ayton are the prizes of the draft, but there are other guys available with All-Star potential. Marvin Bagley, Trae Young, Michael Porter, Jr., and Mo Bamba all have incredibly high ceilings. The Mavs may yet do something meaningful with that selection.
“It’s a strong draft, and a lot of the draft is going to go with what player fits what team in a particular system. If you’re lucky enough to get that perfect combination, the players that are in this draft are really good and have the capability of helping a team right away.”
That’s what Finley and the rest of the Mavericks’ organization hopes will happen in 2018-2019.