NBA

NBA PM: Undrafted Players Earning Final Roster Spots

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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.

Honorable Mention:

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.

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About Cody Taylor

Cody Taylor

Cody Taylor is an NBA writer entering his fourth season with Basketball Insiders. He covers the league out of Orlando and Miami, focusing on the Southeast Division.

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