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.
Defensive Player Of The Year Watch – 11/17/17
Spencer Davies updates the list of names to keep an eye on and who’s in contention for DPOY.
We’re exactly one month into the season now, as the NBA standings have started to take shape headed into winter.
A couple of weeks ago, Basketball Insiders released its first Defensive Player of the Year Watch article to go in-depth on players that could compete for the prestigious award. Since then, there have been injuries keeping most of the household names out of the picture.
Guys like Rudy Gobert (knee) and Al-Farouq Aminu (ankle) have been or will be sidelined for weeks. Kawhi Leonard has yet to make his season debut recovering from a bothersome right quad.
While that isn’t the best news for fans and the league at the moment, it’s likely that those players will be just fine and return with the same impact they’ve always made. In the meantime, there are opportunities for others to throw their names in the hat as elite defenders. With new names and mainstays, here’s a look at six healthy candidates.
6) Joel Embiid
Trusting the Process in Philadelphia was worth the wait. As polished as the seven-footer is with the ball in his hands on offense, he might be even more dangerous as an interior defensive presence.
One of ten players in the NBA averaging at least a block and a steal per game, Embiid makes a world of a difference for in limiting opponents. Through 14 games, the Philadelphia 76ers are allowing just 96.4 points per 100 possessions with him playing. Furthering that, he’s the only one on the floor who dips the team’s defensive rating below 100 and has the second-highest Defensive Real Plus-Minus rating (3.03) in the NBA.
5) Kristaps Porzingis
Like Embiid, it’s been an incredible season for the one called The Unicorn. Before the season started, Porzingis stated it was a goal of his to accomplish three things—an All-Star game appearance, Most Improved Player, and Defensive Player of the Year.
So far, he’s on the right track. Outside of being the league’s third-highest scorer (28.9 points per game), the Latvian big man is hounding and deterring shot attempts nearly every time inside. According to SportVU data, Porzingis is allowing his opponents to only convert 35.1 percent of their attempts at the rim, which is the lowest by far among his peers seeing at least four tries per game. Oh, and when he’s off the floor, the Knicks have a 112.4 defensive rating, which is 9.3 more points per 100 possessions than with him on.
4) Nikola Jokic
At the beginning of the season, it looked like the same old story with the Denver Nuggets defense, but their intensity has stepped up on that end of the floor for the past couple of weeks. Playing next to new running mate Paul Millsap has taken some getting used to, but it seems like the two frontcourt partners have started to mesh well.
Though it might not have been the case a season ago, the Denver Nuggets are a net -12.4 per 100 possessions defensively without Jokic on the court as opposed to a team-best 100.1 defensive rating with him on. A huge knock on the Serbian sensation last year and before then was his inability to defend. He’s still got things to work on as a rim protector with his timing, but the progress is coming. He’s seventh in the league in total contested shots (168) and has been forcing turnovers like a madman. Averaging 1.6 steals per game, Jokic has recorded at least one takeaway in all but two games.
3) Draymond Green
In the first DPOY watch article, the Golden State Warriors had been better off defensively with Green sitting. That right there should tell you how much we can really put into data in small sample sizes. It’s changed dramatically since that point in time.
Without Green playing, the Golden State Warriors have a defensive rating of 105.4 as opposed to 98.4 on the same scale with him on the floor. His matchups are starting to grow weary of driving on him again, as he’s seen less than four attempts at the basket. Currently, in DRPM, he ranks eighth with a 2.60 rating.
2) Al Horford
The Boston Celtics are still the number one team in the NBA in defensive rating. Horford is still the straw that stirs the drink for Brad Stevens. If you didn’t see that watching that knockdown, drag-it-out game against the Warriors on Thursday, go back and watch it.
He has the highest net rating on the team among starters and is leading the team by altering shots and grabbing rebounds with aggressiveness we haven’t seen since he played for the Atlanta Hawks. Ranking fourth in Defensive Box Plus-Minus and in DRPM, Horford is continuing to make his presence felt.
1) DeMarcus Cousins
Dominance is the word to describe Cousins’ game. With a month-long absence of Gobert, he has a real chance to show fans and voters that his defensive side of him is no façade.
Next to his partner Anthony Davis, Boogie has kept up the physicality and technique of locking up assignments. The third and final member of this list averaging at least a block and steal per game, Cousins is at the top of the mountain in DRPM with a 3.13 rating.
The New Orleans Pelicans significantly benefit with him on the hardwood (102.3 DRTG) as opposed to him on the bench (112.7 DTRG). He’s one of six players in the league seeing more than six attempts at the rim, and he’s allowed the lowest success percentage among that group. He’s also contested 193 shots, which is the second-most in the NBA.
Gregg Popovich Continues To Be The Gold Standard For Leadership
There are three guarantees in life: death, taxes and Gregg Popovich.
There are three guarantees in life: death, taxes and the San Antonio Spurs.
Okay, let’s be honest, it’s probably not the first time that you’ve heard that one, but it also won’t be the last.
Behind the genius of Gregg Popovich, the Spurs have qualified for the NBA Playoffs 20 consecutive years. In hindsight, they appear to have been the only team to legitimately frighten the Golden State Warriors during their 16-1 playoff run last year, and this season, well, they’ve been the same old Spurs.
That’s been especially amazing considering the fact that the team has been without Kawhi Leonard. Although Popovich recently said that Leonard would return “sooner rather than later,” he himself admitted to not being certain as to what that meant.
Best guess from here is that Leonard will return within the next few weeks, but at this point, it’s entirely fair to wonder whether or not it even matters.
Of course, the Spurs don’t stand much of a chance to win the Western Conference without Leonard thriving at or near 100 percent, but even without him, the Spurs look every bit like a playoff team, and in the Western Conference, that’s fairly remarkable.
“A team just has to play in a sense like he doesn’t exist,” Popovich was quoted as saying by Tom Osborn of the San Antonio Express-News.
“Nobody cares if you lost a good player, right? Everybody wants to whip you. So it doesn’t do much good to do the poor me thing or to keep wondering when he is going to be back or what are we going to do. We have to play now, and other people have to take up those minutes and we have to figure out who to go to when in a different way, and you just move on.”
In a nutshell, that’s Popovich.
What most people don’t understand about Popovich is what makes him a truly great coach is his humility. He is never afraid to second-guess himself and reconsider the way that he’s accustomed to doing things. Since he’s been the head coach of the Spurs, he’s built and rebuilt offenses around not only different players, but also different philosophies.
From the inside-out attack that was his bread and butter with David Robinson and Tim Duncan to the motion and movement system that he built around Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, the latest incarnation of Popovich’s genius isn’t only the fact that he has survived without Kawhi Leonard, it’s what could fairly be considered the major catalyst of it.
There are many head coaches around the league that take their roles as authority figures quite seriously, and that’s why a fair number would have been threatened by one of their star players requesting that things be rebuilt in a way to maximize his potential.
So when LaMarcus Aldridge proactively sat down with his coach to discuss the ways that he felt he was being misused in the team’s schemes, it wouldn’t have come as a shock for Popovich to meet him with resistance.
Instead, he did the opposite.
“We have talked about what we can do to make him more comfortable, and to make our team better,” Popovich acknowledged during Spurs training camp.
“But having said that, I think we are mostly talking about offense. Defense, he was fantastic for us. Now, we have got to help him a little bit more so that he is comfortable in his own space offensively, and I haven’t done a very good job of that.”
Just 11 days after those comments were printed, the Spurs announced that they had signed Aldridge to a three-year, $72 million extension.
Considering that Aldridge’s first two years as a member of the Spurs yielded some poor efforts and relatively low output, the extension seemed curious and was met with ridicule.
Yet, one month later and 15 games into the season, the Spurs sit at 9-6. They’ve survived the absence of Kawhi Leonard and the loss of Jonathon Simmons.
Behind an offensive system tweaked to take advantage of his gifts, in the early goings, Aldridge is averaging 22 points per game, a far cry above the 17.7 points per game he averaged during his first two years in San Antonio.
I think not.
Death, taxes and the Spurs.
So long as Gregg Popovich is at the helm, exhibiting strong leadership while remaining amazingly humble, the Spurs will be the Spurs.
Sure, Kawhi Leonard will be back—at some point.
But until then, the Spurs will be just fine.
NBA AM: Atlanta’s Dewayne Dedmon Is Letting Shots — And Jokes — Fly
Dewayne Dedmon’s emergence has been an unexpected positive for the rebuilding Atlanta Hawks.
It’s been a brutal season for the Atlanta Hawks, currently 3-12 with the worst record in the Eastern Conference.
Wednesday’s franchise-record 46-point win over the visiting Sacramento Kings was a rare chance for Atlanta to have a laugh in the postgame locker room and reflect on things that have gone well, including hot shooting for the team and a potential breakout season for center Dewayne Dedmon.
The Hawks trail only the Golden State Warriors in three-point shooting at just over 40 percent. Prior to joining the Hawks, Dedmon had attempted only one three-pointer in 224 career games. As a Hawk, though, Dedmon is shooting 42 percent on 19 attempts. Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer explained after Wednesday’s game how his staff decided to encourage Dedmon to extend his range.
“You do your research and you talk to friends around the league, you talk to people who have worked with him and you watch him during warmups,” said Budenholzer. “We had a belief, an idea, that he could shoot, he could make shots. We’re kind of always pushing that envelope with the three-point line. He’s embraced it.”
Dedmon is currently averaging career-highs in points, rebounds, blocks and minutes, and set season-highs in points (20), rebounds (14) and assists (five) against the Kings. He’s also brought an offbeat sense of humor that has helped keep the locker room loose despite the struggles. It became apparent early on that Dedmon was a different type of dude.
At Media Day, when nobody approached Dedmon’s table and reporters instead flocked to interview rookie John Collins at the next table, Dedmon joined the scrum, holding his phone out as if to capture a few quotes.
“This guy’s going to be a character,” said a passing Hawks staffer.
Those words proved prophetic, as Coach Bud confirmed after Wednesday’s win.
“He brings a lot of personality to our team, really from almost the day he got here,” said Budenholzer. “I think he’s getting more and more comfortable and can help the young guys and help everybody.”
Dedmon took an unconventional path to the NBA. Growing up, his mother — a Jehovah’s Witness — forbade him to play organized sports. Once he turned 18, Dedmon began making his own decisions. He walked on to the team at Antelope Valley College, a two-year school in Lancaster, Ca., before transferring to USC and eventually making it to the league.
His personality, which formed while Dedmon forged his own path, shone through in the locker room after the Sacramento win. Asked about conversations he’s had with Budenholzer about shot selection, Dedmon turned to teammate Kent Bazemore at the adjacent locker.
“What’s the phrase, Baze? LTMF?”
“Yep,” Bazemore replied.
“Yeah, LTMF,” Dedmon continued. “Let it fly. So he told me to shoot … let it go. I’m not going to say what the M means.”
Amidst laughter from the assembled media, he explained that ‘LTMF’ is Budenholzer’s philosophy for the whole team, not just part of an effort to expand Dedmon’s game.
“Everybody has the same freedom,” said Dedmon. “So it definitely gives everybody confidence to shoot their shots when they’re open and just play basketball.”
With the injury bug thus far robbing Atlanta of its stated ambition to overachieve this season, Dedmon’s career year and team success from three-point range are two big positives.
Rebuilding or retooling can be a painful process. But with a unique personality like Dedmon helping keep things light in the locker room, Atlanta should make it through.