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NBA Daily: Training Camp Roster Spot Battles

Each year there are several players fighting for roster spots across the league during training camp. David Yapkowitz covers some of the players who have a good shot of landing these coveted spots.

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Each year when training camp arrives, there are several players on each NBA team fighting for a roster spot. They arrive in camp with a non-guaranteed contract and hopes that a strong preseason showing could lead to a coveted NBA roster spot.

NBA teams are allowed to carry a maximum of 15 players on the roster with regular contracts, and two players on two-way contracts who will spend the majority of their time in the G League. Most teams already have their rosters completed and the players on non-guaranteed contracts are just camp bodies.

But a few teams keep a roster spot or two open just in case someone really stands out during the preseason. Players without a guaranteed contract tend to be fringe NBA/G League players, or sometimes they’re actually older vets who aren’t quite ready to retire just yet.

Here’s a look at a few players without a guaranteed contract who each has a pretty good chance to earn a regular-season roster spot.

1. Ben McLemore – Houston Rockets

The Rockets only have 11 players on guaranteed contracts thus far, meaning they’re going to have to select a couple of players to round out the roster. Right now, Ben McLemore seems like a safe bet to earn one of those spots. A former lottery pick, McLemore hasn’t been able to stick anywhere in the league thus far. He’s shown flashes of his talent, followed by inconsistency. In early preseason goings, he’s shot the ball well from three-point range and ran the floor well in transition. He’s fighting for his NBA career and he’s played as if he knows it. If he makes the final roster, it’s unlikely he sees major minutes, but he can be a nice insurance policy in case of injuries.

2. Justin Anderson – Washington Wizards

Justin Anderson is another player who has a few years of NBA experience but hasn’t quite been able to find a home. He joined the Wizards on a camp deal with hopes of making the final roster. The Wizards have 13 guaranteed contracts as of now, so Anderson is fighting for one of two possible roster spots. He’s never been a player who will fill up the stat sheet, but he’ll do all the little things that help teams win. His best asset is his tenacity on the defensive end of the court. He’s a hustle player and energy guy that every team should have at the end of their bench. Due to his experience in the NBA, and his defensive energy, he seems worthy of being kept around into the regular season.

3. Joe Johnson – Detroit Pistons

When the Pistons signed Christian Wood over the summer, it was thought that he had the inside track to Detroit’s 15th and final roster spot. That was before they signed Joe Johnson. Johnson didn’t play in the NBA last season after finishing the previous year with the Houston Rockets. He won MVP of the Big3 this summer and that ended being a springboard for him to get back in the league. He remains a solid shooter and he can play some power forward now in some small-ball lineups. He’s a veteran who has a wealth of experience and can help solidify the Pistons’ bench. If he makes the team, he isn’t going to play all that much, but he’ll come in handy if the Pistons need someone to come in and knock down a few threes from game to game.

4. Trey Burke – Philadelphia 76ers

Trey Burke was another former lottery pick who wasn’t quite able to find his fit in the NBA. A couple of seasons ago, he was out of the NBA and playing in the G League before the New York Knicks gave him another chance. He’s since been able to carve out a niche as a solid backup point guard capable of providing some instant offense off the bench. With T.J. McConnell leaving in free agency, the Sixers are in need of a new backup point guard. Burke is seemingly fighting for that spot with Raul Neto, who has a guaranteed contract. In early camp goings, Burke has brought a tenacity on the defensive end and shot the ball well. He should be a lock to make the team and begin the season as the backup point guard.

5. Kendrick Nunn – Miami HEAT

Nunn is the one guy on this list who doesn’t have major NBA experience. The Miami HEAT signed him on the final day of last season. Prior to that, he had been playing in the G League where he established himself as an explosive scorer. He played with the HEAT’s Summer League team in Las Vegas where he had a very strong showing while being named to the Summer League First Team. He can shoot well from three-point range and he can put the ball on the floor and attack off the dribble. He can also play both guard positions. He’s as close to a lock as possible to make the regular-season roster, and he could be an instant offense scoring punch for the HEAT’s second unit this season.

There will be other camp battles around the league with other players vying for a roster spot, but these players probably have the best chance at remaining with their respective NBA team into the regular season.

David Yapkowitz has been a staff writer for Basketball Insiders since 2017. Based in Los Angeles, he focuses on the Pacific Division as well as the NBA at large.

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