Pre-season games are underway and the 2023-24 NBA season is tantalizingly close to beginning. Except for James Harden and the Philadelphia 76ers, the majority of expected blockbuster trades have been made. All 30 teams are likely set with the core of their rosters and the decisions they are making now relate to their nightly rotations, and who will fill out the final roster spots.
Deciding who takes spots 12-15 on an NBA roster is never easy. There are two common approaches, take a gamble on a handful of young players who may have some upside or bring in some reliable veterans who are a good locker room presence and often meet their minimal expectations. Some teams also elect to do a mixture of the two.
While the options seem straightforward, the decision itself is far from it, proven by the fact that all teams regularly get these final roster decisions incorrect. The Boston Celtics cut Max Strus at one point, who went on to help eliminate them from this season’s conference finals.
The Philadelphia 76ers let Isaiah Joe go last summer and most would argue that was a mistake in terms of the talent and shooting ability he ended up showcasing with the Oklahoma City Thunder last season. These decisions are about more than talent and potential as well.
Take Joe for example. The young movement shooter had some flashes in pre-season and certainly looked the part, but the Sixers head coach at the time, Doc Rivers, had a track record of focusing on win-now veterans over developing talent. Many within the organization may have agreed Joe was quickly among the top 15 players on the roster, but if there are doubts about the coach actually playing him then it doesn’t make sense to keep him.
These final roster decisions are complex and often have many voices weighing in all with different motives. Getting a final roster spot correct, though, can be very lucrative. A big part of the Miami Heat’s success over the past few seasons is primarily because of Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, but also because they were able to develop Strus, Gabe Vincent, and Duncan Robinson all of whom were undrafted.
There are several non-guaranteed players vying for final roster spots currently. Here are five who could make the team, have an impact, and why.