As noted here earlier in the week, finding a player for take the final roster spot with a guaranteed contract isn't a priority for the Wizards heading into training camp, and because of that it might take a bit longer to firm up commitments for the preseason invitees.
Some of the more promising talents, such as undrafted Khem Birch who played on the Wizards' summer league team, will go elsewhere for a better chance to make regular season roster or take higher-paying jobs in Europe. Teams can have as many as 20 players under contract until the regular season tips. That leaves the Wizards, who begin camp Sept. 30 at Verizon Center, as many as six spots.
Last year, the Wizards didn’t have any spots open with the maximum 15 players under guaranteed contracts before the season began. Marquez Haynes was solid for them in summer league then but he took a deal in Italy instead of rolling the dice on a "make good" training camp contract with no guaranteed future money attached.
This isn't like the NFL where a team can more easily extricate itself from a deal because contracts there aren't fully guaranteed. In the NBA, it's a double whammy unless you still have a one-time amnesty provision to use (the Wizards do not) to clear a roster spot with the maximum players under contract. The Wizards would've had to release a player which would've meant still paying him and taking the salary cap hit.
That lack of flexibility with the Wizards' roster was a problem early in 2013-14, when Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and Nene were injured. Eric Maynor had underperformed terribly. Trevor Ariza and Kevin Seraphin had ailments, too.
It wasn’t until after the Wizards executed a three-team trade Feb. 20 that they were able to move two players (Maynor and Jan Vesely), acquire Andre Miller and open a roster spot that soon would be filled then-free agent Drew Gooden.
They want to avoid that predicament again. The Wizards still have half of Ariza's $8.6 million trade exception which can be used within a year to acquired another player. Ariza was traded to the Houston Rockets in July and $4.3 million was used to bring in Kris Humphries from the Boston Celtics. They also have a $1.2 million exception available that expires soon. Trade exceptions have to be used to acquire existing contracts and can't be used for free agents.
There could be a training camp invitee so compelling that he’s a must-have, but at this stage of the process it is unlikely because such a player already would be on an NBA roster. The Wizards' lack of a single affiliation with a D-League franchise also wipes out the possibility of signing and stashing that 15th player for the season.
The extra bodies brought in for camp will allow coach Randy Wittman to give some of his key players with long injury histories, namely Nene, rest. They also can serve to push the second unit, such as second-year players Glen Rice and Otto Porter, in practice while giving Beal and John Wall breaks.
The benefit to the free agent? He can earn some short-term money, get quality training and instruction and possibly catch on with another team if he shows well during the preseason.
The better ones, of course, don't have to play this waiting game.
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