Part of the intrigue of an NFL training camp is projecting who will earn those final five roster spots: The special-teamers, the potential third quarterback, the surprising rookie placekicker challenging the veteran field goal-by-field goal.
NBA training camps tend to be different. Barring some unexpected trade, the Charlotte Hornets will show up at UNC-Asheville Oct. 30 knowing who will fill 14 of a potential 15 rosters spots. That’s not uncommon in the NBA and also not unreasonable.
Fully guaranteed contracts are much more the norm in the NBA than in the NFL, so NBA teams need to make firm decisions when they sign players. Also, there isn’t something comparable in NBA basketball to long-snappers or gunners – specialists who compete a handful of plays per game, but are necessary.
The closest analogy might be a 3-point specialist, but that’s not parallel because a gunner or long-snapper always has a role and a 3-point specialist might go a week without playing.
My point is the three undrafted free agents the Hornets will bring to Asheville – guard Justin Cobbs, forward Dallas Lauderdale and center Brian Qvale – might not play a lot this preseason and it’s possible none of the three will fill that 15th roster spot. If one of them does make it to the regular season, he might not stick because roster flexibility is a Hornets concern.
The health of rookie power forward Noah Vonleh is a factor in this. Vonleh will miss some or all of the preseason after having surgery to repair a sports hernia. That means the Hornets are down to four healthy big men – Al Jefferson, Bismack Biyombo, Cody Zeller and Marvin Williams. Coach Steve Clifford would like to know he has a fifth available big man, someone to be a practice player and insurance against further injury.
But that doesn’t appear to be of sufficient concern that the Hornets would offer a guaranteed contract that would tie up that 15th roster spot long-term. At least not unless something else happens health-wise.