The NBA restart in Orlando has given teams the opportunity to revamp their rosters as players back out or decommit to playing in the bubble at Disney World. The Grizzlies roster seems set with no known players backing out of the bubble. Other teams haven’t been as lucky. Brooklyn has seemingly had half of its roster test positive for COVID-19 and back out of playing in Orlando. Depending on each teams circumstances, they’ve had the ability to add free agents prior to heading to Orlando (and can do so in Orlando if necessary).
For the Lakers, they went the route of going after veterans by signing Lebron James’ friend J.R. Smith. Meanwhile, teams like Phoenix and San Antonio, who will be without LaMarcus Aldridge, figure to give minutes to their young guys and give them extra reps in preparation for next season.
The Nets have been surprising with their 4 open roster spots that became available to them. Firmly in the playoff race but with close to no hope of making it out of the first round, many thought they would take some flyers on young guys in the league to fill out their roster for next year. Instead they signed veterans Tyler Johnson, Jamal Crawford and Michael Beasley to essentially “try out” for next years team. The Nets did use that 4th roster spot on G-League standout Donta Hall.
Most of the teams heading down to Orlando have their rosters set in stone, but could be without players at certain points in the bubble. Gordon Hayward will leave the bubble if the Celtics are still playing in September, when he and his wife are expecting a child. Same with Hayward’s teammate Vincent Poirier.
Point being, things can change quickly in the bubble and teams will have to make moves quickly should someone back out due to COVID or other personal reasons. Fortunately for those teams, there’s a trio from Southaven ready for the call to step in and provide some roster depth.
Dusty Hannahs - Philadelphia 76ers
The Philadelphia 76ers have taken a step back this season when most expected them to take a step forward. Instead of being one of the top teams in the East, Philly has faltered and would be fortunate to snag the 4th seed in the playoffs this season. A large reasoning behind that is their lack of spacing and 3-point shooting. They essentially signed Al Horford to a 4-year $109 million contract just so he couldn’t guard Joel Embiid in the playoffs. With the Horford signing, the 76ers were unable to retain JJ Redick who has proven to have been a key to the Sixers success. The 76ers already signed Ryan Broekhoff to help alleviate the 3-point shooting woes, but Dusty would be a great addition should another roster spot open up. Dusty and his nearly 45% shooting from beyond the arc could help replicate how the 76ers offense ran back when JJ was still a Sixer.
Honorable Mention: Miami Heat
Jarrod Uthoff - Dallas Mavericks
The Mavericks have been a pleasant surprise this season led by Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, having been in a position to battle for what would have been home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Their roster is mostly solid and ready for Orlando, but they do lack depth at Jarrod Uthoff’s power forward position. With Willie Cauley-Stein and Dwight Powell out, the Mavs bigs are just Porzingis, Maxi Kleber and Bojan Marjanovic. The Mavs would be wise to take a look at Uthoff should a roster spot become available. I’ve said time and time again that Uthoff’s game is that of a poor man Dirk Nowitzki, and he’d be solid depth for Dallas in Orlando. Uthoff averaged 19 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 3.1 assists for the Hustle this past season. Uthoff’s NBA career began with a brief stint in Dallas, and his size and ability to play both inside and out would be welcome depth for a depleted Mavericks frontcourt.
Honorable Mention: Boston Celtics
Shaq Buchanan - Washington Wizards
At this point, the Wizards probably wish they hadn’t been invited to the NBA bubble in Orlando. Davis Bertans backed out almost immediately to avoid potential injury or illness, as he’s expected to get a big pay day this summer. Bradley Beal also opted out of playing in Orlando, citing a shoulder injury. Most recently, two-way guard Garrison Matthews didn’t travel with the team to Orlando on Thursday, and it’s unclear if he’ll rejoin the team. Without those three, the Wizards certainly lack 3-point shooting, and their best player in the bubble is arguably Ish Smith. Smith is a fine player, but if he’s their leader as they fight for the playoffs, well, oof. For a team that will likely look for solid young talent, Shaq Buchanan would be a terrific fit.
Shaq shined after the Grizz two-way players and Josh Jackson were assigned to the Grizzlies. In 11 starts for the Hustle, Shaq averaged 21.9 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game, while also playing great defense. Shaq also shot nearly 43% from beyond the arc on 6.4 attempts per game as a starter. The Wizards lack depth at the 2 and 3 in Orlando, and Shaq could come in and give the Wizards some great athleticism on the wing.
Honorable Mention: Oklahoma City Thunder
Ultimately it’s unlikely that any of the Hustle trio get any meaningful minutes. Even if they do get a call-up due to a player backing out, the teams will likely prioritize the players already on the roster and who know the system better. Still, these guys killed it in the G-League this season and deserve a legitimate shot in the NBA and what better place to live out your dream than in Disney World?