The Battle for the 15th Roster Spot

Graham Chapple —  September 23, 2016
Annie Finberg/Atlanta Hawks

Annie Finberg/Atlanta Hawks

Training camp is only a few days away. That’s it. And on October 6th the Hawks’ preseason schedule kicks off in Memphis — that’s how close we’re getting to the start of the season. And while the Hawks have their most important summer affairs with regards their roster in order — the signing of Dwight Howard, trading Jeff Teague etc — there’s still one more order of business to address: the 15th and final roster spot.

The Hawks have announced their training camp roster and it is as follows:

PG: Schroder, Delaney, Jack, Bynum

SG: Korver, Hardaway Jr.

SF: Bazemore, Prince, Bembry, Sefolosha

PF: Millsap, Scott, Humphries, Costello, Kelly, Solomon, Muscala

C: Howard, Splitter, Tavares

So, you have your usual suspects here, your Korver’s, Scott’s, Millsap’s etc. The names you probably don’t recognise (besides perhaps Malcolm Delaney, who you can learn more about here) are the training camp invites.

They are: (former Piston) Will Bynum, (former Laker) Ryan Kelly, (former Michigan Sate alum and member of the Hawks’ summer league team) Matt Costello and (former California Golden Bear) Richard Solomon.

There are only 15 roster spots available and 20 training camp participants. You don’t need a PhD in maths to know that 20 does not go into 15 evenly, which means five players will have to be cut before opening night. The Hawks, however, are in an interesting predicament when it comes to their 15th man. Even before they announced (a long time ago at this stage) the signing of their first training camp invite, Matt Costello, the Hawks already had 16 players under contract after the signing of Jarrett Jack was announced. This means, excluding the training camp invites, that the Hawks have a decision to make. Which man out of the their existing roster do they cut?

In order to find out who this battle for the final roster spot involves, let’s just confirm who the absolute roster locks are come opening night.


Barring any late trades, you will absolutely see these players apart of the Hawks’ final roster. Lock it in.

So straightaway that’s 10 out of 15 spots gone.

Next up is a little group of players who are very likely to be part of the Hawks’ final roster. Well… Nah, they’ll be there, just more so players who I didn’t want to label as “absolute” locks just in case I’m wrong, for whatever reason.

Hardaway Jr.

Tim Hardaway should probably be in with the locks but you can never be sure with THJ. Edy could be considered a contender in the fight for the 15th spot (rather than guaranteed one of the 14) but I think he will be given at least one more year. I just think the Hawks aren’t finished assessing him yet. Plus if Splitter still isn’t healthy, he could find himself playing actual minutes.

That’s 14 out of the total 15 roster spots spent, as such. So, who’s duking it out for that final roster spot?

The training camp invites: Will Bynum, Ryan Kelly, Matt Costello, Richard Solomon

Unlike last season where the 15th spot was clearly there to be won in training camp (and won it was by Lamar Patterson), to be brutally honest, I don’t think any of the training camp invites actually have a chance of claiming that final roster spot this year. It comes down to the quality (we’ll touch on this soon) and the positions they play in.

This particular fight is not theirs to win. Any time they do manage to log in preseason will be as an audition for other roster spots across the league, not so much for the Hawks.

But let’s give them some attention. They at least deserve that.

Will Bynum is — unfortunately for him — one of four point guards heading into training camp and he would be behind Schröder, Delaney and Jarrett Jack in the point guard pecking order. I like Will Bynum, enjoyed watching him in Detroit and I think he deserves to be on someone’s roster but I think he’s going to find it extremely tough to make the cut in Atlanta unless Jarrett Jack sustains another long term injury in camp. I hope he’s able to make someone’s roster.

I have a vision every time I think of Ryan Kelly. I keep thinking of him as a sweet passing forward who can hit threes. I think of him as someone who either fits the Hawks system or could potentially fit given time. How accurate is that, I am not sure… Probably not very. I didn’t watch the Lakers much last season (and why on earth would I only for Kobe’s farewell tour?) and when I did he did not play a whole ton. Problem for Kelly is that power forward isn’t a position the Hawks are really lacking in. Behind Paul Millsap you have the amazing Mike Scott and Kris Humphries. I just don’t see room for another power forward especially since Scott can basically do everything Kelly can but better.

I watched Matt Costello during summer league and I thought he played OK but didn’t really standout. I honestly don’t have a whole lot else to say about him. He was OK, but I just can’t see him nabbing that 15th roster spot and while I don’t see him making any other NBA rosters I do think D-League teams will definitely be interested in him. I hope he proves me wrong though.

Welp… If I didn’t have much to say about Matt Costello I’m really going to be struggling to find words for Richard Solomon, about whom I literally know nothing about other than he played at Cali. Ha-ha, look, I could try riff-raff here but all I’ll say is I don’t think he’s going to make the roster. Too many power forwards ahead of him in the pecking order, including Kelly and Costello I would think.

Mike Muscala and Jarrett Jack

This is the real fight for the 15th roster spot. Mike Muscala vs. Jarrett Jack. And, sadly, it doesn’t look great for Muscala…

Excluding Jack, the Hawks only have two point guards who are under fully guaranteed contracts this season in Schröder and Delaney. A long term injury to either would be near catastrophic. Jack would give the Hawks a real sense of point guard security should anything happen to Schröder or Delaney. Muscala can’t give that same assurances at his position if a Millsap or a Howard or a Splitter goes down. There are others ahead of him to step up in his absence.

While Muscala can play power forward and a bit of center, neither of those are positions the Hawks are thin in — you have Millsap, Dwight, (hopefully a healthy) Splitter, Mike Scott and Kris Humphries. Like we mentioned with the point guard spot, there’s just Dennis and Delaney. Advantage, Jack.

Jack also has the advantage when it comes to quality — he’s the clearly better player of the two. The only reason why Jack vs. Muscala is even a conversation is because Jack is coming off the heels of a torn ACL and small medial meniscus damage. If Muscala had anything to pin his hopes on it will be the potential health concerns of Jack — an ACL injury and a small meniscus tear can be catastrophic when you’re on the side of 30 that Jack is (33 on October 28th).

If Jack can show that this injury hasn’t set him back significantly, that he can still contribute, he should be the man to claim that final roster spot — the point guard safety net and the overall quality of Jack can provide will be too much to pass up on.

That would leave the 15 man roster with:

PG: Schroder, Delaney, Jack

SG: Korver, Hardaway Jr.

SF: Bazemore, Prince, Bembry, Sefolosha

PF: Millsap, Scott, Humphries

C: Howard, Splitter, Tavares

If this does turn out to be the case, I will be sad to see Muscala go — whether he’s waived or traded — but he should land with another team as Lamar Patterson did with Sacramento, where he’ll hopefully stick.

Graham Chapple