Surprise, surprise: 18 teams have full 15-man rosters

By Marc Stein

We inched one step closer to the start of the season Monday night when the league sent out its annual compilation of all 30 rosters.

It’s an email I awaited with more than the usual anticipation because we’ve been hearing for months that only a handful of teams would be carrying the NBA maximum of 15 players. The thinking was that eliminating even one minimum-salaried 15th man would be a commonplace cost-cutting measure in today’s tight economy.

So you can understand the mild shock when our scan through the league’s list turned up 18 teams sporting full 15-man rosters. Eight more teams are carrying 14 players and just four will field the NBA minimum of 13 players.

Add it all up and it means that the regular season opens Tuesday night with a mere 16 unclaimed roster spots in a league that can hold 450 players.

In a subsequent check with a few personnel experts, I was lightly chided by one in the Western Conference for reacting with any surprise that the overwhelming majority of teams took their rosters to the max.

The exec said: “Most teams only talk a good game about holding less than 15 [players].”

Yet one Eastern Conference exec cautioned that he wouldn’t be surprised to see that clutch of 18 teams fielding 15-man rosters to be cut nearly in half between now and Jan. 10, when contracts are guaranteed for the remainder of the season.

Said another in the West: "Let's see if [teams] do that for more than a month."

Here is the leaguewide breakdown:

*The 18 teams with 15 players: Boston, Cleveland, Dallas, Golden State, Houston, Indiana, Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis, Miami, Milwaukee, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Portland, San Antonio, Toronto and Washington.

*The eight teams with 14 players: Charlotte, Chicago, Detroit, New York, Orlando, Phoenix, Sacramento and Utah.

*The four teams with 13 players: Atlanta, Denver, Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia.