On Friday, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN wrote that the NBA is looking to expanding rosters to combat the toll the coronavirus has taken on team rosters. The expanded rosters would be in a third two-way roster spot. This season, two-way players can be active for up to 50 games, so they will get their fair share of playing time, especially if rosters are hit hard and these players aren’t infected or are under protocol.
The purpose of adding an additional player to the roster could help teams that are dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak reach the minimum of eight players so they can play a game and keep the schedule going.
The Washington Wizards are the hardest-hit team in the NBA with nine players out due to coronavirus protocols, of which six players have tested positive for the coronavirus. Since there are 17 players on the team, nine are in protocol, and at least two players (Russell Westbrook and Thomas Bryant) are out due to injuries, the Wizards could only field six or seven players at the present time, depending on whether Bryant and/or Westbrook are under protocol. The Wizards have not disclosed which players have tested positive, so I’ll just leave it there.
But I think expanding rosters isn’t going to do much to help the Wizards or any NBA team during this pandemic. Here’s why:
- Expanding rosters gives teams an opportunity to increase virus exposure — This is really the only reason I need for this. The Wizards are in their current situation because they traveled to multiple cities, interacted with many people outside of their personal circles and spent some time with people outside of their personal circles while not wearing masks or social distancing. In-game transmission has been downplayed (though that cannot be ruled out), but players on other teams have still interacted together anyway postgame. Bradley Beal was in that situation not too long ago. Adding another player into this environment may help keep a team playing for a game. But it won’t stop that new player from getting the virus.
- A two-way player will likely at the end of the bench or rotation — Players on two-way contracts aren’t there to lead their teams to victories night in and night out. They are there for development purposes. Assuming this roster expansion only allows younger players to get on two-way contracts, that’s not going to change the fact that they will be bench warmers unless there is literally no one else left. Of the Wizards’ current two-way players, Garrison Mathews only played five games this season while Cassius Winston only played one game, a two-minute cameo in Washington’s last game against Phoenix. It should also be noted that Mathews’ 22-point performance this season came on the same game that Beal missed due to being in coronavirus protocols.
- For teams that are losing, roster expansion won’t turn their trajectory around — The Wizards are in a very perilous situation with a 3-8 record, which is second to dead last in the Eastern Conference. If Washington adds another two-way player to get to eight available players, they aren’t suddenly going to be favorites. The only purpose of getting to eight players is just so the schedule can move on with minimal interruptions.
Many of us hoped the Wizards would at least be competitive. Since they haven’t been blown out most of the time, I guess they have been competitive. But losing is contagious, just like the coronavirus, and that’s the epidemic Washington seems unable to eradicate at the moment. While we aren’t seeing the Wizards play due to their outbreak right now, that doesn’t mean that Washington’s likely hitting the ground running when they are cleared top play again.
Given how hellbent the NBA is on holding games without delay this season, the Wizards will play on Wednesday against the Charlotte Hornets, even if there are just eight players available. And on top of that, they wouldn’t have been practicing and/or playing for some time, which also means their rhythm could be out of sync.
Perhaps the Wizards will get back in the groove soon, but since this season already started out poorly, Suns win aside, it still seems like this will be another tough season for Washington fans to swallow.