On January 10th, all contracts not already guaranteed for this season become so.
For the vast majority of players, this is no problem, as the vast majority of contracts are always guaranteed for the current season. [Note: the January 10th date of any given season guarantees only the salaries for that season, not for any future ones.] But for those who do not, this week is judgment week. Players have to have not just been waived, but must have cleared waivers by the 10th in order to not have their contracts guaranteed - therefore, with waivers being 48 hours long, players on unguaranteed deals must be waived no later than Tuesday, January 7th, for those savings to be realized.
We have already seen a couple of players confronted with guarantee deadlines, with differing results. Jannero Pargo's contract with the Charlotte Bobcats became fully guaranteed if he was not waived on or before December 10th, and yet despite hardly being used thus far this season (and recording a 1:6 assists/turnover ratio in the short time he has seen the court), he nevertheless made the cut and is thus guaranteed of salary for a full season, if not necessarily a roster spot. Conversely, the Pelicans had until January 10th to decide on the futures of both Josh Childress and Louis Amundson, eventually deciding to waive both, as did Golden State with Hilton Armstrong.
This does not necessarily preclude them, or indeed any waived player, from subsequently re-signing with the team - it is certainly a common enough practice for a team to waive an unguaranteed player in anticipation of this date, only to re-sign them again as soon as 10-day contracts become available (which first happens on January 5th). This may happen to Amundson or others, just as it did to Lazar Hayward with Minnesota last season. It does, however, make it less likely.
All players with unguaranteed salaries susceptible to this date are therefore listed below, along with an analysis of their chances of making it to the eighth.
Atlanta - Shelvin Mack, Cartier Martin and Mike Scott: All three are rotation players on the resurgent Hawks, and playing well. Mack averages 6.9 points and 3.6 assists (alongside only 0.9 turnovers per game), Scott averages 7.2 points in only 14 minutes per game, and the somewhat one dimensional shooting specialist Martin is nonetheless shooting 41% from three. With no financial concerns to worry about, all three are surely certain to survive.
Charlotte - Jeff Adrien and Chris Douglas-Roberts: Adrien's small role on the team is limited to offensive rebounding, some shot blocking, some dunking, and a lot of fouling, but he performs it fairly well. Meanwhile, mid-season call-up Douglas-Roberts is recording a lot of minutes in the Bobcats's remarkably weak small forward forward sans the injured Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeff Taylor, but has not played especially well in them. He has shown enough improvement recently, however, to perhaps earn an extended look, but Kidd-Gilchrist's impending return might scupper it.
Chicago - D.J. Augustin and Erik Murphy: Despite consecutive terrible seasons, Augustin has been given every opportunity to play amidst the Bulls's decimated point guard rotation, and has had enough moments in his 9.7 points and 5.7 assists averages thus far to stick for the season. Meanwhile, Murphy has hardly taken the court, but waiving him isn't financially prudent.
Cleveland - Andrew Bynum, C.J. Miles, Matthew Dellavedova and Henry Sims: Dellavedova has played well in a third string point guard role and will surely survive. Miles may only be the best of a poor bunch at small forward, yet it will cost only about $1.3 million to keep him, an acceptable amount for a team with playoff ambitions. Sims may get cut considering that he will spend much of his time under contract on assignment in the D-League anyway, although he is ever improving and may stick. As for Bynum, he may be traded first, but waived anyway.
Detroit - Josh Harrellson and Peyton Siva: Harrellson is limiting himself as a player to being a stretch five, but at least he is efficient doing it (50% FG, 39% three pointers), so he may stick. Meanwhile, Siva has struggled badly in limited time, and is not a 19 year old prospect any more. With shrinking upside and no use on the court in the present, his place is very much in jeopardy.
Golden State - Kent Bazemore: Bazemore struggled early in the season, taking shots he couldn't make, proving he couldn't hit them, and showing no ability to even bring the ball up against pressure. However, when reverting to his usual disruptive athletic defensive and full court presence, Bazemore has been occasionally effective, and still has a place on a competitive team.
Houston - Patrick Beverley, Greg Smith and Ronnie Brewer: Despite the injury to Beverley and the lack of minutes for Smith, both are extremely good value at the minimum salary and are sure to stay. Brewer is in much greater danger - having played only 78 minutes all season, Brewer is not needed as a player, and, given the Rocket's predilection for roster turnover, they would no doubt much rather have the open roster spot to keep their options open. After all, they have some Rio Grande Valley Vipers to call up. (Troy Daniels, take note. Everyone else, take note of Troy Daniels.)
Indiana - Rasual Butler: Butler adds nothing of note to his team, is aged 35, is buried on the depth chart behind much greater talents (especially in light of Danny Granger's return), and has not been a capable player for several years. None of this reconciles with him having his contract guaranteed. Then again, it did not reconcile with him making the roster in the first place, either.
L.A. Clippers - Maalik Wayns and Stephen Jackson: Wayns's contract was due to be guaranteed on December 1st, but the date was seemingly revised after Wayns's injury that has caused him to miss the whole season to date (players on unguaranteed contracts that are hurt in the course of team related activities are paid until they are healthy again). Healthy again, Wayns now seems unlikely to make the cut, in light of the Clipper's luxury tax position. The same position factors into the decision on Jackson, and his worryingly poor play since his midseason call-up compounds the problem.
L.A. Lakers - Xavier Henry, Shawne Williams, Ryan Kelly and Kendall Marshall: In the midst of his breakout season, Henry is guaranteed to survive, and despite his usual inconsistencies, Williams has done enough (5.0 ppg, 4.9 rpg) to do so too. Kelly has barely played for the big league club, but has been one of the best players in the D-League thus far, as has the much improved-shooting Marshall, who also now has the benefit of being the Lakers's only healthy point guard. All four may survive.
Memphis - James Johnson and Seth Curry: Johnson has been Memphis's best small forward in his short spell with them thus far this season, and while this is an indictment of his competition, he has also been a genuine breath of fresh air. Curry, meanwhile, has yet to play since his midseason call-up, and although he was in the midst of proving he was an NBA calibre point guard during his short D-League stay, there is a good chance he is waived to save money, albeit potentially subsequently re-signed.
Miami - Michael Beasley and Roger Mason: The rejuvenated Beasley averages 10.7 points in only 18 minutes per contest and will not be cut. And while Mason is the logic cut to open up a roster spot should Miami see fit to do so - for someone like, say, Bynum - he is sufficiently capable in his role of low mistake three point shooter to merit sticking on his play alone.
Minnesota - A.J. Price and Robbie Hummel: Price has had scant little to do in his third string point guard role thus far this season, although every team needs one and he is as capable as any, so he may survive. Conversely, Hummel has had plenty of opportunity thus far this season, and has struggled noticeably, filling no obvious role and looking somewhat overmatched. The team may however seek to protect its own draft pick.
New York - Cole Aldrich and Toure Murry: Murry has shown flashes in limited minutes, particularly defensively, and merits a longer stay. Aldrich meanwhile has had scant little opportunity on the court, but at least theoretically provides the interior defense and rebounding the Knicks sorely lack outside of Tyson Chandler, which works in his favor. Note that recent signee Jeremy Tyler's contract status is hitherto unknown.
Oklahoma City - Ryan Gomes and Hasheem Thabeet: The duo have played a combined 68 minutes all season and are redundant on a healthy Thunder team. However, Thabeet plays the more difficult to fill position, and showed enough last season to merit sticking around. If one is to be cut to trim excess spending, it will surely be Gomes.
Orlando - Hedo Turkoglu and Solomon Jones: Tukoglu is guaranteed to be waived, and indeed may have already been by the time you read this. Meanwhile, the veteran Jones adds little to a young team not intending to win much in the short term, and hasn't played well in his limited time, but the waiving of Turkoglu opens up a roster spot so he may not need to be.
Philadelphia - Hollis Thompson, Brandon Davies, Elliot Williams, Daniel Orton and Lorenzo Brown: Given extended run-outs at the backup guard spots. both Brown and Williams have underwhelmed, shooting 33% and 32% from the field respectively. Davies also has struggled, and Orton has fouled far too much to be reliable, yet both they and Hollis Thompson (who has started for half of the season as a three-and-D specialist) have featured regularly in the rotation. At least two of these players will likely be waived, but certainly no more than three - of the four, only Thompson is the guaranteed survivor.
Phoenix - Dionte Christmas: Unable to get many minutes on the upstart and healthy Suns team, Christmas has nonetheless earned his way back into the NBA, and is better than Archie Goodwin at this point. If Christmas is waived, it is to protect their other investment.
Sacramento - Hamady N'Diaye: N'Diaye is not reliable enough on the court to be of much use (unskilled offensively save for a mediocre jumper, extremely foul prone) and yet too old (turning 27 next week) to any longer qualify as a project. His retention would be a surprise.
San Antonio - Malcolm Thomas: - The Spurs have grand designs on Thomas's future, as well they should. He will survive.
Toronto - Julyan Stone: When the Raptors needed to waive someone, ideally a point guard, to accommodate the incoming point guard Greivis Vasquez as a part of the Rudy Gay trade, Stone made the cut ahead of D.J. Augustin. This is both a big endorsement of Stone and a big mark against Augustin.
Utah - Ian Clark, Diante Garrett and Mike Harris: Making the team lout of training camp in the unlikely role of seasoned veteran despite his relative lack of NBA experience, Harris, has appeared regularly in the rotation, and played fairly well on his way to 4.2 ppg and 48% shooting. Garrett has also had moments of stable play in a lengthy audition, and while Clark has barely played (spending more time on the court on assignment to the D-League), there seems no obvious reason for the Jazz to waive their de facto second round pick, or indeed any of the three.