In his 12 seasons as an NBA player, Jacque Vaughn never entered a preseason without a guaranteed contract. So he had a financial safety net. He would have received the remaining money on his deals even if a team waived him before the start of a regular season.
That won't make the week ahead any easier for him.
Painful decisions loom for him and general manager Rob Hennigan. The Orlando Magic must reduce the number of players on their roster from 20 to 15 by no later than 5 p.m. Monday.
"It's a tough thing to sit a young man down and tell him that he won't be a part of us going forward," Vaughn said. "I don't think any coach enjoys cut day, and I won't enjoy it either."
Most players, of course, won't have to worry about their status.
Thirteen players — Arron Afflalo, Gustavo Ayón, Glen Davis, Maurice Harkless, Al Harrington, E'Twaun Moore, Jameer Nelson, Andrew Nicholson, Kyle O'Quinn, J.J. Redick, Ish Smith, Hedo Turkoglu and Nik Vucevic — seem like locks to make the team.
Among them, only Moore doesn't have a fully guaranteed deal, but Moore is slated to enter the season as Nelson's backup at point guard.
Swingman Chris Johnson and point guard Armon Johnson, who both have nonguaranteed deals, almost certainly will be cut in the days ahead. They were brought aboard in order to give depth to injury-depleted positions this month.
That likely leaves combo forward Justin Harper, power forward Josh McRoberts and swingmen Christian Eyenga, DeQuan Jones and Quentin Richardson in the mix for the 14th and 15th spots on the roster.
There would be downsides to cutting any three of them.
In June 2011, the Magic acquired Harper's draft rights from the Cleveland Cavaliers for a second-round pick in 2013 and a second-round pick in 2014. But last year's NBA lockout and the ensuing abbreviated schedule stunted Harper's development, and he plays positions where the Magic have plenty of depth.
Harper's deal guarantees him a salary of about $760,000 for this season, and this preseason he has averaged about 16 minutes of playing time per game.
Eyenga likely is the Magic's most athletic player, but his game is unrefined. He also has missed the entire preseason because of a strained right hamstring. He, too, has a guaranteed deal, and his contract will pay him almost $1.2 million this season.
Cutting McRoberts or Richardson would be even more expensive to the Magic.
McRoberts, who started 51 games in 2010-11 for the Indiana Pacers, is set to earn about $3.1 million this season, which is the final year of his deal.
He also is an athletic 6-foot-10 big man who is just 25 years old.
At 32 years old, Richardson probably doesn't fit into the team's long-term plans. But he is guaranteed $2.6 million this season and has a player option for about $2.8 million next season.
Would the Magic be willing to pay that kind of money to someone who isn't on the roster?
Jones is an undrafted rookie on an unguaranteed deal, but he perhaps is the team's second-most athletic player and potentially could defend opposing point guards, shooting guards and small forwards. But if he makes the team, he probably wouldn't receive much playing time behind Afflalo, Redick, Turkoglu and Harkless.
Still, Jones has impressed Magic officials.
"I'm just enjoying the process, just enjoying the journey and trying to soak up as much information as I can," Jones said. "It's been a great process, great journey."Copyright © 2015, CT Now