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Could The Sixers Use The NBA's Hardship Roster Exception?

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The team's roster has to be trimmed down to 15 when they hit the floor opening night, but a rarely used mechanism in the Collective Bargaining Agreement could eventually open up a 16th roster spot.

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With one preseason contest left to go and a handful of prospects battling it out for essentially a green light on their respective NBA careers, the clock is ticking on final roster lists around the league. Each NBA team must cut its final roster down to 15 bodies by the time its season kicks off, and the Sixers have a couple of close calls that are tough to identify even for those who keep their ears close to the ground. But a sparingly used maneuver could ease the decision-making process for the front office over the course of the next week.

From Larry Coon's invaluable CBA FAQ:

A hardship can be deemed to exist when a team has four players who are sick or injured and have missed at least three games, and will continue to be unable to play. If a hardship is granted, the hardship ends when one of the sick or injured players is physically able to resume playing. The team must then release player(s) to get back to the roster limit, although teams have the option to retain the hardship player and release a different player to get back to the limit.

For the Sixers, this footnote is exceedingly relevant. Joel Embiid is expected to be sidelined for the entire season, Kendall Marshall and Tony Wroten continue to rehab their ACL injuries with no clear-cut or imminent timetable for return and Carl Landry is still making his way back from the wrist surgery he underwent back in June.

As Coon notes, the basic requirements are that four injured or otherwise debilitated players miss three or more games and "will continue to be unable to play". Plus, as Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman noted when the Thunder were granted a hardship to sign Ish Smith, the players must have been sick or injured for at least two weeks for a roster exception to be granted.

Conceivably, this could be a convenient move for the team. If they were to keep Landry around (which seems likely given that he's managed to stick around since July as it is), it would grant them the ability to cut, for example, Furkan Aldemir, roll with one of Pierre Jackson, Scottie Wilbekin and T.J. McConnell on opening night behind Kendall Marshall, Isaiah Canaan and Tony Wroten, and then potentially file a hardship request to the league after the first three games. Then, if the league were to grant the team a 16th roster spot, it could scoop up one of the point guards it left behind after final cuts and give him an extended look on the team until Wroten and/or Marshall return to the floor.

So, essentially, it would allow the team the leisure of extra time to look into guard (or maybe even front-court) depth. Keep in mind, however, that A) the league still would have to approve, and B) since the potential use of the tool demands the presence of each of the four injured players on the 15-man roster, its availability may very well come down to one of Furkan Aldemir and Christian Wood being cut loose.

The hardship was granted early last season to, as I mentioned above, the Oklahoma City Thunder as well as the Los Angeles Lakers and twice for the Indiana Pacers. We'll know relatively soon if the Sixers choose to follow in their paths.