Once he appears in a game for the Grizzlies, Cotton, fresh off a stint in China with the Xinjiang Flying Tigers, will become the 28th player to suit up for Memphis in 2015-16, establishing a new single-season league standard.
The Grizzlies, who have been without star center Marc Gasol (foot) since early February and floor leader Mike Conley (heel) since early March, are currently tied with the 1996-97 Dallas Mavericks in using a record 27 players.
What sets this Grizzlies team apart, though, is that they are bidding to become the first NBA team to use at least 24 players in a single season and still make the playoffs.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, each of the previous nine NBA teams to play 24 different players missed the postseason. Three teams previously reached the playoffs after using 23 players: LeBron James‘ Cleveland Cavaliers in 2007-08, Houston in 2004-05 and Phoenix in 1996-97 after that Suns team started the season 0-13.
The Grizzlies awoke Friday still clinging to the fifth seed in the Western Conference at 41-34.
Entering Wednesday’s home loss to Denver, Memphis had lost a total of 256 player-games to injury or illness this season, second most in the league behind the New Orleans Pelicans. The 68-7 Golden State Warriors, by contrast, have only used 16 players.
In 23 games games without Gasol, Memphis has managed to go a passable 11-12. But in nine games in March without Gasol, Conley and Zach Randolph, Memphis went 2-7, managing only a home win over New Orleans and an improbable March 7 upset in Cleveland of the Cavs with four starters out.