What if I told you that next season the NBA roster will move from 15 players to 17?
It’s happening. Well, kind of.
Under the NBA’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement that into effect on July 1, 2017, there is a new type of contract that allows teams to carry a 16th and 17th player for a limited amount of time, called a “two-way contract”.
What is a two-way contract?
A two-way contract allows players to rotate between the NBA and their G-League (formerly the NBA D-League) affiliate for up to a maximum of 45 days on the NBA roster. Using these contracts an NBA team can carry a 16th and 17th project player on their roster for a limited amount of time while also letting the player get reps in the G-League.
How’s the pay?
Players signed to these deals can be signed for one or two years and are paid on a tiered salary system. Along with a $75,000 G-League salary the player will also earn an amount of roughly $4,531 for each day they are on the NBA roster, assuming a 180 day season. They can potentially earn up to $203,903 in addition to their G-League salary if they are in the NBA for the 45 day max, resulting in a possible annual salary of roughly $279,000. When these players are on the team’s NBA roster they are essentially working on a daily, pro-rated NBA rookie minimum contract, which is set to be $815,615 for the 2017-2018 season.
What’s the catch?
There’s always a catch. As mentioned before, the player can only be on an NBA roster for a maximum of 45 days. In addition to the 45 day max the player must have less than 4 years of league experience and a team can only sign 2 players to the two-year deal.
The team will also own the rights to the player signed to the two-way deal, so they cannot be called up by another NBA team. By signing these deals the players are technically getting more money than they would make on a normal G-League contract (roughly $30K or less) but they are also giving up some freedom in return. Currently, G-League players can get called up and signed by any NBA team that has a need. Under the two-way contract, the player is only allowed to be called up by the NBA team that has signed them to the two-way deal. These deals lead to a higher G-League salary and the opportunity to earn extra in the NBA but can potentially cause players to miss opportunities to showcase themselves for a team with an open spot on their roster. Not being able to play and sign for another team can lead to the players missing out on a shot at a regular NBA contract and thus the potential for more money.
The Mavericks and Two-Way Contracts
The Dallas Mavericks front office has already put the new two-way contract to use by signing undrafted 6-foot 9-inch Baylor power forward Johnathan Motley to a two-way deal on June 24th. Motley was named the best power forward in NCAA men’s basketball after receiving the Karl Malone Award for the 2016-2017 season. He averaged 17.3 points and 9.9 rebounds in 30.5 minutes per game during his junior year at Baylor. In April Motley had surgery to repair a torn meniscus, causing him to go un-drafted. Motley fits the mold of the type of players these two-way contracts are targeting: project players, either because they need refinement or because they had an injury causing them to fall to the bottom or out of the draft, that teams want to lock into their franchise (and maybe more importantly, keep away from other teams).
Because they have already used a two-way deal on Motley, Dallas has one two-way deal remaining. There are two players on the Mavericks Las Vegas summer league roster that could get the last two-way deal: Brandon Ashley and Ding Yanyuhang.
Brandon Ashley is a 6-foot 9-inch, 230-pound power forward that is averaging 16.5 points on 59% shooting in Las Vegas. He has shown the ability to step out and hit the three ball, averaging 40% from beyond the arc in his Orlando and Las Vegas summer league games. The NBA has grown to appreciate long, athletic players that can guard multiple positions on defense and create space on the offensive end with a respectable three point shot. From his summer league production, he seems like he can be that type of player.
Ashley is familiar with the Mavericks organization as he was signed by Dallas in July of 2015 before eventually being cut after training camp. He also played on Dallas’s 2016 summer team in Orlando. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said that Ashley “has a real shot” at making the team while he was on ESPN during the Dallas game against Phoenix on Sunday. Maybe the Mavericks are looking at the former Pac-12 Most Outstanding player to make the team via the new two-way contract.
If you have watched the summer league you have heard of Ding Yanyuhang. He has become a crowd favorite, causing an uproar from fans every time he steps on the court. He even made it to the Twitter moments feed after the Mavericks first Las Vegas summer league game against the Bulls. Like Ashley, Ding is also long, standing at 6 foot 7 inches tall. One negative is that he only weighs 200 pounds, which can cause problems when trying to guard stronger small forwards. Through seven summer league games in Orlando and Las Vegas Ding is averaging 7.7 points and 2.9 rebounds in 18 minutes. Shooting 46% from the field and 33% from three, he has shown the ability to knock down shots. Most importantly, he has been hounding teams on defense and battling for rebounds. That type of energy can sometimes not translate to measurable statistics, but his team and the fans have taken notice of the edge he plays with.
Although Ding could get offered a two-way deal he may not want to take it. He was named the domestic MVP of the Chinese Basketball Association’s 2016-2017 regular season. After winning the award he may be able to command a higher salary in the CBA than the roughly $279,000 he could make under the two-way contract. There is also a language and culture barrier to overcome if he wants to play in the US. Even with those potential drawbacks a two-way offer for a wing player that has played six professional seasons at the age of 23 makes sense from the Mavericks perspective.
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