Can NBA teams without a D-League affiliate offer two-way contracts?

Updated: February 21, 2017

One of the biggest changes in the NBA’s recently ratified Collective Bargaining Agreement was the addition of two-way contracts.

Each NBA team will be able to offer a pair of these two-way deals, allowing players to move freely between the NBA and D/G-League. Click here to read some of the specifics on the two-way contracts we reported on last month when the CBA was officially signed off on by the NBA and NBPA.

One question remained though, what about teams without their own D-League affiliate? Will they be able to offer two-way contracts like the rest of the league? The answer is yes.

Currently, five teams are without their own D-League affiliate (Los Angeles Clippers, Portland, Denver, New Orleans, Washington) for the 2017-18 season when two-way contracts will go into effect. But, how will players move from the NBA and the D/G-League in this fashion? The same way assignment players move back and forth, via flex assignment.

This existing system will also apply to players on two-way contracts between those clubs and the D/G-League. NBA teams without an affiliate of their own submit a player’s name to the D/G-League at which point those clubs can decide whether or not they want to accept the player at that given time. The NBA club can then choose from a list of teams that are willing to accept the player at that time.

If no team wants to accept a player, there is a lottery to be held for teams that are not owned by NBA clubs to take on the player. This lottery has never happened to the best of my knowledge, partly because NBA clubs talk to one another in advance of assigning a player to the D/G-League to gauge where they may end up.

The other question then becomes, will two-way contracts count against a 10-man active roster? Players sent on assignment do not count against the active roster, making it easier for teams to acquire flex assignment players if they so choose (less roster moves to make as players move back and forth more fluidly).

I’m inclined to say they will count against the roster, if only because the D/G-League will be paying their salary while they move back to their team’s affiliate. Assignment players, unlike two-way players, still maintain their NBA salary while on assignment.

Salaries for two-way players are dependent upon which league they are currently playing for. Two-way players earn the D/G-League “A” salary ($25,000) when playing in that league. When they move back to the NBA they will earn the rookie scale contract pro-rated for each day they are with the NBA club, for a maximum of 45 days.

Not allowing teams to utilize the two-way contracts would not be in the best interest of either league, and is done to level the playing field. It wouldn’t make sense to have some teams increase their active rosters to 17 players, while seeming penalizing others simply because they don’t have a D-League team, yet.

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