Other entries in the player preview series covered the players most likely to get at least some level of action with the Boston Celtics during the 2017-18 season. But what about the players on two-way contracts or on camp contracts? With the 15th roster spot open, there is a chance one of these players ends up playing minutes for Boston when the lights come on for real in mid-October.
Before we get into the players, it is worth taking some time to explain the new two-way contracts, since they are a new addition to the team building process. With the advent of the new collective bargaining agreement, which starts with the 2017-18 season, each NBA team is allowed to sign up to two players to a two-way contract. The league also added two roster spots to the regular season roster, bringing the maximum up to 17 per team (15 standard NBA contracts plus 2 two-way contracts). The two-way contracts also count towards the offseason maximum of 20 total players a team can carry.
So what is a two-way contract? Essentially, the team signs a player with the intention of having him play primarily in the NBA Gatorade League (NBAGL), but with the ability to call the player up to the NBA team when necessary. These players differ from your standard NBAGL players in that they are under contract with the NBA club. The standard NBAGL player is an NBA free agent and eligible to be signed by any of the 30 teams, not just the parent club of the NBAGL team they are playing for.
NBAGL assignments still exist as they always have. Think of James Young’s well-worn path from Boston to Maine and back to understand the assignment process. NBA teams can assign players with three or less years of service that are under contract to the NBAGL. This is often done so young players can get valuable game experience that they are not getting with the NBA squad.
There are a few more key components to two-way contracts. First, players can only spend a maximum of 45 days with the NBA club. Note that is 45 days, not 45 games. Once a player is called up, that 45 day clock starts and includes practices, travel days, off days and games. Every day they are on the NBA roster, the clock ticks. If they are sent back down, it stops and starts again when they are called back up.
An important thing to note is that the 45 days only comes into play during the NBAGL season. Days before the NBAGL starts training camp and days after the NBAGL season concludes for that team, do not count towards the 45 day clock. That means the players can spend the entirety of the preseason with the NBA team, the early part of the regular season and then re-join them for the end of the season (the NBAGL season is slightly shorter than the NBA season) without using any of the 45 days.
Second, players on a two-way contract can be traded. However, in a trade their value for salary matching purposes is $0.00. So, how often this occurs remains to be seen. Maybe a two-way player is tossed in to a trade as a sweetener, but that is about it.
Third, two-way players are not eligible for the NBA team’s postseason roster. So, don’t think if a two-way player is tearing it up in the NBAGL for the Maine Red Claws that the Celtics are adding some sort of secret weapon for the playoffs.
Fourth and last, two-way players can be converted to standard NBA contracts at any time. Provided they aren’t hard capped (the Celtics are not), the NBA team could sign the two-way player to a minimum contract (rookie or veteran). They could also use part of an exception (if one is available) or cap space (if available) to sign the players.
Basically, each team gets a bit more of a controlled look at a player they want to work with more, without being subject to losing him. A similar type of system exists in Major League Baseball, but with far more complexity. The NBA, with much small rosters and only one level of minor leagues, has adopted this to allow teams a touch more flexibility in the roster building process.
What about deals that are commonly referred to as “camp contracts”? These contracts usually refer to one of two things: A partial or non-guaranteed contract or a fully non-guaranteed summer contract. NBA teams will often bring players to training camp to fill out to the maximum of 20 roster spots. This allows the coach to evaluate more players, while also not straining his regulars throughout camp and the preseason. These players are generally given a small amount of guaranteed money to play for the NBA team in return. As long as the amount is $50,000 or less, the player is still eligible to play for that club’s NBAGL affiliate. If the NBA team pays them more, they are not eligible to play for their NBAGL affiliate, eliminating a loophole around the max a player can be paid while on a two-way contract.
Often, these contracts are fully non-guaranteed. These are essentially a make good deal, but really designed to get bodies into camp. The summer contract version is even more favorable to the NBA team, as it does not count against the salary cap at all unless the player makes the roster at the end of the preseason. Despite most of this taking place in the fall, the archaic “summer contract” term remains as a holdover from the day when these deals were commonly signed for Summer League.
Got all that? Good! Now on to the Celtics two-way and camp guys! Boston has used both of their two-way spots and signed 2017 draftees Kadeem Allen and Jabari Bird to one year two-way contracts. Boston has also signed two players to summer contracts, undrafted rookies L.J. Peak and Andrew White. Below is a little more about what each might bring to the Celtics.
At 6’3’’, with a solid build and good length, Allen, coming out of Arizona, makes his bones as a defensive player first. He can defend either guard position, as well as some of the smaller forwards, using his quickness and length to stay attached. He’s a physical defender who likes to get up into the body of his opponents. He’s the exact type of bulldog defender Danny Ainge has shown an affinity for, in the mold of Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier.
Offensively, Allen is a developing player. He improved as a shooter throughout his college career, but prefers getting to the rim over taking jumpers. His point guard skills, likely his position in the NBA, need some work. He’s a little loose with the ball at times, both when passing and dribbling.
Allen will turn 25 in mid-January, so he’s on the older side for a prospect. His best bet is to stick to his defensive stopper role if he’s to make it in the NBA.
Unlike his PAC-12 compatriot Allen, Bird made his reputation on the offensive end while at California. He has good size (6’6’’) and athleticism for a wing player and has a very good three-point shot. He’s aggressive with the ball in his hands and doesn’t hesitate to get his shot off. He’s not a selfish gunner though. Occasionally he’ll let a bad shot fly, but most of his looks come within the framework of the offense. Bird will be challenged to create off the bounce against NBA defense. He’ll also need to tighten up his handle and his passing to play in a system like Brad Stevens’ which emphasizes quick ball and player movement.
On defense, Bird is competitive, but lacks the strength to defend his position. Most players are able to get a shoulder into him and knock him back to create space. He’s willing, so if he can add bulk without sacrificing quickness, he should be able to hold his own eventually.
Peak came on late in the draft process, garnering buzz but ultimately went undrafted out of Georgetown. He’s seen as a potential “3&D” player at the NBA level, and maybe beyond that as a scorer. He hit from all over the floor, all the way out to the NBA arc. He’s also solid at creating contact and getting to the line, where he shoots a high percentage. At times he can get out of control, which ends up with lost possessions due to turnovers.
On defense, Peak uses his good frame to contest shots and challenge players on drives. He’s got enough quickness to guard 1-3, but may be a bit short (6’5’’) to handle the bigger wings. On occasion, Peak will suffer defenses lapses, where he seems to lose focus. This happens more off the ball than on, and often when he’s not matched up with a high-end scorer. Peak fits the Celtics mold of a defensive-minded player, who can also knock down jumpers.
It was somewhat of a surprise when White went undrafted out of Syracuse. Concerns with his ability to defend at an NBA level, his age (already 24 years old) and questions about his off the dribble game, kept him from being selected. But White does have some strengths. He has excellent size (6’7’’) and good length for a wing player. He’s also a terrific shooter, both standstill and off screens. He shoots well on the move, but struggles to create space off the bounce. This limits him to being a player who has to have others create for him. His ball handling is solid, but his passing needs work.
On defense, as with many prospects from Syracuse, there are questions about his individual defense. Syracuse largely plays a 2-3 zone, which leaves a lot to be desired in terms of evaluating man-to-man ability. In limited man action, he’s had a hard time keeping players in front of him and relies on help all too often. This is likely a byproduct of playing zone so much. White is a good rebounder for his position and competitive in fighting for the ball in traffic.
Overall, White has a shot at making an NBA roster because of his shooting ability. If he can ever crack an NBA rotation will depend on his ability to learn how to defend.