When the NBA instituted two-way contracts prior to the 2017-18 season, teams were quick to jump on the new opportunity, and the Portland Trail Blazers were no exception. The team signed both Wade Baldwin IV and CJ Wilcox to deals, and while Wilcox never appeared in a Blazers uniform, Baldwin made the most of his chance. His contract was made guaranteed before the end of the season, and he established himself as a defensive stopper and spark plug off the bench, even earning minutes in the playoffs.
Baldwin then signed an extension this summer, making him one of the best success stories of the new system. He wasn’t the only one; players like Quinn Cook and Monte Morris have gone from two-way players to rotation guys on quality teams. Two-wayers Allonzo Trier and Gary Clark are already turning heads this season, with the latter even taking minutes from Carmelo Anthony on the Houston Rockets.
With only two rounds in the NBA Draft, multiple players slip through the cracks every year, and the new contracts allow teams to take a chance on undrafted players, without having to use up a roster spot.
This year, the Blazers are the only team in the league without at least one two-way contract on their roster. What makes this all the more puzzling is the fact that two-way contracts don’t count against the salary cap. There’s really no reason to not take advantage of the new rule. Under a two-way contract players can spend up to 45 days with an NBA club, and the rest of their time with the team’s G-League affiliate. The cost is barely a drop in the bucket for NBA teams, as they only pay the player 1/170 of the rookie minimum for every day of NBA service. Two-way players also earn a $70,000 G-League contract. Per 2 Ways and 10 Days, that ends up equaling out to a maximum salary of $385,000.*
Of course, the Blazers face a unique obstacle in regards to the G-League, as they are one of just three NBA teams without an affiliate. The Pelicans will have a franchise in the junior circuit in 2019, which will leave the Nuggets as the only other team without one. The obvious difficulty here is that they wouldn’t have much control over the player outside of his 45 days with the big league team, which could hinder development in terms of the team’s overall system.
Teams without an affiliate can place their player on another team’s roster through the Flexible Assignment Rule. Last year, Baldwin and Morris spent the G-League portion of their season with another team’s affiliate. Both signed guaranteed deals with their respective teams regardless, so that doesn’t appear to be too much of a hindrance to the effectiveness of the contract.
It’s also important to note that the Blazers are running out of time to capitalize on such contracts, as after January 15th no two-way contracts can be signed for the remainder of the season. Portland could very well be in wait-and-see mode, but it’s time to start honing in on players that could potentially serve a minor role on the team, particularly in the front court, where they lack depth.
Two-way contracts are low risk and potentially high reward. If a player doesn’t work out, as was the case with Wilcox, teams don’t even have to call them up. The Blazers need to look no further than the end of their own bench to view the benefits of these contracts. Wade Baldwin hasn’t had much of an impact this season, but there’s no denying that he provides depth should the team have to deal with any significant injuries.
It’s time for Portland to get with the program and make use of this wonderful option at their disposal.
*Note: Two Way and 10 Days has a thorough FAQ on two-way contracts, available here.