Timberwolves' final two-way roster spot is up for grabs: Could someone in camp grab it?
MINNEAPOLIS — Players and teams alike appear to be taking a wait-and-see approach to the NBA's new two-way contracts. The new rule, adopted this season, allows NBA teams to expand their roster sizes from 15 players to 17, with two of those spots to be filled by players under two-way deals.
Those two-way players can bounce back and forth between an NBA team and its G-League affiliate, which, for Minnesota, is the Iowa Wolves. The players will make the rookie minimum while they're on the NBA roster and the NBA team can sign either of their two-way players to full-fledged NBA contracts at any time, assuming it has the roster space to do so.
Here's the catch: a two-way player can only spend a maximum of 45 days on the NBA roster. The rest must be spent with the G-League affiliate. So, according to the website https://2ways10days.com/nba-two-way-contracts-faq-70d1c9cbbe9, the maximum salary they can make is $275,000. The rookie minimum salary for players on the 15-man NBA roster is $815,615.
And will all 45 of those days a two-way player can spend with the NBA club be spent on game days? Or will a player be brought up to practice with the NBA team? No one seems to have a concrete plan for those players yet, including the Timberwolves.
"Since it's new, you don't really know, because there's no history behind it," said Anthony Brown, the lone player to sign a two-way contract with Minnesota to date." So as far as that's concerned, I think that's just more of a play-it-by-ear type of thing."
Tom Thibodeau, the Timberwolves coach and president of basketball operations, said he thinks the whole league is trying to find the best approach to take for two-way players, but he does like the idea behind it.
"Having two guys that can go up and down, I think it's good for the league, it keeps better players here, so those are all positives," Thibodeau said. "The thing I like about the two-way part of it is you get a guy in and you can really work with him and develop him and someone else can't poach him from you. You put the time in and development and now that guy is part of your organization and team. I like that. Real exciting about our staff in Des Moines. I think we've got a terrific staff and we're looking forward to it."
Minnesota still has another two-way contract to use and exactly who will get it is still unknown. They aren't the easiest slots to fill — only 14 teams have used both of their two-way deals — because fringe-NBA players might think signing two-way deals and locking themselves in with one team isn't as good of an option as waiting to see if they can nab a more lucrative full-time position on another team's 15-man roster should a spot open up because of injury or some other circumstance.
It's possible the second player to sign a two-way deal in Minnesota could currently be in Timberwolves' training camp. Marcus Georges-Hunt and rookies Amile Jefferson and Melo Trimble are all on non-guaranteed training camp deals, and Thibodeau seems to be a fan of all of them.
Amile Jefferson is an athletic big who did nothing but win at Duke. Melo Trimble can give the Timberwolves added point guard depth and Marcus Georges-Hunt is a physical player who can get to the rim and defend.
"I like the guys that we have here," Thibodeau said. "They've all done a really good job. They're serious-minded, they've put a lot of work into it. I think they've helped our camp here. I want to see how it unfolds."
But, for all three of those players, landing a two-way spot might not be the ideal outcome. The Timberwolves have two open spots on their original 15-man roster. Thibodeau has said he'd like to keep one spot open to maintain some roster flexibility, but that means one spot is up for grabs.
For a guy like Georges-Hunt, who's already performed well at the G-League level and gotten a sniff of the NBA, earning a full-time spot on the Timberwolves' roster is his preferred route.
"I started off in the G-League last year, I had a successful season," he said. "It's something (where) I'm keeping an open mind. I read into it a little bit, but I'm just trying to make the (NBA) team."