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No one should be expected to understand contract terminology in pro sports other than team executives, agents, and those who report on it.
Oh, and the Internal Revenue Service.
That said, you may be in the dark about what it means that Iowa’s Luka Garza and Joe Wieskamp have NBA two-way contracts with the Detroit Pistons and San Antonio Spurs, respectively, for the 2021-22 season. I’ll try to boil it down in English, not legalese.
Since the 2017-18 season, each NBA team has been allowed to carry two players not on the 15-man roster as two-way players. Two-way players are paid a flat salary equal to 50 percent of the minimum player salary available ($925,258) to players with zero years of service.
So, that’s $462,629.
The players can practice and work out with their NBA team all season long. A player under a two-way contract can be on an NBA team’s active list for a maximum of 50 regular-season games.
That’s pretty much it, I think. Maybe.
Also, two-way contracts can be converted into standard contracts at the team’s option, at any time. It’s happened many times during a season.
Two-way players typically play most of their games with their team’s G League affiliate. In Garza’s case, that will be the first-year Motor City Cruise, based in Detroit.
Which makes life convenient for him and the Pistons. He can practice with the Pistons during the day and play in Cruise home games at Wayne State University in Detroit the same night.
Garza and Wieskamp were second-round picks in the July NBA draft. Most second-rounders play some amount of time in the G League as pro rookies, and several sign two-way deals. We’ll discuss former two-way players who have prospered in a moment, but first let’s focus on Wieskamp.
He’ll split his time next season between the Spurs and their G League Austin Spurs affiliate. The two cities are 79 miles apart, so he may want to own a car in San Antonio.
Both players have a glut of players ahead of them at their positions. Detroit has three centers in Isaiah Stewart, Kelly Olynyk and Jahlil Okafor. San Antonio has wings o’ plenty.
Garza averaged 15.0 points and 21.2 minutes in his five NBA Summer League games with the Pistons in Las Vegas. He shot 52 percent from the field and made 40 percent of his 3-point tries. He was 11th in rebounding in the 30-team league, with 9.6 per game.
Wieskamp averaged 10.4 points over five games in Las Vegas. He made 8 of 26 3-pointers for 30.1 percent, a figure the Spurs will need to see him improve upon. He made 43.9 percent of his field goals, overall, and averaged 5.6 rebounds.
Now, about two-way guys …
The reality is that few two-way players have gone on to be impact players in the NBA since the two-way contract was initiated in 2017-18, and many fell by the wayside. However, nearly all of last season’s two-way guys have fall training camp homes for this season.
For a pair of two-way success stories, one need look no further than former Iowa State Cyclones Monte Morris and Georges Niang.
Niang was a second-round draft pick of the Indiana Pacers in 2016, but was waived by the Pacers after the 2016-17 season. While playing for the Golden State Warriors’ G League team in January 2018, Niang signed a two-way with the Utah Jazz.
He eventually played his way onto the Jazz’s 15-man roster, and was a rotation player for them last season, averaging 6.9 points. He parlayed that into a two-year, $6.7 million contract that he signed this month with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Morris was a second-round pick of the Denver Nuggets in 2017. He signed a two-way contract and spent nearly the entire 2017-18 season with Denver’s G League team in Sioux Falls, S.D. He played his way onto the Nuggets’ active roster the following season.
Morris averaged 13.7 points over Denver’s 10 playoff games last season. He signed a three-year, $27 million extension with the Nuggets last December.
They are exceptions. But they aren’t the only ones. Alex Caruso was a two-way player with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2017-18 and 2018-19. He recently signed a four-year, $37 million deal with the Chicago Bulls.
Garza and/or Wieskamp could add their names to those who have gone from two-way to established NBA player. In the meantime, it’s possible either could appear at an Iowa Wolves G League game this winter. That league’s schedules will be released this fall.
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