Throughout the offseason and preseason, NBA teams are permitted to carry 20 players, but that total must be cut down to 15 (plus a pair of two-way players) in advance of opening night. However, up to four players waived by a team prior to the season can be designated as “affiliate players” and assigned to that team’s G League squad.
The players have a say in this decision. If they’d prefer to sign with a team overseas, or if they get an opportunity with another NBA club, they’re under no obligation to become affiliate players. But if the player’s NBA team has designated him as an affiliate player and he signs a G League contract, he is automatically assigned to that team’s NBAGL roster.
Since most NBA and international teams aren’t looking to bring in extra players by late October, the opportunity to continue playing in the same system appeals to many of those preseason cuts — especially since many of them will be in line for bonuses worth up to $50K after having signed Exhibit 10 contracts. Plus, they’ll continue to be NBA free agents while they play in the G League.
There are a few other rules related to G League affiliate players. A player whose returning rights are held by a G League team can’t become an affiliate player for another club, which is why undrafted rookies typically make up a substantial portion of the annual league-wide list of affiliate players.
Additionally, an affiliate player must have signed with his team during the current league year, which explains why we often see players signed and quickly waived in the days leading up to the regular season. He also can’t have had a partial guarantee worth more than $50K on his standard contract — a larger guarantee would make him ineligible to join his club’s NBAGL affiliate for the rest of that league year.
Finally, not every NBA team has a G League affiliate, so there are two teams – the Nuggets and Trail Blazers – with no place to send affiliate players.
In 2018/19, a total of 26 NBA teams designated 77 affiliate players. That number could easily be matched or exceeded this season.
An earlier version of this post was published in 2015 by Chuck Myron. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.