As of Tuesday, February 23, NBA teams can begin signing free agents to 10-day contracts without requiring a hardship exception to do so. The annual 10-day window typically opens on January 5, but that date was pushed back in 2021 to account for the season’s later start date.
A 10-day contract allows a team to add a player to its roster for either 10 days or three games (whichever occurs later) without any commitment beyond that. A player can sign up to two 10-day deals with the same team in a single season — after those two contracts, the team must decide whether to sign him to a rest-of-season contract or part ways with him.
For some teams, the 10-day contract provides an opportunity to take a flier on a young player to see if he deserves a longer-term look. Other clubs may utilize 10-day deals for short-term injury fill-ins, or simply to meet minimum roster requirements.
As is the case in a typical season, the NBA’s 10-day signing window will open during the same week that the league-wide salary guarantee deadline arrives. In a normal season, teams would have to release players on non-guaranteed contracts by January 7 to ensure they clear waivers before the guarantee date of Jan. 10. This season, those cuts must be completed by February 24 to beat the Feb. 27 guarantee date.
The start of the 10-day contract period and the salary guarantee deadline go hand in hand, since teams cutting players before their salaries become fully guaranteed will often sign players to 10-day contracts to fill those newly-opened roster spots — in some cases, the same player who was waived at the salary guarantee deadline returns to his team on a 10-day contract, as clubs looks to maximize their roster flexibility.
So far this week, the Pelicans have waived Sindarius Thornwell to avoid locking in his full-season cap hit, and the Lakers are poised to do the same with Quinn Cook. There will likely be several more cuts made around the NBA by Wednesday evening. Already, 11 teams have at least one 15-man roster opening.