During the early part of an NBA season, a team that wants to sign a player to a short-term contract generally does so by agreeing to a non-guaranteed deal, giving the club the flexibility to waive him without paying his full-season salary. But non-guaranteed contracts are only an option until January 7 — any standard, rest-of-season deal signed after that date must be guaranteed for the season.
Around the same time the league-wide salary guarantee date arrives, the NBA gives teams the ability to sign players to 10-day contracts, which essentially replace non-guaranteed deals during the second half of the season.
Ten-day contracts can be signed each year beginning on January 5 and are exactly what they sound like — contracts that cover 10 days (including the day they’re signed). A player who signs a 10-day deal on January 5 would remain eligible to play for his team through January 14, but not on January 15, unless he signs a new contract.
A team can sign a player to as many as two 10-day contracts before committing to him for the rest of the season or, as in many cases, turning him away. A player can’t sign three 10-day standard contracts with the same team, but after signing two 10-day deals with one club, he’s allowed to sign another with a separate club.
The NBA has tweaked this rule in recent years to allow three or more 10-day contracts with the same team for players who are signed via the hardship provision. Last season, for instance, Drew Eubanks ended up signing five 10-day deals with the Trail Blazers. A team qualifies for a hardship exception when it meets certain criteria — those criteria have evolved in recent years to cover COVID-19 cases, but historically involved the club having at least four injured players.
While a team signing a player to a standard 10-day contract must have an open spot on its 15-man roster to accommodate the signing, a player signed via the hardship provision doesn’t count against that 15-man limit.
Even though they can technically be worth more, 10-day deals are almost always worth a prorated portion of the player’s minimum salary. A minimum-salary 10-day contract for a rookie this season will be worth $58,493, or 10/174ths of the full-season rookie minimum salary. A one-year veteran would earn $94,136. A minimum-salary 10-day deal for any veteran of two or more seasons would represent a cost of $105,522 to the team.
Veterans with more than two years of NBA experience would earn more than $105,522 on a 10-day contract, but the league would pay the extra freight. However, teams gain no financial advantage if they eschew 10-day contracts with more experienced players to sign rookies or one-year veterans to 10-day deals in an effort to reduce their tax penalty — those deals count the same as the ones for two-year veterans when the league calculates a team’s salary for tax purposes.
Teams would have to pay slightly more if they sign a player to a 10-day contract and they have fewer than three games on their schedule over that 10-day period. In those cases, the length of the 10-day contract is extended so that it covers three games for the team.
It’s rare that any team would have such a light schedule, since most play at least three games a week, but the rule generally comes into play for contracts signed just before the All-Star break. If the Knicks were to sign a player to a 10-day contract on February 13 this season, for instance, his contract would actually cover 12 days, since New York plays games on Feb. 13, Feb. 15, and then not again until Feb. 24.
Here are a few more rules related to 10-day contracts:
- A team may terminate a 10-day contract before it runs to term if it wants to use the roster spot to accommodate a waiver claim, signing, or trade acquisition.
- Players whose 10-day contracts are terminated early don’t go on waivers, so they become free agents immediately. Still, those players receive their full 10-day salaries — the contracts are fully guaranteed for the 10 days.
- A team with a full 15-man roster is permitted to have up to three active players on 10-day contracts.
- A 10-day deal must be a standard NBA contract. In other words, a team can’t sign a player to a two-way, 10-day contract.
Note: This is a Hoops Rumors Glossary entry. Our glossary posts will explain specific rules relating to trades, free agency, or other aspects of the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. Larry Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ was used in the creation of this post.
Earlier versions of this post were published in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017 by Luke Adams and Chuck Myron.