10-Day Contract Window Opens; Salary Guarantee Deadline Looms

As of today – Thursday, January 5 – NBA teams can begin signing free agents to 10-day contracts.

A 10-day contract, as we outline in our newly updated glossary entry, 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 standard 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.

The NBA’s 10-day signing window always opens just ahead of the league-wide salary guarantee deadline. If a team wants to let go of a player on a non-guaranteed contract to avoid being on the hook for his full-season salary, it must release that player on or before Saturday, January 7 to ensure he clears waivers prior to the guarantee date of Jan. 10.

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 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.

The Raptors waived Justin Champagnie last week because he had an early salary guarantee date of January 1. No other players on non-guaranteed deals have been cut since then, but we’ll likely see at least a small handful released before Saturday evening.

Eleven teams, including Toronto, already have an 15-man roster opening, though most of them won’t rush to fill their open roster spots with 10-day signees. As Bobby Marks of ESPN notes (via Twitter), five of the 11 teams with roster openings are in luxury tax territory and two others are below the tax threshold by about $200K or less, so they won’t be eager to add even a modest 10-day cap hit to their books.

Additionally, those clubs may want to maximize their roster flexibility in advance of the trade deadline — during the last three seasons, 84% of the year’s 10-day signings have occurred after the deadline passes, per Marks (Twitter link).

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