Throughout the offseason and preseason, NBA teams are permitted to carry up to 21 players, but that total must be cut down to 15 (plus three 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 the time the NBA regular season begins, 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 $75K after having signed Exhibit 10 contracts. Plus, they’ll continue to be NBA free agents while they play in the G League.
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 and weeks leading up to the regular season.
An affiliate player also can’t have received a partial guarantee worth more than $75K on his standard or two-way contract — a larger guarantee would make him ineligible to join his club’s NBAGL affiliate for the rest of that league year.
Finally, while 29 NBA teams will have a G League affiliate in 2023/24, the Suns still don’t have one, meaning they have no place to send affiliate players and therefore aren’t permitted to designate any.
Hoops Rumors typically publishes the annual list of affiliate players around the start of the G League season, so if you’re interested in it, you can keep an eye out for it in November.
This is a Hoops Rumors glossary entry. Earlier versions of this post were published in 2015, 2019, and 2021 by Chuck Myron and Luke Adams.