Hoops Rumors Glossary: 10-Day Contract

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, letting him go. A player can’t sign three standard 10-day 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 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. In 2022, for instance, Drew Eubanks ended up signing five 10-day deals with the Trail Blazers. Eubanks was still limited to two standard 10-day contracts with Portland, but three of his deals came via a hardship exception, which the Blazers qualified for as a result of having four or more injured players.

However, that loophole was closed in the latest CBA as the NBA moved beyond its COVID era. Regardless of whether a player is signed to a standard or hardship 10-day contract, he’s no longer permitted to sign a third 10-day deal with the same club.

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 a hardship exception doesn’t count against that 15-man limit.

Under the NBA’s newest Collective Bargaining Agreement, a 10-day deal must be worth a prorated portion of the player’s minimum salary. In the past, a player could technically earn more than the minimum on a 10-day contract, though that essentially never happened.

A 10-day contract for a rookie this season will be worth $64,343, which is 10/174ths of the full-season rookie minimum salary. A one-year veteran will earn $103,550, and a 10-day deal for any veteran with two or more years of NBA service would represent a cost of $116,075 to the team.

Veterans with more than two years of NBA service would earn more than $116,075 on a 10-day contract, but the league would pay the extra freight. However, teams gain no financial advantage if they pass on 10-day agreements with more experienced players in favor of rookies or one-year veterans in an effort to limit their end-of-season luxury 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 be on the hook for a slightly higher salary 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 Celtics were to sign a player to a 10-day contract on February 14, for instance, his contract would actually cover 11 days, since Boston plays games on Feb. 14, Feb. 22, and 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. A team that terminates a 10-day contract early isn’t permitted to re-sign the player before the full 10-day term is over.
  • Players whose 10-day contracts are terminated early don’t go on waivers, so they become free agents immediately. Still, those players receive their entire 10-day salaries — the contracts are fully guaranteed for the 10 days.
  • A team is permitted to carry up to three players on standard 10-day contracts as long as the team has a full 15-man roster. A team with an open spot on its standard 15-man roster can only carry up to two players on 10-day deals. If a team has just 13 players on standard contracts, only one of them can be on a 10-day pact.
  • 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.
  • A standard 10-day contract can’t be signed with fewer than 10 days left in the regular season. However, a hardship 10-day deal can be signed during that time and would simply be prorated to cover the remaining days in the regular season. At the conclusion of the regular season, a player on a hardship 10-day deal would immediately become a free agent, with his team holding no form of Bird rights on him.

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 previous years by Luke Adams and Chuck Myron.

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