A player who signs a two-way contract with an NBA team is permitted to be active for up to 50 regular season games. That limit is prorated if the player signed his two-way deal after the regular season got underway — for instance, a player who finalized a two-way contract halfway through the season would be permitted to be active for up to 25 contests at the NBA level.
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Several two-way players have been promoted to standard contracts recently, eliminating those games-played limits. GG Jackson (Grizzlies), Keon Ellis (Kings), Lindy Waters III (Thunder), Craig Porter Jr. (Cavaliers), Duop Reath (Trail Blazers), and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (Pelicans) have all signed new deals since the trade deadline.
However, there are still a number of players on two-way contracts around the league who are at or near their active-game limit for the season. Keith Smith of Spotrac (Twitter link) identifies Celtics big man Neemias Queta, Mavericks guard Brandon Williams, Grizzlies guard Jacob Gilyard, and Hornets teammates Leaky Black and Nathan Mensah as two-way players who have 10 or fewer active games left, while Hawks guard Trent Forrest has already reached his 50-game limit.
In some cases, promotions to the standard roster may be forthcoming. Queta, for instance, has been a semi-regular contributor off the bench for the Celtics, who have an open spot on their 15-man roster, so if Boston wants to make him playoff-eligible and ensure he’s able to be active for the rest of the regular season, a contract conversion would be pretty straightforward.
Other cases could be trickier. While the Hawks would presumably like to have Forrest available for the rest of the season, they have a full 15-man roster, so they’d have to waive someone to make room to promote him.
Atlanta at least has some viable release candidates on its roster — for instance, veterans Patty Mills and Wesley Matthews haven’t played much and aren’t owed guaranteed money beyond this season. But that’s not the case in Memphis, where Gilyard has made a strong case for a promotion from his two-way deal by averaging 4.7 points and 3.5 assists in 37 games (17.7 MPG), with a .425 3PT%.
The Grizzlies have already promoted Jackson and Vince Williams from two-way contracts and may not have any expendable players left on their 15-man roster who could be cut to make room for Gilyard. Luke Kennard ($14.8MM team option for 2024/25) and Lamar Stevens (unrestricted free agent this summer) are the only Grizzlies not owed any guaranteed money after this season, and both are playing rotation roles for the banged-up club.
“We’ll see what happens when the time comes,” Gilyard said of his uncertain situation, according to Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. “As a basketball player, it’s definitely on your mind. I try not to let it affect me. I think that’s probably the worst part about being a point guard is you start to understand things and start to grasp things like that.”
“It’s kind of a juggling act,” Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins said of working within those active-game limits for his two-way players, including Gilyard and Scotty Pippen Jr. “It’s hard to make those decisions, trying to preserve those dates. (Pippen’s) understood it. I was very upfront with him when he came in, (general manager) Zach (Kleiman) and myself. I think when he came in, we were maybe on the 40-game mark, but he didn’t have 40 games available, so it’s very unfortunate.
“Maybe it’s something that we look into as a league because I think he’s earned the opportunity to play every single night. We just have to balance the games he actually has available to him.”
Besides those players who are approaching their games-played limits, there are a few others on two-way contracts around the league who look like candidates to be promoted to standard rosters before the end of the regular season. Nets forward Jalen Wilson and Warriors guard Lester Quinones are among those who were playing regularly for their respective clubs leading up to the All-Star break.
Promoting a player to a standard contract would open up a two-way slot for his team, allowing that club to reset its active-game counter for that slot — at least to some extent. Due to the prorated nature of those game limits, a player who signs a two-way contract today could only be active for up to 16 games the rest of the way, but that’s 16 more games than, say, Forrest is eligible to play for the Hawks as long as he remains on his current two-way deal.
Teams have until March 4 to sign players to two-way contracts, so I expect to see a good deal of roster activity related to two-way slots within the next couple weeks.