In yesterday's Weekend Dime, Marc Stein broke down what could be a huge story in the upcoming weeks for the D-League: non-guaranteed contracts.
Teams can start signing players to 10-day contracts on Tuesday, while players possessing non-guaranteed contracts will see those contracts become guaranteed if they survive with their current teams through Jan. 10.
The latter stipulation, though, means that the following 20 players -- including a certain Allen Iverson in Philly -- actually only have to make it through Wednesday, which is the last day teams can release players with non-guaranteed deals in time for them to clear waivers.
Obviously we'll hit the 10-day contract scenario pretty hard next week (maybe I can get some exclusive's out in Boise), but the prospect of players getting released so their contract doesn't become guaranteed could also factor into 10-day's, so I'll hit that briefly this morning as well.
Last year, Jawad Williams, DeMarcus Nelson and Richard Hendrix were all NBA casualties because their respective teams didn't want to guarantee their contracts. Both Williams and Nelson ended up finishing the season back in the NBA after nice, short D-League stints, while Hendrix played very well for the Dakota Wizards down the stretch.
Looking through Stein's list, I've deducted that the following players could all become a victim of the guaranteed contract cut and end up in the D-League in the coming month.
Coby Karl, Cleveland Cavaliers - Karl hasn't played a game since December 3rd, where he turned the ball over three times in two minutes of action, and has only played in three games total this season. Last season, he left the D-League to play overseas right after the Showcase. This year, I wonder if he won't rejoin the D-League right after the Showcase.
Marcus Landry, New York Knicks - Landry hasn't played in eight games for the Knicks this season, but hasn't gotten off the bench since December 4th. With the Knicks in severe luxury tax territory anyway, it doesn't make sense to fully guarantee Landry's salary. I'm surprised that he hasn't been assigned to the D-League, actually, but Donnie Walsh probably has some sort of reasoning for this.
Patrick Mills, Portland Trail Blazers - I know, they've held on to him this long, but it just doesn't make sense to me to guarantee his salary unless they really love what they see from him while he's on assignment with the Idaho Stampede, because he's already firmly entrenched as the teams fourth option at the point when many teams don't keep that many point guards on the roster. Mills broke his foot during Summer League and saw his first professional action last night in Reno with the Stampede. UPDATE: I wrote this before last night. He's good. Still, if they think they'll get healthy enough (i.e. if Blake isn't out more than this week), it wouldn't be crazy to decide not to guarantee the fourth-string point guard when it took a long time for the team to player Jerryd Bayless, the teams third-string point.
Darnell Jackson, Cleveland Cavaliers - Jackson does, occasionally, get minutes with the Cav's (16 games played), but with a full 15 man roster, he just isn't needed enough to guarantee his full salary. The alternative I guess, if they love him, would be to assign him to the Erie Bayhawks, but for whatever reason, that doesn't seem likely.
Mike Harris, Houston Rockets - Harris is a recent D-League call-up and probably isn't needed enough by the Rockets to get his contract guaranteed. If I'm the Rockets, I'd release him before his contract is guaranteed and if he's still needed after the Tracy McGrady saga plays out, sign him to a couple of 10-day contracts. If he's needed longer than that, obviously it'd make sense for him to be signed for the rest of the season, but I think the Rockets are deep enough that Harris isn't needed enough to be worth a guaranteed contract while already paying the luxury tax.
Jawad Williams, Cleveland Cavaliers - He was a casualty of this exact same situation last year, so it'd be tough to put him through it again this year. Still, it'd make sense to repeat the same thing as last season: Cut him so they don't have to guarantee his contract, sign him to back-to-back 10 day's, let him score out of his mind in the D-League, then pick him back up toward the end of the season as an insurance option for the playoff-run.