Since the advent of the two-way contract in the still freshly-inked NBA collective bargaining agreement, the benefits of the new contract option have been most notable among undrafted free agents (Mike Young and Johnathan Motley), second round picks from the 2017 NBA Draft (Monte Morris and Kadeem Allen), international league veterans (Yakuba Outtara and Torrey Craig), and G League standouts (Jalen Jones and Alex Caruso).
Many imagine the two-way contract option as an opportunity to encourage future development for prospects or offer a rare lifeline to veterans who have grinded for years outside of the NBA. However, what about veterans who have had chances in the NBA yet still may have utility to offer in the league?
Adreian Payne signing a two-way contract with the Orlando Magic serves one example of using the two-way contract to not only spark burgeoning NBA careers but also make prolonging fringe NBA careers more feasible.
Adreian Payne exited the 2014 NBA Draft as an intriguing post-lottery selection of the draft who fit the popular wave of finding stretch center archetypes. Extending his shooting range as an upperclassman at Michigan State to beyond the arc (40.2% career NCAA three-point shooting percentage) gave Payne the 2nd tool to attach with his space-smothering 7’4” wingspan to fulfill the role of the sweet-shooting rim protector.
Unfortunately, the tools did not pan out on either side of the court as the NCAA shooting success did not translate in the past 3 seasons (23.2% career NBA three-point shooting percentage) and some limited mobility and explosiveness muted Payne’s rim-protection influence.
The scenery change from his drafted team the Atlanta Hawks to the Minnesota Timberwolves did not demonstrate much difference in success unfortunately for Payne. Payne went from being the understudy of All-Stars Paul Millsap and Al Horford to becoming the part of the youth movement up north with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. A youth movement that unfortunately had to transition from the death of its architect, Flip Saunders.
However, freed from the weight of his rookie contract, Payne could rebuild his reputation and confidence with the re-branded Lakeland Magic of the G League. The Orlando Magic front-court currently stands crowded, which could allow Payne to solely concentrate on helping lead the Lakeland squad with new general manager Anthony Parker and new head coach Stan Heath until at least next spring.
The front-court rotation of Nikola Vucevic, Bismack Biyombo, Aaron Gordon, new lottery pick Jonathan Isaac, international star Khem Birch, and Marreese Speights seems ripe for a trade. But until then the 26 year old Payne can relax and prove he does fit in today’s NBA as much as everyone had hoped.