In the beginning of this off-season, teams across the NBA were given this new toy to utilize called the two-way contract. This addition technically gave teams an additional 16th and 7th roster spot, as they had the option to sign two players to a deal that would give a certain prospect(s) an opportunity to play in the NBA G League where they’d receive up to $75,000, a significant improvement over the average G League contract.
Alongside that, that player could potentially occupy up to 45 days on an NBA roster, where they would earn $200,000 if they spend the entirety of that time in the Association.
Although that new tool definitely excited many folks around the NBA, most teams were hesitant to dole out those deals. Within the two weeks after the two-way deals went into effect on July 1st, only twelve teams signed players to those contracts.
Only two of those squads, the Milwaukee Bucks and Washington Wizards, actually filled out both of those slots. The Bucks were the first team to do it as they signed Bronson Koenig and Jalen Moore before July 8th, while the Wizards didn’t accomplish that until the 13th. Milwaukee’s quickness meant that they filled out both of their two-way slots before the 2nd day of Vegas Summer League.
At that point, it seemed to be a little puzzling that the Bucks were just willing to fill their two-way spots so early in the off-season. Of course, NBA teams can definitely infatuated with prospects, it would’ve made sense for them to at least wait until after they got an opportunity to see those prospects compete in Vegas Summer League. Although that’s not the greatest competition, it would’ve just been a solid way for them to figure out how Koenig and Moore compete against competition.
Coinciding with that, the Bucks incredible swiftness meant that they really didn’t know what type of players that they’d be able to actually sign to a two-way deal. When the Bucks signed Moore and Koenig, the only guys that received two-way deals were either undrafted players (Kobi Simmons and Johnathan Motley) or G League alums that spent time overseas (Malcolm Miller). At that time, it didn’t seem odd for them to sign two solid college graduates to that contract.
However, that early mindset took a 180 degree turn as the weeks went by as more experienced players started to signing two-way deals. Starting with Australian star Torrey Craig signing with Denver on July 14th, we quickly saw the likes of Jamil Wilson (LA Clippers), Lorenzo Brown (Toronto Raptors), JaKarr Sampson and Jack Cooley (Sacramento Kings) all got signed to two-way deals during late July. That stretch continued into August as we saw Adreian Payne catch on with the Magic while the 76ers signed 2x NBA champion James McAdoo to a two-way deal on the 29th.
From the jump, it seemed like the Bucks remained steadfast into having Koenig and Moore remain within the organization as two-way prospects. However, things got a little weird when the team signed guard James to a training camp deal on September 6th.
According to BasketballInsiders’ Eric Pincus and ESPN’s Bobby Marks, Young’s deal was non-guaranteed which also featured an Exhibit 10 exemption. Those facts combined with Young having three years of NBA experience meant that he was technically eligible to receive a two-way deal down the line. Of course, the Bucks would’ve had to waive More and/or Koenig to make room for Young.
That opening was made on the 10th as the Bucks waived Jalen Moore, ending the forward’s two-month stint with the team. While the move initially came off as a surprise, it made sense when you heard the details behind the decision. According to the Journal Sentinel’s Matt Velazquez, Moore was actually the one that decided to step away from the Bucks as his long-term anxiety was getting to the point where basketball, his escape wasn’t helping any more.
While that release was due to non-basketball reasons, you might not be able to say the same thing about the Bucks next move. Because on September 21st, Milwaukee announced that they waived guard Bronson Koenig, which came less than two weeks after they removed Moore from their roster. Those moves ultimately cleared up both of their two-way slots before they were set to begin training camp on September 26th.
As they stand right now, the Bucks are the lone NBA team without a two-way player signed, which seems weird given their early enthusiasm back in early July. At this point, it seems like Young is going to get signed to one of their two-way deals. Not only does he fit all the qualifications but the Bucks only have two shooting guards, Tony Snell and Sterling Brown, that have contracts that extend into the 2018-19 season.
So it would definitely make sense to have Young spend the season in the G League with the Wisconsin Herd. If he excels and stands as one of the best guards in the league, then he might be added to the big league club in the following season. If he doesn’t, Young can use that full year of G League experience to hopefully get a more lucrative contract in Europe or China.
Outside of Young, there’s a bit of confusion about the other two-way deal. Probably the most logical option would be Gary Payton II due to him being with the team under a non-guaranteed. Also, he’s definitely familiar with the G League as he spent last season with the RGV Vipers. To be able to sign him to a two-way deal, the Bucks would have to cut Payton II and then wait for him to go through waivers. That’s definitely a more arduous process, it could pay off as Payton II is a talented and athletic guard that’s able to shine on the defensive end.
After a summer where you expected the Bucks to enter the year having Jalen Moore and Bronson Koenig on two-way deals, its bit of a surprise to see both of them leave the team when we’re so close to the start of the regular season. While Moore was likely dropped due to anxiety while Koenig might actually stay within the Bucks organization, we’re still left to wonder with what the Bucks are going to do with their two-way contracts?
Although a lot can change between now and the start of the G League season, I think they’ll at least bring in James Young. He stands as a younger veteran, which definitely seems like a direction that most squads are taking with these two-way deals. Alongside that, he could actually become a potential role player for the big league club due to the lack of guaranteed shooting guards for the 2018-19 season. The Bucks could decide to stick Young in Oshkosh for a season-long to potentially get promoted during the following year.
Aside from that, its a mystery as there’s no other players on their roster that are currently eligible for a two-way deal. Could they decide to bring in Gary Payton II? Or are they just going to play the waiting game to see if some team releases a player that they might want to bring in on a two-way? I guess we’re going to have to wait and see as we’re currently 42 days away until the 2017-18 season tips off on November 3rd.