A few weeks ago, there were multiple reports that the NBA was considering letting teams add a third two-way contract in order to expand their rosters. However, according to Marc Stein of the New York Times, the negotiations between the league and the players’ union may have hit a roadblock.
The league's preference is that the 18th roster spot is another two-way contract — restricted to players with 0 to 3 years of service time -- with the idea of providing roster relief— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) January 28, 2021
The union wants the 18th roster spot to be open to all veteran free agents, sources say
There is concern in some corners of the league that an 18th roster spot open to all players potentially creates a competitive advantage for hard-capped teams to add another quality player.— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) January 28, 2021
Teams can currently fill their 16th and 17th roster spots only via two-way contracts.
Left unsaid there is that the cheaper team governors — see Fertitta, Tilman, probably — would likely prefer that said extra roster spot be a cheaper two-way player so they don’t look like a broke boy in front of all their friends if they don’t use it.
For example, two-way players are being paid a flat rate of $449,155 for the season and don’t count against the salary cap or luxury tax, while — as pointed out by Larry Coon’s invaluable CBA FAQ — veteran players can cost significantly more than that, and do count against luxury tax and salary cap calculations:
Jared Dudley, the Lakers’ team representative with the National Basketball Players Association, had some thoughts on these latest developments that he wanted to share on Twitter. Not unsurprisingly, he was candid, and thinks that all players should have a chance to ply their trade, not just younger ones:
Should be open to ALL!!!!! This is ridiculous!!! https://t.co/XDdxmhLU6g— Jared Dudley (@JaredDudley619) January 28, 2021
Can’t believe the NBA is worried about the balance of POWER during covid!! There’s NBA players that can help ALL teams right now! ♂️ ♂️ https://t.co/RxAam1bjHa— Jared Dudley (@JaredDudley619) January 28, 2021
He’s not wrong, and as I mentioned above, the real motivation for this is likely to try and save the ownership groups’ money. Competitive balance isn’t really the most important thing anyway for what is basically a 16th roster spot. If any of those players are swinging the title chase, something went seriously, seriously weird at some point.
Still, with games getting postponed left and right as the NBA tries to scrounge up enough bodies to keep the money train rolling during a raging pandemic, it does seem likely that they’ll still expand rosters at some point. It just remains to be seen which side blinks first. And while ownership may want to save money on the roster, the reality is they have a lot more money to lose if games keep getting cancelled and they can’t meet the minimum amount required for their local TV deals, so keep an eye on that as a factor as these negotiations continue and players and organizations try to avoid a stoppage.