As both Mike James and Alec Peters were signed to the new NBA two-way contracts, many may assume that means they will be spending the majority of their time with the NAZ Suns. With Peters, that might be the case but I doubt that James will be spending much - if any - time there.
Last season James signed a one-year, $1 million contract to play for Panathinaikos Athens in Europe and there is simply no way he would have given up a similar contract overseas this season to play in the NBA G-League for $75k. There was very likely a verbal agreement between the Suns and James where he would be assigned to the Suns rather than the NAZ.
Dakota Schmidt of Ridiculous Upside wrote this on the subject:
A source tells Ridiculous Upside that James will begin the first 45 days of the regular season with the Phoenix Suns where he could receive as much as $200,000, the maximum amount allowed for players under two-way deals that just spend time in the NBA. After those 45 days, the Suns will have an option to convert James to a standard NBA contract for the remainder of the season, otherwise he’ll become a free agent.
And Sam Vecenie put it this way in an article for Sporting News:
For James, it’s easy to see why this opportunity should intrigue him. First and foremost, unlike most two-way players, the Suns have no intention of sending James down to the G-League at any point. That essentially means he’s set up on a 45-day contract with the team worth approximately $225,000. In that vein, this is a make-good deal. And consistently, that’s the situation where James has made headway in his career — whether he realizes it or not.
Sure, Phoenix is also always rumored to be the landing spot for point guards on the trade block. But as the roster currently stands, there’s a major chance for James to establish himself in the NBA. And if his performance doesn’t materialize after his 45 days on the roster, he’ll likely be free to take his chance elsewhere.
If it would come to that, James’ agents feel confident that he can get a seven-figure payday overseas midway through the NBA season given the offers they had on the table before he signed. The math for them doesn’t measure out as much of a risk for him to take a two-way contract. If it was an expected value equation, they believe the upside of the NBA paired with what they believe to be the lack of downside in European offers makes this a smart play despite leaving guaranteed money on the table.
According to Chris Reichert of 2 Ways & 10 Days his total salary after spending the 45 days allowed for two-way contract players with the main team would actually be very close to $275,000.
With the uncertainty that always surrounds Eric Bledsoe’s knees, having a third point guard on the roster makes supreme sense for the Suns and this type of arrangement would work out well for both James and Phoenix. James gets a shot at finally playing in the NBA and the Suns get an experienced third point guard who's salary - at least for 45 days - doesn't count against the salary cap. If it works out, the Suns convert the two-way contract into a standard NBA rest of the year deal. If it doesn't, James gets a nice payday for a relatively short period of time and the chance to either sign with another NBA team or head back overseas and play for the rest of the season.
For Alec Peters, Alan Williams’ knee injury makes it even more likely that Peters could join the Suns rather than the NAZ at the beginning of the season, although that decision is also going to depend on how well he plays in preseason. With Alan possibly out of the rotation for several months, Peters could be needed as a third power forward especially if Marquese Chriss or Dragan Bender need to be pressed into extended service at the 5 spot at some point. With a soon to be 35 year old Tyson Chandler and the often inconsistent Alex Len now the Suns’ main options at center, don’t be surprised if Earl Watson turns to Chriss or Bender to play center more often in certain situations. Even if both Chandler and Len play well, a simple sprained ankle to either on any given night could create an instant need for another big in the rotation that Peters could fill.
Jared Dudley also might not be ready to play at the beginning of the season after having surgery on June 27 to repair a left toe ligament injury. At that time it was estimated that he would be unable to participate in any basketball-related activity for three to four months. He could be ready to go at the beginning of training camp or he might not be ready to return before the end of October. If Duds isn't ready at the beginning of the season, Peters might turn out to be the best 3-point shooting power forward on the Suns' roster. His offensive skill set should come in very handy on a team that’s already in need of more three point shooting.
Peters was a career 41.2% 3-point shooter in college and if that talent translates to the NBA level it could turn into at least spot minutes for him in certain situations. The Suns finished 27th in the NBA in 3-point shooting last season and anyone who can consistently hit from downtown is someone that the Suns desperately need. If the rest of the team can't up their 3-point percentages, Peters might get his shot with the big team sooner than many expect.
Despite being picked 54th in the NBA Draft, Peters has the skills to carve out a place for himself in the NBA as a rotation player. He fell as far as he did on draft day because the stress fracture he was still recovering from kept him from working out for teams (he fully recovered back in July not long after Summer League ended). Following the draft, Suns GM Ryan McDonough said that the Suns had him “ranked a lot higher than the mid-50s” and called him “one of the best shooters in this draft”.
Don’t expect either of these guys to be simply shipped off to Prescott Valley and be forgotten. McD seems to have used his new two-way contracts to sign a couple of players who should be ready to contribute sooner rather than later.