FanPost

What Do We Do With Our Two-Way Contract Spots This Year?

With the recent news that the Phoenix Suns had waived Ty-Shon Alexander from their roster coming to light, I've realized that they not only still have one regular roster spot open at this time, but both two-way contract spots open for themselves now. Previously, there was a report from an Italian website earlier in free agency with player agent Steven Heumann saying the Suns agreed to sign lottery bust Georgios Papagiannis (a 7'3" center from the Panathinaikos of Greece) to a two year deal worth around $2 million for the final open roster spot, though it's presumed that his veteran's minimum salary is actually around $3.5 million due to this being his third year in the NBA after failing years in Sacramento and Portland. However, nothing new has come from that piece of (mis?)information as of right now, and considering talks of the Suns looking to solve their power forward issue for this season with a potential pick-up of either Thaddeus Young (either by trade or signing after a potential buyout later in the season) or Kevin Love (via potential buyout later in the season), presuming Jalen Smith doesn't succeed in his second season in Phoenix, even I'm not sure if the Suns plan on filling that final, open regular spot on the team as of this moment. That being said, the purpose of this article right now isn't to see whether there's a plan for a regular roster spot in mind going into this new season; rather, the goal is to find out what plans are in mind for the two open two-way contract spots in play, if any at all.

This season, training camp for the NBA begins on September 28, which still leaves plenty of time to look at potential roster players coming over to the team this season. Maybe by then, we'll hear news about what was up with Georgios Papagiannis here, or even hear about who else might have interested the Suns enough to give them a shot at an open roster spot (or two). Regardless, plenty of options are at play for Phoenix this season, with plenty of time also available to fill them up, if possible. As such, it's a good time to ask what are the choices available for the team this season? Well, my friends, there's plenty of options to go around for this season.

  1. Look into the undrafted market once again. - Plenty of players get lost in the fold when looking at potential draft picks. Sometimes they even get lost in the fold for finding players viable for a two-way contract somewhere in the NBA. As such, there's no real harm with giving an undrafted player a shot into the roster with a two-way contract, especially since it's considered unlikely that they can surprise to the point of being a viable, regular rotation player for a competing roster like what Phoenix has right now. One player that might come to mind is D.J. Steward from Duke University; as a freshman player, he put up decent looking numbers in his sole season there, though they can be improved upon. In terms of seniors with capable prowess, one such player that might be near James Jones' alley is Justin Jaworski, a shooting guard from Lafayette University that saw some significant improvements from one season to the next throughout his time in college. Of course, the negative into looking at undrafted players this late into the stage is the fact that the market has dried up fairly significantly between draft night and right now. Which leaves us with Option 2...

  2. Look into players that did well in the Summer League. - Usually, this is also viable to work with, especially if you aren't sure of the draft market in a particular year for one reason or another. However, if we're looking at players that played for the Suns' Summer League team this year, I'm afraid those are also slim pickings here. Michael Frazier II was someone that was considered one of the better players for our Summer League team this year, though I have to wonder if he's able to seriously consider a two-way contract for his age at 27 years old going on 28 by the end of March. Kyle Alexander was also a great positive himself, though his recent signing with the Montakit Fuenlabrada in Spain is probably a "too little, too late" moment here. Jaleen Smith was also (sadly) one of the better players (by default), though I'm more thankful he's pretty much going back to Germany because the last thing I needed to do was confuse Jalen Smith with Jaleen Smith for an entire season. And as for every other Summer League Suns player this year that wasn't Stix, Ty-Shon Alexander, or the other three players already mentioned here... I am highly doubtful the Suns are seriously going to consider any one of those guys onto even a training camp spot, never mind a two-way contract. Of course, that's not the only purpose of looking into the Summer League...

  3. Look into players that did well for other teams in the Summer League. - One misconception with the Summer League that some people seem to have is the idea that you need to look into your own guys above all else. While that might be true for your own official players just to see if they're viable at succeeding in the NBA, other teams might have found some diamonds in the rough that can be just as useful as a random call-up from your own Summer League team. In fact, one popular Summer League player this year just so happened to be a call-up from a team that wanted to see him personally: LiAngelo Ball. I know, I know, there's plenty of biases to go around with him in particular to the point where I highly doubt that the Suns would seriously consider LiAngelo Ball for a spot nowadays, but to his credit, he looked to make the most of his opportunity with the Charlotte Hornets there. So much so, in fact, that he was even considered one of their top players throughout the entire Summer League. The point is that if you found a player you liked from some other Summer League team (like the Sacramento Kings' Summer League champion roster, for example) and that player is a free agent to sign anywhere that they want to (like Quinndary Weatherspoon, for a fair example), there's no harm in giving them a potential two-way contract spot with Phoenix instead of another NBA team. On that note...

  4. Go for a player that was previously a two-way contract earlier on. - Another viable option is looking into players that might have intrigued the team during last season in particular, if not two or even three years ago, and see if they want to sign with Phoenix instead. Now before you do go and sign someone like Rayjon Tucker or Ray Spalding or whatever else is in mind, the two things you need to make sure of is if they're already on a two-way contract with someone else and if they already played in the NBA for four years now. One thing to remember is that a player has to have played in the NBA for four or less years (including their rookie season) in order to considered eligible for a two-way contract; anymore than that, and they need to sign a regular deal in order to stay in the NBA for the long-term. In fact, for all we know, they could very well sign a foreign player like Georgios Papagiannis onto a two-way contract without any of us knowing about it, and it would be perfectly acceptable to do so as long as the foreign team was made aware of it happening and were properly compensated for it. That being said...

  5. Georgios Papagiannis actually signs a two-way contract? - Somehow, I doubt that one, but can you imagine if that were true? It would be quite the turn of events here when you consider how 2016 went for both Phoenix and Georgios himself. Though to be fair, some players do need to mature a lot more than they have earlier on before they prove they're worthy of playing in the NBA properly, such as our own Cameron Payne. If Georgios Papagiannis himself is actually one such guy like that, I would hold no complaints in that regard. Of course, there is one final option that we saw them do before not just last season, but also in the 2020 NBA Bubble as well...

  6. Nothing. - Yep, do absolutely nothing with those spots. It sounds crazy to not even use an option if you're given the choice to use it, and yet James Jones has done exactly that for a decent amount of time since he first began his tenure as the sole general manager for the Suns. Even in his first season as general manager (when he had to share the role with Trevor Bukstein), Jones already made sure to leave his mark with Jawun Evans (his first official two-way contract spot) leaving by the end of March 2019 and second-round pick George King playing only one game with the Suns before a season-ending injury forced King out of the team completely. Then, when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit us in March 2020, he made sure to waive Jared Harper from his contract right when the virus' grip started to become serious, with Tariq Owens not even being around to join the Bubble Suns when he had the chance to do so. Even last season, the Suns didn't even bother using the second two-way contract spot whatsoever (not even on B.J. Johnson or Johnathan Motley when we had the chance to do so with one of those two players), with Ty-Shon Alexander barely showing he was worthy of that two-way contract spot himself. After all, his production throughout the regular season combined with his less than stellar performances in the Summer League this year likely makes me think James Jones saw enough with him to know his second year of that two-way contract of his just wasn't going to be worth it on his end. Certainly not when this is going to be their first (or second if you count the G League Bubble) official year with no G League affiliate on their end after previously being okay with an affiliate team around them for so long. Considering the fact that we usually make these players spend a majority of their time in the G League anyway combined with the fact that their salaries ultimately count as nothing to the team itself (despite being paid considerably better than a majority of people still with a value of $462,629 given to them for this upcoming season), I wouldn't be surprised anymore if James Jones does continue this trend of not utilizing two-way contracts fully for this season also.

So these are how I see the two-way contract spots potentially going down for the 2021-22 season. Admittedly, the fact that the Suns have played a lot better this past season then they ever did in the 2010's has left me with a less than viable viewpoint on looking into potential talents available for a two-way contract than I probably would have in the past few years. Even so, many of these facts don't chance the notion that the two-way contract is an interesting game in its own right; a vast majority of it don't see considerable, long-term success, and those that do usually play for bad teams anyway (unless you're Tacko Fall). However, what has interested me in those contracts is the allure of actually finding that diamond in the rough that not even the draftniks that we had to deal with throughout the last decade or so had the foresight to see greater thing from these select players. It doesn't matter if it's due to them being in a lesser college, having less than stellar statistics or measurements early on, or even if they're literally unknown to the general public because they play well, but are elsewhere overseas doing so; if they got the motor and motivation to prove they got the means to succeed in the NBA, then by God, I'm willing to give that a shot any day of the week! Better that than dealing with some of the draft busts of the 2010's any longer than we had to, at least. Of course, I can't say that anyone we might look at in training camp is going to be exactly that for the Suns. However, as we all knew firsthand, there's nothing wrong with exceeding expectations whatsoever.