Suddenly, depth may become even more important in this year’s playoffs.
The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported this afternoon that the NBA is planning to eradicate this season’s 50-game limit for players signed to two-way contracts and granting them eligibility in this year’s NBA Playoffs.
Since two-way contracts were introduced prior to the 2017-18 season, NBA rosters had been able to carry up to 17 players — expanded from 15-guaranteed contracted players — though on a limited basis. Only 13-of-15 NBA players on guaranteed deals were eligible to be active, but two-way players would add two more slots; however, they were limited to 45 NBA days before the organization would have to decide on signing them or sending them back to the G League, if not cutting them altogether.
This season, rules were altered to account for COVID-19 and the general inability to produce a standard NBA schedule. NBA teams are now able to make all 15 players active, plus the carrying of two two-way spots has added more depth. This also signals that NBA teams, who may have COVID or injury issues arise between now and the playoffs, will have additional rosters slots for players for the most critical time of the year.
And as far as the actual G League players go, there are some standouts who could benefit from playoff-visibility, as well as teams who can utilize their full range of abilities in whatever their postseason push may entail.
For a team like the Brooklyn Nets, a squad ostensibly in a championship-or-bust season, Chris Chiozza may prove to be an integral role player for a team whose depth will be in question even as Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden pace the club when healthy. Chiozza became a rotation-piece for Brooklyn right before last season’s Bubble, resuming his role when play resumed over the summer, and averaged 9.0 points and 4.0 assists in the Nets’ previous 12 games before the playoffs. This season, Chiozza’s production has taken a step back, mainly because Irving is healthier so far.
Juan Toscano-Anderson, who returned to the Golden State Warriors’ starting line-up in their loss to the Lakers two nights ago, has been playing over 20 minutes per game, and is averaging 5.8 points and 4.2 rebounds on 55 percent shooting from the field and 44 percent from three. But he’s also one of the team’s best defenders. Toscano-Anderson is third amongst Warriors in defensive box plus-minus, fourth in win shares per-48 minutes, and top-five in defensive rating (among rotation players). He’s even tied for second in true shooting percentage, and the Warriors are 19-16, eighth out West.
The Miami Heat have relied on, at times heavily, Max Strus and Gabe Vincent; both are on two-way deals. Struss, who is essentially a poor man’s Duncan Robinson, is averaging 7.2 points through 15.3 minutes per game this season, shooting 45.5 percent from the field and 36.6 percent from deep. Vincent’s played 14.9 minutes per game, starting five of his 24 appearances. He’s only averaging 5.7 points and 1.3 assists, but he’s had three 18-plus scoring point games.
And although the Washington Wizards’ playoff aspirations are in question, Garrison Matthews has emerged into a starter on the 12-seed D.C.-based club, who has won 7-of-9. Matthews is averaging 7.1 points and shooting over 40 percent from three for the season, but he’s netted 6.2 points and shot about 45 percent from deep in his 10 starts.
So, no, this isn’t something to merely scoff at, especially since anything could happen in this season, which will only heighten come playoff time.