Warriors Two-Way Contract Candidates

by Perks from @GSWReddit

This concludes a four part series by Perks from GSW Reddit. I’ve been bugging him to contribute to Dub Nation HQ for a while and he finally kindly agreed. I look forward to getting him to contribute again. - Eric

The series so far:

Two Way Contracts, a Quick Intro

A brief intro to two-way contracts:

Usually capped at 15, the NBA and the G League made it possible for rosters to expand to 17 players with the introduction of two-way contracts.

Started in 2017, the two-way contract allowed a young player to split playing time between the NBA team and the G League affiliate. It allowed greater roster flexibility in case of injuries or to expedited development for a prospect a team was really high on.

Two-Way rules for the 2021/22 season:

  • Maximum 50 NBA games they can be active for

  • Salary is 50% of the rookie minimum ($462,629)

  • No specific deadline to sign a player to a Two-Way contract

  • Two-Way players are not eligible for the playoffs (would have to be converted)

Key related dates for the Warriors:

  • Aug. 1 - Deadline to extend a Qualifying Offer (two-way) for Nico Mannion

  • Aug. 6 - Alen Smailagic’s contract guarantees for the 21/22 season

  • Jan. 10 - Mychal Mulder’s contract guarantees for the 21/22 season

Warriors past approach to two-way contracts

To better predict what the Warriors will do with their two-ways first we need to look at what their approach has been with those spots.

Historically the Warriors have split their two-ways between one player that's a rookie, who's a long-term development project, and another player who is an older, fringe-level NBA reserve with some previous NBA and G League experience that's capable of contributing in a deeper/emergence depth role.

Chris Boucher was an undrafted free agent in 2017 who immediately signed a two-year two-way contract (the first-ever two-way) after the draft. Marcus Derrickson was an undrafted free agent in 2018 who had his Exhibit 10 converted into a two-way contract after impressing during summer league and training camp. Ky Bowman was an undrafted free agent in 2019 who signed a two-way contract shortly after the draft. Nico Mannion was a second-round draft pick in 2020 who signed a two-way contract.

Quinn Cook was an undrafted free agent in 2015 who played two seasons in the G League with a couple of 10-Day contracts in the NBA before signing a two-way contract with the Warriors. Damion Lee was an undrafted free agent in 2016 who played two seasons in the G League (including one with the Santa Cruz Warriors) with a couple of 10-Day contracts in the NBA before signing a two-way contract with the Warriors. Juan Toscano-Anderson was an undrafted free agent in 2015 who played three seasons overseas, followed by two seasons in the G League (both with the Santa Cruz Warriors) after which he would sign a non-guaranteed multi-year deal with the Warriors before being waived and re-signed on a two-way.

As you can see, the Warriors have followed a pretty standard formula since the introduction of two-way deals. One which we can expect them to continue to do, so let's look at some potential candidates.

And before anyone asks, the following players are not two-way eligible:

  • Gary Payton II

  • Jordan Bell

  • Marquese Chriss

  • Any other player with more than three years of NBA Service

Development Two-Way Candidates

Nico Mannion

Mannion is a very obvious choice for one of the two-way spots. Drafted just a year ago, the 20-year-old has shown flashes of potential with his playmaking, gradually improving shooting/scoring touch, and pesky defensive intensity. While he hasn't been able to firm a foothold in the NBA and shouldn't be expected to be a part of the rotation next year, he has shown enough promise to earn another two-way with the expectation of heavy game time in the G League to hone his skills with sporadic NBA minutes here and there. It would be extremely surprising if the Warriors didn't extend him a qualifying offer by the August 1st deadline to bring him back given their regard for him and with what he’s shown so far in his short career.

Alen Smailagić

It's unlikely that this would happen, but it's worth at least mentioning nonetheless since Smailagić is the only other Warrior, outside of Mannion and Mulder, who would be eligible for a two-way.

Technically with now three years of NBA and G League experience, Smiley could be considered in the contributing two-way category, but at 20 years of age, he is very much still a long-term developmental project. While Smiley is young, has been hampered with injuries, and still has his whole career ahead of him, he just hasn’t shown enough at this point and the Warriors are expected to waive him before his contract guarantees on August 6th. Although in all likelihood that date is pushed back until after summer league/training camp to give him one last opportunity, but the same outcome is expected either way.

It's hard to see the Warriors giving him a two-way due to the fact that he would be a developmental project and realistically they should be able to just sign him directly to Santa Cruz if they were to waive him. Although they may have some competition in the form of KK Partizan for his services.

Kaleb Wesson

Wesson is a 21-year-old big man who went undrafted just a year ago and spent this last season playing for the Santa Cruz Warriors. After which he would briefly sign for Belgium team, FILOU Oostende, and leave without making an appearance due to re-aggravating a previous knee injury. Wesson was set to play in The Basketball Tournament this summer until he withdrew at the last minute due to the fact he will be participating in the NBA Summer League (presumably with the Warriors).

Wesson, as one of the youngest players in the G League last season, was very impressive and caught the eye of many who watched Santa Cruz's games. In his 11 games with Sea Dubs he averaged 11.7ppg, 9.9rpg, 2.7apg, 1.0spg, 0.9bpg on .530/.318/.900 while playing some fundamentally sound basketball on both ends of the floor.

Although Wesson's three-point numbers (14/44) didn't match the formidable 42.5% he posted in his last season of college, his shot mechanically looked good for the most part and there definitely seems to be some stretch 5 potential there. It will be intriguing to see how those numbers look in a larger sample size.

However, what stood out the most with him was his rebounding. Wesson is excellent at boxing out and constantly puts himself in the right position to swallow up boards, especially on the defensive glass. His 9.9rpg was 11th best in the league and within that, his 8.0 defensive rpg was 3rd in the league. Furthermore, Wesson was tied for 4th in defensive rebound percentage at 27.7% and 7th in rebound percentage at 18.3%.

While he is not super athletic, possessing great lateral quickness or high flying verticality, he has a great feel for the game, despite his young age, and consistently finds ways to make an impact defensively. Whether that’s poking at the ball just at the right time to knock it loose or contesting vertically without fouling to challenge a shot. His game is a bit reminiscent of Kevon Looney’s in that aspect, as a cerebral, non-athletic big man. Although Wesson does seem like he could have a bit more to him offensively considering his stretch-5 potential and court vision with some of his passing reads out of the post and elbow.

That being said, at most, he probably has an outside chance of getting one of the two-way spots next season. He could use a little more seasoning in the G League, especially since he's only played 11 games in total in the past year. However, Wesson will definitely be someone to watch in Summer League and hopefully someone to keep an eye on again in Santa Cruz next season.

Contributing Two-Way Candidates

Mychal Mulder

Mulder is a bit of a sneaky candidate for the other two-way spot. With only two years of service, he is technically eligible for it, and with the Warriors expected roster turnover this off-season, Mulder could very well find himself as one of the odd-men-out.

Mulder landing on a two-way would be contingent on another team not claiming his non-guaranteed deal off waivers, which is hard to predict at this point. Mulder is a fringe NBA talent, but there might be a team out there who wouldn't mind having a sharpshooter of his ilk on a team-friendly deal as their 15th man.

If Mulder were to be waived, and go unclaimed, he would become the front-runner for the second two-way spot given his fit and experience; in a kind of role reversal with Juan Toscano-Anderson last season.

Ryan Taylor

After Mulder, Taylor is definitely one to watch for one of the two-way spots and fans will have an opportunity to do so after he dropped out of The Basketball Tournament this summer due to being invited to play in the summer league.

Taylor is a 4-year college player who went undrafted in 2019. He was selected with the 24th pick in the 2019 G-League draft by the Lakeland Magic, but was cut in training camp. He joined Santa Cruz shortly after as a mid-season acquisition from the available player pool and has since played 38 games for Sea Dubs averaging 9.2ppg, 2.3rpg, 0.6apg, on .446/.435/.926. While Taylor's numbers aren’t very awe-inspiring given his limited playing time and role, he is exactly the type of 3&D wing who would fit seamlessly on Golden State’s roster.

Taylor is a knockdown shooter who usually hangs in the corners and moves well off-the-ball. He doesn't handle the ball a lot or create often for himself, but he has a pull-up midrange jumper off a down screen he likes to go to, as well as a floater alternative. He is also quite deceptively athletic and can throw it down. While not really a playmaker, he's a smart basketball player who will make the right passes and not play out of his comfort zone.

Taylor isn’t a lockdown defender, but he’s capable enough defensively where he can bother players on-ball and stick with them, fighting through screens and using his athleticism and lateral speed. He does a good job of forcing players into tough shots and not giving them anything easy. He's also a smart team defender, who knows when to rotate and help.

Taylor could be the next late-blooming gem out of Santa Cruz following in the footsteps of Juan Toscano-Anderson and Damion Lee as another player who debuts in the NBA at 25/26 years of age after a couple of seasons in the G League. Taylor’s experience in the Warriors system and his fit as 3&D wing would make him the ideal candidate at the contributing two-way spot as someone who could play an emergence reserve role when needed.

Provided he shows out in summer league, Taylor seems like a shoo-in for an Exhibit 10 deal with the hopes of earning a two-way in training camp depending on how other, Mulder-esque, dominos fall.

Omari Spellman

One-half of the adored Bruise Brothers and one of the few bright spots from the forgettable 19/20 “gap year” season, the enigmatic Spellman would be an intriguing addition on a two-way.

Spellman has had quite the winding road in the NBA since being drafted 30th overall in 2018 by the Hawks. He struggled with weight issues in Atlanta which saw him getting shipped out for Damian Jones the following season in a salary dump by the Warriors. However, Spellman would surprisingly catch on in Golden State and was a solid contributing role player endearing fans with his relentless hustle, tenacity on the boards, graceful passing, and impressive 39.1% (43/110 3PT) from outside the arc. Unfortunately, Spellman’s GSW tenure was short-lived as he was the casualty of a cost-cutting move, being folded into the Russell/Wiggins trade along with Jacob Evans II, to help the Warriors get under the luxury tax and escape the daunting repeater rate.

Things didn’t work out too well in Minnesota as Spellman was demoted to the G League and never appeared in a game for the Timberwolves. The following off-season he would be shipped out to the Knicks (with his good buddy Jacob Evans) where he struggled with injury and was eventually waived a few weeks into the season. Spellman would sign on with the Erie BayHawks (again with his good buddy Jacob Evans, they’re just inseparably) where he posted a less-than-stellar 8.0ppg, 5.0rpg, 2.0apg, 1.1bpg, 0.9spg, on .371/.250/.833 in a 14 game stint.

Provided that he’s healthy and in shape (judging by some recent workout photos that seems to be the case), Spellman could make a lot of sense at a two-way spot to provide some floor-spacing in the frontcourt, along with his passing and rebounding capabilities. While things haven’t clicked for Spellman anywhere, but in Golden State, he was a natural fit here and a return could be beneficial for both parties.

Justinian Jessup

Jessup is someone a lot of fans like to discuss as a two-way option, and yes while in theory that does make sense, logistically it's an absolute nightmare.

Jessup's Next Stars deal is for two years so he is under contract in the NBL through the 2021-22 season. If the Warriors want to bring him over for anything other than summer league, they would have to buy him out of the contract. The CBA prohibits NBA teams from buying out players internationally for the purpose of signing them to a two-way contract, Exhibit 10, or in connection with securing the right to enter into either contract with a player, so Jessup would have to be signed to the 15-man roster.

Now there may exist a loophole within the verbiage of "in connection with securing the right to enter into any such Two-Way Contract or Contract with an Exhibit 10 with a player" where the Warriors could potentially attempt to sign him to a non-guaranteed 15-man roster deal, waive him, and then re-sign him to a two-way. However, as far as we know, that's never been attempted before and the NBA might deem it to be circumvention and a violation of the spirit of the rules.

And even if the NBA did allow it, by going that route the Warriors would lose their exclusive draft rights to Jessup. Right now, because they drafted him, they are the only NBA team that can enter into a contract with him. But if they waive him, then any team can not only claim him on that non-guaranteed contract, but would also be free to negotiate any sort of deal with him once he clears waivers.

Bottom line: not a likely option.


Two-Ways: Nico Mannion & Ryan Taylor

Mannion will almost certainly get a two-way spot, and the Warriors most likely stick with their formula and supplement him with someone who has a couple of seasons of experience as a professional. Assuming Mulder gets claimed by another team if waived by the Waivers, Taylor becomes the frontrunner for the other two-way spot given his G League experience, familiarity with the Warriors system, and fit as a capable 3&D wing. Spellman can come into the conversation, if healthy, in-shape, and if the Warriors don’t address their stretch-5 needs elsewhere, but Taylor seems like the most likely addition all things considered.