On Friday afternoon, the Clippers made a tough move: they released Jamil Wilson from his two-way contract. Ultimately, as injuries to Patrick Beverley, Milos Teodosic, and Austin Rivers piled up, the team desperately needed help at guard, and their luxury tax situation left them with very few ways to find reinforcements.
The Clippers only have about $120,000 to spend underneath the luxury tax line—enough for one 10-day contract and nothing else—so any move involving an NBA free agent contract would have been the most minor of band-aids. A trade could have been possible, but it’s pretty unlikely to work out a deal that would be both minor enough to not majorly disrupt a roster that only needs a fill-in for a few weeks, but also sufficient to land the Clippers a player of rotation quality.
That left one other option: the two way contracts. Two-way players do not affect their NBA team’s cap sheet, which makes a huge difference for a team like the Clippers. Look at it this way: a 10-day contract lasts for ten consecutive days and uses up more than two-thirds of their tax room. A 10-day contract signed on the 6th would run through the 16th, allowing a new guard to play 6 games for the Clippers. But then what? Austin and Milos might not be back by then, and there’s no room to keep your new player around for 10 more days.
A two-way contract signed on January 5th, however, provides a lot more utility. It gives a player 25 days on the NBA roster (pro-rated from the normal 45-day allowance, given that 97/177 days remain in the regular season), and those days don’t have to be consecutive. That is, the team can send the player back and forth between the NBA and G-League, like the Clippers have done with C.J. Williams in recent weeks. If you only keep him for game and travel days, those 24 days can stretch from now until mid-February. If guys come back from injury, you can keep him in the G-League and save a chunk of those 25 days for later in the season so that you don’t end up in this situation again the next time Milos needs a few games off to rest his foot or Austin turns an ankle.
So, releasing Jamil was an unfortunate reality for the Clippers, who needed guard help and didn’t really have viable options to get it via trade or a normal free agent contract.
Let’s look at where Jamil Wilson comes out. His current contract is a two-year, two-way deal, meaning that it would have obligated him to return to the Clippers next year in the same 45-day capacity. The team waived him, which means that for the next 48 hours, any other NBA team can claim him before he enters free agency. It’s unlikely that a team would be interested in him in a two-way capacity for this season, since 42 of the 45 NBA days on his contract have already been utilized this year, and that number would not reset if he was claimed. However, there are two reasons a team could claim him:
- A two-way player can be converted to a rest-of-season minimum-salary deal at any time. So, if a team wanted to give Jamil a rest-of-season deal, they wouldn’t have to wait for him to clear waivers and hit free agency—they could just claim his two-way deal, and then convert him. This is probably the best-case scenario for Jamil: an NBA contract.
- Because Wilson’s deal is for two years, a team could be willing to leave him the G-League for the rest of the 2018 season so that they could have him as a two-way player for the 2018-19 season. This is probably the worst-case scenario for Jamil, as it essentially blocks him from playing in the NBA again this season.
More than likely, though, Jamil will clear waivers. When he does, he will return to the Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario to play in the G-League. The Clippers, covering their bases, drafted Wilson in the G-League expansion draft despite already having him on a two-way contract. This ensured that, if he was released from his deal, he would play for ACCO in the G-League instead of going back to the Texas Legends, who owned his G-League rights. This means that as long as Wilson is in the G-League, he will play for the Clippers.
However, if he gets a contract offer from another NBA team (or an international team), he is a free agent. Wilson was already considered a fringe NBA player, but his performances with the Clippers this season (in his only NBA experience) showed that he’s capable of playing at the NBA level. Teams that find themselves in need of forward depth late in the season will look at him as one of their top options for a G-League call-up, and I’d be shocked if he didn’t get another NBA opportunity.
If nothing else, this release far from signifies the end of the road between Wilson and the Clippers. The team clearly likes him, but they were forced to go in a different direction due to injuries and salary cap restraints. However, there are any number of possibilities for a reunion down the line. If the Clippers make a trade before next month’s deadline and free up luxury tax room, Wilson will be one candidate to be added to the roster. If Jamil doesn’t latch on with a new team long-term this spring, I’m sure the Clippers would love to have him back for Summer League and Training Camp next year. Of course, just as the Clippers had to do what what best for the team today, Jamil will have to weigh his options in the future and go to whichever team offers him the best opportunity to land an NBA contract.
For he waits for 10-day opportunities to start coming, you can catch Jamil playing with the Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario, teamed up with Brice Johnson.