The big difference between the NBA and NFL, other than the massive amounts of gear football players are forced to wear, are the contracts. NFL athletes have varying degrees of partially guaranteed deals, while NBA players, the envy of pro sports, all receive fully guaranteed contracts.
That’s mostly true, but in NBA life, all is not guaranteed.
Spencer Dinwiddie, KJ McDaniels and Archie Goodwin are three Brooklyn Nets whose futures are up in the air as we inch toward a huge summer for the franchise.
The Nets just went 20-62 and took several liberties with their roster. A total of 24 players were under contract, a franchise record. The team trotted out 21 different players among the most in the league. Some players like Goodwin and Dinwiddie earned multi-year contracts, but within the fine print were minimal commitments beyond this season.
Dinwiddie can rack-in up to over $1.5 million next season, and nearly $1.7 million the following season, all of which is non-guaranteed. His contract requires him to participate in team workouts at HSS Training Center and play in summer league. If he’s on the roster Opening Night, he’ll get $250,000. The Nets can dump him all the way up to January 10. Then, under terms of his deal, he gets to do it all again next summer!
McDaniels’ has a team option of close to $3.5 million. The Nets have to inform him whether they’re going to keep him by June 24. If they do, he’ll be around for another year. For Goodwin, his 2017-18 base salary sits at $1.58 million, but only $200,000 becomes guaranteed on Opening Night. Like Dinwiddie, his full contract doesn’t kick in until January 10.
So basically, careers are on the line and money is at stake this summer, money which hasn’t yet been fully earned in the eyes of the beholder, which in this case is the Nets. At least according to their contracts. They all played well in small samples, showed an edge particularly on defense, and displayed athleticism, something the team needed.
Looking at their precarious position, the three Nets offered some perspective on their situations and how they’re dealing with it.
“Being in Brooklyn has opened my eyes to putting in a lot of work,” said McDaniels at the teams exit interviews on Thursday. “The beginning of the season started off well but it didn’t work out. To be here and have opportunities is a great feeling.”
McDaniels saw action in 29 games and only 212 total minutes for the Houston Rockets, where he averaged 2.8 points before being traded to Brooklyn at the trade deadline for $75,000 in “cash considerations,” which is a colorful way of essentially saying for nothing.
The 6’7” McDaniels had 20 games to prove himself and did well enough, including standout performances like his 16 and 8 effort (while finishing +27) in a win against Phoenix. In a seven-game stretch, the Clemson product posted 10.1 points on 53.1 percent makes from the field and 35.3 percent from deep over 20.8 minutes per.
“I feel like there’s always room for improvement,” said McDaniels. “The way the off-season is going to go, I feel like there’s going to be a big jump. I definitely could stick here. I’m loving Brooklyn, it’s been an adjustment but I love Brooklyn; the facilities, the organization, and the fans, they’ve shown a lot of love. It’s a great place to be.”
Dinwiddie had a similar season. After two years with the Detroit Pistons (and by extension, the Grand Rapids Drive), the 6’6” point guard was dealt to Chicago in the off-season for Cameron Bairstow, who’s now playing for the Brisbane Bullets in his home country of Australia.
Both players were waived after being traded for one another, and Dinwiddie was re-signed by the Bulls three weeks later (July 28), but then was waived again during training camp. He spent about a month with the Bulls D-League affiliate before arriving in Brooklyn.
“It was definitely a whirlwind experience,” Dinwiddie said at the same exit meetings. “I was in the D League – and that was tough mentally. I wanted to get back up. I was called up and got the blessing to finish this season for the Nets. They gave me a great opportunity to play and it was a wonderful experience.”
Having signed to the Nets much earlier than McDaniels and Goodwin, Dinwiddie had a larger sample size by far. His stretch with the Nets provided him with easily the most game experience he’s had over three years of NBA service. In fact, the Colorado University product logged 1,334 minutes over 59 games (18 starts) as a Net, compared to 614 minutes in 46 NBA games over two years with the Pistons.
Dinwiddie averaged 7.3 points and 3.1 assists in 22.6 minutes per contest, translating to nearly 12 points and 5.0 assists per 36. His contributions also included a consistent stroke from three at 37.6% ... compared to 17.3 percent in Detroit. He’s got so good in fact that Kenny Atkinson wants to see more of it. But his value goes beyond the stat sheet.
“The experience that you gain in being able to play consistently just brings a certain level of comfort and calm that you don’t necessarily have when you play once every five games because every game feels like your first and you jitter and want to be perfect,” the always articulate Dinwiddie offered. “I’ve never been a huge stat guy throughout my career but I’ve been a good leader, low turnover, really efficient, that’s kind of been my calling card throughout my career, and doing whatever it takes to win.”
Now, it’s literally about fighting for your livelihood, and with a group of guys clawing away for their first big guaranteed pay day, it helps galvanize the group, and the organization grows as a result.
“We have a lot of innately competitive guys, it does foster a sense of urgency,” said Dinwiddie. “It’s tough having to always look over your shoulder in a sense or just not knowing what comes next – it’s definitely a tough situation to be in.”
“I feel like there’s really no way to tell honestly,” Dinwiddie continued when asked about whether or not a non-guaranteed player can tell if they’re a keeper at this part of the off-season. “They (the organization) can change their minds or form an opinion, whatever it is, so right now I’m sure it’s very up in the air. Knock on wood, you can also get injured during the off-season, anything can happen. When you’re on an unguaranteed deal like this, literally you’re just taking it day-by-day.”
Goodwin, the youngest at 22, but ironically with the most experience (four years), wasn’t around for the exit interviews. Instead, he took to Instagram to discuss his situation.
“Man oh Man. A year like this can make or break a person,” Goodwin said on a lengthy yet heartfelt post. “From family deaths to being released out of nowhere to coming back just to get released again unexpected to going to the D League and grinding it out to be back in the NBA. I loved every second of it because it showed me two things. 1. I'm a tough minded SOB to get out of that situation. 2. Not everybody is for you like they say they are.
“Not too many people called or checked up on me like they use to and that's all good,” he continued on the Gram. “God just wanted to show me who is really in my corner. With that being said I want to really thank the @brooklynnets for the amazing opportunity presented in front of me. This summer is going to be huge for me and us.”
For Goodwin, the year was filled with the sporadic and it showed just how precarious non-guaranteed deals can be. After three years with the Suns, which included several assignments to their D League affiliate, Phoenix unceremoniously and surprisingly dumped him.
Then after being cut on October 24, Goodwin signed a multi-year, but again non-guaranteed, deal with the Pelicans, but was waived after 13 days (and 30 minutes of play over three games). It didn’t happen for him in New Orleans. Back down to the D-League and the Greensboro Swarm, where he played well.
After the Nets waived Luis Scola on February 27, they waited a while before signing Goodwin. He arrived in Brooklyn on March 10, and made an impression in 12 games, averaging 18.6 points per 36 minutes on 55.7% shooting. His three point shooting still needs work ... a lot of work ... but the Nets have a record of improving players shots.
All three say they will take it day-by-day, but you can see a great deal of focus already. It’s a chance for a career and they know it. If they get through these non-guaranteed months, the Nets will have their Bird Rights and flexibility to sign them to a long-term deal. They will also have loyal employees!
The final two sentences of Goodwin’s Instagram post sums up the mindset one has in this less than ideal position. It’s as much personal as it is professional.
“I have a lot of work to do so starting today I'm shutting off my phones and social media until the start of next season,” Goodwin said three days ago (so far, he’s been true to his word). “I'm locked in and ready to prove to everybody that doubted me that y'all made a huge mistake.”