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Nets like what they see so far with two-way deals

NBA: New York Knicks at Brooklyn Nets Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

The big new wrinkle in NBA rosters this season is the introduction of the two-way deal, permitting teams to sign two additional players and assign them to their G-League affiliate. It adds a level of roster flexibility and an opportunity for development that teams hadn’t had in the past. And the prospects get paid.

“We’re giving more opportunity to more guys,” Sean Marks told Tom Dowd of the Nets website. “They’re playing your system. You get up-close, in-depth look at them. You get to see if they truly are system fits. And they’re under your umbrella of development and that’s important, where our coaches get up close. Very rarely do coaches get to see guys before they end up on a Nets roster.”

There were a lot of rules to figure out along the way as teams began to sign players to the two-way deals. They can only spend a certain number of days —not games— with the parent club before they have to be awarded an NBA roster spot. Players get paid a baseline salary of $75,000 (three times the highest their G-League teammates get), and then a $4,608 daily rate up to a max of about $279,000 ... which doesn’t count against the salary cap. A team can promote a G-League player to a two-way deal, but can’t demote him. Teams can’t add a two-way contract after January 15, etc., etc.

The Nets took a while to settle on the two-way players now on their roster: 6’4” combo guard Milton Doyle and 6’9” stretch 4 James Webb III. They started out the season with two others, Yakuba Ouattara who got injured and Jacob Wiley who they saw as less of a prospect than Webb. (The Nets waived Ouattara, then re-signed him to a standard G-League deal. Wiley is playing in Germany.)

Doyle has been the star so far. He’s been in the G-League top 10 in scoring and 3-pointers throughout the season and was named to the mid-season All G-League team and was G-League Player of the Week last month.

“It’s been cool to see his growth,” said Long Island coach Ronald Nored. “The reason he’s in the NBA is because he can score. He can just flat out score the basketball. He can do it in a variety of ways; finish at the rim, mid-range jump shots, catch and shoot 3s, pull-up 3s, he can score.

“He’s got some underrated things about him as well. He’s a really good passer. He’s got a great feel for the game, really knows how to play. He’s not the most physical guy in the world, but one thing he’s getting better at defensively is just his defensive positioning. And he’s going to have to be good at that to continue to be in the NBA and have an opportunity to play a lot of minutes.”

He played six NBA games in December and although he didn’t put up big numbers, he got a taste, which is part of development. He told the G-League’s Jeff Wong the two-way contract is a good deal for him now.

“It’s great — you get to experience a little bit of everything,” he said. “Playing [in the G League], you get a lot of minutes and playing [in the NBA] — you get to experience what it’s like to be around those guys and that talent.

“All the guards: D’Angelo [Russell], Spencer [Dinwiddie], DeMarre Carroll,” he listed. “They’re the ones that look out for me and make sure I’m doing the right things.”

Webb was signed late in mid-January, but he too got minutes when Rondae Hollis-Jefferson went down. No big numbers for him in nine games, but he did get praise from Kenny Atkinson for his improvement, as he had from Nored.

“He can really stretch the floor,” said Nored. “The way the NBA’s playing now, he fits that. He spaces the floor. But the thing that I’ve seen him improve on already in this short time, he’s able to do more. He’s getting to the free throw line. He’s driving the ball at a higher rate and better than he was when he first got here. He loves the game of basketball. I love that about him. He wants to get better. Milton too. You can coach those guys hard. I coach those guys hard.”

The Nets had tracked Webb at Boise State before he joined the 76ers affiliate in Delaware last year. Near the end of the season, he went down with a serious injury that resulted in him having four screws and a plate implanted in his ankle. He seems like he’s over the problem and called him up in January after the annual G-League Showcase.

“They told me to come in and just play my game,” Webb told Dowd. “Shoot the ball when I’m open. Move the ball, point forward mentality. Set screens. Rolls. Slips. Space the floor. Bring energy and hustle plays and rebounding. That was pretty much what I like to do anyway. So it was pretty much an easy job to come in and step forward with that. Granted, I’ve still got to get stronger guarding forwards and just knowing how to be smarter since I’m not the strongest, how to use my quickness to my advantage.”

Atkinson likes having the extra bodies around ... and that the players get rewarded.

“I think it’s a great idea. It’s a really neat idea. I wish they would have done it earlier. I think it’s great. First of all, it gets those guys more money, which they’re deserving. Expands our roster. We get to touch those guys more. And they get the benefit of doing both. The financial situation is better for those guys.”

There are questions remaining. Trajan Langdon, who wears two hats as the Brooklyn assistant GM and Long Island’s GM, enumerated them to Dowd.

“I think we’re still trying to figure out, do you think of two-ways in terms of positions? Do you think about it in terms of age? Do you think about it in terms of development? Do you think about it in terms of, how can the two-ways help Brooklyn? Or do you look at it, can they help Brooklyn right now or do you want to develop where you can help Brooklyn later,” said Langdon.

“I think that’s been our issue too. Sometimes you have injuries and coaches want a player that can help you now. And if that’s what they want, then that’s a different discussion than a developmental guy that maybe you can develop into roster or rotation player in the future.”

Still, at least for now, it’s a win-win. Teams like the Nets can get a look at a young player (both Doyle and Webb are 24) and the players can get paid a decent salary.