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Roster math: Where Harry Giles III fits as Nets prepare for final preseason game

The bottom of the Nets camp roster may not be fighting for a spot but rather a type of spot.

Brooklyn Nets Practice in the Park Photo by Kostas Lymperopoulos/NBAE via Getty Images

The Nets have 18 players in camp. That’s also the maximum number of players NBA teams can have when the ball goes up on Opening Night. Barring something unexpected (and increasingly unlikely,) the players in camp aren’t fighting so much for roster spots. Instead they’re fighting for types of roster spots.

At the moment, the Nets have 13 players on standard, guaranteed deals; two players on standard non-guaranteed deals (Trendon Watford and Darius Bazley); two players on two-way deals (Jalen Wilson and Armoni Brooks); and one player on an Exhibit 9 (Harry Giles III.) There is also an open two-way spot, the new CBA making provision for a third two-way spot this year.

What’s the current likelihood — emphasis on current — on how things work out? It would seem that sometime on or before October 23, when rosters get set, Giles will move into the open two-way. In July, before signing the Exhibit 9 with the Nets, he told a Sacramento radio reporter that a two-way was indeed his goal after not playing in the NBA for two seasons.

“If I gotta go two-way… that’s just what I gotta do. Two-ways get converted all the time,” said Giles in his interview with Sean Cunningham. As we noted at the time it’s both an ambitious and modest goal. Also, considering what Giles said at Media Day — that the Nets, more than the dozen other teams who worked him out, had the most serious and long-term interest in him — that seems like the logical outcome. (Brooklyn, it should also be noted, have converted two-ways to standard deals twice in the last two years, Kessler Edwards in 2022 and David Duke Jr. in 2023.)

If indeed that was and is the plan, Giles has helped it along, as Evan Barnes of Newsday wrote Tuesday. While he didn’t play vs. the 76ers on Monday night, he displayed a lot of what he can still do vs. Maccabi Ra’anana. The Israeli second division team was without NBA talent, but Giles looked good in putting up 16 points and grabbing 10 boards in 20 minutes of action. Overall, he went 8-of-10 from the floor.

The 6’11” Giles displayed a nice menu offensively, a floater here, a put back there, an alley oop from Ben Simmons, etc. He also looked healthy, showing some quickness in getting off the floor, despite a myriad of injuries to his lower body going back to high school. His body may have betrayed his career but it sure looked like he could still have a career.

“It’s all about confidence, too, just building confidence each game,” said the 25-year-old after that game. “This is my first couple of games in like two years, so for me, it’s just working through that. And I feel great. I’ve been working my body out hard in the summertime and now all of preseason, so I’m excited to keep going and keep building.”

That he didn’t play Monday vs. Philly didn’t seem to bother him. Jacque Vaughn wanted to see what Day’Ron Sharpe could do after twisting his ankle in Preseason Game 1 vs. the Lakers and missing the Maccabi game. Sharpe finished with nine points (but only 2-of-6 from the floor), 10 rebounds and two blocks. Watford, who increasingly looks like a Swiss Army Knife rather than a big man, played well, too, with 13 points and seven boards. Barnes reported that for Giles It’s more about progress than minutes.

“You always got to go out there and compete regardless of what emotions you’re feeling through the game,” Giles said. “It’s still basketball, man, still going out here and doing my job.”

Nic Claxton told Barnes that he believes Giles could have a role with Brooklyn.

“Obviously he knows how to play,” Claxton said. “He’s been in and around the league for a while. I think we could definitely use him this year.”

With the need for a supply of reliable back-ups to Claxton, putting Giles on the open two-way deal would seem ideal for the Nets. Under the new CBA, he can be active for up to 50 games before the Nets would have to make a decision on whether to convert him. His salary, half the vets minimum, wouldn’t count against the salary cap and the Nets very much loathe the idea of going over the luxury tax threshold and into repeater tax territory. They currently have $8.0 million in wiggle room.

Adding to the speculation about Giles splitting his time between Barclays Center and Nassau Coliseum, is the presence of so-called “Harry Giles III rule,” part of the new CBA. As Chris Haynes of TNT and Bleacher Report described it, the rule is an ideal vehicle for both player and team.

A new provision on two-way contracts in the new CBA will informally be dubbed the “Harry Giles III rule,” which will allow NBA players who sit out an entire season not to have that year count toward the three-year maximum service for two-way eligibility.

In the previous CBA, a player with less than four years of service was eligible to be signed on a two-way contract. Initially, those same parameters were set to go unchanged in the new CBA.

Giles had to sit out the entire 2017-18 due to a knee injury. Among those lobbying for the new rule was Daniel Hazan, Giles agent, and his good friend, Jayson Tatum. (If you’re wondering, Watford has two years of NBA service while Bazley has four, making him ineligible for a two-way.)

We won’t know the final roster calculus till closer to October 23 when the Nets will have to make their final moves. We may also get a hint on Wednesday when Brooklyn plays its final preseason game against Miami in South Beach. Putting aside injuries, that’s usually when coaches try to mimic the rotation they’ll use early on in the season.