Daily Recaps

NBA Season Opens with 10 Former Alabama Players on Opening Day Rosters

October 24, 2023

Thanks to the advent of two-way contracts, there are more players on NBA rosters than ever before.  The two-way contract gives the NBA contractual control over more players, and also allows players with three or fewer years of NBA experience to develop at the NBA level.  A player on a two-year contract can play in up to 50 regular season NBA games (but ineligible for playoff games), with the rest of the time spent with the team’s G League affiliate, and the player earns approximately half of the NBA minimum ($1,119,563 for 2023-24 season), whether the player is playing in the NBA or the G League.  A player on a two-way contract cannot be signed by another NBA team, unlike a player who is allocated to a G League affiliate by the NBA team.

The NBA first introduced the two-way contracts in the 2017-18 season, and allotted two such roster spots to each NBA team.  The NBA is adding a third two-way contract starting with the 2023-24 season.

With the San Antonio Spurs converting Charles Bediako’s Exhibit 10 training camp contract to a two-way contract, there will now be 10 former Alabama players on opening day rosters, matching a record for the school.  They are, in order of tenure:

  • Collin Sexton; Utah Jazz (long-term contract)
  • Kira Lewis; New Orleans Pelicans (last year of rookie contract)
  • Herb Jones; New Orleans Pelicans (long-term contract)
  • Joshua Primo; Los Angeles Clippers (two-way contract)
  • Keon Ellis; Sacramento Kings (two-way contract)
  • Braxton Key; Denver Nuggets (two-way contract)
  • J.D. Davison; Boston Celtics (two-way contract)
  • Brandon Miller; Charlotte Hornets (rookie contract)
  • Noah Clowney; Brooklyn Nets (rookie contract)
  • Charles Bediako; San Antonio Spurs (two-way contract)

The 10 former Alabama players on opening day rosters matches the 1997-98 season, which also saw 10 Alabama alumni on NBA rosters.  The 1997-98 contingency was:

  • Keith Askins; Miami Heat
  • David Benoit; New Jersey Nets (traded to Orlando Magic in-season)
  • Jason Caffey; Chicago Bulls (traded to Golden State Warriors in-season)
  • Robert Horry; Los Angeles Lakers
  • Antonio McDyess; Phoenix Suns
  • Derrick McKey; Indiana Pacers
  • James Robinson; Los Angeles Clippers
  • Roy Rogers; Boston Celtics (traded to the Toronto Raptors in-season)
  • Latrell Sprewell; Golden State Warriors (suspended 14 games into season)
  • Eric Washington; Denver Nuggets

Assuming all 10 of the currently-rostered players appear in NBA games, and if current free agent JaMychal Green signs with an NBA team, Alabama could set a new school record with 11 former players appearing in NBA games this upcoming season.

It’s worth noting that the NBA roster size in 1997-98 season was 12 players on 29 teams, whereas the current NBA roster size is 15 players plus 3 two-way contracts and 30 teams, so there are significantly more spots available today (348 players in 1997-98; 540 players in 2023-24).

Alabama has had player representation in the NBA since Leon Douglas’ debut at the beginning of the 1976-77 season, but the NBA pipeline grew dangerously low in in the mid-teens. During the 2017-18 season, JaMychal Green was the only former Alabama player to appear in a league game.  The current upswing started with the drafting of Collin Sexton by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2018 draft.  Much credit goes to both Avery Johnson and Nate Oats for replenishing the league with Alabama talent, with an assist from the introduction of the two-way contract.

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