The dark cloud of irresponsible contract tiers and insulting benefits that has surrounded the G-League has certainly played a role in hundreds, even thousands, of young players’ lives when it comes time for choosing the next phase in a post-collegiate basketball career.
It’s an overwhelming choice for many athletes who retain special talents on the basketball court, but seem to lack minor fundamental skills needed to play in the most prominent basketball league in the world. They all have one conceptual fantasy in common, a dream of pursuing the fashionable lifestyle of an NBA career. Unfortunately, it leaves them with a possible career-faulting decision: playing in the G-League and hoping to develop to the point of a call-up, or getting signed to a parent team in the NBA. Another option is to ditch the association altogether and go straight for the cash which resides inside the art of international basketball.
Of course with international basketball, there are a multitude of options that come along with that career path. Location and league choices seem to be infinite, and many of the established leagues, such as Europe’s top-tiered Turkish Airline’s EuroLeague, have fan bases that could seemingly squash those of the NBA G-League. And when larger fan bases are brought to the table, revenue reaches new peaks, allowing for more comfortable contract settlements, which is exactly what the G-League lacks most of all.
Unfortunately for players who hope to use overseas ball as a means of self-development, most of the time it isn’t as it easy as hopping from an international organization back into the draft once one feels comfortable to do so. In fact, any league under instruction of FIBA typically has to give clearance to players wanting to leave league franchises, and this can occasionally put contract-signing and meeting deadlines at risk.
Take a look back at this year’s Summer League for the Oklahoma City Thunder, who were seemingly denied the opportunity to watch their newest draftee Terrance Ferguson play in the league due to their prospect never receiving his clearance letter from FIBA. Of course in due time Ferguson was eventually granted access to begin contract talks with the Thunder, but up until that point he was still tied, according to FIBA, to his former Australian club, the Adelaide 36ers.
Unlike overseas basketball, if an underdeveloped player has aspirations to one day make it as far as the NBA, the G-League maintains systems in place to make it possible. To many, the G-League proves superior due to its direct connection with the NBA, showcase-development programs such as the Summer League, and much more exposure to the American basketball community. In addition to this, the NBA’s new CBA proves steps are being taken in the correct direction with an advancement in player benefits.
For example, the new two-way contract which has gained popularity this summer allows teams to sign two separate players that will spend a maximum of 45 days with the parent team, and the rest of the season with the affiliate G-League team. And though agents have been talking down the newly formed contract due to its restriction on player movement, many praise the contract for its purpose in giving players an opportunity to make a significant amount of cash.
The contract allows the player to be paid based upon a tier-like salary system, lasting only one or two seasons. After the maximum of 45 days is spent for the parent team, the player returns to the G-League making a much more comfortable $75,000, compared to the highest tier of G-League pay which is $26,000 on a standard one-way deal. After all is done, a regular two-way player who spends a full 45 days with the parent team, and the rest with the affiliate team, has the opportunity to make $280,000. To the eyes of a G-Leaguer who has dealt with the torturous contract tiers of the past, a six figure payout without much change could present itself as a heavenly gift.
In contrast to that, history has shown time and time again, international basketball can pay ten times that for someone with the talent of a G-League sensation. But with European contract values dropping, due to a decrease in attendance, viewership, rising popularity of the NBA, and a downfall of multiple European markets, it’d be wise to wait out the storm and take advantage of the recently rebranded association.
There are more advocates and opportunities for the G-league than ever before and exposure has skyrocketed. It seems as if I see highlights every other day from another rising prospect entering the league, or attracting franchises after having successful runs at showcases like the Summer League. And to add to all of this, the veterans, coaching staff, and development trainers of the G-league all have one goal in common—making you a more developed and well-rounded player, furthermore preparing you for a successful career in the National Basketball Association.