The NBA’s headline-grabbing offseason transactions happen from late-June through mid-July. The action starts just before the NBA Draft and continues until most of the major free agents are off the board by mid-July.
After that, attention turns to the start of the NFL and college football seasons, fantasy drafts, the start of the Premier League season and MLB postseason races. But NBA teams don’t stop working.
No, this isn’t about the dragged out “Dame’s of Our Lives” saga that only resolved days ahead of training camp. Nor is it about James Harden sitting out as the Philadelphia 76ers begin training camp.
This is about the hundreds of transactions for players you’ve rarely heard of. This is about how teams stock their training camp rosters, while also beefing up the rosters of their G League affiliate teams.
This is about Exhibit 9 and Exhibit 10 contracts. This about those on the fringes of the NBA. Veterans trying to hang on for one more run, young guys looking for a chance and everyone in between.
What are Exhibit 9 and Exhibit 10 contracts?
Exhibit 9 and Exhibit 10 contracts are commonly referred to as “summer contracts” or “training camp contracts”. These players are being brought in to provide competition in training camp, to give coaches some extra bodies for drills and scrimmages, and sometimes to prove they are worthy of a regular season roster spot.
Both Exhibit 9 and Exhibit 10 contracts are one-year, fully non-guaranteed contracts. (A team could technically sign a player who was from another team, or from outside of the NBA, to a four-year, maximum contract on a summer contract (not an Exhibit 9 or Exhibit 10 deal), but that’s never happened and will likely never happen for many reasons.) In addition, they do not count against the salary cap or the luxury tax. They are very much “make good” deals in every sense of the word.
If a player proves worthy of sticking around, teams have a few options. We’ll cover the uniqueness of an Exhibit 10 contract in a moment, because it has some different parameters around it.
If a team wants to keep a player on an Exhibit 9 deal, the simplest process is to keep them on the roster for opening night. At that point, the player’s contract converts from an Exhibit 9 contract to a standard non-guaranteed contract. It begins to count against the salary cap and the luxury tax, just like any other standard contract. If the team wants to guarantee the deal, they can do so at any time. Otherwise, the contract will become fully guaranteed on the league-wide guarantee date of January 10. (In reality, contracts become fully guaranteed on January 7, because players have to clear waivers by January 10 to avoid their deals becoming fully guaranteed. Thus, the last day to waive a player on a non-guaranteed deal is actually January 7. Aren’t date-based technicalities fun?)
If a team keeps a player from an Exhibit 9 contract for the full season, after it converts to a standard deal, that player is then a free agent following the season. If eligible, the team can issue them a qualifying offer to make the player a restricted free agent. Otherwise, they become an unrestricted free agent.
Let’s say a player looks so good that the team wants to keep them long-term. Options for a guy on an Exhibit 9 deal are somewhat limited. They can do the process above, but that only converts the deal to a one-year contract. If a team wants to risk it, they can waive the player from their Exhibit 9 deal and hope that they clear waivers. At that point, the player would be a free agent and the team can sign them to whatever type of contract they have available to them via cap space or via an exception.
What is specific about an Exhibit 9 contract?
An Exhibit 9 contract includes a provision that protects the player against injury while under that contract. If a player is injured while on an Exhibit 9 deal, the team is responsible for paying that player $15,000 (this is up from $6,000 in the prior CBA). That $15,000 does hit the salary cap and luxury tax as a form of dead money charge, upon the player being waived.
Lastly, teams can’t sign more than six players to an Exhibit 9 contract at any given time.
What is specific about an Exhibit 10 contract?
An Exhibit 10 contract is unique in that it has ties to the G League. Everything works the same as laid out above, with a few key differences.
A player on an Exhibit 10 contract can be converted to a two-way contract, provided that player is eligible to play on a two-way deal. (In order to be two-way eligible, a player must have three years of service or less. If they have four years of service, they have to have missed an entire season of games in those first four seasons. Note: This is years of service, not the year the player is currently in. A year of service isn’t earned until after the current season completes.)
Players who sign Exhibit 10 contracts are also eligible for a bonus if they play for the NBA team’s G League affiliate after being waived. For the 2023-24 season, that bonus can range from $5,000 to $75,000. (The maximum amount will increase by the same percentage as the salary cap does for future years. This was changed in the current CBA from being a set amount in the previous CBA.) In order to receive this bonus, a player must report to and remain with the G League affiliate for a period of no less than 60 days.
The most common process for a player on an Exhibit 10 contract to stick on the regular season NBA roster is to be converted to a two-way deal. However, teams can undertake a series of transactions if they want to get one of these players on a long-term standard deal without exposing the player to a waiver claim.
In this case, a team can convert the player to a two-way contract, then from their two-way contract they can sign the player to a long-term standard deal. Although the Exhibit 10 deal and the following two-way contract would both be terminated, the player is not exposed to waivers during this process of conversions/signings.
A team can also convert an Exhibit 10 contract directly to a standard contract, as was laid out above. In this case the deal becomes a one-year, non-guaranteed minimum contract. The same guarantee dates and process exist, as laid out above.
The deadline for converting an Exhibit 10 contract to a two-way deal or a standard deal are ahead of the regular season.
Like an Exhibit 9 or a summer contract, an Exhibit 10 contract does not count against the salary cap or the luxury tax.
Does anyone make a team from these deals?
The answer to this question used to be no. It was very rare to see a player make a team after being on a summer contract/training camp deal. With the advent of two-way contracts, conversions to two-way deals became a fairly common occurrence.
However, in recent years, several veteran players have played their way off their camp deal and made a regular season roster. The most famous example of this is probably Dwight Howard, who made the 2019-20 Los Angeles Lakers after starting on an Exhibit 9 contract. Howard was then a big part of the Lakers winning the 2020 NBA Finals.
How many players are currently on Exhibit 9 or Exhibit 10 contracts?
As of this writing, there are 95 players on rosters that are currently signed to an Exhibit 9 or Exhibit 10 contract. Several other players have already been signed and waived that were on Exhibit 9 or Exhibit 10 deals. That brings the total number to well over 100 of these deals already this offseason. There are likely to be several more of these sign-and-waive type of transactions, as it’s how teams regularly provide players with bonuses for joining their G League affiliate after the NBA preseason. (Note: Even if a player is playing for a G League affiliate after an Exhibit 10 contract, the NBA team has no claim to that player. They are considered an NBA free agent and able to sign with any team.)
Some notable veteran players that are currently signed to an Exhibit 9 or Exhibit 10 contract include Rudy Gay and Rodney McGruder (Golden State Warriors), Harry Giles III (Brooklyn Nets), Romeo Langford (Utah Jazz), Mac McClung (Orlando Magic), Lamar Stevens (Boston Celtics) and Edmond Sumner (Charlotte Hornets).
It’s a good bet that at least a few of those players will have their contract converted and will be on a standard NBA contract on opening night.