Photo Credits: David Grunfield, NOLA.com
On Saturday, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweeted, “The NBA and NBPA are discussing adding an additional roster spot for teams via a third two-way contract.” An addition of a third two-way contract would expand NBA teams’ rosters to 18.
The only criteria to be eligible for a two-way contract is to have three or less years of NBA experience. The headway this deal will give it’s recipients this year are colossal compared to those of past. Players this year can be eligible for 50 games this year as opposed to the mere 45 days, game-day or not, in those of years past.
This additional player slot. if passed, provides benefits for all parties involved: the league, the teams, and the players. All aspects of life have been derailed due to pandemic, and sports leagues have been no exception. Brandon Kochkodin of Bloomberg stated in his November article “the three leagues [NBA, NFL, and MLB] may see their sales fall by about $13 billion.” All sports leagues have been thrusted into a sticky situation in operating this season, but they all are trying to make the best out of it.
Leagues are without a surprise– run though a business perspective. For those on top, running a business that is going in the negatives is not going to further on their acquisitive ambitions. That’s why the provision to regulate postponements and cancellations are at an upmost priority, alongside with the well-being of their players.
The NBA had it’s bubble popped this season, and their have been numerous accounts of games being cancelled thus far due to the sole nature of teams not being able to place eight players on the floor (the league minimum) due to contact-tracing protocols and injuries. For the league, reducing these cases of games not played is a priority, and what better way to resolve these issues than adding more players that are eligible.
From a team perspective, they are given an opportunity to dig for another player who slipped through the cracks, allowing them a chance to prove that they are worth a future contract in the league. In the four year history of the two-way contract, a plethora of premier players have been surfaced, among those include: Duncan Robinson (MIA), Lu Dort (OKC), Shake Milton (PHI), Monte Morris (DEN), Alex Caruso (LAL), etc.
And from the players perspective, they are in a similar boat to that of the team. With only 450 full contracts in the league, being forgotten about or lost in the noise can be likely. These 30 new contracts will give way for those who never got a real chance to make an impact in the league, as well as give some a second shot at the league.
For a rebuilding team like the Oklahoma City Thunder, this market of youthful prospects once again being up for grabs is a dream come true. And luckily for the Thunder they have a bright athlete available that is right under their nose– Melvin Frazier Jr.
Frazier Jr. was brought onto the Thunder on the 3rd of December last month in the waiving of Antonius Cleveland, but it took just three days until Frazier Jr. faced a similar fate being waived by the team. This move was done with the intention of obtaining Frazier Jr.’s G-League rights with the organizations affiliate Oklahoma City Blue.
Frazier Jr. didn’t just pop out of nowhere for the Thunder, as his past brings him a long way to Brick Town. He was hardly recruited coming out of high school, being labeled a three-star recruit by 247 in the class of 2015. His list of offers by the end of high school? Two– Houston and Tulane.
Melvin enrolled at Tulane and struggled to find any sort of noise from scouts in his underclassman years with the Green Waves. He notched 5.2 points and 3.1 rebounds in 19.5 minutes, per game but his shooting averages of 40% and 29% from three, and 52% from the line left far more to be desired from the Freshman. In his sophomore year his minutes skied for 19.5 minutes to 30.2 a game, and numbers across the board rose. Frazier Jr. placed 11.5 points, 4.6 boards, and 1.5 assists in his time on floor, but his real impact came on defense. He tacked up 1.9 steals a night from his 0.9 from the year prior, and looked destined for a nice junior campaign.
The tsunami of success that was to come from Frazier Jr.’s year was nothing short of spectacular. His numbers shot to 15.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 2.1 steals per game on unprecedented efficiency from his beginning two years. Frazier Jr. jumped to 56% from the field (44% in soph. year,) 39% from deep (26% in his sophomore year,) and 71% from the line (shot 52% in his first year.)
Melvin’s year was so decorated he was named to the All-AAC second team, as well as the conferences Most Improved Player award. What may go above these two accolades was a prize like none other, a shot at the NBA.
Frazier Jr. was a player whispered in small circles as a potential steal by the end of his Junior year but come draft day, he was being touted as a surefire steal by every media source you can access, and the highlight reels were big time. By this time the 6’6″ combo-guard proved for three years how promising of a defender he had been while figuring things out on the scoring side of things. A scouting report from NBADraftRoom said, “[He] Has length and leaping ability like Derrick Jones Jr. (but is a better overall player.)” Other sources such as SI and NBADraft.net gave him appraisals of Alonzo Gee and Gerald Green respectively.
Ultimately, Frazier Jr. was swooped up by the Magic with the 35th selection of the 2018 draft, and that was the last time media spoke of him in the past three years. The situation in Orlando was horrendous for a player needing to develop like Melvin. There was a serious logjam at the two is his rookie year with Fournier, Ross, and Jonathon Simmons all ahead of him in the depth chart, resulting in him playing just ten games on 4.4 minutes his first year.
To make matters even worse in his second year, the Magic made two new additions at the two in James Ennis and Michael Carter-Williams. Despite Jonathon Simmons not returning from the 18-19 season, Frazier was still buried in the depth chart. He played just 19 games for the squad on 6.6 minutes per game, yet again restraining his room to grow.
The Magic ended up declining their team option on Frazier Jr. this past offseason, leaving him entering his third year with only 29 professional games under his belt.
Though Melvin Frazier Jr. hardly heard his name called up, he was one of the best G-League players in his past two years with the Lakeland Magic, particularly his last year. In his last year with Lakeland, he dropped 18.1 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.6 blocks, and 2.2 steals, making him the 5th best in the league. The 39% three-point shooting from college was knocked down to 33% last year, but the statement still held he can shoot from deep.
At this point the Thunder are looking at a gem in the development system who is yet to get a shot in the league. His measurables of 6’6″ with a 7’2″ wingspan fit the bill of GM Sam Presti and his fascinations with lengthy wings, but so does his playstyle. Frazier Jr. has been one of the most scrappy defenders in both college and the pros, and his defense from both the inside and outside scream Thunder basketball. Add him with pesky defenders such as Lu Dort and Kenrich Williams and the opposing side will be facing problems. His exceptional play in the passing lanes and ball hawking in general make him look like an NFL cornerback at times. The only real apparent knock comes from fouling issues, but that is something that could easily be patched up with time.
Offensively, his length and long strides make him a force in transition as he can take the contact and still stretch him arm right over the top of his man. Driving to the paint he will body an undersized guard around the basket as his clear size advantage does it all. Is Frazier the kind of guy who will be sizing up a string of ankle-breaking moves to get to his spots– probably not, but he still can get his way from point-a to point-b with relative ease. From deep, don’t expect him to be going around screens for pullups, but he’s effective sitting in the corners for his shots. Passing wise, he’s sneaky but will kill you if you get relaxed on him.
Clearly there may be some sort of learning curve jumping right into NBA action after playing near two-years in the G-League, but you can stick him into a game right now, and defensively, there wouldn’t be any glaring holes. The offensive side of things is where there may be some ups-and-downs but he has shown flashes in every aspect of that side of the ball.
There is no set-and-stone statement on if a third two-way contract will be given to all thirty teams, but if so, Melvin Frazier Jr. is the man to be looking out for.