OKLAHOMA CITY — It’s been a learning experience for coach Erik Spoelstra when it comes to two-way contracts, but that experience is almost over for this season.
The Heat will be able to use two-way contract players Derrick Jones Jr. and Derrick Walton Jr. for the rest of the regular season when the Sioux Falls Skyforce’s season ends. Their year could come to a close on Saturday — the final day of the G League regular season — unless the Skyforce overcome long odds to make the playoffs.
Players signed to a two-way deal can spend up to 45 days with their NBA teams during the season and the rest of the time must be spent with the NBA team’s developmental affiliate.
But after Saturday’s end of the G League regular season, two-way contract players are allowed to spend the rest of the season on NBA rosters regardless of how many NBA days are remaining on their deals. These players are not eligible for the NBA playoffs, however, unless their contracts are converted to a standard NBA deal by the final day of the NBA regular season.
“It’s something that we’ve been able to negotiate pretty smoothly,” Spoelstra said. “The system is a little bit clumsy, but I’m sure we’ll iron that all out in years to come. I’m a big fan of the two-way contract. I think it’s good for teams, it’s good for the player. We’ve seen the benefits of developing our guys with us, but also getting those guys a lot of game reps in our culture, in Sioux Falls.”
Jones rejoined the Heat for Friday’s game against the Thunder, and has two days of NBA eligibility remaining before the Skyforce season ends. Walton is currently with the Skyforce as he’s used all of his NBA days, but he can re-join the Heat on Sunday for their game against the Pacers if Sioux Falls does not make the playoffs.
When asked if he views Jones as a long-term possibility for the Heat, Spoelstra said: “Absolutely. We always envision where a player can go. We do that with an open mind and a commitment to our player development. But we love the idea of getting guys, young talented players who are ambitious into our summer program and into training camp and move on from there.
“He’s improved this year with us and that’s worth a note because he’s committed to our process. When he’s been with us, he’s been committed to working on his body in the weight room, working on his conditioning, working on his player development and really committing to the defensive points. I think he has to break into this program as a defensive minded player. That’s really where his potential is. But we will hammer and drill all the other stuff offensively, just also to throw a carrot to guys. But then his minutes there have gotten better, too. It’s been very intentional that we try to get him on the best wing opponent every night and really embrace that challenge regardless of how many minutes he plays and what his offensive responsibility is. He has to guard, he has to be able to impact on that side of the floor. And that got better. It still has a long ways to go, but he’s starting to understand where he can breakthrough.”
Jones has appeared in 11 games (eight starts) with the Heat this season, averaging 3.8 points, 2.6 rebounds and 18.0 minutes. Walton has appeared in 15 games for the Heat and is averaging 1.9 points while shooting 7-of-17 on 3-pointers and 1-of-7 on 2-pointers.