Financials are an important part of any sport, whether you’re placing March Madness bets, trying to stay under the NFL salary cap, or an MLB team trying to navigate through the competitive balance tax.
The NBA, of course, is no different than the other major sports in that it has a salary cap. Teams that go over it – like the Golden State Warriors – have to pay a luxury tax that is redistributed to other teams in the league. In essence, paying players to win now may ironically help opponents in the future.
One of the conundrums with the NBA salary cap is that you also still need players. It’s a long 82-game season, and there will be a lot of bumps and bruises along the way. Teams rotate 8-9+ players a night from their roster, so if three or four of them are hurt, you lose a competitive edge.
The NBA expanded their rosters from 12 to 15 players during the 2020 COVID season and has kept that in place moving forward, but clubs still get very thin from time to time. This is why the 10-day contract is so useful.
What is the NBA 10-Day Contract?
The 10-day contract is pretty self-explanatory as it allows teams to sign a player for ten days, or three games, whichever is longer. Since a team is signing free agents, the player pool is of guys not already on a roster, so the 10-day contract is typically used to fill in the back end of a rotation and not necessarily starters or stars.
NBA 10-day contracts typically have a floor of just over $60,000 and a ceiling of $175,000, all based on a player’s experience. Paying these does count towards the salary cup, but it is still a more cost-effective option than a $2.6 million veteran’s minimum.
Standard and Hardship NBA 10-Day Contracts
There are actually two types of NBA 10-Day contracts that teams can utilize: standard and hardship contracts.
Standard is basically your ordinary contract where it counts towards the salary cap, but hardship kicks in when a team has at least four players injured (or sick) for three games in a row.
Hardship deals were very standard when teams had 5-6 players quarantining for positive COVID tests. Hardship contracts are basically emergency agreements and do not count toward the salary cap or luxury tax.
Who Benefits from 10-Day Deals?
It may sound insincere to only want a player for ten days, and some people have called the 10-day contracts rent-a-player. The process really does benefit both the team and the player, though.
Teams need guys, and guys need to play, even if it’s just on a 10-day or three-game deal. A player can only sign two 10-day deals with the same team in a season, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be signed to a full-year contract.
Any opportunity to let scouts see you play in the NBA is worthwhile. Just look at Seth Curry, who started his career on 10-day deals with the Grizzlies and Cavaliers, and has now built himself into a regularly contracted NBA player, now making $8.5 million in the 2022-23 season.
Veterans can also make fairly decent money on 10-day deals for their work. Lance Stephenson spent 43 days on 10-day contracts in 2021/22 and collected $690,000 for his efforts. Not guaranteed max money, but also not a bad chunk of change for a player who entered the season without a contract.
Standard 10-day contracts are available starting after January 5th of each season, while hardships can be enacted anytime. Both teams and players benefit from this, and many players have started on 10-day deals only to earn lucrative deals based on their play. 10-day contracts have become a viable way to fill rosters while also not being too damaging to salary cup numbers.