OKLAHOMA CITY — Each NBA team is allowed two players to be signed to two-way contracts and, until Thursday afternoon, Tyler Davis and Deonte Burton had been those players for the Thunder.
Burton has impressed, seeing action in 15 games and averaging extended time — 8.7 minutes — during those games. It's the same number of games, and significantly more minutes, than Abdel Nader, who maintains a full roster spot.
Davis, however, had only seen action in one game and, Thursday, the Thunder waived him in favor of Donte Grantham, who the organization plans to sign to his own two-way deal.
The roster moves were first reported by The Athletic.
Grantham had made nine appearances for the Thunder’s G-League affiliate, the Oklahoma City Blue, averaging 10.7 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 26.4 minutes of court time.
A 6-foot-8 forward, Grantham went undrafted after playing four years at Clemson, where he averaged 14.2 points and 6.9 rebounds during a 2017-18 season that ended prematurely, thanks to January ACL tear to his right knee.
When not in uniform with the Thunder, Davis, a 6-10 center, made 15 appearances with the Blue and enjoyed better numbers than Grantham, averaging 17.2 points and 11.6 rebounds.
However, one place Grantham has shined — better than any player, statistically, on the Thunder roster — has been from beyond the 3-point arc.
As a member of the Blue, Grantham has shot 40 percent from 3-point land, making 22 of 55. The best 3-point shooter for the Thunder this season has been Paul George, who’s shooting 39 percent (112 of 287) from distance.
Grantham may also project better than what he's shown with the Blue. His G-League appearances have been his first back on the court since his ACL surgery.
• What’s a two-way deal? Two-way contracts allow NBA teams, limited to 15 conventional roster spots, two additional “two-way” positions.
A player on a two-way contract can spend up to 45 days with an organization’s NBA team and be paid for that time as though on an NBA minimum rookie contract. A full season at the rookie minimum rate is worth $838,464.
When with the G-League team, a two-way contract player’s annual salary is $77,250, significantly more than the typical G-League contract of $7,000 per month or $35,000 for the five-month season.
Additionally, two-way contracts are not guaranteed and do not count against the salary cap.
Should Davis continue to play for the Blue or any other G-League affiliate, he would be paid like a regular G-Leaguer. The exception would be if he were to sign a new two-way contract with another franchise, something he may do now that he’s a free agent.
• Russell not buying it: In one of his most engaging media sessions, Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook held court following Thursday’s practice.
He was asked what he thought about the idea that winning an NBA championship now requires five shooting threats on the floor.
“Yeah, who says that,” he shot back.
The question then turned to the topic of the Thunder possibly being hampered by Steven Adams’ lack of a perimeter game. Westbrook rejected the entire premise.
“It doesn’t really have any logic behind it,” he said, “other than one team (Golden State) won a championship that shoots all 3s and now everybody thinks that’s [what’s required], but there’s no logic. Cleveland won it. It didn’t have a big man ever shoot.”
• Injury report: Though it’s an illness rather than an injury, Thunder coach Billy Donovan said Alex Abrines did not practice with the team Thursday and is listed as questionable for tonight’s 8 p.m. tip at Phoenix. Additionally, Paul George is listed as questionable, the result of a right quad contusion.
Losing George would be a blow, as he’s enjoying perhaps the best month of his NBA career, averaging 31.1 points, 9.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.2 steals, all while shooting 50.6 percent from field, 45.5 percent from 3-point land and 85.9 percent from the free-throw line in 12 December games.
Horning is senior sports columnist for The Norman Transcript, a CNHI News Service publication.