John Jenkins has been tearing it up for the Westchester Knicks this season, averaging 27.5 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 3.6 assists, while shooting a scorching hot 51.6 percent from the field.
His impressive play might have you wondering whether the Knicks can call him up to the big club. Let’s examine their options.
First, it’s important to mention that the G-League isn’t quite like the minor leagues that exist in other sports. Players on G-League rosters only belong to their parent club if they are also on an NBA deal with that team, or if they are signed to a two-way contract. Otherwise, most G-Leaguers have no actual connection to their parent club’s roster; they are free to sign with any NBA team.
So while Jenkins plays for the Knicks G-League affiliate, that doesn’t grant them any special permissions in adding him to their NBA roster.
Jenkins is not on a two-way contract, and he is ineligible to sign a two-way contract since he has more than three years of NBA service.
For the Knicks to add the Vanderbilt star to their roster, they would need to sign him to an NBA deal the same way they would any free agent.
Of course, before thinking about signing Jenkins, the Knicks would need to waive or trade an extra player to create an open roster spot, the same way they did for Allonzo Trier at the expense of Ron Baker.
Keep in mind that any player who is owed more than $50,000 in guaranteed money1 cannot be waived and then signed to a two-way contract or waived and then assigned to the club’s G-League affiliate for the rest of this season. This means the Knicks can’t exchange Jenkins’ Westchester spot with a current NBA roster player, such as Luke Kornet. If the Knicks waive Kornet, since he has more than $50,000 guaranteed on his contract, he would be ineligible to join their Westchester team for the remainder of the season. Simply assigning a player to Westchester, as the Knicks have done with Kornet and Courtney Lee, doesn’t create an open roster spot either.
If an open roster spot is created (through trade or waiving a player), the Knicks would then need to use a salary cap exception to sign Jenkins since they are currently operating over the cap. New York used up their bi-annual exception on Allonzo Trier and have what translates into a league minimum value remaining on their mid-level exception. They can also sign any player to a league minimum contract.
It’s unlikely Jenkins would demand more than the league minimum salary at this point, so that shouldn’t be a problem. It’s creating the open roster spot that would delay the Knicks from signing Jenkins, if they are inclined to do so from his Westchester play.
Of course, the Knicks do have another option to sign Jenkins and that is to wait until January 5th and try him out on a ten-day contract, similar to what they did with Troy Williams last season. This would provide them a trial period before deciding whether they want to sign him for the rest of the season. It would also buy them more time to open up a roster spot via trade as we creep closer toward the trade deadline in February.