Early Expectations for Sixers Two-Way Players

NCAA BASKETBALL: DEC 15 Charleston at East Carolina
GREENVILLE, NC – DECEMBER 15: Charleston Cougars guard Grant Riller (1) sits on the bench in a NCAA Basketball game between the East Carolina Pirates and the Charleston Cougars on December 15, 2016 at Williams Area at Minges Coliseum in Greenville, NC. Charleston defeated East Carolina 53 – 35. (Photo by Greg Thompson/Icon Sportswire)

The Sixers have officially set their two-way slots in stone heading into next season and will look to take advantage of these roles heading into next season.

Since being put in place for the 2017-18 season, two-way contracts have become increasingly important to utilize for NBA teams. As almost a loophole for holding extra players on the roster, two-way players are eligible to play in up to 50 NBA games while spending the rest of the time with the team’s G-League affiliate.

These can only be handed out to players with four or fewer years of NBA experience and are used with the hope of transitioning the player to a full contract. This concept was seen last year with Paul Reed as he began the year on a two-way contract before signing a two-year deal to be on the full roster.

Shortly after the draft was completed, it was reported that Aaron Henry had been signed to a two-way contract to take up the first two-way slot. Despite originally resigning Rayjon Tucker to another two-way deal, the Sixers elected to move on and add Grant Riller to their final two-way deal. Here is a little about who each player is and what to expect moving forward:

Who Are They?

Aaron Henry

Once looked at as a lock to get his name called on draft night, Aaron Henry could prove to be great value after going undrafted. The three-year starter at Michigan State has a solid frame for an NBA wing and looks to fit the mold as a potential three-and-D guy. Henry averaged 15.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.3 blocks during his final season in college, but saw dips in his shooting efficiency which turned teams away.

Despite shooting 38.5% and 34.4% from beyond the arc his freshman and sophomore seasons, Henry’s three-point percentage slipped to 29.6% last year as he grew to a more focal point of the offense. Defensively, the 21-year-old has impressive instincts and plays with a very high motor. His continued impact on this side of the ball is what opened the door for this opportunity, and if he can polish his offensive skill set, he has a chance to be a solid role player moving forward.

The first game action was seen in the Summer League, and Henry showed some flashes of his ability. His sweet left-handed stroke showed signs of life, and he also flashed some ball-handling capabilities. There is a ton of competition in the draft with so much demand for these types of three-and-D players. While he lacks some of the hype that comes with a draft slot, there is not too large of a gap in talent between Henry and many of the wings that were drafted this year.

Summer League head coach Brian Adams was asked his thoughts on the Sixers rookie following one performance. Adams spoke very highly of Henry and finished off by saying,

“I think he’s got a real future in this league.”

It is unlikely for Henry to force his way into the rotation for this upcoming season, but look for some positive signs of development and for him to work his way into the Sixers‘ long-term plans.

Grant Riller

With Rayjon Tucker already tieing up the second two-way deal, the Sixers roster seemed nearly complete. This changed when Grant Riller became available after being released by the Charlette Hornets. Riller spent the past season on a two-way deal with the Hornets, where he played in just seven games with the NBA team. In his 25.7 minutes per game at the G-League, Riller averaged 13.1 points and 3.5 assists per game. He also shot an absurd 46.2% from beyond the three-point arc on 4.7 attempts per game. This percentage ranked second in the G-League.

The Sixers were linked greatly to Grant Riller during last year’s draft. The 6’3 combo guard spent four years at the College of Charleston, where he averaged 18.7 points per game. He has impressive shot-creation ability and an intriguing shiftiness to his game. Riller is an easy guy to root for and could carve out a role as a spark off the bench with the Sixers long-term. He ultimately was drafted with the 56th overall pick in last year’s draft.

Once again, it is doubtful that Riller is in the Sixers’ short-term plans, but this is a solid addition to the team. He will likely be looked to as a focal point of the G-League roster during his time there and should look to develop as a scoring option off the bench for the Sixers. The Charleston product has drawn similarities to Fred Van Fleet due to his frame and style of play, but this type of role would certainly be beneficial to the Sixers if he can fill those shoes.

Overall Expectations

Two-way contracts are certainly looked at as an evaluation of a player’s long-term potential rather than immediately helping the team, and both Aaron Henry and Grant Riller are great fits for this. While a GM is seemingly only judged on making big-time moves happen, it is just as important to a franchise to add low-priced talent to the team, and Daryl Morey deserves credit for doing just this.

It is also worth noting that if a multiplayer deal does come into play, Henry or Riller could be looked to transition onto a full contract. Morey has shown that he prioritizes accomplished young players over potential, and each of these players fits this bill. It is unlikely either guy makes much of an impact this season but look for them to stick as impactful role players moving forward.