- Josh Elias | August 30th, 2019
The New Orleans Pelicans’ G League affiliate, the Erie BayHawks – not to be confused with the Atlanta Hawks’ G League affiliate from last year, the Erie BayHawks, who are now known as the College Park Skyhawks, or the Orlando Magic’s G League affiliate from three years ago and prior, the Erie BayHawks, who are now the Lakeland Magic – held their expansion draft yesterday, and it raised some questions when it was revealed that they selected Trey Burke.
Burke is a 26-year-old NBA-quality point guard who earned legitimate playing time with the New York Knicks and Dallas Mavericks these past two seasons, even if he wasn’t wanted in the NBA, taking a contract with an elite EuroLeague/Chinese Basketball Association team would be more in his best interest than returning to the G League, and, most importantly, he signed a one year, $2 million dollar contract with the Philadelphia 76ers 30 days ago.
He’s not just an NBA-quality player. He’s literally on a roster.
So is Derrick Jones Jr., who they also selected. In fact, it wouldn’t be completely outlandish to consider him a contender for the Miami Heat’s starting PF spot this year.
In fact, nine out of the fourteen players the Erie BayHawks drafted are currently under contract with a team somewhere in the NBA, Europe, or Australia.
Isaiah Hartenstein? Under contract with Houston.
Kyle Wiltjer? Under contract with Turk Telecom in Turkey.
Erik McCree? Under contract with Gravelines in France.
Taylor Braun? Under contract with Brisbane in Australia.
Codi Miller-McIntyre? Under contract with Cedevita Olimpija in Slovenia.
Matt Williams? Under contract with Donar in the Netherlands.
Isaac Hamilton? Under contract with AEK in Cyprus.
The only way any of them end up as BayHawks this year is if they get released from their contracts, and frankly, I don’t think the NBA’s official development league should be targeting players who can’t cut it in the Cypriot OPAP Basket League.
So why did they draft these guys? What’s going on here?
How in the world were players under NBA contract eligible to be selected in the first place? In the event of an expansion draft in the G League, each team is able to “protect” a certain number of players just like in the NBA. Protection disallows the expansion team from selecting the protected player. The NBA rule states that each NBA team is given the right to protect eight rostered players who are not unrestricted free agents. Conversely, the G League allows each team to protect 12 players out of any player who has been on their roster in the past two seasons (assuming they are the most recent G League team they have played for). That is why Burke, who spent 26 games with the Westchester Knicks in 2017-18, and Jones Jr., who played 29 games between two different G League teams in that same year, were eligible to be drafted despite being on NBA rosters.
What exactly does being drafted by a G League team mean, if players under contract elsewhere can be drafted? Pretty much the exact same thing as being drafted by an NBA team means. When you’re drafted in the NBA, you aren’t guaranteed a contract either, and plenty of international players have been selected while under contract. Quite often, an NBA team pays a multi-million dollar buyout fee to the player’s previous team, but sometimes the player can’t join the team that drafted them until their contract is up. Dario Saric, Jonas Valanciunas, and Donatas Motiejunas are recent examples of high draft picks who weren’t allowed to come over right away due to contractual difficulties, and Europe’s marquee offensive threat – Sergio Llull – has yet to make the move to Houston despite the ten years since the day then-Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver called his name. Fran Vázquez was selected by Orlando in the lottery, with the eleventh pick in 2005. He never left Spain. The G League has the same sort of system, where they can opt to facilitate buyouts from current contracts, but they simply don’t have the same draw as the NBA, so it rarely happens in the first year. The BayHawks do have the exclusive G League rights to sign each player they drafted though for the next two seasons, so if, for example, Burke struggles enough this year that he isn’t picked up by an NBA team next offseason and decides to go the G League route, he can only sign with Erie.
How many of these players will this actually affect? For context, there have been five expansion drafts in the G League in the past two years. 58 players have been selected, and only 23 of them ever suited up for the team that drafted them. Don’t expect that rate to drastically increase this summer.
Why are there three different franchises that are/have been called the Erie BayHawks, and will it ever stop? Absolutely no clue. A lack of creativity? Either way, there are three everlasting truths to the world. Death, taxes, and the eternal rebirth of the Erie BayHawks. They might as well end up as Phoenix’s affiliate at this point, with how often they rise from the ashes.
Follow Josh Elias on Twitter @thejelias
Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images