Five players on 10-day contracts who deserve to stick around
The COVID-19 virus, and particularly its hyper infectious cousin the Omicron variant, has turned the NBA world upside down over the last couple of months. With hundreds of players missing time in health and safety protocols, the league smashed its record for rostered players in a season as it sought to add more live bodies to avoid game postponements or cancellations at all costs. It meant that players long retired, and those from developmental leagues never given a real shot, got their chance to play meaningful NBA basketball in larger roles than would ever have happened before.
Now, luckily, things are beginning to calm down. But though most of these fill-in players will return from whence they came, a few have clearly shown they deserve a place in the NBA.
Here are the five players once signed to 10-day contracts that deserve to stick around.
5. XAVIER MOON (LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS)
Xavier Moon, nephew of former NBA player Jamario Moon, was a call-up from the Canadian Elite Basketball League, a Canadian domestic pro-league that’s been playing since 2019. The 27-year-old Moon filled in for the Clippers' missing backcourt and did an admirable job on his 10-day deal. He even earned significant praise from acting head coach Brian Shaw (himself filling in for Tyronn Lue).
Moon has an all-around game for a point guard, and was a willing shooter when his number got called in his brief stint. It remains to be seen if Moon will lock in a deal with the Clippers for the rest of the season, but he deserves a longer look on a roster somewhere looking to add guard depth.
4. GREG MONROE (WASHINGTON WIZARDS)
Greg Monroe had been out of the NBA since 2019 and recently signed a 10-day deal with the Washington Wizards after a previously successful 10-day stint with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Monroe really didn’t look like he’d lost much of a step. He’s still a great rebounder and plus-passer for the center position (he averaged 3.7 assists with the Wolves), capable of doing just enough on offense to keep opponents thinking. He still struggles as a pick-and-roll defender, but he’s a solid option at backup center for any team with ambitions lower than outright title contention.
The nice part for Monroe is that even if he doesn’t stick for the rest of the season, he’s now officially a 10-year NBA veteran, which qualifies him for the maximum pension plan under the NBPA.
3. KEIFER SYKES (INDIANA PACERS)
You were probably expecting Lance Stephenson to make an appearance here, but instead, we’re going to spotlight another Indiana Pacers guard. Now Keifer Sykes didn’t technically start on a 10-day, but he got his opportunity for all the same reasons as the rest of this group, so we’re including him. Sykes was playing for the Pacers’ G League franchise, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, before getting called up to the big club on Dec. 29.
Over the past two years, Sykes has played for:— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) January 7, 2022
* Ankara DSİ in Turkey
* Scandone Avellino in Italy
* Guangzhou Lions in China
* Olimpia Milano back in Italy
* Türk Telekom in Turkey
* Panathinaikos in Greece
* Melbourne Phoenix in Australia
* Fort Wayne Mad Ants in the G League
Sykes is a 5’11" point guard with unrivaled confidence. He has played, quite literally, all around the world including China, Korea, Turkey, Australia, and all manner of European countries. For the Pacers, he’s shown out as a dogged one-on-one defender well outplaying his diminutive size, as well as an excellent playmaker and spot-up shooter.
2. ALFONSO MCKINNIE (CHICAGO BULLS)
Alfonso McKinnie is living an NBA dream by playing for his hometown Chicago Bulls. McKinnie has bounced around every year so far in his four-year NBA career, but seems to finally have found a good fit with the Bulls.
Despite his transient NBA career, McKinnie has something that many of the Chicago Bulls don’t: extensive playoff experience. McKinnie is also the only rostered Bull who has played in the NBA Finals, which he did in 2019. Clearly, the Bulls were enthusiastic about McKinnie’s fit because they signed him for the rest of the season after he fulfilled a pair of 10-days.
1. STANLEY JOHNSON (LOS ANGELES LAKERS)
Life is all about timing, and even among a list of players who found themselves making the most of unexpected opportunities, Stanley Johnson stands out. He’s found a home with the Los Angeles Lakers, who desperately need everything he provides.
Johnson started the season on a training camp deal with Chicago, and I predicted back then that he might be a meaningful piece for the Bulls if they were trying to shore up their wing defense. Well, the Bulls might not have needed to, but the Lakers surely do. And everything that was said then is true now, Johnson is a long, rangy, smart defender on the wing.
His shooting limits the kinds of lineups he can be used in, but he’s a willing drive-and-kick guy and brings an energy and commitment that the Lakers feed off of. And with the Lakers embracing more small-ball units with LeBron James at center, Johnson’s shooting isn’t as much of a liability.