In a surprising move on Wednesday afternoon, the Detroit Pistons agreed to an Exhibit 10 deal with LiAngelo Ball. The move will see Ball enter a training camp and preseason with an NBA team for the first time in his career, allowing him a chance to play with and against NBA talent.
The move was shocking largely due to the lack of reports or rumblings that Ball was looking to sign with a team. However, the fact he landed with a team for training camp is not as surprising given the fact he received a G League contract with the OKC Blue last season, days before COVID-19 forced the abrupt ending of the season.
More than just receiving the contract with the Blue, the way Ball did it likely left a mark on those around the league. Originally brought in as a practice player, Ball worked his way into an official contract with the team.
Within that context, it’s not a surprise that he was signed by the Pistons. Detroit is also the location LiAngelo and his younger brother and No. 3 overall pick LaMelo worked out during much of the pandemic alongside former Piston and Detroit resident Jermaine Jackson, likely leading to a connection with the franchise.
For as impressive as it was for LiAngelo to earn his shot in the G League, he faces a much stiffer challenge to get onto an NBA roster. Coming into the off-season, Detroit looked like one of the more favorable places to land as the team looked set to enter a rebuild.
However, the team inked Mason Plumlee and Jerami Grant to big contracts during free agency while also landing guard Delon Wright via trade, totaling $36 million added to the 2020-21 payroll alone. The team also has 16 players on the cap sheet for next season, per Spotrac, one more than the allowed amount for the regular season.
In short, there is no realistic path this season to a guaranteed spot on the Pistons roster. However, that isn’t his only path he has to be apart of the franchise’s NBA team this year.
The far more likely path would be Ball signing as a two-way player. Currently, teams are allowed two two-way contracts during the season. Detroit signed Anthony Lamb, an undrafted forward out of Vermont, to a two-way deal following the draft while the other spot remains open.
Should Ball impress in camp, assuming the Pistons leave that second two-way spot open, he could conceivably earn the second two-way contract. Also working in his advantage is that the team has given just two camp invite/Exhibit 10 deals in Lamb and Ball.
While Ball’s NBA dreams still aren’t quite fulfilled, he’s certainly making tangible progress to that goal and is closer than he’s ever been.