At every step over the past nine months, Milton Doyle has seized opportunity.
Doyle had a nice, solid career at mid-major Loyola in the Missouri Valley Conference after transferring from Kansas, topping out with 15.2 points per game as a senior that earned him a first team all-conference selection while showing enough to draw NBA interest that resulted in an invite to play for the Brooklyn Nets at NBA Summer League.
The 6-foot-4 guard turned that opportunity into a G League roster spot with the Long Island Nets, and today he's on an NBA roster with six games of NBA experience on his resume, which is something that likely wouldn't have been true a year ago.
This is the first season of two-way contracts in the G League, part of the loop's continuing evolution as NBA teams and affiliated teams develop true partnerships. NBA rosters have increased from 15 players to 17 players, with the final two spots being designated for two-way players, with a limit of 45 days they're allowed to be with the NBA team while the G League season is going on.
"We're giving more opportunity to more guys," said Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks. "They're playing your system. You get up-close, in-depth look at them. You get to see if they truly are system fits. And they're under your umbrella of development and that's important, where our coaches get up close. Very rarely do coaches get to see guys before they end up on a Nets roster."
There are positives on both ends. NBA teams get additional roster depth. They also have the opportunity to hold on to players that they've worked to develop. Players not on a two-way contract can be signed by any NBA team, regardless of affiliation. It can be a faster road to NBA minutes for the players, and there's a dramatic financial upside compared to the typical G League contract.
With a $75,000 G League salary and the ability to be paid at the NBA rookie minimum for up to 45 days, a two-way contract player can make up to $279,000. A one-way G League contract maxes out at $26,000.
"I think it's huge," said Nets coach Kenny Atkinson. "I think it's a great idea. It's a really neat idea. I wish they would have done it earlier. I think it's great. First of all, it gets those guys more money, which they're deserving. Expands our roster. We get to touch those guys more. And they get the benefit of doing both. The financial situation is better for those guys."
Doyle is a joined by James Webb III as a two-way contract player for the Nets. Both players are in-season call-ups. Doyle was signed to his two-way deal in December after averaging 21.3 points and shooting 38 percent from 3-point range in Long Island's first 17 games. Webb was signed in mid-January after playing for the Delaware 87ers - Philadelphia's G League affiliate - over the last season-and-a-half.
Both players have seen minutes with Brooklyn. Doyle played in six games between late December and mid-January. Webb was called on quickly after his signing, playing in nine games between Jan. 27 and Feb. 12 and playing significant minutes following an injury to Rondae Hollis-Jefferson that cut into Brooklyn's frontcourt depth.
Doyle is Long Island's leading scorer, staying consistent to those early-season numbers with 21.8 points per game and 37.5 percent 3-point shooting. He's also averaging 5.6 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game. In February, Doyle was named the G League Player of the Week after averaging 29.0 points, 6.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists while shooting 59.4 percent from the field and 61.9 percent from 3-point range.
"It's been cool to see his growth," said Long Island coach Ronald Nored. "The reason he's in the NBA is because he can score. He can just flat out score the basketball. He can do it in a variety of ways; finish at the rim, mid-range jump shots, catch and shoot 3s, pull-up 3s, he can score. He's got some underrated things about him as well. He's a really good passer. He's got a great feel for the game, really knows how to play. He's not the most physical guy in the world, but one thing he's getting better at defensively is just his defensive positioning. And he's going to have to be good at that to continue to be in the NBA and have an opportunity to play a lot of minutes."
Webb, a 6-9 forward, traveled a bit of a road to get here. Recruited by Boise State, he detoured to North Idaho Community College when his eligibility was in question and stayed for a year anyway even though he was cleared to play and accept a Division I scholarship just as the school year began. With a glut of seniors when he arrived at Boise, he redshirted his first year there. So by the time Webb had played just two seasons at Boise, he was in his fourth year of college and opted turn pro with a year of eligibility remaining after earning first team All-Mountain West Conference honors.
"Boise treated me well," said Webb. "I got to experience a lot. I believe it was six seniors that year my first year coming in, so I asked to redshirt, learned a lot from them. And then I knew what was expected of me when I came in to Boise. I knew what they wanted me to do. And then I kept getting better, day by day."
Webb wasn't drafted, but sent to Summer League and training camp with the Sixers and then was signed to Delaware. But a fractured ankle ended his season, and it wasn't until the first practice sessions of the 2017-18 season that he was able to take the court again.
"It split three ways," said Webb. "I still have four screws and a plate in there. The Philly staff, they got me back where I needed to be. Kept me positive through the whole process. It was a three-month, four-month process that turned into seven months. It was healing but I didn't have mobility like I did before, so we were just working on that and getting back into shape and back into the flow of playing basketball."
The Nets had an eye on Webb since he came out of college, and signed him in January after the annual G League Showcase.
"They told me to come in and just play my game," said Webb. "Shoot the ball when I'm open. Move the ball, point forward mentality. Set screens. Rolls. Slips. Space the floor. Bring energy and hustle plays and rebounding. That was pretty much what I like to do anyway. So it was pretty much an easy job to come in and step forward with that. Granted, I've still got to get stronger guarding forwards and just knowing how to be smarter since I'm not the strongest, how to use my quickness to my advantage."
In 11 games with Long Island - wrapped around his nine games in Brooklyn -- Webb is averaging 16.7 points and 7.7 rebounds per game while shooting 39 percent from 3-point range on 8.9 3-point attempts per game.
"He can really stretch the floor," said Nored. "The way the NBA's playing now, he fits that. He spaces the floor. But the thing that I've seen him improve on already in this short time, he's able to do more. He's getting to the free throw line. He's driving the ball at a higher rate and better than he was when he first got here. He loves the game of basketball. I love that about him. He wants to get better. Milton too. You can coach those guys hard. I coach those guys hard."
While Doyle and Webb are currently Brooklyn's two-way contract players, they're not the first. Jake Wiley and Yakuba Outtara were signed to those deals in the preseason. But injuries sidelined Outtara early in the season, and with Doyle putting up big numbers quickly on his standard contract, the Nets waived Outtara - who has since re-signed to play for Long Island on a standard G-League deal - and called up Doyle in December. Webb replaced original two-way signee Jake Wiley.
Trajan Langdon, general manager for Long Island assistant GM for Brooklyn, concurs with Marks that the two-way contract opportunity is a puzzle still to be sorted out in deciding the best way to utilize the spots.
"I think we're still trying to figure out, do you think of two-ways in terms of positions? Do you think about it in terms of age? Do you think about it in terms of development? Do you think about it in terms of, how can the two-ways help Brooklyn? Or do you look at it, can they help Brooklyn right now or do you want to develop where you can help Brooklyn later," said Langdon. "I think that's been our issue too. Sometimes you have injuries and coaches want a player that can help you now. And if that's what they want, then that's a different discussion than a developmental guy that maybe you can develop into roster or rotation player in the future."