However, I also wonder just how many players in the D-League have the ability to play at the NBA level and whether the increased appeal of playing in the D-League over the next decade (two decades?) will be enough to cover a nearly 100 percent jump in player populace.
But while Iâ€™m on the fence about whether high-volume expansion would hurt the D-League from a fan watchability standpoint (yes, I made that word up), if the goal here is really to develop players for the NBA, the risk seems worth it: The earlier players become acclimated to the NBA systems that they will be playing in should they be called up, the better they will perform once they reach the next level. It stands to reason that a one-to-one affiliate ratio would make the cream of the D-League crop more prepared to step in and contribute in the Association, and thatâ€™s the primary goal here.
Weinman comes through with a fantastic article, well-sourced and thorough about D-League expansion. Long story short: D-League obviously wants more teams (though their open admission about working towards that goal of one affiliate per NBA team is a shift from a few years ago), Red Claws GM is worried about dilution.
Here’s the problem with skepticism about expansion. Any expansion that’s going to come will likely end up being at least partially built in by the CBA. And once the CBA is (please God, help us) changed to allow teams to actually put players on payroll that don’t count against cap or roster space, you know what’s going to happen? All those dudes that are American that took off for Europe for the money are going to come back. That’s a ton of players. There are a lot of guys who would love to play in the NBA, but aren’t willing to go through making 12 to 20 grand for six months of work.Â By building an actual farm system with moderate sized contracts, you’re going to increase your player pool. More teams means adding more water, but changing the CBA means adding more syrup.
As far as teams investing in the D-League, there will always be teams that mishandle their D-League teams. You know why? There are teams that mishandle their actual teams! Every business has things it does well and things it doesn’t do so well. But even if the CBA doesn’t require the operation of an affiliate (which it really should; you can own and operate a D-League team for a whole year for a fraction of what Jason Collins costs), the trend is heading towards outright ownership. Starting next year, three of the five Southwest Division teams own their own affiliate. And while the Lakers are currently focused on championships with this core, I’d expect the D-Fenders to get a lot more attention starting in two years.
The trend is happening. The future is coming. Whether people are ready or not.