According to Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic, the Phoenix Suns are interested in creating a new D-League team to operate out of Prescott Valley, AZ.
That’s a big move in itself, and a signal of just how far the D-League has come this season. Having the resources to develop players on the minor league level and dig up talent like Anthony Tolliver, Reggie Williams, or Alonzo Gee is now a serious competitive advantage. One that teams around the league would be foolish to ignore.
Coro indicates that the Suns would be leaning toward the hybrid affiliation of D-League ownership, which could actually be the most beneficial to the team. The model would grant the D-League team autonomy on the business side of the operation (though at the NBA affiliate’s expense for three years), but the NBA team (in this case, the Suns) would have complete control over the basketball side. Coaching staff, system, playbook, roster — everything would be in the hands of the Suns to control, and that’s a very powerful tool.
The only existing hybrid affiliated team is the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, which are operated by the Houston Rockets. Houston remains one of the best examples of a team using the D-League for internal development and as an additional source of playing time, and have called up the likes of Mike Harris and Garrett Temple this season for stints in the big leagues.
The Suns could be poised to do the same, as the utility and malleability of the hybrid model are what make it so enticing. It helps Phoenix to keep better tabs on prospects they find intriguing (and by extension, better tabs on other D-League opponents whose worth is more accurately gauged by comparison), work on specific skills and plays that are useful to the Suns, and work daily on the development of draft picks without sacrificing anything. That’s a hell of a deal for an NBA team, and the potential benefits it can provide in a jam (i.e. a major injury that creates depth problems) are quite significant.
This plan is still early in the developmental process, but keep an eye on its progress. The Suns are catching on to the D-League process, and they’ll be all the better for it.