Heat get their own D-League team

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The Miami Heat surely have designs of contending for championships for the next several years, even though LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh can each become free agents in any of the next three offseasons after this one. Of course, the Heat plan to keep all three, and at this point, losing them would be so devastating, Miami should plan as if all three will stick around.

But the Heat will face more challenges.

One, they’re old. Ray Allen (37), Shane Battier (34), Chris Andersen (34), Mike Miller (33) and Udonis Haslem (33) have reached the age where their usefulness could end at any moment. Even Wade (31) has looked past his prime lately.

They also won’t have much cap flexibility as long as the Big Three remain together. With significant financial commitments in future seasons, the Heat can’t pay free agents top dollar. Though Miami can probably find veterans willing to take cheap deals in exchange for a chance at a ring, the Heat probably don’t want a team completely lacking youth and the energy and athleticism that come with young players.

That proves problematic considering the Heat owe the Cavaliers their first-round pick this year and in 2015. Though Miami gets a future pick from the 76ers, that’s lottery protected, so it might not get sent for a while.

So, where does an old team without cap room and limited draft picks find young players? The D-League, and that’s why the Heat are investing in the Sioux Falls Skyforce.

Official release:

The Miami Heat, the Sioux Falls Skyforce and the NBA Development League today announced that the Heat and the Skyforce have entered into a single affiliation partnership beginning with the 2013-14 NBA D-League season. Miami becomes the record 13th NBA team to have a one-to-one affiliation with an NBA D-League team.
The Heat, which joins the Philadelphia 76ers as the second NBA team to become singly affiliated with an NBA D-League team this offseason, will be Sioux Falls’ sole NBA affiliate and will have full control over the team’s basketball operations. To further solidify the relationship, the Skyforce has adopted Miami’s red, yellow and black color scheme and signature font beginning with next season.
This partnership, also referred to as a “hybrid affiliation,” is the sixth of its kind in the NBA D-League and allows an NBA team to pay for and control the NBA D-League team’s basketball operations, while existing local ownership maintains primary responsibility for the team’s off-the-court business operations and community initiatives.

“This partnership between the Heat and Skyforce further demonstrates the growing importance of an exclusive NBA D-League affiliate for NBA team player, coach, and staff development,” said Dan Reed, NBA D-League President. “We’re excited about the positive impact this record 13th ‘one-to-one’ affiliation will have for both teams and the league as a whole.”

The Nets, Celtics, Rockets, Knicks, Trail Blazers, Cavaliers, Warriors, Lakers, Thunder, 76ers, Spurs and Mavericks also have their own D-League affiliates.

That leaves four D-League teams for the NBA’s other 17 teams to share.

Having its own D-League affiliate can be costly for an NBA team, but we’re clearly headed toward a 30-team D-League with every NBA team having its own affiliate. With strategically placed affiliations (not exactly Miami and Sioux Falls), NBA teams could reach fans in the periphery of their regions by offering a cheaper alternative to NBA games. Eventually, we might even see the draft expand by a few rounds so NBA teams can stock their D-League affiliates.