The D-League is gaining in popularity among NBA franchises, and more and more teams are looking to have one-on-one affiliations with one of the developmental franchises in order to stock a pipeline of talent that’s being brought up to speed with a specific level of instruction.
The problem, of course, is that while there are 30 NBA teams, there are only 17 in the D-League. Nevertheless, the Orlando Magic wish to make it known that when expansion does occur, they’d like to be among the first to lock up a Florida-based minor league squad.
The Magic want to have a “one-to-one” affiliation with an NBA Development League franchise that’s based within the Sunshine State. The Magic would like a “hybrid” agreement in which the Magic would run and pay for the D-League team’s basketball operations, while a separate ownership group would run the rest of the franchise.
Dan Reed, the D-League’s president, said D-League expansion is being discussed and will occur eventually.
“It will be carefully managed and hopefully an intelligent expansion process,” Reed told the Orlando Sentinel. “The long-run goal is 30 teams, where every NBA team has its own NBA D-League team. I can’t tell you exactly when that will happen, but I think we’ll get closer to that in the near future.”
There are two obvious obstacles in the way of full-fledged D-League expansion to the point where every team could be accommodated — the first is available talent, and the last is purely financial.
The quality of play drops dramatically once you get past a certain level of D-League players who have a legitimate shot of becoming NBA-ready. As for the dollars involved, not all NBA teams want to bother with a one-on-one affiliation, because any club can sign any player off of a D-League squad if they so choose, and all are not sold on the value of running a developmental franchise specifically geared towards creating players for a given team’s system.
As of right now, 14 NBA teams have that single affiliation relationship, while three D-League franchises are technically tied to the remaining 16 NBA teams. The Magic’s affiliation for next season will be the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, who also will support the Bobcats, Pistons, Grizzlies, Pacers, and Bucks — that, along with the more than 1,0000 miles that separate the two cities may explain why Orlando is so interested in pushing to get its own developmental squad at some point in the near future.