In an age where only a select few teams strike it really big in free agency or end up acquiring a future franchise cornerstone through the draft, developing guys on rookie contracts within the organization is crucial to a team’s sustained chances for success.
More and more of them are realizing this, and are taking action by entering into single-affiliation relationships with D-League franchises, thereby giving them complete operational control over a true minor league situation where this development can take place.
The Phoenix Suns became the latest to do so, and will oversee the Bakersfield Jam beginning next season.
From the official release:
The Phoenix Suns, Bakersfield Jam, and NBA Development League today announced that the Suns have entered into a single-affiliation relationship with the Jam beginning with the 2014-15 season. With the partnership, the Suns become the record 15th NBA franchise to have a one-to-one relationship with an NBA D-League team, solidifying half of the NBA’s 30 teams as singly-affiliated.
Through this, relationship, also known as a “hybrid” partnership, the Suns will oversee and fund all aspects of the Jam’s basketball operations while the local ownership in Bakersfield, led by Stan Ellis and David Higdon, will continue to manage the team’s business operations and community outreach. Executives and players from both teams will celebrate the partnership with fans in Bakersfield at an event in September.
“This investment by the Suns not only demonstrates how important an exclusive NBA D-League affiliation has become to an NBA team, but is also a strong endorsement of the excellent organization and resources Stan Ellis and David Higdon have put in place in Bakersfield,” said Dan Reed, NBA D-League President. “This partnership also commemorates a very important milestone for the NBA D-League, as half of all NBA teams are now investing in an exclusive ‘one-to-one’ affiliation with an NBA D-League team.”
The cost, believe it or not, is primarily the reason that most teams have traditionally preferred to share a D-League franchise with others, but that’s the least efficient way to go about it. While a younger player could get valuable, real-game action to hone his craft at the D-League level under these conditions, he’s still not being totally prepared for exactly what his team runs offensively or defensively, thus increasing the learning curve unnecessarily.
Phoenix seems to be taking all the right steps to build a culture of winning, and ensuring a single-affiliation relationship with a D-League team is just another important one in the overall process.