Next season, 17 NBA teams will have their own D-League affiliate. Those teams have the advantage of controlling the affiliates’ basketball operations – managing the roster, hiring a coach, setting a style of play, dictating playing time.
The relationship comes with a real-dollar cost, but NBA teams have seen the advantage. More and more want single affiliates.
Unfortunately, the D-League hasn’t grown fast enough to keep up.
Here are the 2014-15 affiliations, as released by the NBA today. One D-League team is not like the others.
AUSTIN TOROS (TX)
San Antonio Spurs
BAKERSFIELD JAM (CA)
CANTON CHARGE IO(OH)
DELAWARE 87ERS (Newark, DE)
ERIE BAYHAWKS (PA)
FORT WAYNE MAD ANTS (IN)
Los Angeles Clippers
New Orleans Pelicans
Portland Trail Blazers
GRAND RAPIDS DRIVE (MI)
IDAHO STAMPEDE (Boise, ID)
IOWA ENERGY (Des Moines, IA)
LOS ANGELES D-FENDERS (CA)
Los Angeles Lakers
MAINE RED CLAWS (Portland, ME)
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER NBA D-LEAGUE TEAM (OK)
Oklahoma City Thunder
RENO BIGHORNS (NV)
RIO GRANDE VALLEY VIPERS (Hidalgo, TX)
SANTA CRUZ WARRIORS (CA)
Golden State Warriors
SIOUX FALLS SKYFORCE (SD)
TEXAS LEGENDS (Frisco, TX)
WESTCHESTER KNICKS (White Plains, NY)
New York Knicks
Yup, that’s 13 NBA teams sharing the Mad Ants. The other 17 NBA teams each get their own D-League squad.
So, what happens when the Hawks, Nets, Bobcats, Bulls, Nuggets, Pacers, Clippers, Bucks, Timberwolves, Pelicans, Trail Blazers, Raptors and Wizards all want to assign players to Fort Wayne?
To accommodate assignments to Fort Wayne, a flexible assignment system will be utilized when an independent NBA team assigns a player at a time when the Mad Ants already have either the maximum of four NBA players on assignment or two assigned players at the position of the NBA player who is being assigned. In either event, the NBA D-League will identify to the assigning NBA team any singly-affiliated NBA D-League team that is willing to accept the assigned player, and the independent NBA team assigning the player will choose a team from among those teams to assign the player. If no singly-affiliated NBA D-League team is willing to accept the assigned player, he will be assigned to one of the non-NBA-owned single affiliate teams pursuant to a lottery.
The Spurs, Cavaliers, 76ers, Lakers, Thunder,Warriors and Knicks own their own D-League teams, so they’ll be exempt from taking unwanted players. The singly affiliated NBA teams that don’t own their D-League squads – the Suns, Magic, Grizzlies, Pistons, Celtics, Kings, Rockets and Heat – will take part in the lottery. The Mavericks, whose D-League team is owned by Don Nelson, operate in a gray area, but it sounds as if they’ll be in the lottery.
This is all a temporary solution, though. In due time, every NBA team will have its own D-League team. We’re headed in that direction – more rapidly than ever.