In nearly every respect, the D-League is growing.
Seventeen NBA teams have their own D-League affiliate. D-League teams are selling prominent sponsorships. Josh Huestis and Thunder see it as an ideal developmental center.
But the money is not not yet in place to regularly attract major talent.
Marc Stein of ESPN:
When it comes to compensation, D-League players continue to be placed in one of three classifications (A, B or C) based on experience and make a mere $25,500, $19,000 or $13,000, respectively. Daily per diem on road trips is $40 … compared to $113 in the NBA. But D-League teams do provide housing and medical care to players to offset the comparatively low wages in relation to what they could command in leagues abroad.
One footnote here: D-Leaguers must pay a buyout ranging from $40,000 to $50,000 if they want to terminate their contract to leave during the season for a more lucrative deal internationally.
NBA teams have funneled extra cash to D-League players by signing them to partially guaranteed contracts for training camp, waiving them and then assigning them to their D-League affiliate. But not every player gets that deal, and there’s only so much in it for the NBA squads, who don’t keep the exclusive NBA rights of those players. It’s a teetering workaround for now.
In the long run, expect changes.
The NBA has already reportedly discussed increasing D-League compensation in exchange for a higher age limit, showing the NBA is open to putting more money into the D-League. Maybe it’ll take a higher age limit, but I bet that wouldn’t be a deal-breaker at the negotiating table.
In the meantime, D-Leaguers will have to make do with less money than many of them could get overseas. They also have to really commit to the D-League for the season, because a buyout double your salary is expensive.
But it puts them closer to the NBA radar, an advantage that will keep D-League salaries low for now.
Jahlil Okafor is trying to take advantage of his chance with the New Orleans Pelicans this season.
He talked about it in an Instagram post, and most people focused on the pictures of his improved physique. Which is improved.
However, the text was interesting:
I’ve learned how to identify and manage different stressors such as anxiety. Learning how to identify certain stressors has also allowed me to over come them…. Mental health awareness is a cause I will fight for the rest of my life and if you’re struggling today don’t be afraid to speak with someone and seek help. I would like to thank @kevinlove and the @playerstribune for helping me identify my feelings and informing me what I was dealing with was in fact normal.
NBA players stepping forward and admitting they need help dealing with mental challenges and illness is a good thing. Kevin Love helped Okafor, and hopefully Okafor talking about it will help others.
Okafor has a clean slate in New Orleans. He missed much of last season due to injury, and between his time with the Sixers and Nets he was on the court for just 353 minutes total. In New Orelans there are bench minutes available (behind Anthony Davis, Nikola Mirotic, and Julius Randle, but Okafor needs to show he can run the floor and play the up-tempo style the Pelicans employ. Okafor’s below the rim, back-to-the-basket offensive game, plus he poor defense, have held him back. If he’s got his body and mind right, maybe some of that can change.
R.J. Hunter has just not been able to find a home and stick in the NBA. He was a first-round pick of the Boston Celtics in 2015 and expected to be a sharpshooter at the NBA level. He went on to play in 35 games for Boston his rookie season, but during the following training camp they cut the former Georgia Tech shooting guard. The Chicago Bulls picked him up on a non-guaranteed minimum contract, he played a total of three games for them, then was cut loose. Houston eventually had him on a two-way contract the second half of last season, where he played five games for the big club and spent most of the season in the G-League.
He played for the Rockets at Summer League and averaged 11.2 points a game on just 40 percent shooting. Now, the Rockets have cut him loose, too. Via Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports (for now, he moves over to The Athletic in the coming weeks).
Hunter will look for another chance in the NBA via the G-League, although he may be at the point he considers the overseas money he could earn.
In the G-League last season, playing for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, he averaged 20.4 points per game with an impressive 60.4 true shooting percentage, and shot 37.7 percent from three. However, he has never been able to transfer those numbers, or anything close to it, over to the NBA level. He has tried to broaden his game and be more than a shooter, but the consistency has just never been where he needs it to be.
He has talked about learning and maturing through all of this. Hopefully he has, and it pays off for him at his next stop. Wherever that may be.
And the rich get richer.
Kobe Bryant is a smart man who studies whatever he does. He was that way on the court, breaking down film on opponents and knowing what was coming next, being one step ahead. He’s done the same in his post-NBA life, which is in part how he won an Oscar. He is calculated.
The same with his investments. Before he stopped playing, he invested in a new sports drink called BodyArmor. (Did you notice the last couple years of his career he always took down or at least turned the label away of NBA sponsor Gatorade when he sat at a podium to speak?) This week, his investment in that company paid off big time, reports Darren Rovell of ESPN.
On Tuesday, Coca-Cola announced it had purchased a minority stake in sports drink BodyArmor.
Bryant made his first investment in the brand, for roughly 10 percent of the company, in March 2014, putting in roughly $6 million over time. Based on the valuation of the Coca-Cola deal, his stake is now worth approximately $200 million, sources told ESPN.
At least where I shop, BodyArmor — marketed as a healthier alternative to the other sports drinks — is showing up in the same spaces as Gatorade, Powerade, and the rest. It’s got a growing market share, with more than $400 million in sales expected this year.
I guess Kobe can afford college for his daughters now. Although, he may have already had that covered.
Chris Brickley runs one of the best, most star-studded NBA summer runs anywhere in the nation out of his facility in New York. (You can learn more about him and what he does in the video above.)
Right now, Carmelo Anthony and Trae Young are among the names there — and they are getting buckets. Check out some videos.
“They’re all competitive, they got to the NBA because they’re competitive athletes. It’s the off-season, so you might as well, if you can, play against some elite talent, they do it…” Brickley told NBC Sports earlier this summer. “It’s personal. Certain guys have certain rivalries against other guys, whether they are superstars or not superstars, so when it’s time and that other player is guarding them, they’re not going to want to be embarrassed in front of their peers. There’s 10-15 other NBA players in there.”
‘Melo and Young look good in these clips. Granted, this is summer run and no matter the level it has to come with a grain of salt — these are not NBA defenses and systems. It’s still summer ball. But if you’re a Hawks or Rockets fan (or a fan of Miles Bridges, or Mo Bamba, or some other NBA guys) you have to like what you see.
Some fans decided to go after Anthony in the comments on some of these videos, and he gave it right back (NSFW language):
For the record, if you feel the need to insult an NBA player in the comments of an Instagram feed of some summer run, you may want to step back and examine where things went sideways in your life.