In nearly every respect, the D-League is growing.
But the money is not not yet in place to regularly attract major talent.
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.