The NBA Development League has grown exponentially since its inception in 2001. When it was founded, the 30 NBA teams shared control of eight D-League teams. 15 years later, there are 19 D-League teams, including 18 single affiliates. The 12 teams that don’t have their own affiliate all share the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, the only independent team in the D-League.
Until now. D-League Digest is reporting that the Pacers are expected to purchase the Mad Ants and make them their official team in the NBA’s minor league.
This is a big deal because now there are no more independent D-League teams that aren’t owned by a single NBA franchise. It leaves the (deep breath) Hawks, Nets, Hornets, Bulls, Nuggets, Clippers, Bucks, Timberwolves, Pelicans, Blazers and Wizards all without representation in the D-League.
Best-case scenario, this finally pushes one-to-one affiliation throughout the D-League. In 2015, there’s no excuse for every NBA team not to have their own affiliate. When you look around the league at the teams that have been the most aggressive about using the D-League, franchises like the Spurs, Rockets, Mavericks, Thunder and Warriors are some of the best and most well-regarded organizations in the league. Much like with some teams being early adopters of SportVU cameras, if those particular teams decide something is worth the investment, that might be a sign that the rest of the league should follow suit. With the new TV money coming in next year, it’s well worth the investment for every team.
In an ideal world, all 30 NBA teams would have their own D-League affiliate and the D-League could operate like a real minor league. There need to be changes to the rules about call-ups — it should operate like baseball, where players can be called up and sent down without having to burn a roster spot. All of that will likely be a point of discussion in the next CBA negotiations in 2017. In the meantime, 11 teams are left in limbo.