NBA GMs discuss expanding draft once D-League reaches 30 teams

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D-League expansion is coming.

When the NBA’s minor league reaches 30 teams – an affiliate for every NBA franchise – what will happen?

David Aldridge of NBA.com:

And once every NBA team has its own D-League team, the assumption is there will be a need for more players to fill out those rosters — and the need to expand the Draft by at least a round, maybe two.

“If everybody’s going to have a D-League team, that’s eight more positions that everybody’s going to get,” one longtime GM said over the weekend. “Maybe you go to five (rounds) the first year to allow everybody to stock the teams, and then the next year, you go down to four.”

Another general manager proposed that players taken after the second round of an expanded Draft have so-called “two-way” contracts, similar to those used for some players in Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League. Such contracts pay salaries based on whether the player is in the major leagues or the minors.

I’m all for expanding the draft.

The players union will resist it, because the draft restricts players. Undrafted free agents have much more freedom and leverage to negotiate their contracts.

But, holistically, a longer draft could boost player salaries.

The goal for the D-League should be stocking teams with players the parent NBA squad holds exclusive rights to. Right now – except assigned players, who continue to make an NBA salary and count against an NBA roster – D-League players are NBA free agents. That partly explains why D-League salaries are so low. Why spend too much on a player any team can sign? But if NBA teams held exclusive rights of their D-League players, those D-League players would be much more valuable and NBA teams would pay them more. The best way for NBA teams to construct those rosters is through an expanded draft.

The salary issues are bit trickier.

Should NBA teams and D-League affiliates have separate salary caps? Would individual-player maxes exist? Would it be possible for an NBA team not to have enough cap space to call up a D-League player?

A “two-way” contract could solve some issues, but it could leave the possibility of a team leaving an NBA-ready player in the D-League just to pay him less. That probably shouldn’t be allowed.

I’m very much in favor of a 30-team D-League, but it will require careful consideration to make it fully functional.