As you read this, three NBA teams do not have an affiliate in the G-League — New Orleans, Denver, and Portland — but by next season that will be down to two as the Pelicans have plans to have their own team by then.
In a couple of years, every team will have one, newly-appointed G-League President Shareef Abdur-Rahim said as much to Marc Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated.
Abdur-Rahim hopes that every NBA team will have its own affiliate by 2022. He also expects the G League to continue to be an open-minded experimental league under his leadership.
“I’ve seen the evolution of the league and the great work that Malcolm and has group has done,” Abdur-Rahim said. “To see where we are sitting now. … Going towards 30 teams, the professional path, the rebranding, it’s such a great situation with so many opportunities. You’re positioned really with a great team around it. There is so much opportunity to help craft with folks, craft a vision, craft ideas, move forward.
In a league where player development is of growing importance, having a G-League affiliate just makes sense.
G-League operations allow a team to develop players in a setting where they can get more practice and game experience — something teams will want come 2022 when high school players are expected to be allowed in the NBA Draft again. With games almost every other night, travel, and a focus on winning, NBA teams rarely practice and player development — while much more of a focus than it was even a decade ago — is secondary. A number of teams have had success with two-way players who spent time in the G-League but became invaluable to the NBA squad and had their contract upgraded (the Knicks’ Allonzo Trier is the latest example). A G-League affiliate also can run a similar offensive and defensive style as the big club, so when a player is called up the Xs and Os are not a shock to the system.
Also, it’s worth reading the Spears’ story to learn about Abdur-Rahim’s journey from No. 3 pick to league executive. He talks about the work, the sacrifices needed to transition and take what he learned playing and use that in a front office.