The NBA D-League And The Nets

Update: Joe Barbieri, the PR man from the Armor sent me a quick correction:

The expansion draft is actually Wednesday, September 2nd and I don’t think the bulk of our players will come from that.  The purpose of the expansion draft is to provide us with “returning players,” which then have to sign.  I would say the bulk of our roster will come from the NBA D-League draft, which will take place in October or November.

Let’s face it, most casual NBA fans don’t really give the NBA Development League too much thought.  That’s really a shame, because there is a lot of great basketball going on in the D-League, and if you sit down and watch a game you are going to see some guys who could be (and in some cases soon will be) on a NBA roster.

I am writing this to try and help inform Nets fans about the D-League and how it operates.  Since this is a Nets’ blog though, I will be concentrating on the Nets’ new affiliate, how the Nets’ could use the Development League, and a little Nets-related D-League history.

The NBA Development League

When the D-League first came about in the 2001–2002 season, there were many questions about whether or not teams would use the league to mine for players.  Those questions were quickly put to rest when 8 different players were called up from the D-League to the NBA by 8 different teams (Nets included) during the inaugural season.  Every season since, there has been double-digit call-ups, with the most coming during the 2007-08 Season (29 call-ups, 18 players).  History was made January 8, 2008 when C.J. Watson become the 100th call up in NBA Development League history.  All time, there have been 143 callups and 89 players called up in the history of the NBA Development League.  In 2008 NBA Draft, Portland Trail Blazers drafted Mike Taylor from Idaho Stampede. He became the first player from the NBA D-League to be drafted by an NBA team. He was subsequently traded and signed a rookie contract with Los Angeles Clippers.  The league has grown from 8 teams in 2001-2002, t0 16 as they get ready for the upcoming year (There will be 17 the following year).

Now that you guys know a little about history of the NBA D-League, let’s look at the inner-workings of the league.  The maximum number of players each D-League team can have on their roster is 12.  At least 2 of these 12 slots need to be available for NBA player send downs (more on this in a bit).  There are many ways D-League teams are able to fill their roster.  They include the previous years’ players, players taken in the D-League draft, allocation players, NBA team assignments, and local tryouts.  Unlike the NBA, the minimum age requirement for the D-League is 18.

Each NBA team is affiliated with a D-League team.  4 D-League teams have sole affiliations with a NBA team (Spurs, Rockets, Thunder, and Lakers – in part because the NBA team purchased their D-League clubs), while the rest have 2 or 3 NBA teams affiliated with them.  Through that affiliation, each NBA team can assign two first or second year players to its D-League team.  When these players get assigned, they remain under contract with their NBA team, and they can be called-up at any time.  NBA teams can only assign a player at most three times a season.

Aside from assigned NBA players, the rest of the players in the D-League are considered free agents.  This is because when they sign their contracts, they sign them with the D-League rather than an actual team.  NBA teams can call-up as many players as they like during the year, since there is no limit (The Heat put that to use two years ago when they called up players on 6 different occasions).

Nets’ D-League History

Dazzle and 14ers LogoIn 2006 (the year when affiliations between NBA and D-League started), the Nets’ affiliate was the Roanoke Dazzle, there they shared an affiliation with the Washington Wizards and the Philadelphia 76ers.  After the 2006, the Roanoke team was folded and the Nets were left to find another affiliate.  For their new one, they went a bit farther than Virgina.  From the 2006 season to the conclusion of last season the Nets affiliate was the Colorado 14ers (We shared them with the Denver Nuggets).  Yup, the Nets affiliate was two time-zones away.

Since the start of the D-League the Nets have made 5 call-ups, including one during the original season.  The list includes:

  1. Anthony Johnson (2001-2002) – Now with the Magic – Named a top ten call-up of all time
  2. Mikki Moore (2003-2004) – Now with the Celtics
  3. Derrick Zimmerman (2005-2006) – Now with Budivelnyk (Ukraine)
  4. Eddie Gill (2007-2008) – In D-League Expansion Draft Pool
  5. Billy Thomas (2007-2008) – In D-League Expansion Draft Pool

Another interesting note, the Nets currently have two D-League call-ups on their roster (Bobby Simmons and Rafer Alston – both top ten call-ups).

Now,the Nets have assigned only 2 players to the D-League (Mile Ilic and Sean Williams to Colorado), but it can be argued that the Nets have made the most famous assignment in the history of the D-League.  Off the court issues had glued Sean Williams butt to the bench so the Nets decided to send him down to the D-League to get some playing time, and to hopefully send a message.

It is rare to see first rounders going down to the D-League so all eyes were on Williams, and while he played well (9.8 PPG 3.9 BPG 7.5 RPG in 8 games) he continued to cause problems.  The breaking point was at the D-League Showcase (where all of the league’s teams play each other in a “carnival” format – scouts and personnel from every pro team show up to this) in January.  During the showcase, Williams got two technical fouls and an ejection in one game and fouled out of another after only 28 minutes.  Word has it that Williams was facing suspension by the 14ers, and they basically forced the Nets to take Williams back.  If the 14ers didn’t fold, this year would be interesting in terms of D-League affiliate relations.

Springfield Armor

Armor LogoWith the folding of the Colorado 14ers, the Nets were once again left searching for another affiliate.  This offseason’s search brought them back to the east coast, and the Nets new affiliated are the Springfield Armor.  Located in Springfield, Massachusetts the Armor are the affiliates of three NBA teams (the Sixers, the Knicks, and the Nets).  While their roster isn’t set yet (the bulk of their roster will be determined at the Expansion draft which takes place September2nd – the expansion draft is composed of unclaimed players from the two folded teams from last year), the Armor do have their GM and coaching staff set.

The GM is Alex Schwerin, who comes over to basketball after a background in Minor League Baseball where he working for the Modesto Nuts, the Class-A California League affiliate of the Colorado Rockies. His tenure in Modesto began in February of 2004 as the Director of Operations, and he was promoted to Assistant General Manager in 2005 and to General Manager in 2008.

As for the coach, he is a name most NBA fans should remember.  The Armor’s first head coach is former player and slam dunk champion Dee Brown.  While many of you may have last see coach Brown on City Slam, he has been hard at work doing other things.  Dee was a WNBA coach for a few years, so he does have coaching experience, but more importantly Dee Brown is the owner and CEO of the EDGE Basketball, LLC, which was created to train players ranging from middle school to the professional ranks on the basketball fundamentals.  This experience makes him the perfect choice to become a D-League coach.  If we send down any of our guys this year, they will be in more than compatant hands.

This Year

Being a team with a young core, the Nets have a number of players eligible to be assigned to the Armor (you must be a first or second year player).  The list includes:

  1. Courtney Lee
  2. Brook Lopez
  3. Chris Douglas-Roberts
  4. Terrence Williams

Now there is no chance that Brook or Courtney get sent down, but either CDR or Terrence Williams could be a possibility (CDR’s chances are slim while Terrence’s chances are slim-to-none).  Let me explain, with the log-jam at SF, if either one of these guys start of slow, they could be struggling to get minutes.  If the Nets want to keep these guys playing and have them learn the game, they can send them down for a stint here or a stint there.  Now that we have an affiliate in the same time-zone, we could even do what the Lakers did a couple years back.  He ended up playing in a D-League game and a NBA game in the same day.  I am not saying it will happen, but it is a possibility.

In the end, while the D-League probably won’t be used by the Nets this year, it is a valuable tool for NBA squads (probably the Nets a few years down the line), and if you are looking for some good basketball, don’t be afraid to look up the D-League.